Peachtree DAC•iT D/A converter Page 2

Next I sorted through some recent discs from Jah Wobble, who's been drifting from one Asian culture to another, adding his trademark dubby bass guitar and clever editing. His most recent disc focuses on Japan, but for my R2D4 I ended up choosing Molam Dub (CD, 30 Hertz HZCD12), an album from a decade back based on field recordings from Laos. The mix gets very dense in spots, and it was in untangling this record's details that the DAC•iT suffered a bit in direct comparison with my reference Benchmark USB DAC. The DAC•iT's saving grace, though, was its sheer musicality, which made listening so fun that I hardly noticed.

Everything I threw at the DAC•iT had a deep, rich bottom end—so deep and rich that I began to wonder if the bass was tipped up a bit, like the Rega DAC's. However, the problem with the Rega's bottom end is that the extra bass is a tad woolly and leaden for my tastes. The DAC•iT's low end felt heftier than the Benchmark's (which no one would ever accuse of sounding tubby), but was it something else? To explore this, I cued up several electronic tracks from Tangerine Dream, then a handful of classical titles from Reference Recordings, and switched back and forth between DAC•iT and Benchmark.

What I discovered was that the DAC•iT didn't have extra bottom end. Instead, it had a slightly warmer but recessed midrange image and a very slightly soft top end. This can give the appearance of more bass, but with bass by itself, it sounded very similar to the other DACs. Compared with the Benchmark, and with even my favorite settings on the iDac, the DAC•iT's upper midrange moved back in the soundstage—the same effect I found with the iDac's Lo-Bit setting.

I also wanted to compare the DAC•iT directly with the iDac, which I still had on hand. I set the iDac's filter to NOS (no filtering or oversampling) and the other switch to Hi-Bit, my favorite settings during my listening for the iDac review. Over a wide selection of music, I tended to favor the iDac by a small margin with the better-recorded tracks. The devil was in the details: The iDac had a smidgen more control with difficult and dense recordings and I tend to prefer the midrange thrown forward a tad.

On the other hand, everything sounded wonderful, relaxed, and (dare I say it) analog-like through the DAC•iT. It tamed some otherwise dodgy recordings, and never had me feeling that anything important was missing, even though I know that dinky details were sometimes MIA.

This is a DAC you have to hear
I've listened, through my system, to the Musical Fidelity V-DAC, the Arcam rDAC, the Rega DAC, the YBA Design WD202, the HRT Music Streamer Pro, the Peachtree iDac, and the Cambridge Audio Azur DacMagic. All cost under $1000, and each is a good-sounding DAC with a subtle yet unique sonic signature. Of those mentioned that cost less than $500, I would easily reach first for the DAC•iT. All of the DACs in this list have little blemishes in various spots, including the DAC•iT, but the Peachtree's flaws are more than buried under the sheer beauty of the music it makes. With other DACs in its price range, I've always sensed a subtle cheapness to the sound, but not with the DAC•iT. (Both the Musical Fidelity V-DAC and Cambridge DacMagic have since been released in revised editions that I haven't heard, so you may want to check them to be sure.)

Manufacturers put their preferences out there for the public to hear, then cross their fingers. Peachtree Audio clearly knows what they're doing, and their DAC•iT is incredibly enjoyable to listen to. The guys at Peachtree are apparently fussy listeners, and in this model their fussiness has paid off.

Hope springs eternal among thrifty audiophiles that a $500 DAC will get them all the way to $20,000 sound. I'm not sure that will ever happen, but if you're spending under $500, or even up to $1000, this is a DAC you have to hear.

Peachtree Audio
Signal Path International
2045 120th Ave NE
Bellevue, WA 98005
(704) 391-9337

aopu.mohsin's picture

Thanks Jon for the review. Sounds like a great product and comes recommended. However, I was wondering if you already have a list or can provide a "Highly-recommended" or "Top-10" list of budget DACs for budget-minded listeners (within different price range: $300, 500, $800 and $1000 something like it)?

Thanks in advance.

Jon Iverson's picture

Good question - I've not really developed one and am pondering how such a list could be created rationally. With the dozens of well-designed and reasonably priced DACs out there, this might be a big project. Would sure make an interesting shoot-out though. hmmm.

Stephen Scharf's picture

Knowing Peachtree's products, I'm sure it's a fine-sounding DAC, but I think the new Schiitt Bifrost is a better DAC. It's also $50 less expensive, can use a real power cord rather than a wall wart (try it with a Shunyata Venom3 for superb results), is upgradeable for both USB and DAC boards, and supports asynch USB up to 24/192. Having owned one for three months, I personally think the Bifrost is better than anything else in the $500 price class and runs VERY close in performance to my $1300 Wadia 121. 

A review of the Bifrost should be on Stereophile's short list.

Jon Iverson's picture

Hi Stephen - yes that's a good suggestion. I'm hoping to hear the BiFrost soon. Have you heard the DacIT yet? I wasn't expecting much at the price point but was taken aback with how much it sounded like a high-end DAC. They did a great job voicing it.

DeeJonesTex's picture

Purchased a DAC ITx yesterday hoping my 15 year old or so Adcom would be eclipsed by today's technology. After much listening, the Adcom KILLS it in every way. Interesting. I know its not expensive, but was still a little surprised....

Audiolad's picture

"I have these old speakers I've treasured for years, yet when I compared them to the new ones, they blow them out of the water!"

That's a common problem with speakers because they are eletro-mechanical devices. What isn't thought of by some users is electronics also have a burn in time (20 hours recommended by Crutchfield for DAC IT X). Some electronics require much more, and my Schiit USB DAC only sounds good after 70 hours, so it does vary. Just keep that in mind when you compare any HiFi product.