Peachtree Audio nova300 Review
I'm going to start this off with an assignment for those reading the review. I hate to sound professorial, or like there will be an exam later in the semester, but it's for your own benefit. Please read my review of the Peachtree Audio nova150 before reading further. There's no need to recreate the wheel and go over the 99% of shared concepts and features a second time. The nova150 and the nova300 have so much in common, that I consider them not just brothers, but twins. Not in the complete Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito kind of way. Rather, more like real twins. One is stronger, better at sports, and receives more accolades. The nova150 and nova300 have the same DNA, just like identical twins, but the nova300 is that captain of the hockey team twin. The nova300 has a bit more going for it than the nova150. Similar to the way that members of the opposite sex may be more attracted to the stronger more athletic twin, audiophiles may be more attracted to the nova300. 300 is more than 150, so it must be better. Right? Or, just like the real world, does the smaller twin have more brains and finesse? After taking the nova300 for a spin for a week, I have no doubt that the stronger twin is equal to or better than the nova150 at everything. When paired with my TAD Compact Reference One loudspeakers, the nova300 had plenty of power to play Nine Inch Nails at 100 dB, with peaks near 115 dB, and play Beethoven's Sonata for Piano and Violin No. 5 in F, Op. 24 at reasonable levels with excellent detail and texture. I had so much fun with the nova300 in my system that I played everything from classical to classic rock to heavy metal to rap to metal rap. I just had to hear if the nova300 was capable of driving my 86 dB sensitive loudspeakers with power, finesse, and control. Test = passed. I hate to demean the nova150, but life isn't fair sometimes. Just like that identical twin who was naturally stronger and more gifted than his brother, in my system the nova300 is simply better. When in doubt, the Peachtree Audio nova300 is the one you want. Period.
nova300 versus nova150
The Peachtree Audio nova300 differs from its smaller twin, the nova150, in two ways.
1) The nova300's amplification is 300 watts per channel @ 8Ω, versus 150 watts per channel @ 8Ω for the nova150.
2) The nova300 has a high output discrete, custom-designed headphone amplifier whereas the nova150 has a standard output discrete, custom-designed headphone amplifier.
In the following paragraph from Peachtree's nova300 web page, you could use the "Find and Replace" function of any text editor, and replace number 300 for 150, and you'd have an accurate description of the nova150 rather than the nova300. The two products are literally that similar.
"The nova300 incorporates the latest generation of ICEPower amplification - with an impressive 300 watts per channel. The amplifier utilizes ICEpower’s innovative and patented Hybrid Controlled Oscillation Modulator (HCOM) feedback and control techniques to ensure high output, wide bandwidth, low noise, robust stability and a simplified overall design. HCOM incorporates separate feedback loops after the power stage and after the output filter. This lets the system address specific issues related to the power stage and output filter independently, resulting in lower distortion, less noise on the output, a less load-dependent frequency response, and a very low output impedance compared to other class D amps. This new amplifier technology is extremely powerful, dynamic, quiet and most importantly... musical. Relatively small size and superior efficiency allows a nova chassis that is even smaller than its predecessors, without the large, heavy and expensive heat sinking common in class A/B amplifiers. The amplifier in the nova300 is capable of driving an extremely wide range of speakers with impedances as low as 2.5Ω and as high as 16Ω. Combine that with a power output of 300 watts per channel and you can be sure this new nova will easily drive your favorite loudspeaker."
With respect to the headphone section in the nova300, it's stated to drive any headphone on the market "superbly" rather than the nova150's ability to drive any headphone on the market "well." I'm not the best guy at judging headphone amp quality and don't have an extensive array of headphones with which to test the nova300's headphone amp. I'd be doing everyone a disservice to dig deeper into this part of the nova300 at this time. Thus, I'll leave it to the experts to educate everyone on the headphone section.
The Fun part
You want all the specifications and the reason why this Peachtree Audio 2.0 nova300 is so good? Do your homework and read the review of the nova150. You want to know how much better the nova300 is than the nova150? Keep reading right here.
Many members of the CA Community know that I'm not an aficionado of classical music. In fact, that's a nice way of saying I'm a classical idiot. I don't understand it and often feel like a dunce when people talk to me about classical music. I just looked at the table of contents of Classical Music for Dummies and was a bit overwhelmed. I'd love to love it, but that's a topic for another day. Needless to say, I'm not even sure I'm describing the following album correctly.
