Peachtree Audio iDecco Stereo Integrated Amplifier
We’re Not in Kansas Anymore
Like many surround-sound audiophiles, I listen to a lot of twochannel material as well. It’s part retro sacrament, part necessary evil. Although I haven’t turned on my ancient stereo amp and preamp in months—their presence in the rack is mainly symbolic—I regularly run my 5.1-channel system in stereo mode when the nature of the content demands it. I also get a lot of use out of the cheap speakers and chip-amp in my kitchen, not to mention the powered iPod speakers in my bedroom. I use my 2.1-channel desktop rig throughout the day—not only when I’m at my desk, with the inevitable YouTube distractions, but also during the evening, when I curl up with a book. My armchair happens to sit across the room from my desktop system. Because the distance from the speakers is greater than the distance between the speakers—about a 3:1 ratio—this isn’t an ideal setup for stereo imaging. But it’s great for casual listening. I’ve spent some of the happiest hours of my life sitting in that chair, listening to that system.
My desktop system started with a pair of inexpensive JBL Control1 Xtremes combined with an Onix OA21s stereo integrated amp rated at 50 watts per channel. The amp has only three controls, all knobs: volume, source, and power. It was made sometime around 1990, when Onix was a British boutique manufacturer with products vaguely similar to Naim’s; the brand is now under different ownership. The amp way outclassed the speakers, so as time went by, I upgraded them to the Era Design 4 (reviewed as a surround set in April 2006). While the Eras have better bass than you’d expect from 4-inch woofers, I wanted more, so I wired in a Pinnacle Baby Boomer dual-8-inch subwoofer using the speaker-level connections. Then I realized that I had a great system sitting on my desk, but I was feeding it with the inferior analog output of my PC’s sound card (not to mention dreadful MP3s). So for serious listening, I added a Rotel RCD-965BX Limited Edition CD player. Since the Onix has a phono input, I’ve even occasionally plopped a turntable onto the desk and gone all analog.
The purpose of this system is pure selfish pleasure, and for a long time, nothing has come along that has induced me to tamper with it. The only products to visit my home that have even come close to challenging it were Audioengine’s powered speakers. In fact, a pair of the Audioengine 2 have gone on to serve as my HDTV speakers, providing pleas-ure and relief on a daily basis. Signal Path International—the company behind my cherished Era Design 4 speakers—has made a bid to shake up my desktop status quo with the Peachtree Audio iDecco ($999). It’s a lot more than just a stereo integrated amp, like ye olde Onix. Putting aside its high-current MOSFET amp section, it can also stand alone as a Class A hybrid tube-buffered preamp, Class A headphone amp, or multi-input digital-to-analog converter utilizing the ESS Sabre 9006 DAC chip.
A Beautiful Mind
Peachtree offers several desktop stereo amps, as I call them. The most powerful is the Nova ($1,199), rated at 80 watts per channel. The now discontinued Decco had 50 watts per channel, while the Decco2 ($799) is rated at 40. The iDecco ($999) is also rated at 40 watts per channel, with the same round-edged aesthetics and functionality as its sister models.
Of course, as an iProduct, the iDecco has a top-load dock for your iPod (the iPhone is not officially supported). Compatible iPods include the first- and second-generation touch, second- through fifth-generation nano, and 80-gigabyte, 120-GB, and 160-GB classic. This is among the notable products to accept a true digital signal from the iPod’s 30-pin docking connector, substituting Peachtree’s DAC for Apple’s. Many iPod docking products are fed with an analog signal from the portable’s D/A converters and suffer accordingly.
Peachtree also offers the DS4.5 and DS5.5 desktop speakers. Their curved wood-veneered enclosures neatly harmonize with the shapes of the iDecco, Decco2, and Nova. You can purchase all of these products separately or in discounted amp and speaker packages. See peachtreeaudio.com.
The iDecco is a beautiful thing to behold. Its curved sides may appeal to people from Venus, while the front-panel window that showcases the Russian-made 6N1P dual-triode tube is strictly for people from Mars. A blue LED inside the window indicates when the tube is in operation. Hit the Power button, and its LED ring will slowly turn from red to blue. The five front-panel input buttons also do an LED party trick, a sort of revolving blue shimmer that appears when you select an input. It turns solid only when the preamp senses an incoming signal.