Peachtree DACiT D/A converter
It's common knowledge that manufacturers tune the sound of each DAC model. There are the facts of product design and marketing: inputs, outputs, case materials, price points. After that, what's left are the trade-offs of different circuit designs and filter options, which are chosen with careeach has a subtle yet telling effect on a DAC's sound. Most designers try to go from bits to analog with minimal deviation from perfect. But when you look at the measurements and listen closely, you realize that perfect is elusive. One has to make choices.
The last Peachtree Audio product I reviewed, the iDac ($999, Stereophile, October 2011), had two switches on the back that let the user make some of these choices of digital design. The company's latest converter, the DACiT ($449), doesn't let you do that. Peachtree's David Solomon e-mailed me a bit of background on the new device: "As far as the filtering goes, it is what it is. [There is] no way to manipulate it, so we hope whoever buys one likes our particular sonic signature."
What you get
The DACiT looks just like the older Apple Mac mini, or a little bigger than a stack of six CDs (our younger readers can imagine a pile of 10 iPhones). The fit and finish of the aluminum-colored case is superb; a wall-to-wall rubber pad is glued to the bottom.
On the front are four buttons (left to right): Power, USB, Coax, and Opt. Next to those is the infrared remote sensor. The rear panel is equally straightforward: left and right analog RCA output jacks, USB, Opt, and Coax inputs, and a connector for the 9V DC wall wart (an upgrade waiting to happen?).
The supplied infrared remote control, about the size of a Snickers bar, is equally spartan, with Power, Mute, USB, Coax and Opt buttons.
When you first plug it in, the DACiT's Power light goes greenan awesome Day-Glo Mattel slime-in-a-bucket green. When you hit the green Power button, that light goes blue, as does the current chosen input button. If there's no signal at the chosen input, the input button is only outlined in blue. These blue lights are fairly bright, and might irritate in a darkened room. The main chassis and wall wart ran very cool to the touch all day long.
For $449, some compromises had to be made. There's a switching power supply, but Peachtree says they block any of its noise from getting to the DAC with galvanic isolation (John Atkinson should be able to confirm this in his measurements), and the USB input is not asynchronous, which I've found to be an advantage with other DACs I've tried. The DACiT is designed around the ESS Sabre24 9023 DAC chip, which reclocks all inputs, and, as mentioned, there are no filter optionsyou get the choices made by Peachtree.
Another possible price-related drawback with the DACiT is the inconsistent mix of sample rates supported by its various inputs. Via USB, I was able to get 44, 48, and 96kHz to work, but not 88, 176, or 192kHz. Coaxial S/PDIF supported all rates I threw at it from the Meridian Sooloos music server, including 176 and 192kHz. Optical did everything except 176.4 or 192kHz. In short, if you stick to 44, 48, or 96kHz, they all work.
The DACiT arrived just before the call for our annual "Records To Die For" choices in the February issue. Each year, this triggers hours of listening while trying to do the impossible: sort down to only two album picks. I began with Creedence Clearwater Revival's first album (SACD, Fantasy/Analogue Productions), which I'd jumped through a few hoops to transfer from SACD to hard drive via Foobar at 24/176. This was transferred to a DVD and sourced from my Oppo player via coaxial S/PDIF since I quickly realized that 24/176 wouldn't play via USB.
From one of America's greatest bands, Creedence Clearwater Revival opens in dramatic fashion with "I Put a Spell On You." Everything was there, from the bone-shaking bass to the detailed sheen on John Fogerty's voice. I cranked it up, and the midrange never became too edgy, as it had with some other DACsan auspicious beginning.