Finding a method able to handle all of a modern living spaces digital home entertainment products these days usually requires large AV amplifiers which aren’t setup primarily for music or stereo sources. Another option is a DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter), although cheaper ones don’t normally offer more than 3 inputs and add to the overall box count. There are digital preamplifiers available if you search hard enough and there are increasingly more DAC/Preamplifiers (DACS with a volume knob). These however will require the addition of a power amplifier, a set of interconnects, an extra power cable and one more shelf to be seated on – more boxes and less WAF!
From iPod to ATV, Streamers to Macs and PC’s, CD to TV, the majority of devices today are firmly sat in the digital domain and traditional equipment, unless coupled with an outboard DAC, cannot accommodate the vast variety of our families musical requirements.
A common misconception is that great sound production is questionably expensive and unnecessary, also that a cheap £20 dock that claims 150 watts of peak music power will suffice and ends up being turned up so loud it’s 2″ cones fly off into outer space! Ive had friends come over and listen to some very moderately priced systems I have had set up and they bring an iPod over, or maybe a hard drive, to plug onto my Mac and are shocked at the improvement in sound quality over a small ghetto blaster or dock which they have at home, but still there is mention on box count and inevitable WAF- ‘I don’t really want all those units and shelves in my living room’.
With more and more people today demanding better sound quality for their expensive digital devices there has become a space in the market for a no compromise, flexible, affordable and stylish solution.
So what’s the answer I hear you say?
A sleek, modern and contemporary styled all in one unit that can offer all the connectivity needed for the modern consumer that doesn’t cost the earth, yet has a significant improvement in sound quality over those nasty docks, can sound as good or better than a multi-box system and has a low energy consumption.
So what is this mythical item you talk of?
It’s called the Peachtree Decco65. An attractive and beautifully finished, solidly built piece of ‘Audio Art’. Based around the growth of multiple digital equipment and accessories in the family home the Decco65 has a plethora of digital inputs ready to accommodate all your day to day digital audio devices and even an analogue source if you like to spin some vinyl. All this coupled with an energy efficient Class D amplifier which only consumes 1 WATT of electricity in standby! Just add speakers!
Finishes are available in a high gloss black gloss (£849), cherry and rosewood (£899). Sat next to a matching set of speakers such as Peachtree’s D4’s, some standmount speakers or larger floorstanders the Decco65 would look stunning on any sideboard or AV cabinet.
The Decco65 sports 4 digital inputs, plus a pair of analogue inputs:
1 x Asyncronous USB running upto 24/192 (Asyncronous corrects errors in the data sent from a PC or Mac and keeps jitter very low)
1 x Optical SPDIF input sporting 24/96
2 x Coaxial SPDIF inputs 24/192
1 x Pair of analogue RCA inputs
A Thoughtful Approach
As well as the attention to styling and inputs offered, the Peachtree guys have been very clever in adopting a tube based preamplifier stage to the amplifier, which can be switched on or off via the remote control. One of the traits of tubes is to give a very musical and involving presentation to the sound and to take away the ‘edge’ or ‘harshness’ that digital can sometimes suffer from, smoothing out the sound for a more enjoyable experience.
I wanted to try as many different devices as well as CD quality 16bit files and high resolution 24bit files to see how the Peachtree performed across the board and if it had a defining character to its sound presentation, or if it was ‘source dependant’
The Squeezebox Touch (SBT) fed into the Decco65 via a coaxial digital RCA cable (or optical) and sat on top of or next to the Decco65 is a truly visual treat! With its on board touchscreen and sleek lines the SBT complimented Peachtree’s design to create an extremely attractive and compact setup.
The sound was open, transparent and engaging, the SBT really helped to feed the Peachtree with a quality signal that it thrived on! The soundstage was extremely open and wide and depth was apparent and surprising for a product in this price range, I was very pleasantly surprised indeed. The Class D modules based on a Tact/Lyndorf design were not in anyway cold sounding – something that cannot be said of all amplifiers utilising a Class D design.
