22/09/2009 High Resolution Digital Music.

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Posted by Len | 14 Comments on High Resolution Digital Music.


Peachtree Nova Hybrid Amplifier.

Peachtree Nova Hybrid Amplifier.

The release of the Peachtree Nova amplifier heralds a new era of high fidelity in Australia. MP3, iPod, digital downloads, etc. has been a phenomenal world-wide success, embraced by all walks of life. Except, it appears, by one group – the specialist Hi-Fi industry. Most Hi-Fi dealer principles have been in the industry for a long time, and as you would expect judge the value of any component on its ability to accurately recreate the original performance. Despite the convenience of the digital music format, performance has not been one of its strong points.

This has been slowly changing over the last couple of years with FLAC, WAV and other lossless codecs becoming more popular, and with the cost of storage plummeting.

All of a sudden digital music has become fashionable in the world of Hi-Fi. One of the early converts was high-end Scottish manufacturer Linn who surprised many in the Hi-Fi fraternity by claiming that their DS (Digital Stream) players were as good as, or better than their very best (and very expensive) CD players. Suddenly everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, and with very good reason, it is – as Linn pointed out – possible to extract a very high performance level from digital music – theoretically at least better than CD.

This is something that we are researching in depth at the moment. The stimulus was the release of Reference Recordings HRx audio discs. These discs are recorded on DVD-R discs in WAV format, with a resolution of 24bit, 176.4kHz. They cannot be played on a CD, SACD or DVD player but must be downloaded onto a hard-drive. This is where the fun starts – your sound card must be able to handle this resolution, and you will need a very high quality DAC to convert the files. Storage space is also a premium – each disc requires up to 4.7GB.

It is still early days for us with this format. We have done considerable research on suitable DAC’s and the universal recommendation is the Berkeley Alpha DAC from the US. We have ordered a small shipment of these for evaluation. We are also researching storage devices, and have placed an order for a Hush Technologies computer (specially configured for our requirements) from Germany. We will be using the Lynx Studio Technology sound card, and are still battling with a suitable interface. Another option is that a company in the US has modified the Sonos ZP90 to pass through this level of resolution. Does it work? We don’t know but we are waiting on a sample to find out. It is also feasible to use the new MusicM8 server from XIVA ($1,499) in place of the Hush.

As much as I love the tactile presence of a CD there is no doubt that the future of recorded music will be on-line. The stumbling block of performance is now being resolved. Better broadband speeds and offerings make access more available. Convenience is the key, and once we have the combination of convenience and performance we will have ready access to a previously unimagined quantity and quality of music.

How does this relate to the Peachtree Nova? To the best of my knowledge The Peachtree is the first release of an integrated amplifier designed to access both analogue and digital sources. It is a very fine amplifier in its own right, with a valve pre-amplifier stage and an 80 watt/channel mos-fet power amp. What really sets it apart is the inclusion of a high quality DAC for your digital music sources (it even has a slot in the back to house a Sonos ZP90 for all those Sonos devotees.) At $1,799 it is an inexpensive and very versatile means of getting the best from those thousands of files that you already have sitting on your hard-drive.


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