I am always afraid to leave technical reviews for a product like this that many audiophiles may read and criticize so for the record-I am not quite an audiophile but I love great music, I love electronics and I have very good audio equipment but I don't know everything.
I had been using a Denon AVR-1800 that I have had forever running Pandora through Sonos along with a Musical Fidelity DAC (Digital to Analong Converter) with some B & W in Ceiling speakers and some Anthony Gallo a'Diva Ti speakers which are little mini spheres. I also have a very nice Gallo Sub and the sound was surprisingly good for a large Great Room. Enter me looking to buy a TV at a local A/V store and listening to other stereo equipment. Quickly they taught me that for the best sound and most flexibility is separate components because your receiver does not need to do the work of amplification and sourcing. It seemed like a bit much to me and also a bit expensive so I looked around at some other local A/V stores (4 total) and what I noticed is that every single one of them carried Peachtree Audio. Note these are high end audio shops not BB or anything mainstream. So I went to the Peachtree website and started looking at this Pre-Amp and what attracted me were several things above what peaked my interest: 1) It's made for the digital world of music through it's inputs which are two Coax, a USB and an optical and RCA AUX. 2) It comes with a Digintal to Analog Converter inside of it that is the same as their DACit which separately is $459 and has stellar reviews here on Amazon. 3) The hybrid tube I have heard can give a smoother sound.
My New Story Post-Peachtree:
Because Amazon has a generous return policy and I was able to find an open box, I took the dive and immediately was struck at how beautiful this item is but also how solidly well-built it is. Peachtree is not messing around. This is what they do and they do it well. Being new to the whole world of Receiver vs. Pre-Amp I wasn't positive how much difference this would make so after purchasing a TON of different audio equipment I was able to understand if I should return this item or not. I tested it with a new Rotel Class D amp that is 250 x 2 into 8 ohms running the Gallo speakers and Gallo Sub vs. The Denon AVR-1800 as a Pre-Amp and Musical Fidelity as the DAC. No contest the Peachtree was a better DAC/Pre-Amp. OK, that was easy. Then, I did the same test with B & W 686 Bookshelf speakers vs. an older NAD pre-amp (C-160). This was it's first true test and the Peachtree in listening to jazz, rock, R & B, etc. was hands down much more open and warm, probably due to the tube. There was actually no contest. But here is the thing-the better the equipment I added, the better the Peachtree sounded. I settled on a pair of B & W CM1 bookshelf speakers and my Rotel Amp is powering those and a pair of B & W in cielings in the same zone. Apple Lossless Audio through Apple TV and streaming from my MAC sounds gorgeous and Pandora through Sonos is amazing for digital music. CD's are a dream and the sound is so effortless and there is no harshness at all. Again-I am not a complete audiophile so I don't use a lot of terms like "Soundstage" and "Imaging." I will save that for people who really know what they are doing....but I like to believe I have a good ear. So, I also have a Rotel 1562 Receiver which is Class D Power and is a beast of a receiver. Just a beautiful monster. In comparing that as a Pre-Amp vs. Peachtree and using Musical Fidelity as the DAC for the Rotel and then using the Rotel 1575 Amp as the power-I liked the Rotel better powering B & W 683 towers.-but here is what I would say to that-They are totally different things and the comparison is one not many people will probably have or ever think about.
The utlimate Test-My wife
So with each different speaker and pre-amp combination (using the same Rotel Amp) I had my wife listen to the same songs at the same volume and didn't tell her anything. She didn't know prices or what the equipment was and the Nova Pre was the easy winner. So, I do have a good ear, eh? The pricing may scare off some new to the world of separates, but if you are going to buy a good DAC for $380-$500 and then buy a Pre-Amp-are you really going to find a combination that beats this price and performance with this functionality/flexibility? If you do-let me know. Sure, lots of DAC's are serving as Pre-Amps and there are more and more good Integrated amps out there, but the hybrid tube on this is just spectacular sounding with it's clarity and dynamic "Smoothness." Through the process of adding this new equipment, I learned that if you can't buy it all at once (which few people can)-just get a good piece that you can have for a long time. Save up-then buy another piece. Save up-then buy another piece. Eventually, you have your dream system. For Two Channel Audio through digital signals-I highly recommend a start here.
