Peachtree iDecco D/A integrated amplifier Page 3

The results weren't always what I expected. The distinctions weren't huge, by any measure, and they confounded me further by being somewhat music-dependent. For the most part, I slightly preferred the iMac-to-USB route, for a number of reasons: That approach not only rewarded me with the most open, least opaque treble performance of which the iDecco seemed capable, but also with the Peachtree's best sense of note-to-note flow—which was considerable. The beautiful, sun-dappled melodies that fill Elgar's Nursery Suite, as performed by Paul Goodwin and the English Chamber Orchestra (ripped from Harmonia Mundi HMU 907258), were easier to trace through the USB than through the iPod inputs. Likewise, the subtle keyboard wash in the background of Jeff Buckley's "Lilac Wine," from Grace (ripped from Columbia CK 57528), seemed more delicate, and consequently more effective, through the USB.

But played through the iDecco's USB input, some music—soft acoustic fare, for the most part—could at times sound a bit too smooth for my tastes: listenable, but comparatively unstirring. On guitarist David Grier's approach to "Little Wing," for example, from Phillips, Grier & Flinner's Looking Back (ripped from Compass 7 4342 2), I found myself thinking that the sound from the iPod input gave a better feeling of (realistic) pick-on-string noises, while most of the outboard USB DACs I had on hand—especially the Wavelength Cosecant ($3500)—were even more satisfying. That said, I suspect that the iDecco's ultrasmooth Sabre DAC would be more at home in budget systems, and with music files of less than high resolution.

A few words about the iDecco's more esoteric user controls: Even though it sounded a little brighter and sharper, I generally preferred the iDecco's Fast filter slope, which seemed to get the most out of note attacks, natural textures, and the like. Also, as the iDecco's very useful manual would lead one to expect, digital sources that are presumed to be low in jitter were sonically better served by the Narrow setting of the jitter switch, whereby music sounded a little more substantial and detailed, and more musically purposeful and tuneful. As for that tube switch, the differences were extraordinarily slight, but I did prefer having the tube in-line; voices and lead instruments then gained a shade more body and color. Without the tube, the sounds of solo voices were more like outlines: perimeters, with anchor points in the bass and treble, but missing some midrange fill.

A final performance note: Just before writing this review, I compared the Peachtree iDecco with a well-worn sample of its predecessor, the Peachtree Nova. I expected few, if any, obvious differences, especially when driving the more sensitive speakers at my disposal—an expectation that was confounded, howsoever slightly.

The smoothness that characterized the iDecco's USB input was, if anything, more conspicuous through the Nova, in addition to which the latter presented a soundfield noticeably larger than that of the less expensive Peachtree amp. Through the iDecco, Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited (ripped from the "Red Book" CD layer of Columbia CH 90324) sounded as I've come to expect over the course of several years: a little bright. (In the opening of "Queen Jane Approximately" in particular, the trebly electric guitar and hi-hat tambourine can be a bit much.) The Nova rounded off those high-frequency edges, and seemed to spread the left-channel piano and the right-channel organ farther away from each other—qualities that it imposed on a variety of other recordings, as well. The distinctions were sufficiently slight that the Nova review sample's longer run-in period could well have been a factor; still, those whose rooms and speakers are more kind to soft trebles, and whose needs don't include an iPod dock, may wish to hold out for the higher-priced spread.

In the August 2009 Stereophile, John Marks suggested that Peachtree Audio's Nova is "the Dynaco Stereo 70 for the 21st century." Well said—and if so, Peachtree's iDecco is surely the latest incarnation of the Advent 300 receiver: great source, great styling, great sound.

The source part is obvious, the styling subjective—and, I'm happy to say, the sound is wonderful. On the one hand, the iDecco is much closer than the average affordable product to having what I consider true perfectionist-quality sound: very good bandwidth, openness, clarity, timbral neutrality, and smoothness, with spatial qualities that, if not quite top-drawer, are surely leagues above those from which the average Peachtree owner will have just upgraded. On the other hand, comparing the iDecco to my own system of Shindo tube electronics and vintage phono components—a larger investment by a factor of 30 or so—is silly to the point of pointlessness: To paraphrase Voltaire, the better may indeed be the enemy of the good, but for the vast, hurtling majority of people, the iDecco is the better.

And even for this perfectionist, it's quite good enough: During its time in my home, the Peachtree iDecco proved so delightful, so indispensable, that I had no choice but to buy it. A perfectionist-quality music system—just add speakers!—with a three-figure price? For the domestic audio market of 2010 and beyond, a more important new product is hard to imagine.

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jelledge's picture

I've been hoping for this review to appear and it finally has! Written by my favorite reviewer since "Listening" days.
I owned a Naim system for 15 years which I have passed on to my son who is a big vinyl fan and bought an iDecco. Using a Macbook, iPod Classic or CD player used as a transport, I don't feel like I've given up much of the old PRaT from the Naim system though I will confess that I listen with less intensity than when I was a younger man. Nice review.

soulful.terrain's picture

..I just read a review of the ML 30.5, 31.5 combo.

If this 'china' gear is as good as described... then I blew alot of money on my current gear that was once described in the same fashion.

John Atkinson's picture
The sad fact is that the technical performance it once took many thousands of dollars to buy is now routinely available in chips that cost less than $10 in bulk. And I also own a Mark Levinson No.31.5/No.3o.6 combination - it is still competitive with the best.
soulful.terrain's picture

... technology happens eh? lol:)

Maybe your like me John, it's tough to even contemplate about getting rid of my 30.5/31.5 combo. :)