• The Computer Audiophile

    by Published on 08-18-2016 07:34 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. S/PDIF (RCA) Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface,
    6. Preamp
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    I've been a fan of Peachtree Audio ever since I saw the team demonstrate its products using an AppleTV as a source, way back before the HiFi industry realized someone moved its cheese. Peachtree Audio introduced products with USB inputs long before most of the industry realized it was possible to connect a computer-based product to a "real" audio system. This was around the time when a notorious New York City audio dealer would kick people out of his store for bringing in iPods to use as a source. It's funny how life works, that dealer's business is now a shadow of its former self and computer audio is taking over the world of HiFi. After Peachtree Audio's meteoric rise and success all over the world, the company had a a few growing pains that one could expect from any small company growing at record speed. During this roughly 2-year transitional period, Peachtree turned out a few products to make sure the company stayed healthy; all the while working on the line they always wanted to do. In the Spring of 2016 the company re-launched, with co-founder David Solomon back on-board, as Peachtree Audio 2.0, during an event at Stereo Exchange in NYC. The Peachtree team was at the event to let people know what was in store with Peachtree 2.0. This wasn't a smoke and mirrors type of HiFi event, rather it was a brass tacks type of event. Peachtree Audio had undergone some big changes, during Solomon's absence, in how it designs and builds its products, and the company wanted everyone to know. In fact, there was a big sense of pride visible in the Peachtree team because of what it had accomplished with its new products. The main attraction at the NYC event was the nova150 integrated amplifier. Since listening to the nova150 in NYC in March 2016, I've been waiting for my review sample to arrive. The nova150 sounded great at the event and looked fantastic with its gloss ebony mocha finish. But, there's no substitute to hearing a component in one's own system and spending serious time playing gigabytes of familiar music. After spending the last week listening to the nova150 for hours on end, I can say without a doubt that Peachtree Audio 2.0 is much more than just a number. Compared to previous Peachtree products, the new nova150 is in a different class. A different class of design, and more importantly a different class of sound quality. ...
    by Published on 08-11-2016 03:42 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Bits & Bytes
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    In the summer of 1991 Pearl Jam's album Ten was released and it changed my life. Since then, Pearl Jam has been my favorite band. I've seen them play around the country many times. Each Pearl Jam show features a new setlist created by singer Eddie Vedder on the day of the show. To more experienced concert goers, who attended shows in the 1960s and 1970s, this type of setlist is nothing new. But, for younger music aficionados like myself, a new setlist at every concert is something special. My first concert was a Motley Crue show at the long gone Met Center here in Minnesota on March 06, 1990 (here's my ticket stub). Motley Crue played virtually the same 17 songs two nights earlier in Omaha as they did in Minnesota and three nights later in Madison, Wisconsin. Over the years I've seen more band's with fixed setlist than I've seen those who mix it up on a nightly basis. Anyway, when Pearl Jam announced it would be playing Boston's Fenway Park this summer, I immediately logged into my Pearl Jam fan club account and entered the drawing to purchase tickets. Weeks later I was notified that my name had been drawn for two tickets to the August 05, 2016 show. Flights were booked, hotel reservations were made, and as Pearl Jam sang in the song Corduroy, the waiting drove me mad. ...
    by Published on 08-03-2016 01:22 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. Headphones
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    Four years ago I crowned the original AudioQuest DragonFly 1.0 Computer Audiophile's Product of the Year for 2012. The original $250 "Fly" beat out the $15,500 EMM Labs DAC2X for this honor. In the years since the DragonFly's introduction, countless clones, copies, and derivative designs hit the market. But, AudioQuest clearly invented this category of products and it's the original DragonFly to which all similar products have been compared. While other companies were figuring out how to build a better DragonFly through endless money raising campaigns and support for the highest sample rates known to man, AudioQuest was hard at work reinventing the Fly. AudioQuest had already identified a drawback to its original DragonFly design, but the technology to resolve the issue simply didn't exist. What does a smart company do when the technology it needs doesn't exist? The company creates what it needs and beats the competition to market while the competition is doubling down on outdated designs. Using new technology AudioQuest improved and expanded the DragonFly family. The new products deserved so much more than a simple numerical model number increase, that AudioQuest named them the DragonFly Black and DragonFly Red. Due to AudioQuest's solid industry vision and the removal of the iPhone 7 3.5mm headphone jack, the new DragonFly Black and DragonFly Red are positioned perfectly to fill a giant void for high end devices facilitating better quality mobile playback. If history is the best predictor of the future, I have no doubt we'll see an endless supply of cheap and expensive copycats attempting to quickly recreate what AudioQuest has developed over the last several years. However, as the saying goes (and if you're anything like me), why get an imitation when you can have the original? ...
    by Published on 07-28-2016 12:49 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Bits & Bytes
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    While the prices of many HiFi goods continue to go up, the prices of high tech goods continue to go down. In addition to prices going down, high tech goods almost always increase performance and features while decreasing in size for this reduced price. I wish the HiFi world was like the high tech world in this respect, but I completely understand the nature of building something by hand at the highest quality in low quantity versus building something for the lowest price at incredibly high volume in parts of the world where labor is extremely inexpensive. That may be a discussion for a different day because today is about the convergence of HiFi and high tech.

