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Peachtree iDecco - Sound quality

Article Index
Peachtree iDecco
Sound quality
Conclusion
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SOUND QUALITY
Starting off with the iDecco as an amplifier via its analogue line in, and you’re in no way left with the sense that this is a sub-£1,000 system. It has an open and expansive sound, in its way, which gave a confident and projective performance even through my Yamaha NS1000M speakers. No less impressive was its tonal balance; whilst not overly warm, the Peachtree is certainly on the benign side of neutral; again there’s absolutely on sense of this being a hard, thin, transistory amplifier. The result is a most enjoyable sound that covers its tracks well.

Cue up Zero 7’s ‘I Have Seen’ on vinyl and you’re greeted with a big, fulsome bass and crisp, quite delicate treble, between which is a smooth and capacious mid. It’s no rhythmic slouch either, letting the track push along with a fine sense of timing. Indeed, as I sat there I was trying to find any clues as to its humble origins (in the great hi-fi scheme of things), so enjoyable was it. There’s real ‘snap’ to the snare drums, a decent degree of dynamic articulation and the general sense of the track having a beginning, a middle and an end.

idecco_rear

Neil Richardson’s ‘The Riviera Affair’, a big, blustery nineteen sixties soundtrack packed with cascading strings and heaving brass, was brilliantly carried considering the iDecco’s place in life. Coming via the excellent TAC C-60, it was all thrills and spills, with lots of detail and a vast midband. The little amp pushed out far more punch than its modest power rating suggests; some forty watters sound like - to borrow from Blackadder - “an anaemic ant” by comparison. But I was intrigued to see how the iDecco’s internal DAC would compare, so I duly bypassed the C-60’s excellent DAC stage and fed the digital audio in coaxially. The result was quite a surprise...

If anything, the iDecco sounded better using its own DAC. Of course, you might say it should, because it’s bypassing one analogue output stage and a pair of interconnects, but in my experience the built-in DACs of all-in-one units are often such that you often lose more on the swings than you gain on the roundabouts. Not so here; the iDecco served up a more immediate, vivid and detailed sound, with better definition of the strings, which had a more finely etched ‘wiriness’ to them and superior space. There’s certainly no sense that the built in DAC is a ‘filler’, chucked into the package to make the product seem better value; it’s obviously been done very well. And I can report that it was no less impressive via the USB input too, fed from my MacBook Pro...

Intrigued to hear the ‘direct digital’ iPod dock in action, I duly packed my iPod Classic with a host of CD quality, non compressed music. Considering that until recently the only product that offered direct digital off an iPod was the Wadia iTransport, this was an interesting moment of truth; would it perform? Again the answer was a resolute yes; the iPod sounded powerful and engaging without a grain of harshness to be heard anywhere; certainly there wasn’t a trace of the limp, lifeless, thin sound you normally get via an Apple audio product. Blur’s ‘Charmless Man’ positively shuffled out of my speakers, with great pace and little sense of compression or compromise. Zipping back to the original CD via the TAC’s digital out showing a tiny loss of detail and a slightly more mechanical feel to the rhythms, but it really was quite marginal. Another result.

So is this the replacement for high end hi-fi? Well, not quite. It plays digital sources very well at the price but in absolute terms you can hear that it’s a decent but unspectacular MOSFET Class A/B amp; there’s a slight mush across the midband, a slight haziness to the sound that leaves you one less step closer to the sound than a good transistor amp at around £1,000. The tube ameliorates this very slightly, adding just a touch of colour and softening that transistory fingerprint, but in overall terms it has only a minor effect; a bit like adding half a teaspoon of sugar to your tea.



 

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