Peachtree Audio is a division of Signal Path International—a firm headed by audio veterans David Solomon and Jim Spainhour. More so than many people in our industry, David and Jim have demonstrated a gift for developing products that combine the best elements of old-school, two-channel audiophile thinking (where sound quality always, always comes first) plus a new-school, digital/computer audio-savvy mindset. The end result is a series of new-age hybrid (that is, tube/solid-state) integrated amplifiers that incorporate built-in DACs with coax, optical, and USB inputs, and other connectivity features, as well.
First came the Peachtree Decco, a sweet sounding little 50Wpc amp/DAC that sold for $799. The Decco was well received in the marketplace and was a very good performer, though its amplifier section arguably did not have enough “oomph” to handle all types of speakers well. Down deep, however, David and Jim knew they could do even better if they built a more accomplished, upscale “big brother” to the Decco: one that offered a better preamplifier section, a more powerful amplifier, and a better built-in DAC. Now, that hypothetical upscale product has become a reality in the form of the new 80Wpc Peachtree Audio Nova hybrid integrated amplifier with built-in USB-capable DAC ($1199), which we will review here. But before we jump in, let’s step back to get a better “big picture” view of what the Nova is and does.
The Nova, of course, can be used as a traditional high-quality integrated amp, but in principle it is much more than that. The versatile Nova can, for example, also serves as a high-quality preamplifier or headphone amplifier with—at the user’s option—either solid-state or Class A tube circuitry engaged, or as the front-end of a variety of all-digital systems (systems fed by PCs or Macs, Squeezebox or Sonos devices, and the like). But one role you might not anticipate is that the Nova can also function as an ultra high-quality “remote switchable” 24-bit/96kHz standalone DAC—one that sounds so good, according to Peachtree, that it invites comparison with dedicated high-end DACs selling for more than the Nova does. An outlandish claim? Perhaps, but it’s one we’ll enjoy putting to the test.
Consider this amplifier/DAC if: you value sonic refinement, versatility, and value in roughly equal measure. The Nova makes an ideal starting point for those looking to build seriously good yet also sensibly priced high-end audio systems, and it provides a DAC section good enough for use in very high-end systems. The key to the Nova is that it combines multiple functions, each of which is a strong performer in its own right, but which together add up to a stunning value. For about the price of a good integrated amp, the Nova is all that and so much more.
Look further if: you have power-hungry, low-impedance, or otherwise hard-to-drive loudspeakers (e.g., Magnepans). The 80Wpc Nova amp is pretty stout, but not that stout…
Ratings (relative to comparably priced integrated amps)
Ratings (relative to comparably priced DACs)