An owner's review of Peachtree Nova: 5 stars on Amazon
by, 10-23-2011 at 02:47 PM (1082 Views)
I wrote this on Amazon.com, but I thought it might be of some use here.
I've had this for almost a year, and in general I am extremely pleased. In terms of getting bang for your buck, this is an exceptional value. You could easily spend $5K or more to get comparable-quality separate components. (If you already have a pre-amp and amp you are happy with, you would likely be better served with a stand-alone DAC.)
This unit is an integrated system consisting of a high-quality DAC, a pre-amp with a tube (6922) circuit and a solid-state circuit (you choose which to use), and a class A amplifier. The DAC compares favorably to many high-priced stand-alone units, and is probably the highest-quality component in the system. (Peachtree has also just introduced a stand-alone DAC). Google "Peachtree Nova Reviews" to read about its many superlatives.
I use it for a simple computer-based audio system consisting of a 2010 mac mini, the Nova, and two Bowers and Wilkins CM7 speakers. Although the amp can cope with these speakers, they would probably benefit from something with a bit more power.
Although I gave this five stars, it is important to recognize that it has some deficiencies and compromises that may or may not be relevant to your purchase decision. Here are a few such observations, both positive and negative:
The unit is ideally suited for two-channel audio, using a computer (eg: Mac mini or PC equivalent), airport express, Sonos, squeezebox, or similar source. Anything else with a two-channel digital coax or optical output should also work. Although it only does two channels, it has a home theatre bypass that permits you to integrate it into a conventional multi-channel system.
In addition to one pair of speaker outputs, there are two other sets of outputs, which allow you to use the unit with an external amplifier, bypassing the internal amp, or with an external pre-amp and amp, allowing you to use the unit as a stand-alone DAC. It also has a standard RCA analogue input. (If you have a turntable, you will need a separate phono-type pre-amp). It also is an excellent headphone amp. Attaching an external amp does not disengage the integrated amp, but I found I could do this by inserting a dummy headphone plug.
There are no drivers to install. This is a HUGE plus in my opinion. It is simply plug-and-play.
You can swap out the pre-Amp's stock Russian 6922 tube for something like an Amperex or Seimens tube if you so desire. I did this and the improvement was fairly marginal.
The remote control is basic, but functional. I used it to "train" a remote that integrates the functions of this remote, my Apple remote, TV remote, DVD remote, etc. (I picked that up on Amazon for $12.)
Peachtree is a small company that stands behind their product and has excellent customer service. The key players answer their own email. They clearly take their product and reputation very seriously, and are very helpful and friendly.
Amazon's price is $100 more than the list price.
The USB input is limited to 16-bit/48kHz. Even though the DAC itself is fully capable of 24-bit, 96kHz signal processing. Hence you are better off using optical or coaxial output from your computer. Most apple computers, and the Airport Express, use a mini toslink output (shared with the headphone jack), and you can thus play higher-resolution music on your computer. The PC user will likely require a USB to SPDIF coax converter, like the Hiface ($150) or Halide Bridge ($450), to realize the hi-res potential of the DAC.
The DAC is limited to 24-bit, 96kHz, which should be more than adequate (CDs and iTunes downloads are 16-bit, 44.1 kHz) for most people, but if you have invested in 192 kHz-sampled music, you probably should consider a different alternative.
In my experience, a good optical toslink, preferably glass, is worth the investment. "Good" plastic cables can be had from Amazon for $4; glass ones are $70 or more. Even with the best optical cable, the DAC occasionally experiences problems locking onto a 96kHz signal, even when using the second optical input, which is reserved for higher jitter devices. If you require flawless 24/96 kHz playback, you will eventually be forced into buying a USB/SPDIF coax converter. If you can put up with occasional glitches, or are content with 88.2 kHz or lower sampling frequency, a good optical connection is essentially indistinguishable (to my ears) compared to an expensive USB/SPDIF coax converter.
The DAC up-samples everything to 192kHz. Although it sounds good, I would prefer to have some way to over-ride the up-sampling.
I cannot hear any difference between the tube and solid-state pre-amp circuit under normal listening conditions. Either I have a tin ear, or the tube is a party gimmick (complete with a blue LED light). Admittedly it looks cool, but claims that it "adds warmth" and so forth seem more like wishful thinking. The on/off is controlled by the remote, so you can have someone help you do a blind test. I did find with highly compressed audiobooks, for example, I could detect a positive audible (pun intended) difference.
The Amp is rated at 80 W per channel at 6 ohms, which means it is about 55 W per channel at 8 ohms. This way of rating the amp is a bit deceptive.
The Amp is also rated at 1% THD, which seems rather high. Most amplifiers have one tenth or less total harmonic distortion.