The Nova’s only shortcoming—namely, very slightly lightly balanced mid- and low-bass—is also exposed in this track if you listen closely to Tommy Shannon’s electric bass and to the lower register of Vaughan’s voice. Shannon’s bass is closely mic’d and sounds very clean while exhibiting, at times, Tsunami-like waves of low-frequency energy that, under ideal circumstances, seem to lift listeners from their seats and carry them forward through the sheer force of the music. Those waves of bass energy are clearly reproduced by the Nova, but they lack the “Nth” degree of weight and wallop—qualities I heard both from my reference Musical Fidelity kW SACD player and from the Benchmark Media DAC1 Pre I had on hand for comparison.
Similarly, if you listen carefully to the timbre of Vaughan’s voice, you should hear a fair amount of upper register smoke, grit and growl supported, ideally, by darker, more full-bodied undertones down below. Through the Nova, those dark undertones were recessed just a bit, giving Vaughan’s voice a lighter, breathier character, whereas both my reference player and the Benchmark DAC captured more of the depth in the singer’s voice. Even so, these differences in tonal balance were quite subtle and in no way limited my enjoyment of the Nova. Again, the tradeoff is that the Nova does an exceptional job with inflections in Vaughan’s voice, so that you can enjoy the full emotional impact of every vocal swell or decrescendo.
The Peachtree Audio Nova is a versatile, well-conceived and well-executed product that fulfills a number of roles with astonishing refinement, polish and panache. Do the math: the Nova would be well worth its asking price, whether evaluated as an accomplished hybrid integrated amplifier or as a high-end audio DAC. But the fact that the Nova plays both roles at once makes it a bargain—and a platform we can confidently recommend as a foundational element for use in very good, yet still sensibly-priced, high end audio systems.
Peachtree Audio Nova integrated amplifier/DAC
Power: 80Wpc @ 6 ohms
Inputs: five digital (one USB, two coax, two optical), three stereo analog
DAC Upsampling: 24-bit/96kHZ
DAC signal-to-noise: 118dB “A-weighted”
Outputs: two pre-amp outputs (one variable level, one fixed level), one headphone output (1/4-inch jack)
Dimensions (H x W x D): 5” x 14.75” x 14”
Weight: 26 lbs.
Warranty: One year, parts and labor