LG shows off audiophile vacuum tube DukeBox in CES teaser — combining 1950's tech with a modern transparent OLED

Official render of the LG DukeBox, to scale with a relaxed listener not included with the product.
Official render of the LG DukeBox, to scale with a relaxed listener not included with the product. (Image credit: LG)

LG Electronics teased its vacuum tube-based DukeBox by LG Labs in advance of CES 2024. Pairing early computing tech with a transparent OLED panel, this prototype appears to go after the audiophile market — assuming it ever hits retail.

The LG DukeBox is a speaker system composed of two bottom front-facing speakers and a top 360-degree speaker. The speakers are amplified by vacuum tubes, visible from behind the transparent OLED front panel.

Vacuum tubes are used in audiophile and other high-end audio circles to provide a cleaner, more detailed audio amplifying experience — offering warmer, "sweeter" harmonics. Combined with the triple speakers built into the DukeBox enclosure, the audio experience should sound pretty impressive, at least on paper.

The transparent OLED panel can be put to work in interesting ways as well. You can opt to leave it fully transparent to show off the internals, but where's the fun in that? You can also run a fireplace effect on the panel, or even just watch movies on it — with the internals still partially visible. (We're not sure how transparent or opaque you can make the OLED, something to look forward to seeing at CES.) Maybe some oldies would be the way to go, as this is about the size of old TVs and computer monitors....

Besides the DukeBox, LG mentioned a few other products. Some are a bit outside our wheelhouse, though that might be an appropriate term for LG's "Bon Voyage" camping trailer. There's also the "DUOBO," a two-capsule coffee machine allowing for mixed coffee.

Other products teased by name only fall into LG's more traditional lineup. The "LG gram Fold" may provide a yet further improvement on the latest LG Gram Refresh's 2-in-1 model, while the "CineBean Qube" will improve on the existing CineBeam projectors with a hyper-compact design.

In any case, it's looking like LG will have no shortage of new hotness to show off at CES. The DukeBox seems like a pretty intelligent use of LG's transparent OLED technology that we're otherwise only seeing in commercial or public transit applications so far.

  • Giroro
    So the speakers, big moving magnets, are built directly into the smallish box containing vibration and electrogmagnetic sensitive vacuum tubes?
    That's a bad idea!

    And FWIW, "cleaner" and "warmer" audio are contradicting terms. The device either alters the original sound to make it "warmer", or you get the original "clean" version. You can't have both.
    Reply
  • Corporate_goon
    Vacuum tubes are used in audiophile and other high-end audio circles to provide a cleaner, more detailed audio amplifying experience — offering warmer, "sweeter" harmonics. Combined with the triple speakers built into the DukeBox enclosure, the audio experience should sound pretty impressive, at least on paper.

    1. Vacuum tubes do not provide "cleaner" audio relative to modern solid state designs. A typical vacuum tube amp will have a noise floor 4-5 times higher (meaning audible hiss) and distortion 5-6x higher. State of the art Class A/B and Class D amplifiers often have noise floors below -130dB, and distortion peaks at -115dB. A good tube amp will have a noise floor around -80dB and distortion peaks around -50dB. The dB scale is logarithmic, so each 10dB difference is a doubling of volume.

    2. Vacuum tubes do not provide "more detailed audio". I'm not even sure what this is supposed to mean, but the "most detailed" amplification you can get is amplification that is free of noise and distortion, allowing you to hear subtle details in the music that might be obscured on poor hardware. Given that even the best vacuum tube implementations have noise and distortion orders of magnitude higher than solid state designs, they cannot provide "more detailed audio".

    3. Vacuum tubes do not offer "warmer, sweeter" harmonics. Tubes distort gracefully, so if you drive them too hard they don't sound nearly as bad as a solid state amplifier driven beyond its comfortable range. But tubes also output, on average, 1/10th to 1/50th the power, so you're going to push those tubes into distortion much earlier than you'll ever do so with a solid state amp (which under normal circumstances should never be overdriven to 1% or higher THD). What tubes do offer is MORE harmonic distortion. That can sound pleasing in certain circumstances, but it is not "cleaner", "more detailed', or "better".

    Please don't just reprint marketing nonsense. This product is a grift for people with more money than sense and has nothing at all to do with accurate sound reproduction.
    Reply
  • TheOtherOne
    Meanwhile all that supposedly awesome quality sound, after coming out of those awesome great quality speakers, enters someone's ears partially filled with wax and all this becomes pretty much pointless. :pt1cable:
    Reply
  • George³
    Corporate_goon said:
    1. Vacuum tubes do not provide "cleaner" audio relative to modern solid state designs. A typical vacuum tube amp will have a noise floor 4-5 times higher (meaning audible hiss) and distortion 5-6x higher. State of the art Class A/B and Class D amplifiers often have noise floors below -130dB, and distortion peaks at -115dB. A good tube amp will have a noise floor around -80dB and distortion peaks around -50dB. The dB scale is logarithmic, so each 10dB difference is a doubling of volume.

