Logic3 Valve 80

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There’s very few people with musical tastes as varying as my own. In my iTunes Music Library, you’ll find anything from Kanye West, Usher and Chris Brown to Lady Gaga, Pussycat Dolls, The Fray and then furthermore with Andrea Bocelli, John Mayer and Fratellis. These are just some of the tracks that have passed through the Valve 80 iPod speaker system from Logic3.

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First of all lets just clear up what a vacuum tube speaker system is, because I for one wasn’t sure what it meant until I did a bit of research. To some, it just adds to the physical appearance of a deck – for those who appreciate a retro look. But it’s more than just cosmetic as many live musicians are fans of this old school technology for a number of reasons.

Valve systems are designed to deliver a more natural and authentic sound from its source audio. They’re also particularly good for delivering high volume without distortion but it usually comes at the expense of audio quality.

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Logic3 are reaching out to the higher-end market with the Valve 80, because not only is it a universe away from the products they used to sell, this speaker system speaks quality from top to bottom. From the finish, the choice of materials and the overall build-quality, the Valve 80 has been built unlike any other Logic3 product I’ve tested before.

With a main deck finished in chrome accompanied by two glossy-black speakers with removable grilles, together they form a system that speaks of high-end audio and quality manufacturing. The overall design is very minimalist – you won’t find a million buttons on the Valve 80. Instead, you get two chrome dials that adjust the volume and allow you to select the audio source. Along the top surface you’ll find the iPod dock with cradle, right next to the vacuum tubes and transformer. Just in front of the vacuum tubes are a couple of LED lights that dance to your music which adds a nice touch when you’re listening in a dark room.

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They haven’t skimped on the cabling either. Included with the Valve 80 are the thick gold-plated cables that attach to the gold-plated connectors.

I’ve got mixed feelings about the sound quality and that may be a result of the mixture of music and my expectations. The Valve 80 is obviously targeted towards those who appreciate good design and also good sound. But I’m forced to relegate the Valve 80 as a system that delivers not exceptional audio quality, but audio quality that is average. What’s clearly lacking is decent quality bass reproduction. Regardless of whether you’re fan of heavy bass or not, the low frequency audio in any music is an essential ingredient for good quality audio. This should reflect the original audio that was recorded in its truest form – and that always includes some level of bass. Unfortunately, the Valve 80 disappoints in this area with an unnatural and often muddy sound if you have it set on anything above a low bass setting.

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Other than the low frequency issues, the Valve 80 highs and mid sound is crystal clear and can be listened to at both low and high volumes without distortion – helping to deliver on that vacuum-tube promise.

At £230, this puts the Valve 80 in the upper-end market for iPod speaker docks, but they’ve still somehow managed to keep it competitively priced against its closest competitors for this category of product. There are not many “Made for iPod” separates on the market and even fewer for valve systems. Namely, the people behind the Fatman iTube are really the only ones out there that are selling this kind of audio equipment with a whole line of products featuring vacuum tube technology.

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The Valve 80 isn’t for everyone, its design is clearly catered towards the enthusiast market that either love their music or love to look like they love music – because Logic3 have come up with an alternative to the pricey competitor and although they’ve undercut them, they haven’t compromised on the authentic look and feel, or the build quality.

2009-05-21 Onwah Tsang

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