Naxos of America recently sent me an album with large letters that say Sonatas for Piano and Violin, with smaller letters saying Ludwig van Beethoven, Arthur Grumiaux, and Claudio Arrau. My guess is that Beethoven is the composer, Grumiaux (violin) and Arrau (piano) are the performers on this album and the name Sonatas for Piano and Violin must describe something in addition to the instruments being played. Don't get me started with the naming convention of the rest of the album, Sonata for Piano and Violin No. 5 in F, Op. 24 “Spring” and its underlings Allegro, Adagio molto espressivo, Scherzo (Allegro molto), and Rondo (Allegro ma non troppo). It's so high-brow sounding that it's untouchable for me and many others.
Anyway, I ripped the album and started listening on my system before and during the nova300 review. Wow, I love this album. Not only is the music good, the album sounds fantastic. It's part of the Pentatone Remastered Classic series. Highly recommended. The first track, Allegro, starts out like it could have been the score to a 1980s Grey Poupon commercial. Soft piano and violin, very formal like the dining room in your parent's house that nobody can actually walk into. Through the Peachtree Audio nova300 Allegro sounds really wonderful. The sweetness of the violin with a touch of texture of the strings totally sucked me in. Once I was in, I was in for the long haul. I listened to this entire album 12 times (according to Roon). Not continuously, but 12 times is a lot of listens and enables one to really hear nuances. Given the audio equipment is up to the task. The nova300 is definitely up to the task of reproducing the delicate notes of Grumiaux's violin and Arrau's piano at low and loud levels. I have no idea what the objective measurements of the nova150 and nova300 are, but the nova300 just sounds much better to me. Better than the extra 150 watts of power. Heck, I listened to a 45 minute classical album 12 times! Speaking of the entire album, it's just as delightful sounding as the first notes of Allegro. not much for dynamics but it more than makes up for this in sweetness and beautiful piano overtones. I thought the nova300 was going to be a brute, with its added power, but it turns out this thing has finesse as well. Unexpected finesse.
I admit to being the last person on Earth to "discover" Carole King's music. This discovery happened one week ago. I stumbled upon her album Tapestry. Wow, what a masterpiece. I consider it far from a sonic masterpiece, but with respect to great music and enjoyment, it's fabulous. I listened to this album many times through the Peachtree Audio nova300 since this discovery. The time spent listening has been just great. Most notable, other than Carole's voice, was Charles Larkey's bass throughout track two, So Far Away. It not only lays the foundation for the track, but it grabbed my attention in a good way. The deep groove reminded me of the days when real artists played real instruments on real albums. At the very end of the track Larkey plays a little lick that I just had to crank up every time I listened. Through the nova300 the sound of the bass while the volume was low, was really great, but with a great bass lick like this one, I had to turn it up for fun effect. I wanted to bathe in this one, so I cranked it time and again. The nova300's reproduction of popular albums, where audiophiles were far from top of mind during production, was great.
After going easy on the nova300, it was time to make this thing sweat (if I could). I started with a couple tracks that are more for HiFi demonstration than listening. Marcus Miller's Intro Duction from the Silver Rain album features powerful electric bass like none other. I saw Andrew Jones shut down a top of the line VTL preamplifier using this track at CES a couple years ago (the protection circuit shutdown the preamp when playing this track). I wanted to make sure the nova300 could not only play it at high volumes, but that it could play it well. I set the volume up higher than I would normally listen and let it rip. What a ride. The deep yet delineated bass really sounded great. The nova300 gave my woofers a workout and didn't appear to be under any stress. Needless to say, I couldn't make the amplifier shutdown on its own. Another track that I played was Lorde's Royals. When this track first came out I loved it. The lyrics are very cool and the music is nice as well. Unfortunately, everyone and their mother burned this one out on the radio, Internet, and HiFi shows. Again, I cranked it up louder than normal and let it rip. When the deepest bass kicked in, my cat ran out of the room. Deep, loud, powerful and subwoofer-esque bass came from my TAD loudspeakers driven by the Peachtree Audio nova300 during this track. HiFi demo or not, it was fun giving the system a workout.
HiFi demonstrations can be fun and all, but that fun doesn't last. I always need to play "real" music when listening and evaluating components. I wanted to push the nova300 with real music. I started with March of the Pigs from Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral album. It's controlled chaotic noise, that has a nice ring to it. I set the nova300 volume to a notch or two below maximum, and clicked play. The volume peaks hit near 115 dB, while the normal listening level was in the mid to upper 90s. This music screams to be played loud and that's what I did. The nova300 handled it without an audible issue. The larger question is, did I enjoy the music? Oh yeah. This is a great album and 'Pigs' is one of my favorite tracks on the album. I adjusted the volume a bit lower for further listening and remained captured by the music and system. I had a nearly identical experience listening to the track Wish from NIN's Broken EP. Powerful, loud noise at high volumes and I loved it.
