Peachtree Audio is part of a new wave among audio companies. These are companies that combine traditional audiophile sensibilities (a deep and detailed concern for accurate musical reproduction) with customer-centric values (with real thought given to how products will actually be used). In particular, Peachtree acknowledges that not everyone can devote a large and dedicated space to audio gear. As a result, Peachtree has delivered some pretty nifty small-but-high-performance products, with the iNova and iDecco amp/DACs being poster children for the genre.
Peachtree’s parent company has had so-called bookshelf or stand-mount speakers in its line for a while named ERA. Reflecting the success of the iDecco and iNova, Peachtree has brought these excellent speakers into the Peachtree lineup.
The design brief was to create small, high quality speakers with sufficient bass that they could be used without the semi-ubiquitous subwoofer. By doing so, the customer saves space and money (or for the same money gets higher quality main speakers). Peachtree commissioned Michael Kelly of Aerial Acoustics to design the drivers, while performing the system design in house.
The subject of this test, the Design 5, is the larger of two models offered by Peachtree. It has a 5” woofer and 1” soft dome tweeter in a cabinet measuring 11” tall by 7.1” wide by 10.4” deep. Available finishes are rosewood, cherry and piano black—finishes that match those available on the iNova (the piano black matches the Decco2 and iDecco). We used the iNova for our tests, which seemed appropriate given our positive experience with Peachtree’s electronics and the intended synergies of these products. We tested the Design 5 on stands, since in our experience that allows the least room influence and fits the design brief.
Consider these speakers if: You want a small but wide range speaker with good midrange accuracy that lacks edge or harshness.
Look further if: you want an exciting if slightly colored sound or you prize output at the frequency extremes.
Ratings (relative to comparably priced speakers):
• Tonal Balance: 8.5
• Smoothness: 9.0
• Frequency Extremes: 8.0
• Clarity: 9.0
• Soundstaging: 8.0
• Dynamics: 8.0
• Sensitivity: 7
• Value: 8.5
The Peachtree Design 5 is a different kind of speaker that requires an informed buyer if it’s strengths are to be appreciated. Like classic mini-monitors (starting with the BBC’s famous LS 3/5a), the Design 5 makes its bet on the midrange. There is a long-standing segment of the audio community that agrees with this philosophy because the midrange contains most of the music, so if you get that part right, you’ve got most things right.
The midrange (and here we mean frequencies from about 200 Hz to about 5000 Hz, which band contains the fundamental tones of most instruments) on the Design 5 is noteworthy for its smooth and even character. When a speaker has even octave-to-octave output in the midrange, voices sound natural and instruments like acoustic guitars sound accurate. This might sound pretty basic, but in fact it is rare, especially for two-way speakers that must drop a crossover between midrange and tweeter smack dab in the middle of this range.
Many midrange-centric speakers manage to sound a little bit think and nasal, but not the Design 5. In part that is because the Design 5 isn’t trying to fake “clear” midrange by placing a response bump in the upper mids. It is also because the Design 5 does a laudable job with the lower midrange, a critical area that all too often is rendered threadbare by designers who should spend more time in the concert hall and less time at the computer.
While the Design 5 borrows philosophically from classic mini-monitors in its midrange smoothness, thankfully it doesn’t mimic their bass or lack thereof. In a way, the Peachtree approach to bass is brilliant. Realizing that music down to about 50 hz is important in a lot of music for a sense of rhythm and pace, Peachtree has given the Design 5 a good sense of bass depth. At the same time, Peachtree knows that a 5” woofer is not going to deliver 50 Hz at high volume and so it has used a ported design and tuned the Design 5 to sound like it has a bass “shelf” wherein the mid-bass region is slightly reduced in level, but not rolled-off sounding. This means bass instruments sound close to right, just slightly farther back in the mix than might be truly accurate. The intelligent consumer will recognize that there is no free lunch. Or add a subwoofer.