Peachtree Audio decco65 D/A integrated amplifier
Whether one was surprised, in 2010, by the success of Peachtree Audio's iDecco may have more to do with age than anything else. My peers and I wondered, at first, who would want their high-end integrated amps to come bundled not only with digital-to-analog converters but with iPod docks, of all things; at the same time, younger hobbyists wondered who in the world still wanted their integrated amps to contain phono preamplifiers. (Respect for the elderly, myself especially, prevents me from adding "and mono switches.") Color me chastened.
In digital audio, time waits for no oneand so it goes here. The iDecco, which sold for $999, is no longer in the company's lineup, and while Peachtree continues to put iPod docks in various of their amps and preamps, today they're betting on a simpler yet more highly evolved addition to their stable: the decco65 ($999), in which a 65Wpc amplifier and a hybrid tube/solid-state preamp share space with a 24-bit/192kHz D/A converter.
Much as they've succeeded in setting the right categories and price points for their products, so has Peachtree Audio found a winning formula for the decco65's industrial design: an attractive wood wraptoo curvy to be called a boxsurrounding a chassis that's just big enough to contain its working parts and a bit of cooling space. The wrap, which comes in a choice of high-gloss black paint or, for $100 more, a veneer of cherry or rosewood, fits snugly around an elegant satin-finish panel, the latter including a soft-touch standby switch, a row of smaller buttons for source selection, a large volume knob, a headphone jack, and a clear plastic window for the decco65's single vacuum tube: a 6N1P dual-triode, used not for voltage gain but as an interstage preamplifier buffer. A button on the remote control allows the user to switch between tubed and solid-state buffering, the former indicated by a blue light at the center of the tube's socket; thus the window offers visual confirmation of an audible function that some may consider subtle.
Inside, much of the decco65's size and weight are accounted for by a large toroidal power transformer, with the remaining power-supply components located on the rear half of the main preamplifier printed circuit board. A class-D power amplifier, built around a Texas Instruments (née Toccata) Equibit chipset, occupies a 5.5" by 3.2" board of its own, approximately 30% of which is taken up by a single chunky heatsink. The amp board sits near the center of the decco65 chassis, itself formed from a single piece of thin-gauge steel and finished in textured black paint.
Alongside three other Peachtree products introduced at the same timeincluding the more powerful nova125 that Sam Tellig reviewed in Januarythe decco65 is the company's first product to offer a USB digital input capable of handling 24-bit/192kHz data, and operating in the preferred asynchronous mode. In the decco65 and nova125, the iDecco's ESS Sabre 9006 DAC chip has been replaced by ESS's 9023 chip. According to Peachtree Audio's David Solomon, the asynchronous USB datastream is clocked right at the DAC.
Installation and setup
During its time in my home, the Peachtree decco65 replaced the electronics in two different systems: For the first few weeks it sat atop a nothing-special bookshelf in my living room and drove my restored Quad ESL loudspeakers; for the serious listening that was the basis of the observations below, the decco65 drove my Audio Note AN-E SPe/HE loudspeakers and the review samples of DeVore Fidelity's Orangutan O/96 speakers, both in my 12' by 19' listening room. In the latter setting, the Peachtree occupied two different spaces: When playing CDs and LPsthe latter by means of a borrowed Leben RS 30EQ phono preamplifierthe decco65 sat on the middle shelf of a Box Furniture rack; when playing music files streamed through its USB input, it sat on a short pinewood table near my Apple iMac, to keep USB cable length to no more than 1m. Hookup was easy and logical; my only serious criticism of the decco65 from that perspective is its lack of more than one pair of line-level inputs. The hobbyist who wishes to use a phono preamplifier and a CD playernot to mention a tuner or a tape deckwill have to look elsewhere.
The decco65 became only mildly warm to the touch during use, no doubt aided in that regard by the metal cooling vents built into the top and bottom surfaces of its wooden wrap. Unfussy in its cabling requirements, it seemed perfectly happy with the fabric-sheathed, copper-conductor speaker cables from Auditorium 23 that have become my favorites over the past five-plus years. The decco65 didn't appear to invert absolute signal polarity when driven with line-level sourcesmy Sony SCD-777ES SACD/CD player, my AudioQuest DragonFly USB D/A converter, and the aforementioned Leben phono preampbut I was slightly less sure when listening to its S/PDIF and USB digital inputs. I found myself very slightly preferring the sound with the polarity inverted at both pairs of output terminals, although those differences seemed smaller than usual, and did not, for whatever reason, call to mind to the sonic indicators I usually associate with correct and incorrect signal polarity. Go figure.