Peachtree Audio Grand Integrated X-1 Amplifier
Inputs: 1x S/PDIF BNC Digital, 2x S/PDIF Coax, 2x S/PDIF Optical, 2x line level analog RCA (1x Home Theater input), Asynchronous USB
Outputs: Fixed RCA line out, High Pass Pre Out, Pre-Out, Headphone jack, Speaker terminals
Dimensions (H x W x D): 4.8 x 17.5 x 16.5"
Availability: online and through Authorized Dealers
A Grand Integrated
400 watts per channel into 8 ohms of Class D B&O ICEpower® and 650 watts into 4 ohms. Add a galvanically-isolated Asynchronous USB DAC capable of handling up to 24-bit/192kHz data, a preamp with optional tube buffer, a bunch more digital and analog inputs and analog outputs including a headphone amp, wrap it all up in a very solid aluminum chassis and you have yourself one honey of a package. Just add music and you can drive even unreasonable speaker loads into gut-wrenching musical glory.
The DAC-section of the Peachtree Audio Grand Integrated X-1 is based on the XMOS USB receiver and ESS Sabre32 9018 DAC which means you get 24-bit/192kHz playback without the need of a driver for Mac users. Windows users have to install the included driver to get the same. The tube buffer in the preamp section was designed by Bascom King and employs a pair of 12AU7s which you can have in or out the circuit by pressing the "TUBE" button on the remote. Peachtree's idea with this tube buffer is to help less than ideal musical sources sound more than less than ideal with some added tube richness. Think MOG, Pandora and Spotify tubed. There's also a push button around back to select between a slow and fast rolloff filter to further customize your sound.
The preamplifier section employs a VCA (voltage controlled amplifier) and I asked David Salomon of Peachtree Audio why they went this route:
"A significant breakthrough with the Grand Pre and Integrated for us was the decision not to use a typical analog volume pot. Both machines use a VCA voltage-controlled amplifier gain control. The motorized Soundwell analog pot is merely used to send a reference voltage to the VCA which then adjusts the current in the preamp stage rather than have the audio signal pass through the pot like it does with an analog pot. This gives us a wider dynamic range, excellent channel matching and little to no coloration to the audio. Channel-to-channel tracking is better than 1/200th of a dB! We couldn’t find an analog control at any price that would match this performance. As a result you’ll notice better microdynamics.
Big added advantage...because the VCA makes the unit so phase coherent, sound projects well beyond the speaker boundaries."
Operating the Grand Integrated is a snap. Just connect your source(s), I mainly used a MacBook Pro running Pure Music connected with an AudioQuest Diamond USB cable, speakers, plug it in, power it on and hit Play. Front panel controls include a power button, source selection buttons, a phase indicator, that nice big silky smooth-turning volume knob and a headphone jack. I did not make use of the Home Theater bypass mode which allows you to use the Grand Integrated to run your front surround speakers and I also did not use the High Pass Pre Out which "outputs at 80Hz and above with a 12db/octave slope" for use with a sub. I also did not use the Pre Out since bypassing the Grand Integrated's 400W internal amp just seemed silly. The included full-function remote allows for source switching, volume control, mute, tube buffer in/out, and phase in/out.
A Musical Control Unit
Armchair audio designers may add up ICEpower and Sabre DACs and think cold, hard sound. Based on listening, I'd say the Peachtree team has dialed in some warmth even without the tube stage while harnessing every ounce of that Sabre resolution to exploit every last ounce of your recordings nuance. And with all of that power we're talking über-controlled iron-fisted response from your speakers no matter how low the music wants to drive them. Dynamics are effortless and the Grand Integrated never sounds as if its anywhere near a strain. Granted my DeVore Fidelity The Nines present a fairly benign load and can easily be driven with double-digit watts but with this much power in reserve, control and dynamic ease are delivered handily and the sound literally jumps out and away from the speakers, detached. In other words there's no such thing as too much power when its the right kind of power. At the recent RMAF 2012, I got to hear the Grand Integrated drive a pair of TAD Reference One speakers in a huge room and again it did so without even a hint of strain.