Fed with 16bit WAV files from my NAS (Network Attached Storage) drive, hard wired with an ethernet cable to the SBT the sound was nicely balanced with a character a little on the exciting, more vibrant side of neutral. Bass notes were solid and controlled but lacked the overall information of higher priced systems… however, for £899 an absolute joy! Top end was sparkly and extended with no harshness and the midrange was superbly focused, accurate and transparent, giving vocals a wonderful airy sense of realism.
Spotify was also a joy to listen to, I’ve always loved the way it sounds from the SBT, just so musical and not too hi-fi sounding, bags of body and absolutely great for parties. Spotify linked through the SBT, a Mac or a PC into a device like the Decco65 is a match made in heaven and so versatile.
24bit files were better fed from the NAS drive, an overall immediate sense of increased dynamics and flurries of detailed passages created a larger sense of harmonic space and really lent their hand to an overall increase in timing perception giving the music more toe tapping appeal.
I have listened to DACs in the past fed with high resolution tracks which can sound mechanical and dis-engaging, losing the musical flow, but the Peachtree had a way of dealing with them that was ultimately pleasing and still held my attention.
With transparency and harmonics more at the forefront, the midrange seemed to emerge from a darker background and there was a definite perception of increased layering. Now I began to start to perceive what the designers ultimately wanted from the Decco65!
Throughout the listening process with the SBT it had always been enjoyable for sure, but being able to utilise the full potential of the Peachtree firing on all cylinders, gave me a new found respect for this attractive little digital hub.
Using a CD or DVD player as a transport directly into the Decco65 can be achieved via an optical or coaxial RCA cable (device dependent).
I used a Pioneer 787 DVD player fed via optical into the Peachtree for these purposes. CD’s are recorded in 16bit, so the full 24bit of the Deccos DAC cannot be utilised here.
I played a couple CD’s of varying types and immediately noticed a similar presence of openness as achieved by the SBT, with a wide soundstage and accuracy in stage placement. Vocals once again were stars and the top end sparkled without discernible grain, bass was fluent and kept up good tempo.
There were many similarities between this presentation and the SBT when fed with the 16bit WAV files from my NAS drive, although I slightly leaned towards the coaxial being a subtlety better connection if I wanted to be picky. Nevertheless I was once again extremely pleased with the sound of the Class D modules and their ability to hold a tune!
Hooking up the Apple TV into the Peachtree was via an optical lead, the user interface requires a connection via HDMI into a display for music selection which is very easy to use and has a very appealing look, so if the Peactree can be located near a screen this does add to the wow factor when friends come over and see how they could easily select music to listen to. Streaming from iTunes sounded great and vivid, plenty of bass and top end. The midrange wasn’t as open as the Squeezebox Touch but still made for a very good listen and the Peachtree’s great voicing and character prevailed!
I also have the ATV Jailbroken to accept the XBMC platform which is excellent as it allowed me to directly stream from my Netgear ReadyNas NV+ with full WAV support.
Apple Mac Mini
As all the other devices demoed (except for an ordinary CD player) on the Decco65, having a visual interface for me is not a hindrance but more of an attraction, having all your tracks and albums with artwork set out on a screen whilst listening to music really does give a bit of wow factor.
As well as my Macs usual 32″ LED screen I also have it linked to a 50″ plasma on the wall between the speakers, so sitting back on the sofa with a remote and a big screen really made life easy in having a comfortable listening session.
The Mac was plumbed into the Peachtree Decco65 using a USB cable this time and as the Decco is Asyncronous, so it corrects errors in data packages automatically by requesting the correct information itself, rather than just making do with what it’s sent.
Accompanying the Mac for playback is Amarra 2.5, recommended by Peachtree and supplied by them to me. This software is renowned for being one of the very best. It sits on top of iTunes to utilise its interface and library or has the ability to be fed files directly from any drive linked to the Mac simply by adding files through the Finder.
