The Coolest Integrated Amp/DAC/Dock Yet?
February 10th, 2010 -- by Chris Martens
Ratings (relative to comparably priced DACs)
- Design & Features: 10
- Tonal Balance: 9
- Timbral Purity: 10
- Detail & Resolution: 9
- Imaging/Soundstaging: 9
- Dynamics: 9
- Value: 10
- Digital Audio Inputs: the iDecco incorporates an onboard “switching” DAC with four switch selectable digital audio inputs (USB, Coax, Toslink, and the iPod dock), whereas the Nova provides five digital inputs (but no iPod dock).
- iPod Controls: the iDecco remote control incorporates dedicated buttons that allow users to control an iPod plugged into the iDecco’s dock.
- Analog Audio Inputs: the iDecco also provides a single stereo analog input, whereas the Nova provides three sets of inputs.
- Analog Audio Outputs: the iDecco’s preamp section offers both variable and fixed level analog outputs (the fixed outputs are driven by solid-state circuitry only), making it easy for you to use the Nova to drive an outboard power amplifier or subwoofer, if you wish.
- Solid-state/vacuum tube switching: the iDecco preamp section is based on a circuit that is virtually identical to the one used in the Nova. QAs with the Nova, the iDecco remote control provides a switch that is simply labeled Tube. When the iDecco is used as a preamp, integrated amp, or headphone amp, you can use the Tube switch to engage a Class A vacuum tube-based output stage. Interestingly, the tube used in the iDecco is a 6N1P rather than the 6922 tube used in the Nova. Jim Spainhour of Peachtree audio explained that the 6N1P is essentially a higher-current version of the 6922, meaning that—if you wished to do so—you could substitute a 6922 tube in place of the iDecco’s standard tube (but note: Spainhour advises that Nova owners cannot substitute a 6N1P tube in place of the Nova’s standard 6922, since the Nova circuit is not set up to handle the 6N1P’s current requirements). A blue LED illuminates the vacuum tube viewing window in the iDecco’s front panel whenever the tube output stage is engaged. One subtle yet significant difference between the Nova and the iDecco is that the latter uses a slow ramp-up circuit whenever the tube is brought into play. This allows you to hear a more gradual transition from the iDecco’s solid-state sound to its tube sound.
Top-mounted digital iPod dock
- The iDecco incorporates a top-mounted digital iPod dock that is similar in concept to the dock provided in the Wadia Digital Model 170 iTransport. By pressing the iDecco’s iPod input selector button, users can send digital audio data streams from their iPods directly to the iDecco’s built-in 96/24 upsampling DAC. Note that there is no digital audio signal pass-through since Peachtree’s working assumption is that you will want to use the very high quality DAC built in to the iDecco, rather than an outboard DAC.
- A set of component video outputs is provided on the rear panel of the iDecco, should you wish to play video content through your iPod.