Pretty Much Peachy
by, 12-23-2011 at 06:11 PM (1101 Views)
So the Peachtree DACiT arrived yesterday morning. After taking it in from the cold (couple of hours on the porch in bracing 28 degree Nebraska morning weather) and letting it get to room temperature I plugged the little guy in. Lights came on. Always a good sign. Plugged in the USB cable (nicely idiot proof!), selected the DAC from the system menu, called up iTunes and pushed play. Darned if tunes didn't come out. This is the kind of set up I like!!
First up was the Duncan & Brady (He's Been On The Job Too Long) The Johnson Mountain Boys Blue Diamond from Rounder Records. I like this song because it's acoustic and it starts off like the band has been shot out of a cannon. I can say that with acoustic stringed instruments the little Peach shines. On successive tracks I noted that you can really hear the soundboard of guitars and banjos and the sound is very true to life. Dudley Connell's tenor came through perfectly. You could etch glass with that voice. Interestingly you could actually hear him place his voice when he went for some low notes. Jumped to the title track "Blue Diamond Mine" to check for... well emotional power. If you're over 50 and that song doesn't strike a pang there's something wrong with you or your system. Passed with flying colors! Got a little misty.
Next up some classical. Put on the Naxos, Shostakovich Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Vasily Petrenko: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. This is a very well recorded and played CD. Oops, not a CD is it! I was first struck by how well the little Peach extracted ambient information. The hall sound and reverberation were shockingly good. Better in fact than my current CD player. Next I noticed how well the Peach presented woodwinds. You really got the sense of vibrating wood. Could hear tonguing and noticeable inhalation from the bassoon player after a long passage. I was not especially struck by the horn sound. They sounded excellent, but so did everything else. The background was a bit different also. It seemed like a level of something was missing. I mean this in a good way. It seemed more transparent. One thing that surprised me was how well the little Peach handled subtle dynamics. In fact it almost seemed as if the entire dynamic range of the piece had been expanded in some way. I almost felt like I needed to turn down the volume during some loud passages. This also was the point where I noticed a little problem. In very loud, passages when the whole orchestra was wailing away there was some harshness and a bit of a collapse of the sound stage. There was also a slight sense of edginess. Other than that, no complaints about the sonic qualities. It was peachy (sorry, sorry, I can't help it). I could live with this DAC. My final piece was the classic RCA Bartók: Concerto For Orchestra, with Fritz Reiner: Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I've listened to this piece many time and it was jaw dropping. The sense of the hall and the orchestral sound made by jaw drop.
There was one little bit of a pit. Seems like there is a hum like a ground loop when the unit's USB port is unplugged and the unit is set on standby. I could not get rid of it. For now I will simply either leave it on or unplug it.
So what's the verdict. Overall I would say that the DACiT is (geez this is hard to type) easily a match for my Esoteric SA-10 which costs about 7 times what the lil Peach ran me. In some areas (ambience, subtle dynamics) it actually beat it out. I can live with this baby assuming I can lick the problem with the hum or that just leaving it on is OK. Could just put my preamp on standby too. But it does bother me that I'm getting the dang hum. The problem is actually mentioned in the manual so it must be fairly common. I will try calling Peachtree next week regarding the problem.
A couple of folks suggested other players. I have downloaded Pure Music and given it a preliminary test drive. It's a bit trickier/more complicated than iTunes and I want to make sure I'm using it correctly before I say any more. Thus far, even considering the hum problem computer audio has been very satisfying.