Moving from totally electronic music to music that was created with only guitar, bass, and drums, I put on the Steve Hoffman remaster of Rage Against The Machine's self-titled debut album. Listening to Zack De La Rocha scream "Fr-e-e-e-d-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-m, yeah right" through the nova300 and my TADs was excellent. Track ten, titled Freedom, is full of great musicianship all around. The bass lines throughout, the guitar solos, the heavy drums, and unmistakable vocals can all be heard as distinct parts of the whole. On some systems the instruments get lost in a ball of noise and it sounds like your mom is listening to it and saying, "Turn that noise down." Not the case with the nova300. The amplifier has great control and enough power to reproduce very demanding tracks on somewhat demanding loudspeakers.
A few years ago Peachtree Audio's David Solomon brought the $4,500 Grand Integrated amplifier over to my house while he was in town for a meeting. The Grand Integrated was the flagship of the Peachtree line at the time. We played it connected to the same TAD compact reference loudspeakers, in the same room, and listened to some of the same music I listened to during this review. Comparing what I heard then with what I heard this week, I have to say the nova300 is better than the twice-as-expensive Grand Integrated. This is what Peachtree Audio 2,0 is all about. New products, better engineering and even better value.
I was going to leave the conclusion at that. Six words that say it all. But, I don't want anyone to feel cheated. If you want to read further, go ahead. If not, the opening sentence sums up what I'm about to say. When one has the option of a more powerful component, there are frequently tradeoffs that come with more power. Sometimes more power equates to less resolution. In the case of the Peachtree Audio nova300, I found no such tradeoffs. The feature set is nearly identical to the nova150, but a little better because of the high output headphone amp. The extra 150 watts of amplification alone doesn't seem like it would make all the difference in the world, but in my case, it made all the difference in the world. The nova300 performed much better than the 150 with delicate classical music and obnoxious noise from Nine Inch Nails, that I love to play loud. I'm not talking about some comparison I did years ago. I had the nova150 in my system only three months ago. This is part of the reason why I wanted to get the nova300 in here so quickly. I could compare the two while both were fresh in my mind. People considering the nova150 will no doubt be pleased with its performance. It's a good amplifier. However, the nova300 is the homecoming king, the captain of the team, and the president of the senior class, rolled up into one item. Power, control, and finesse. This is the nova you want.
Note: Currently the nova300 is shipping without the Dy-NEC USB A port enabled. The company's official statement is as follows.
"The nova300 is currently shipping with the USB-A input for iOS devices disabled.
We are awaiting USB certification of this input. This is a newly required certification that has backed up USB test labs, causing industry-wide delays. Once the certification process is complete, we will update your nova300 at absolutely no cost to you - we'll even pay the cost of shipping to and from the factory to have the update installed.
Order now to experience the best Peachtree amplifier ever built! And be sure to register your nova300 here to extend your Peachtree Audio warranty to three years.
Thank you for being a Peachtree customer - and enjoy the music!"
- Product - Peachtree Audio nova300 ($2,299)
- Product Page - Link
- Where To Buy - Dealers Locator
- User Manual - PDF
- USB Driver - Link
Where To Buy (CA Supporter):
- Source: Apple iPhone, Sonore microRendu
- DAC: Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 2, Mytek Digital Brooklyn
- D-to-D Converter: Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB
- Amplifiers: Constellation Audio Mono 1.0 / Monoblock Power Amplifiers
- Preamplifier: Constellation Audio PreAmp 1.0
- Loudspeakers: TAD Labs CR1 Compact Reference
- Remote Control Software: JRemote, Roon Remote
- Remote Control Hardware: iPad Air 2
- Playback Software: Roon, JRiver Media Center
- Network Attached Storage (NAS): Synology DS1812+, CAPS v4 Cortes Server
- Audio Cables: Wire World Platinum Eclipse 7 Interconnects (XLR & RCA), Wire World Platinum Eclipse 7 Speaker Cables, Wire World Platinum Starlight 7 Digital Cables,
- USB Cables: Wire World Platinum Starlight 7 USB 2.0, AudioQuest Diamond USB 2.0, Nordost Purple Flare USB 2.0
- Power Cables: ALO Audio AC6 Power Cables
- Ethernet Cables: AudioQuest Vodka Ethernet Cables throughout system
- Network: Cisco SG200-26 Switch, Baaske MI-1005 Ethernet Isolator, Apple AirPort Extreme, Calix 716GE-I Optical Network Terminal, ZyXEL C1100Z modem / router, CenturyLink 1 Gbps download / upload
Edited by The Computer Audiophile0