Warming PC sound with vacuum tubes

Putting vacuum tubes in a PC might sound a little like adding a hand crank to a Porsche, but at least one company thinks it might be the future of computer audio.

Taiwanese components company AOpen, part of the Acer Group, is selling a PC audio card based on a vacuum tube--the same century-old technology that sends electric guitar players and hi-fi aficionados into paroxysms of listening delight.

The idea, according to AOpen, is to replicate the "warm" sound of traditional tube-driven audio equipment inside PCs, which are increasingly being used as stereos by digital music lovers. The company quietly released a first version of the product in the United States in August, and an updated version, now available in Taiwan, will reach U.S. shores in January, just missing the holiday shopping season.

Will AOpen's audio card revolutionize PC audio? Unlikely, analysts say. But the company's focus is one of a number of increasingly clear signs that the intermingling of PCs with other household entertainment devices is steadily marching along and that PCs are beginning to hold their own in terms of quality.

"I wouldn't call (the tube-driven board) a novelty, but it certainly falls into the enthusiast segment," said Dean McCarron, principal analyst for Mercury Research, a firm covering the PC component market. "On the hi-fi side, there are some very strong tube proponents."

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News source: c|net

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