Jonathan Derda, Peachtree's "Ambassador of Awesome" adds:
[The Tad Reference Ones are] Fairly easy to drive too. The acid-test was Saturday night when we had the Zu speakers cranked to a clean 124dB. The 220 power amp we had driving them hit the wall, which is unbelievable w/ 101dB 1W/1M sensitivity, so we had to move the Grand Integrated over to the Zu wall. At 121 dB the 220 amp was great, but to get that last 3 dB the Zu's demanded every ounce of the Grand's 400 watt per channel amp for undistorted playback. I don't recommend anyone ever listen at 124 dB, but when your hanging with the Zu crew, your gonna have a good time and its going to be loud.
There's a nearly uncanny sense of bite so that trumpets blurt with real authority and with two daughters that went through trumpet lessons with many hours of practice at home, I can tell you that trumpets can blurt and bite with real authority when called for (and even when not called for). There's also a nearly uncanny sense of clean and quiet power as if you're hearing exactly what resides on your recording including the quietest whispers and this from-the-silence sound makes dynamic impact that much more dramatic. Throw your most complex, layered and textured music at the Grand Integrated and it comes out singing without breaking a sweat.
Just for fun I ran the review CONCERO DAC from Resonessence Labs through the analog RCA inputs and I can say that its Sabre-based DAC offered a similar sonic palette. One nice feature of the CONCERO is its digital filters that offer a slightly richer and fuller sound for 44.1 and 48kHz recordings but overall there was certainly a distinct family resemblance between it and the Grand Integrated's internal DAC. I also spent some overlap time listening to the CONCERO through my loaner PASS Labs INT-30A and this combination offered a sweeter sound as if harmonic information was more fully developed.
Some recordings, specifically less well recorded CD rips, had a hard edge which was emphasized by the Grand Integrated's illuminated view into every nook and cranny of the recording. This may strike some listeners in some systems as a bit too much detail, too much resolution causing a somewhat fatiguing glare on less than optimal recordings. If, on the other hand, you throw a well-recorded track at the Grand Integrated it will return the favor and then some bringing out micro-detail and macro movement in unison to your ears delight. You could easily engage that tube buffer with the flick of the remote when things start sounding too edgy which is what its there for. I'll also say that I'm being very critical of something that may very well sound a positive note since the distinction between just enough and too much of a good thing is dependent on music, listener and system.
If you're into house, dance, trance, dubstep or any variation of electronica, Gudrun Gut's newest Wildlife (w/Bonus) which is available on her Monika Enterprise label from Boomkat as a FLAC download is one example of something I totally flipped over through the Grand, you will absolutely delight in what the Grand Integrated has to offer which is everything the recording holds from a whisper to a scream. And if you like to listen to your music on the loud side, the Grand Integrated will beg you, dare I say it will dare you, to do so.
You can take everything I've said about listening to the Grand Integrated through speakers and apply it to its headphone amp. Using my Audio Technica ATH-W1000s, music was delivered cleanly and crisply while having a nice touch of warmth and tone. Again on lesser quality recordings things can sound spot-lit leaning toward overly so but with most recordings this trait turns into a sonic plus.
Just Add Music
It bears repeating that the Grand Integrated is really four products in one—a line-level preamplifier with an optional tube-buffered output stage, a 400W Class D amp, a headphone amp, and a DAC with Asynchronous USB and S/PDIF inputs. Add truly full-range performance, iron-fisted grip on low frequency information that can rattle your home's bones, lighting-fast transient speed that startles with lifelike snap, dynamic aplomb that'll swing with any orchestra's every note, and all of this is delivered without bleaching out music's tonal palette in a rugged and pleasingly subdued silver package. For those people looking to simplify without giving up on performance, I believe the folks at Peachtree have given you one difficult product to pass by.
Also on hand and in use during the Grand Integrated review: Mytek Stereo 192-DSD DAC, Schiit Bifrost, Wadia 121 Decoding Computer, Audioquest DragonFly DAC, Resonessence Labs CONCERO DAC.