The idyam:zeus is a serious piece of kit. On first appearance it resembles a frightening mix of retro technology and modern aesthetics, with an iPod dock to boot. We’re sure you’ve glanced at the image above and are wondering ‘what on earth is that?’ It’s a valve (aka tube) amplifier intended for home audio use. If you’ve never used a valve amplifier before then we’ll briefly explain how they work. They’re similar to the old- fashioned light bulb. A filament in a vacuum emits electrons when a current is applied, but whereas a light bulb produces light, a second filament is used within a valve amplifier to attract the electrons and boost the audio. Valve amplifiers were replaced by solid- state amplifiers somewhere between
When turned on, the two dial windows light up and the filaments in the amps begin to glow, and within a couple of minutes the valves are giving off a low level of heat. As soon as audio is pumped through the amp, whether from your computer or iPod, it’s immediately noticeable that the sound quality has improved. It really took us by surprise. There’s a new depth to the audio coming from your speakers – even the small, tinny types that are often included with computers. The richness of the audio almost erases any need for a subwoofer. We noticed that as sound is amplified by the idyam:zeus, the filaments
For a limited time the idyam:zeus includes an iPod/iPhone dock, called idyam:blue, which includes stereo and s-video outputs that hook up to the main unit. There are a few limitations, however. The volume controls on your iPhone or iPod won’t work while docked, so you’ll need to use the wheels on the main unit. The limited volume control might sound unusual, but we imagine this is to allow the amp to choose a constant volume level – all the better for your ears’ health. There’s also some other small issues, like the
While reviewing this kit we were left pondering one interesting question: why use an iPod or iPhone – with its middle-of-the-range MP3s and AAC files – with such a rich and high-quality audio system? Surely the average MP3 file is lacking the crystal clear notes and high frequencies that we experience with live music? As it turns out, the idyam:zeus improves even these low quality files. Voices in particular are given a more realistic sound.