Peachtree Audio nova300 Amplifier
Input: USB (32-bit/384kHz and DSD128), Toslink (24-bit/192kHz), Coax S/PDIF (24-bit/192kHz), AUX (analog), Phono (MM), LOOP (RCA), optional WiFi
Output: Speaker, 1/4" Headphone, Preamp Out, LOOP (RCA)
Dimensions (W x D x H): 14.02 x 13.25 x 4.37"
Availability: through Authorized Dealers and direct online
Peachtree Audio 2.0
What's 2.0? The short answer—improvements (here's the longer answer). Late last year, David Solomon rejoined Peachtree and the company made some other (major) changes; a new engineering team was brought on board to create the new Nova line of amplifiers (nova150, nova300, and nova500) and manufacturing of the Nova line was brought back from China to Canada. The new nova300 is an integrated amplifier putting out 300wpc (into 8Ω/450wpc into 4Ω) of ICEpower, sports the ESS Sabre32 9018MKII Reference Sabre DAC, a phono amp, a headphone amp, and, when dressed in the Gloss Ebony Mocha, some super-fine curb appeal.
From Peachtree, "It's really about what’s around the DAC and how it’s implemented." I know some people 'know' what all Class-D amplifiers sound like, the same way they know what all DACs with an ESS chip inside sound like: Without even listening! Then there are people, like me, who find that actually listening to a piece of hi-fi gear, in-barn, tells us much more. The amp can drive loads as low as 2.5Ω, the solid state preamp (no more tube/window) boasts a s/n ratio of 111dB!, the iOS input incorporates Prachtree's new Dynamic Noise Elimination Circuit (DyNEC) "the world's first and only system to address and eliminate all audible power supply and screen noise.", a high output discrete low impedance headphone amplifier "easily drives any headphone on the market", and an all-analog MM phono stage (don't digital my vinyl!).
You may have noticed "LOOP" in the Input and Output sections above. LOOP allows you to add "an external tube buffer, equalizer or other processor into the signal path" and is activated by pressing the "LOOP" button on the included remote. For movie lovers, there's also Home Theater Bypass so you can take advantage of the nova's amp for front left/right speakers in a home theater kinda deal. If that doesn't float your boat, the HTB input can be configured as a regular old analog line-level input (press and hold the AUX1/HTB button on the remote for 5 seconds).
I think the nova300 is a handsome beast. the aluminum front panel houses a row of buttons for input selection and each button has a corresponding LED that lights up blue (or green for the AUX buttons depending on how they are configured). There's nice stiff volume knob which lights up some of those same LEDs for a second or two as you adjust the volume. Plugging in your 'phones mutes the speaker output.
As a died-in-the-wool Roon/Tidal junkie, I fed the nova's USB input from my microRendu. As a died-in-the-wool record lover, I fed the nova's MM input from my Auditorium 23 Step Up transformer (up the chain: Denon 103/Well Tempered Labs amadeaus). The nova drove my DeVore gibbon Xs and the AudioQuest NightOwl closed-back 'phones.
Picture this: two speakers, one pair speaker cables, one box (and its not even a box, it's a nice looking objet d'hi-fi).
To my mind, simple = fun. Think unfussy. People new to hi-fi more than likely will not appreciate this fun-factor because they haven't pained over mating preamplifier to amplifier nor have they interrogated interconnects in search of the truth. With a device like the Peachtree nova300, one need only add speakers and speaker cables in order to play music from a computer or iOS device, i.e. things most people already have. With a device like the nova300, this purchase could very well be the end of your hi-fi buying spree. Imagine that!
Of course you and I are probably not these kind of people. We have other hi-fi stuff. But this doesn't necessarily change the rest of the story—this purchase could very well be the end of your hi-fi buying spree. Imagine that!
Listening to the nova300 in-barn for a few months, feeding it my NAS-based files, streaming from Tidal, and spinning vinyl was delightful. One sonic feature that struck me up front was the nova's slam-O-licious bass. Raime's Tooth begins with "Coax" which reaches down into subterranean levels from the get-go and I hadn't realized that the volume level I was enjoying this fine album at was such that when that bass kicked in, it rattled things that rattle in the barn. This is not a regular occurrence and typically only happens at higher volume levels with my Ayre AX-5 Twenty so I can only surmise that the nova's bass is, in fact, bodacious.
As a matter of fact, I'd say that the nova is bass rich and balanced toward the big and bold, as opposed to the nimble and shrill. If you like your hi-fi to act as sonic minutiae surgeon, the nova is not for you. If you find yourself thinking something like, "I'd like a warmer, almost tube-like, rich sound." the nova may be for you.
This also translates into a less resolving sound as compared to my reference rig (Ayre AX-5 Twenty + totaldac d1-six) which really does most of everything right, according to me and mine (ear/brain/taste). Of course this falls into the "silly comparison" category seeing as this combo costs upwards of $25k. I happen to have, well I don't really happen to have, I planned to have, other like-components on-hand so I spent some time comparing the nova300 to the Lumin M1 for starters (I plan to review all of the integrated amps I have on hand and then do a big comparison at the end).
The Lumin, by comparison, is finer-grained in its presentation while offering a less authoritative sound. Muddy Water's singing on Folk Singer sounds thinner through the Lumin, meaning Muddy sounds more lightweight, less heavy and less physically present. Even at lower volumes when played through the nova300, Muddy sounds more like Muddy. I'll talk more about the Lumin in its own review, but the M1 adds a network player to its all-in-one picture so all one need add is stored and streamed (Tidal and/or Qobuz) music. There's no phono in the Lumin, no headphone amp, and no analog inputs so I don't really see the same person seriously considering both. Of course I could be wrong and if I am, my ears and body have me leaning toward the nova for its greater sense of body and color.
I ran the AudioQuest NightOwls off the nova300 and they are match made in big, bold, and bountiful heaven. If you like your music served up rich, I recommend this combo. That being said, I do not have other headphones here for direct comparison purposes so I'm simply responding to how much I enjoyed the nova300/NightOwl duo.
The nova300's way with music also makes for a more forgiving all-arounder as compared to the Lumin. Funkadelic's Free Your Ass And Your Mind Will Follow is not the greatest sounding recording (streaming from Tidal) but it completely kicks major ass through my own rig and the nova300 delivers its own robust goodness. The Lumin, less so, because it accentuates the mid-upper and upper frequencies by making them stand a bit apart from the rest. Getting even pickier on the Lumin, I'd say it has a slightly metallic sound up top as compared to the honeyed smoothness of the nova300.
I'm using the very fine Sugden A21SE Stage Two MM/MC Phono Amplifier but the nova300's phono stage compared rather favorably. Since I sport a Denon 103 on the end of the Well Tempered turntable's 10.5" arm (effective length), I also employ the Auditorium 23 Step Up to step up the cartridges' output gain to a level the nova300's MM input can hear. While I do not get the same amount of detail retrieval and nuance as I get from the Sugden, I was once again happy to listen to my records through the nova300. Think fun-fi.
I had no problem sinking into my library and Tidal's vastness for weeks on end. While the nova300 does not offer the refinement, realistically rich and varied tonal palette, and the uncanny you-are-thereness of my main rig, it is musically right. It rocks.
My sense is the people who designed the Peachtree nova300 must have spent a serious amount of time listening to and enjoying the heck out of it. My sense is if you are looking for an integrated amp/DAC/headphone amp/phono amp, you will too.
Also in-use during the nova300 review: totaldac d1-six, Ayre AX-5 Twenty, Lumin M1