Soundwise I really liked what I was hearing again, similarities in all all areas of the sound but with added bass weight, not as tight but gave an impression of more scale. There is a built in equaliser to the software so you are able tweak the sound to suit your room and tastes which is extremely handy.
Once again with 24bit high resolution files being utilised by the DAC inside the Decco65 there was a sense of more space and and a solid stereo image being portrayed. Vocals had more room to breath and accuracy was more apparent, the speakers seemed to disappear more readily.
There really was a defining character to Peachtree’s Decco65, one of solid imaging, extension and musicality, it didn’t have absolute refinement or the micro dynamics and details of higher priced multi-box systems, but it was a truly solid performer which demanded attention.
Amongst other sources demoed on the Decco65 were a Virgin TiVo box, a Windows based laptop and a DAB radio. Each performing well and led musically strong by the Peachtree.
The DAB was connected via the analogue Input, so the internal DAC was bypassed. There wasn’t as much clarity and detail being radio and up against the digital output from the Squeezeboxes Internet radio, I favoured the SBT as it could once again utilise the Decco65’s well voiced DAC, but I have no speculation that a turntable and a quality phono stage would really shine hear.
Tube vs Non-Tube
Surprisingly enough flicking between the tube on and tube off option I found myself warming towards the off position, the vibrancy, transparency and openness of the mid range was really exciting and the crisp shimmer of the treble was excellent!
If you find yourself listening to a recording which is bright, brittle and harsh sounding then introducing the tube into the mix is very worthwhile as it takes away those edges and smooths things out wonderfully, which was a noticeable help on some Internet based radio stations.
Bass had great weight throughout but was a bit more cleaner and defined on the tube off option. On it gave a slight upper bass hump, not distracting yet apparent.
The Decco65 is rated at 65watts per channel into 8 Ohms, although on testing results showed more like 95 wpc into 8Ohms.
Peachtree Audio have a very interesting, modern and stylish looking range of amplifiers and DAC’s, utilising modern techniques and technologies. They are distributed in the UK through Anthem AV Solutions who are very passionate about the brand and the notion that great sounding equipment doesn’t need to cost the earth. They truly embrace the digital world we live in and along with Peachtree strive to bring this new era to the younger and older generations of music lovers and inspire them to want more from their digital devices. I can fully understand why, there is a whole new way to listen to music and devices such as the Peachtree Decco65 signify its appeal.
65 watts x 2 channels into 8 ohms (20-50,000 Hz) at less than 0.5% THD
95 watts x 2 channels into 4 ohms (20-50,000 Hz) at less than 0.5% THD
Hybrid vacuum tube/solid-state design
Vacuum tube preamp stage (uses a single dual-triode input tube) smoothes harsh digital edges on compressed music sources
Class D solid state power amp design features low distortion, wide bandwidth, and outstanding energy efficiency
Built-in ESS Sabre 9023 24-bit/192kHz digital-to-analog converter (DAC) works with the asynchronous 24-bit/192 USB input to deliver jitter-free digital conversion from computer sources
Optical signals are processed at up to 24/96, coax up to 24/192
Decodes MP3, AAC, WMA, FLAC, AIFF, WAV, PCM, and Apple Lossless audio files
Galvanically isolated DAC circuitry prevents electrical noise from contaminating signals entering and leaving the DAC
Digital audio inputs: 1 USB (Type B), 1 optical, and 2 coaxial
1 pair RCA analog audio inputs
1 pair RCA audio preamp outputs for connecting a powered subwoofer or an outboard power amplifier
Headphone output (full-size 1/4″ jack)
Heavy-duty 5-way binding-post speaker connectors
Detachable power cord
Weight: 28 lbs.
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Pioneer 787 DVD/CD
Mac Mini/Amarra 2.5
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Ayon Seagull Ceramic
Nordost Valhalla Digital Coax
Wireworld Ultraviolet USB
Audioquest Sky IC’s
Audioquest K2 Speaker Cables
DHLabs AC Power Plus Power Cables
Isol-8 Powerline Axis Power Block
Author – Dan