on July 3, 2013
As a long time user of the Bose 901 VI system it got difficult for me to settle for a new amplifier but I was always missing something that can take it on with the 18 full-range membranes. Usually driven with a lower cost cambridge audio amp (azure 340A, then 350A) that has the Tape In/ Out option to loop through the 901 EQ, I was looking for more action, more headroom, a better stage and overall better control and dynamics.
First I tried the Creek Audio amps. On the first view this was a great choice. Same size as my previous setup, Tape loop included, fantastic sound as I experienced it in other systems in the past and overall very well built. Unfortunately the Creek amps cannot handle the extra gain the 901 EQ puts on and they create sound artifacts that sound to me like an electronic clipping (too much voltage on the Tape In I assume). Hopefully this issue will be resolved at one point.
All other options in the integrated amplifier world appeared to have not enough power, an unpleasant size or were overall too costly for my budget (under 3K), even though I would have liked to try them out, like the Leben-CS line (CS600), which is certainly worth the money I assure.
The journey brought me to Peachtree (Nova pre and 220). I was very skeptical and afraid that these amps are simply an overpriced China import that lacks built quality, are noisy due to low cost parts and disappoint in general. I am glad I was wrong.
Unpacking the units I was positively surprised how functional and eco friendly the packaging was and how pleasant the little canvas sack secures the product without creating nonfunctional waste like plastic wrapping that no human being is able to open in a way that makes it reusable. Don't be fooled by pictures that show an outdated remote control with a plastic peachtree blimp glued onto it. The one I received with my Nova Pre was updated, built just fine and supports all necessary functions.
I have to say I am not the biggest fan of digital audio itself and literally afraid of bad MP3 sources that take all breath and dynamic off the tracks I am listening to. The product is mainly designed for the digital audio user and I was a little disappointed to confirm that in fact the Nova Pre only has one analog (AUX) input, which is now occupied with my Project turntable and makes it difficult to add another source to it. However, the DAC in this pre amp does a great job for all digital sources which I assembled in my TV (PS3, Apple TV...) and connected the TV to the Nova Pre using the toslink optical connection. My 901 EQ simply sits between the Nova Pre and the 220.
The sound: Yes. This is what you should buy this combo for. The Peachtree Pre-/ 220 has the Bose 901 VI under control. The system (Nova Pre - 220) gives a wide dynamic range, a well balanced stage (using the Project Debut with Ortofon 2M blue for nice channel separation) and does not loose its breath easily. If you are upgrading from smaller integrated amplifiers or receivers, this is a true step up in any possible way. The relatively high damping factor of the 220 gives enormous control over low frequencies. You will be surprised just how much punch and ground level frequencies your system is able to reproduce and how clearly positioned and unaffected the orchestra/ vocals are shown above that. For some taste the sub frequencies might even be too present.
For me the pre-/ amplifier combination is true and fun. Nice job Peachtree. If the next combo packs a Nova pre with more analog input sources and adds a 440 instead of the 220 to the back end, I am first to upgrade for even more fun.
on April 22, 2013
I just received my Peachtree Audio novaPre in the mail and hooked it up to a marantz power amplifier and a pair of vintage Dalquist M905 speakers. My impressions are that the DAC is very accurate especially in the high and mid ranges. Initially, I felt the sound lacked a strong bottom. I added a subwoofer on the 2nd preout and that helped a lot. One review I read indicated that the lack of a treble and bass adjustment was an issue and I would agree. With the subwoofer added I am happy with the sound but if I did not have a subwoofer, I would not have any way of tuning it to my preference. I will be using this with a Sonos system at some point and I am confident it will work well there.