Thursday, May 10, 2007

Retro-ize your iPod with AR tube amp

If you are not ready to be fully immersed in the 21st Century, this could be perfect for you.

BUT FIRST, a little history:

Acoustic Research made hi-fi equipment in Cambridge, MA, and was famous for acoustic suspension speakers, which could produce deep bass from a small box; and a no-frills/high performance turntable.

One of the founders of the company was Henry Kloss, who later became the "K" in KLH, then founded Advent, and then Cambridge Soundworks, and then co-founded Tivoli Audio. He earned an Emmy Award for his development of a projection television system, and died in 2002.

AR's success and ownership varied over the years. In 1967 it was sold to defense contractor Teledyne. Around 1992 it was sold to speaker-maker Jensen, which absorbed other audio companies including Advent. The Jensen group did poorly and was broken up and liquidated in 1996. AR and other consumer audio brands went to accessory maker Recoton, and then went to French electronics maker Thomson, which made products under the GE and RCA names; and now belongs to Audiovox, best known for car stereo.

Anyway, the new new AR4131 blackVault does carry the AR label, even if its connection with the original AR is long, complex and convoluted. Its main claim to fame is an unusual physical end electronic design, highlighting a glowing (GASP) vacuum tube.

The company wants prospective buyers to know that the tube circuit is "designed to create richer sound." Their trade advertising says it will make "richer dealers."

Frankly, even if the tube does provide some audible advantage, the tube is put in the worse possible place, on top of the vibrating subwoofer cabinet.

The system does have sex appeal, and is probably no worse than other iPod systems in its $200 price range, unless you crank it up enough to make the tube shake.

The center subwoofer cabinet holds and charges your iPod, and has an AUX input. A remote control is included. (This is a preview, not a review)

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