22/09/2009 High Resolution Digital Music.

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Posted by Len | 15 Comments

 

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.

15 Comments

Matt Ravden says...

I am an ex Len Wallis customer now living back in England, and I am living in the world you describe, with Linn technology. I rip CDs onto a NAS and stream the music via a Linn Klimax DS. The sound is way better than anything I’ve ever heard from a CD player at any price point, and actually many CDs sound high res, even though they aren’t. As a big jazz / classical fan, I also download studio quality 24 bit music from the Linn records website (www.linnrecords.co.uk), complete with album art, to play on the DS. It is awesome. Now eagerly awaiting the mono Beatles remasters, as I think they will sound stupendous on this set-up.

Oh, and finally, Linn has opened up the standards on control now so there are numerous options. I run an application called Songbook on an iPod touch.

Posted on November 3, 2009 at 2:52 am

Ron Quinton says...

I’m thinking about buying a new amp. to upgrade my HI FI system.
I don’t want to buy something that will be outdated in the near future, considering technology is changing rapidly how do you see as a way of storing music on a hard drive and playing thru an amp. Is the above unit (Peachtree Nova) a suitable choice for this particular method of playing my music.
Ron.

Posted on November 26, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Len says...

Hi Ron, the Peachtree Nova is designed exactly for this purpose. It is in itself a very good amplifier, but it also addresses the fact that we are graduating towards a purely digital source. It has very cleverly incorporated the best of both worlds, a combination of quality analogue inputs with all the digital inputs you should need.
There is a very good review on this product in Stereophile: http://www.stereophile.com/budgetcomponents/the_fifth_element_55/index.html.
The review begins in earnest at the bottom of page 1.

Posted on November 26, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Adam says...

I too, am an ex Sydneysider now spending my days soaking up the sun in Queensland and listening to streamed music via a Squeezebox connected via S/PDIF to a DAC (purchased funnily enough over the ‘phone from Len Wallis). The sound is better than any CD player also – and appreciably better than my SACD player connected to the same DAC and used as a transport. The Squeezebox system is so flexible and sounds so great it is insane.

Nowdays spinning a CD is reminiscent of the same sort of feeling I used to get when I used to have to dig around, find and insert the WordPerfect 4.2 floppy disk when I wanted to use a word processor, only to pull it out and insert the “Games” disk when I wanted to play a game.

Posted on November 27, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Angus says...

I too am looking at the Peachtree Nova to make best use of my Squeezebox Duet. I’m just not sure what speakers to pair with it (into a 7x4m living room). I’m not wanting huge volume (otherwise the 80 watts per channel amp wouldn’t be an option) but I would like to fill the room with mostly classical music. Would love some suggestions. (Not in the best of health otherwise I’d be spending more time auditioning rather than online asking).

Posted on December 20, 2009 at 7:22 pm

Len says...

There are a couple of good options. An obvious one is the Era Design 5, a smallish bookshelf speaker which has to be one of the most musical small bookshelf speakers on the market. There is no surprise in the fact that these two products work so well together – they both come out of the design studio in the US. This is a speaker, while a little inefficient, that works wonderfully with this amp, and a natural for classical, jazz and pop. We don’t have them on our website as yet, but information is available at http://signalpathint.com/index.php/Design-5-Series/. The Design 5 sells for $1,399 a pair – tremendous value.

For a little more – $1,999 – you can purchase the Focal Chorus 807V. These are also a bookshelf design, a little more open in character, and slightly ‘larger’ in presence.

Finally, I have just listened to the new Audio Physic Sitara. I have included these only because if you are looking to go all out, this would be a great speaker to do it with. Selling at $6,000 a pair these floorstanding speakers are as much as you could seriously spend on a speaker to match with the Peachtree – but the amplifier will easily drive them. The Sitara’s produce a beautifully balanced sound, with excellent bass which keeps time with the rest of the drivers, and a superb soundstage. I am a long time fan of Audio Physic, and once again they have delivered the goods.

Posted on December 21, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Angus says...

Len, thank you very much for your suggestions. I’ll definitely be out auditioning early in the new year. I’m afraid the Sitara’s are out of my price range. I’m hoping to keep my speaker purchase under $2000 (unless there’s a really compelling case to stretch that a little).

The D5′s have had great reviews so I’ll definitely listen to them but I’ve wondered if they’d have enough bass for our living room. I was looking at the Era D10′s too even though I haven’t seen any reviews nor anyone selling them in Australia. I even emailed the importer asking about them but their reply stated they’d be too expensive to import (by which I assume they mean there wouldn’t be sufficient demand/volume to keep freight costs down since I wouldn’t call $US1700/pr speakers expensive).

The Focal Chorus 807V’s sound interesting too (and with very good reviews) though with bookshelf speakers I’ll also need to factor in the significant cost of stands.

Posted on December 21, 2009 at 10:43 pm

Len says...

Hi Angus,

While I understand that the Sitara’s are still outside of the budget I should mention that I got the price wrong – they are $4,600 in standard finish and $5,390 for the high gloss finishes.

One of the strong points of the Design 5 is their surprising bass response. While they will not compete with a large floorstander they equip themselves remarkably well. I would be surprised if you were not satisfied in a room of your dimensions.

Your point regarding floor-stands is well founded. The quality of stands has a significant impact, and should not be treated lightly.

Posted on December 22, 2009 at 8:47 am

Peter says...

Hi Len, Will LWA will be stocking the Peachtree iDecco which seems to be like a combination of the Wadia ipod dock approach (ie bypass the ipod DAC) combined with an amplifier/DAC similar to that in the Nova? If so, what will be the approx $Aus price and the arrival date?

Posted on February 8, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Len says...

Hi Peter,

We will be carrying the iDecco. They have been ordered, and are due to arrive in Australia with the next four weeks. At this stage there has not been a price released, but I understand that it will sell for less than the Nova.

Posted on February 9, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Peter says...

Hi Len

Have the iDecco’s arrived yet? Do you have an australian price for them?

Posted on March 31, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Len says...

Hi Peter,
Coincidently I have just put an article up on our blog regarding this unit. They have arrived, and we now have one on display. The price is $1,499.

Posted on April 1, 2010 at 8:50 am

Lee Emery says...

I am very curious on the HRx recordings. As they are 176.4khz 24bit, I noticed the Musical Fideelity support 192khz x 24bit, would this do a good job with these files?

Posted on October 19, 2010 at 10:29 am

Len says...

Hi Lee,
Yes, the Musical Fidelity (I am assuming that we are talking about the M1 here) will do the job nicely provided you connect via SPDIF.
The inputs on the M1 are:
1 XLR AES balanced digital input
1 RCA coaxial connector SPDIF 32-192 kbps (16-24 bit stereo PCM)
1 TOSLINK optical connector 32-96 kbps (16-24 bit stereo PCM)
1 USB type ‘B’ connector for computer/PDA 32-48 kbps.

Posted on October 20, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Brad says...

I have an older (gifted) yamaha av receiver (KR V8540) hooked up to a pair of Bose 301 speakers, and was thinking about getting an olive 03HD to use as CD player but primarily to stream digital music from my Mac.

After reading about the peachtree nova (and noting the cost), i’m not sure whether I wouldn’t just be better off getting that as a dedicated hi-fi amp. My whole CD collection is already on my Mac.

Can you make any comment/suggestion that would assist in the decision?

Posted on November 10, 2010 at 8:20 pm

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