Peachtree iDecco D/A integrated amplifier Page 2
The rear panel is nicely laid out, with inputs for four of the five sourcesUSB digital, coax and optical S/PDIF digital, and line-level analogplus one pair of preamp outputs for subwoofers or other ancillaries, and a pair of line-level outputs for those who might wish to use the iDecco as a standalone DAC to drive some other preamp or amp. Two other items deserve mention: a two-position switch for choosing between soft and steep digital filter slopes, and a Jitter Bandwidth control, with Narrow and Wide settings (think of them as fine and coarse sieves, respectively), for use with the S/PDIF inputs.
Finally, the Peachtree iDecco is protected by an MDF "wrap" liberally vented for heat dissipation, and finished with a sufficiently glossy (black) paint sufficiently glossy that I long assumed the case was made of some sort of polymer.
Setup and use
Like the Naim Uniti CD/receiver before it (see my review in the March 2010 Stereophile), the Peachtree iDecco led a nomadic existence in my home: I applied it to four different pairs of loudspeakers (Audio Note AN-E/SPe H/E, Wilson Audio Sophia 3, Quad ESL, Advent Loudspeaker) in three different rooms. Most of my listening was done with the first two pairs, in my listening room/office (19' long by 12' wide by 8' high).
Installation was a breeze: Once I'd connected the iDecco's USB input to my Apple iMac G5 computer (OSX 10.6.2), a sound output device listed as "USB Audio DAC" appeared in the computer's System Preferences window, and I duly selected it. As for its top-mounted iPod connection, the iDecco is supplied with four different dock inserts, one of which fit my and my daughter Julia's iPod Touches to a T.
In addition to AIFF and MP3 files from our iPods (v.4.0.2), and those plus WAV files streamed from my computer's copy of iTunes (v.9.2.1), I tried bypassing the iDecco's USB transceiver by streaming files to a Stello U2 USB transceiver, then on to the iDecco's coaxial S/PDIF input by means of a Black Cat Veloce cable (a superb product at a bargain price of $123). I compared the whole of the iDecco's USB DAC system to various outboard USB DACs on hand, using the latter to address the Peachtree's single pair of line-level analog inputs (labeled Aux). I also tried my aging Sony SCD-777ES SACD/CD player, from both its line-level analog outputs and its optical S/PDIF output. I had intended to try streaming music files direct to the iDecco's optical input, from the iMac's headphone jackwhich, remarkably, is also an S/PDIF digital outputbut an optical plug adapter that I ordered for that purpose didn't arrive in time. A Follow-Up may follow.
It's often presumed that, all other things being equal, the performance of an integrated amp is compromised compared to the performance potential of good separates. Take that equality from the scene and the compromise is presumed greater still, as with an especially cheap integrated amp. For the amp to share its chassis and power supply with source componentsan iPod dock and a D/A converter, perhaps?harshens the compromise still further. So the question becomes: How cleverly were those compromises chosen and implemented?
In the context of the perfectionist-quality gear with which I'm familiar, the iDecco's shortcomings were far from severe, and had more to do with abstract sonics than purely musical capabilities, the latter being extremely good (a subject to which I'll return in a moment). The iDecco's overall sound was nonetheless satisfying, with a treble range that sounded naturally extended, lacking both the excess grit and the peculiarly chalky quality that characterizes a great deal of budget solid-state playback gear. The opposite end of the spectrum was also well served: The lowest piano notes and drum and synth tones sounded fast and well controlled, albeit without quite the locomotive weight one can hear from, say, a Shindo, Lamm, Audio Note, or EAR tube amp. But the Peachtree did a satisfying job with the huge orchestral drum sounds and other harrowing effects in John Adams' On the Transmigration of Souls, with Lorin Maazel leading the New York Philharmonic (CD, Nonesuch 79816-2).
Actually, the iDecco's most identifiable shortcoming was that to which I find myself least sensitive: It didn't have quite the same degree of spatial depth as the best contemporary electronics. I might also add that my favorite electronics, all of which are either very expensive, or very rare and thus terrifyingly expensive, imbue recorded music with a little more presence, somewhat more color, and a lot more texture than did the iDecco. That would be truebut who in the world would expect otherwise?
As to the iDecco's purely musical performance, I was impressed beyond all reasonable expectations. The iDecco played music with an excellent freedom from timing distortions: Upbeat fare such as the title track of Audra Mae's The Happiest Lamb (CD, Sideonedummy SD1416-2)a more rhythmically nuanced track than average, I daresayexhibited fine pacing. Even downtempo numberssuch as Peter Rowan and Tony Rice's "Trespasses," from the Quartet album (ripped from Rounder 11661-0579-2), and Procol Harum's poignant "An Old English Dream," from The Well's On Fire (CD, Eagle ER 20006-2)maintained good momentum, and resisted tipping over like the musical equivalent of a ponderous bike: a rarity, believe it or not, among cheap and dear equipment alike.
Of course, of the many playback modes of which the iDecco is capable, I most looked forward to hearing AIFF files from my iPod Touch played through the integral iPod dock, and comparing them with the exact same files streamed from my iMac-iTunes installation through the iDecco's USB input. I spent many a long hour doing just that.