As most Playback readers well know, a lot of working assumptions about how hi-fi systems can or should be structured have been radically redefined over the past four or five years. Where once we thought of turntables, tuners, or CD players as our musical “source components” of choice, it’s now commonplace to think of PCs, Macs, the Internet itself, or of Apple’s ubiquitous iPod/iPhone/iPad trio as among the sources we’re most likely to enjoy. And with this huge paradigm shift have come other changes, particularly in the way we think about the amplifiers upon which many of us base our listening systems.
Back in the day, amplifiers pretty much had two easy-to-understand jobs: first, they acted as switching devices that let us choose which of several possible source components we wanted to listen to, and second, they amplified audio signals so as to power our loudspeakers (no great surprise there!). Ahh, it was such a simple time…
With the rise of computer-based audio systems, and the explosion in popularity of both desktop and headphone based listening systems, the role of the amplifier has become more versatile—and complex. These days, we’ve come to expect amplifiers should not only amplify (and be able to select among source components), but that they should also serve as highly competent DACs (digital-to-analog-converters, for those of you who don’t speak “Geek”). We also expect, at least in some circumstances, that modern amplifiers should not only be able to power loudspeaker, but also headphones (and not, let me emphatically state, as an afterthought).
The truth is that we now live in a brave new world where amps are no longer just amps, but rather serve in an expanded capacity that has earned them the hybrid name “amp/DAC”. We’d like to take a moment, then, to focus on two of the coolest, most versatile, and most sensibly priced amp/DACs that Playback has thus far encountered.
To read the full review:http://www.avguide.com/review/peachtree-audio-idecco-integrated-ampusb-dacipod-dock-playback-27
What it is: Actually, Peachtree’s iDecco is so crazy-versatile that it would probably be easier to tell you what it doesn’t do. But just for the record, let us provide a bullet-point list of the functions this multi-purpose product provides. The Peachtree iDecco can serve as:
The iDecco can do so many different things that it some listeners would gladly pay its asking price to enjoy only a subset of its full functionality. The cool part, though, is that iDecco is the sort of product that, in a sense, anticipates (and thus provides) functions you may not even think you need (yet).
What’s the Draw? As you can easily imagine, versatility with a capital “V” is a huge part of the iDecco’s appeal. Let’s speak candidly, shall we? Normally, “versatility” is one of those words considered to be a backhanded complement (if that)—kind of like saying the girl next door has a “sweet personality” when what you really mean is that she’s also not terribly attractive. But the iDecco is not like that at all, and the reason why is that it not only does many different things, but does almost all of them at a surprisingly high level (king of like finding a supermodel who—surprise!—actually does have a sweet personality).
iDecco as a Dock: Much like Wadia Digital’s famous iTransport, the iDecco can serve as a true digital iPod dock. Trust us this one: you haven’t heard how good an iPod can really sound until you bypass the little Apple device’s analog electronics and let a first rate external DAC decode the digital audio files stored within.
iDecco as a DAC: The DAC section of the iDecco is based on one of the excellent ESS Sabre DACs, which is not only a fine-sound DAC but—importantly—one that provides on-chip jitter reduction/correction circuitry. Moreover, the digital inputs of the DAC section are galvanically isolated. The upshot of this is that the iDecco is not on—here’s that word again—a versatile DAC, but one that give markedly better results through its USB inputs than other competing USB DACs tend to do.