    2. Vacuum tubes do not provide "more detailed audio". I'm not even sure what this is supposed to mean, but the "most detailed" amplification you can get is amplification that is free of noise and distortion, allowing you to hear subtle details in the music that might be obscured on poor hardware. Given that even the best vacuum tube implementations have noise and distortion orders of magnitude higher than solid state designs, they cannot provide "more detailed audio".

    3. Vacuum tubes do not offer "warmer, sweeter" harmonics. Tubes distort gracefully, so if you drive them too hard they don't sound nearly as bad as a solid state amplifier driven beyond its comfortable range. But tubes also output, on average, 1/10th to 1/50th the power, so you're going to push those tubes into distortion much earlier than you'll ever do so with a solid state amp (which under normal circumstances should never be overdriven to 1% or higher THD). What tubes do offer is MORE harmonic distortion. That can sound pleasing in certain circumstances, but it is not "cleaner", "more detailed', or "better".

    Please don't just reprint marketing nonsense. This product is a grift for people with more money than sense and has nothing at all to do with accurate sound reproduction.
    All of this is perfectly true, but it's pulling out big wads of money out of the accounts of prejudiced, indoctrinated audiophile geeks.
    Reply
  • dmitche31958
    Giroro said:
    So the speakers, big moving magnets, are built directly into the smallish box containing vibration and electrogmagnetic sensitive vacuum tubes?
    That's a bad idea!

    And FWIW, "cleaner" and "warmer" audio are contradicting terms. The device either alters the original sound to make it "warmer", or you get the original "clean" version. You can't have both.
    Any audiophile expert would know that the harmonics given off would be horrible. I agree with the nonsense of "warmer". If something makes the sound "warmer" it IS altering the original sound. I can only laugh at anyone believing that they will achieve what we had prior to digital discs, as ALL music these days is recording digitally. The quality has been lost at that time. Any amount of doing analog-to-digital (recording or players connecting via a USB or other digital method), digital-to-digital ( reading the digital sound from the storage media-no effect though), digitial-to-analog (connecting your speakers via a digital connection) makes zero sense.
    If you like "warmer" on those digitally recorded vinyl records, take a hair dryer for wow and flutter, a finger nail file for scratches, and put some dust on the record for pops, or just let the needle get dirty and you'll also get the warmer feeling.
    Reply
  • Amdlova
    the perfect sound to listen radio on fallout :)
    Reply
  • purpleduggy
    Corporate_goon said:
    1. Vacuum tubes do not provide "cleaner" audio relative to modern solid state designs. A typical vacuum tube amp will have a noise floor 4-5 times higher (meaning audible hiss) and distortion 5-6x higher. State of the art Class A/B and Class D amplifiers often have noise floors below -130dB, and distortion peaks at -115dB. A good tube amp will have a noise floor around -80dB and distortion peaks around -50dB. The dB scale is logarithmic, so each 10dB difference is a doubling of volume.

    2. Vacuum tubes do not provide "more detailed audio". I'm not even sure what this is supposed to mean, but the "most detailed" amplification you can get is amplification that is free of noise and distortion, allowing you to hear subtle details in the music that might be obscured on poor hardware. Given that even the best vacuum tube implementations have noise and distortion orders of magnitude higher than solid state designs, they cannot provide "more detailed audio".

    3. Vacuum tubes do not offer "warmer, sweeter" harmonics. Tubes distort gracefully, so if you drive them too hard they don't sound nearly as bad as a solid state amplifier driven beyond its comfortable range. But tubes also output, on average, 1/10th to 1/50th the power, so you're going to push those tubes into distortion much earlier than you'll ever do so with a solid state amp (which under normal circumstances should never be overdriven to 1% or higher THD). What tubes do offer is MORE harmonic distortion. That can sound pleasing in certain circumstances, but it is not "cleaner", "more detailed', or "better".

    Please don't just reprint marketing nonsense. This product is a grift for people with more money than sense and has nothing at all to do with accurate sound reproduction.
    what is accurate and what the public would understand are two different things. if you tried to be accurate in marketing you would sell nothing, if you were to be able to sell, you would be inaccurate.

    warmer, clearer, sweeter are all understandable terms. distorting in a more pleasing manner is entirely abstract. - have owned many amps, tube and solid state. tubes are better for some things and worse for others. high end audio: class A tube all the way, with tube rectifier. power efficiency, low cost, battery life and reliability: class D.
    Reply
  • t3t4
    Well, the transparent OLED is certainly neat, but that's about the only thing innovative in this entire box. Anybody that prefers the sound of tubes does not prefer "clean" technically perfect audiophile grade audio signals. The words "tube" and "clean" don't work in a sentence, they mix about as well as oil and water. But I guess the rich need something to waste their money on, so whatever!
    Reply