JoyVirtue (JV) has created a vacuum tube amplifier and speaker set for iPods, complete with a dock, for the audiophile who finds the common iPod/iPhone dock and speaker systems a little, well… common. This set up aims to bring out the best in any digital music collection by converting the often “two-dimensional” flat sound from a digital source into a high-fidelity analogue one, giving your music more body and fullness. And the classy piece of equipment with its unique styling is also a sure to be a talking point at the next social gathering you host.

The secret in getting great sound from valves (vacuum tubes) is knowing where to place them in the signal path and how to marry them with equally good solid state circuitry. JV has taken three years to develop the TM-6 after launching its JVD-5M Mini Vacuum Tube Amplifier. The goal was to create a system that is a blend of traditional technology and digital audio, delivering a great aural solution for your digital music collection.

The high-fidelity vacuum tubes produce a warm and detailed high quality pure sound that most other units can’t recreate. We found vocals and acoustic tracks – especially live performances - were where this unit excelled. Yet the TM-6 pumps out enough bass to keep most hip-hoppers happy from the small but powerful speakers.

The device comes with a range of dock fittings for most models of iPod nano, Classic, touch, but not first and second generation iPods and iPod Shuffle.

When we connected our iPhone in the dock, the unit complained that it was incompatible but we forged past that, set our iPhone to Flight Mode and had no problems (except that it wouldn't answer calls while playing tunes).

The included 3.5mm cable lets users connect other devices (two inputs) such as a CD player, DVD player, MP3/MP4 devices, even your PC or iPhone, for that matter.

The robust passive speakers really deliver a great sound and would definitely integrate well in an apartment setting. The TM-6 would also look very smart as a bookshelf unit. We connected larger stereo speakers and while they were able to perform a little louder, their quality was matched by the much smaller speakers of the unit.

At about two-thirds volume on the amp we found the sound began to distort but it was very loud by then, probably too loud for an indoor gathering.

Speaking of loudness, a clever feature of the TM-6 is a built-in volume control on start-up that automatically turns the dial to one-third volume so you don’t pop your speakers (or ear drums) when turning on the unit. It’s also cool to watch the knob turn by itself when adjusting the sound via the mini remote or when turning on the unit.

Even cooler is the Cats Eye tube with an illuminated green bar, like one found on a graphic equalizer. Remove the grille from the unit and you get a light show at night to go with the great music.

The illuminated Input indicator in the center of the front panel lets you know where you’re music is coming from – iPod, USB, Line 1 or Line 2 and the small cover at right conceals the USB input jack and headphone output jack. At the rear it’s easy to connect additional speakers and devices requiring RCA, Composite Video or Component Video.

The mini remote is fully-featured and can select input devices, volume control, iPod control and power on/off.

JoyVirtue TM-6 Tube-Amp specifications

  • Power Output: 20W x 2 (6 ohm 1kHz RMS)
  • Frequency response: 20k – 20kHz (-1dB)
  • Harmonic distortion: <0.1%</li>
  • Signal to noise ratio: >75dB
  • Input sensitivity: 400mV
  • Input impedance: 22k ohm
  • Output impedance: 6 ohm
  • Tube type: 6N2 x 2; 6E2 x 1
  • Dimension: 288W x 220D x 150H (mm)
  • Net weight: 4kg
  • Color: Piano Black

The JoyVirtue TM-6 is currently available from Sound & Image for AUD$999 (approx. US$926 at time of publication).