The Logic3 Valve80 is an iPod sound system with a difference, using valves for a retro look.

On the one side we have the marvels of modern audio technology. There's digital audio recording, sound read by lasers, hundreds of gigabytes of music held on an iPod the size of a pack of cards... and all ushered in since the Philips marketing campaign at the launch of CD in 1982, that promised us ‘Perfect Sound Forever'.

On the other side are the traditionalists who think that vinyl sounds better than CD, that valves are better at amplifying your music than transistors, and anything that promotes itself with the word ‘digital' will sound thin and soulless. The old analogue kit sounds warmer, richer, more natural, they tell us.

And in part, the valve and vinyl brigade may be right, and valves have had a long history of excellence in audio - see boxout. It's little surprise then that Logic3 has decided to take the trendy valve route with its new Valve80 iPod stereo system. With three valves standing proudly on show, the Logic3 Valve80 must be an audiophile product - except that these valves are more window dressing than a practical move toward old-school audio technology...

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Before the silicon chip, before the transistor, the device that opened the world to the possibilities of amplification and electronic switching was the thermionic valve - known as the ‘tube' in the US. Its most basic version is a diode valve, with triodes, tetrodes and pentodes to follow, all making possible the 20th century's electronic revolution.

Nowadays the valve is still prized by some audiophiles, who appreciate its benign distortion characteristics - and by guitarists who like to overdrive them to create a euphonic fuzz.

A huge roomful of valves powered the first electronic computer, built by the British in the 1940s to decode German Enigma ciphers. The technology may be obsolete in this century but these devices, with their warm and softly glowing glass envelopes, have a simplicity in operation that can still make for high-performance hi-fi; a purity of sound that ensures their continued use in certain audio circles.

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