    I've always recommended that people start by purchasing the least expensive products and move up the ladder until they are satisfied. It simply makes sense. Some people know they will only be satisfied with the best and possibly most expensive options while others feel rewarded by finding a the best value. Neither way is right, it's all about choice.

    Before we get started with this cool new product, I want to address a misconception that some people have with CA covering items like a $7.99 audio endpoint. I've been told by some manufacturers that I shouldn't write about this stuff, it's too DIY and DIY'ers don't spend money, and that it isn't HiFi enough and that they don't like the direction of CA. I believe that type of small-minded thinking is what old-school HiFi is all about and it's something that old-school HiFi must get over if it wants to succeed in the future. CA isn't a DIY site, but we feature cool products when we seen them. Plus, these articles do wonders for bringing in a new audience to the CA community and HiFi in general. CA has a huge contingent of readers in Silicon Valley (and Australia, G'day mates) who love music, are a bit geeky, have technical aptitude, have disposable income, and would likely never have heard of most of our favorite HiFi brands without content like this that bridges the gap. Furthermore, when people purchase $7.99 audio endpoints, they need DACs to make music. Purchase five of these inexpensive endpoints for different rooms, and one will need five DACs. The money saved on endpoints can also be spent on other items such as software, music, amps, cables, loudspeakers, etc... I could go on, but I don't want to derail an otherwise cool product introduction with my rant about why products like this are good for HiFi. Either one believes it or not. The world is changing. ...
    by Published on 07-12-2016 03:00 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Bits & Bytes
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    I stumbled on a site named Polygraph a few months ago. Polygraph actually operates completely opposite from the way CA operates. I usually elect to use prose over graphics and photos, while Polygraph tells stories with data and code to produce fabulous visuals. Polygraph describes itself as, "a publication that incites water cooler discussion about complex topics. We avoid long-winded essays at all costs, using code, visuals, and animation to construct a different sort of story, one that's often reader-driven, embeddable, and open-source." What makes Polygraph so interesting to me and the CA Community is the use of technology to tell us something about our favorite music.

    A few of the topics covered by Polygraph include:
    The Evolution of Music Taste
    Wikipedia Pages On Which Miles Davis Is Mentioned
    Using Spotify To Measure The Popularity Of Older Music
    When Music Becomes Popular, Faster
    This Is What Hip Hop Sounded Like In 1995
    Using Playlists To Crowdsource The Definition Of Punk
    Hip Hop Labels Sorted By The Success Of Their Artists On Billboard
    Rappers Sorted By The Size Of Their Vocabulary ...
    by Published on 07-06-2016 02:59 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Bits & Bytes
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    Last week the McIntosh Group hosted its first ever convention in Sardinia, Italy. The Group consists of six brands including McIntosh, Audio Research, Sonus Faber, Wadia, Pryma, and Sumiko. Thus, there was quite a bit of audio being discussed at the event, from analog to digital to all-in-one speaker systems to large flagship loudspeakers. It was a great opportunity to dig deep into the product lines, talk to product designers, and get a glimpse into the future of each brand. For some brands like Sonus Faber the future is now, with the introduction of the Sf16, while other brands like Wadia are undergoing a makeover for an upcoming transformation. Here are my highlights of the McIntosh Group convention 2016. ...
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