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Cafad

Integrated Amps: An Addicts Guide Part, The Third.

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So, here we are again with the third thread (representing the third listening room) since this obsession began back in mid 2010 (or possibly early 2011, I'd need a good psychologist to be sure).  Pics of the new listening room will arrive in good time, a new camera is on the way, as will pics of the first amp to grace the new room, until then I'm afraid I'll just have to copy and paste from the good old internet.

 

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This is Darren69's Peachtree Nova, the older model with the mosfet modules (prior to the class D modules and the power increase).  It is listed in the manual as 80wpc into 6 Ohms so, in my mind, it is probably about 60wpc into 8 Ohms.  It also has the option of a tube preamp stage (that can be switched on and off via the remote) and a built in 24/96 DAC so it scores very well in the value for money stakes.

 

As I've been discovering over the last few weeks it is a very easy amp to like, that built in DAC has been in use for all my tv and movie viewing and has done a sterling job.  It must be well integrated with the preamp stage because I have been unable to pick the difference between it and the Halcro's built in DAC, so just because it's rated at a 'crappy' 24/96 doesn't mean that it doesn't sound good.

 

I'm also a fan of the Nova's look, that wood veneer looks very cool and the fact that it's curved somehow makes it work even better.  IMO the veneer on the new PS Audio Sprout looks very "80's station wagon fake" by comparison.

 

For those keeping track this is Integrated amp number #62 (at least, I'm pretty sure it is, I actually thought I was up to #63 at one stage... oh well, somewhere in the low 60's, so let's just call it #62 and leave it at that).

 

The Peachtree was fed from a Halcro EC800 cd player via Aurealis R1 interconnects to the Nova and then through Redgum Expressive Line speaker cable to my Lenehan/ETI S2R speakers.  And now that the hardware stuff is out of the way let's get down to the important stuff.

 

Highs:  Open, airy and spacious and sort of 'happy', xylophone and triangle sound a little bit sweet and a little bit luscious without going far enough to be called rich.  I love the top end of the Nova, no glare, no hardness, never harsh or grainy.  I've given it a 7.5.

 

Mids:  Well separated, natural and pleasingly rhythmic, light acoustic music is beautifully rendered as is jazz and opera (even though I don't usually go there).  The mids and highs are given center stage and the bass is generally kept under tight control and used to back hem up and reinforce them.  Vocals are also very good, but I'm getting ahead of myself there.  7.5 

 

Bass: Well controlled and forced into second place behind the mids and highs, excellent control and presence but not enough for a bass head.  It doesn't go as deep as it could but I believe this is deliberate as if it did then it would likely interfere with the treble.  So, I'm giving it an 8.0 for quality and a 6.5 for amount and depth, so that averages at 7.25.  It could use a little more impact as well but again that would cause issues for the top end.

 

Vocals:  Natural and just a little breathy and rich and just a bit sweetly relaxed, an 8.0 for both male and female vocals.  An excellent vocal performance, very enjoyable.

 

Soundstaging is hard to judge, it took me several months to get used to the new room the last time so I imagine it will take quite a while this time as well.  It did seem to be pretty capable, it does the job and doesn't do anything wrong so I'll give it the benefit of any doubt with a 7.0

 

Overall performance Integration:

The treble is where it's at with the Peachtree Nova, the bass is good too but the treble really shines.  The only thing it is lacking is a little impact and dynamicism but I suspect that is deliberate, you wouldn't want those to get in the way of the vocals or the rest of the mid range.  An excellent amp for slower styles and still a good one for rock.  A very easy amp to live with.

 

Ability to Emote:  With slower styles, folkish rock and ballads it scores 7.5 but it drops to a flat 7.0 on harder tracks so I'll average that to a 7.25.  

 

Electric Guitar Test:  As with many amps that are very well controlled it could not score above a 7.0, it just isn't edgy or rebellious enough.

 

80's Rock Test:  Again good, 7.0 but not great, as with the electric guitar test it does well enough but it just doesn't have the right personality to fit well with 80's rock.

 

And a few random observations:

The top end has a few characteristics that remind me of the Burson PI-160, it doesn't sound the same but it does have similar strengths with those nice airy highs.  The mid range has maybe half of the rhythmic energy of the NAKSA 80, it sounds nice but it isn't nearly as addictive as the NAKSA was.

The Nova was never forward in its presentation and not generally recessed either, it was slightly withdrawn on occasion.

 

Considering the Nova sounds this good and has the added extras of an inbuilt DAC and a remote control I'd have to call it excellent value for money.

 

And I'll add a few of my own pics in midweek.

 

Edit:  Pics added.

 

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post-130663-0-01437400-1433576018_thumb.

post-130663-0-96640100-1433576086_thumb.

 

Edited by Cafad

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Yep. The Nova is definitely a nice amp. it isn't stellar in any one area but has a nice set of qualities that make it an amp that almost anyone could enjoy and use in most systems

 

P.S I just love the description of the PS Audio Sprout looking " 80's station wagon fake ". This is so true it is uncanny and the whole PS audio hype about what is a tres ordinaire amp is also 80's empty head palaver.

 

Great review as usual mate :):thumb:

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Thanks Rantan, the first time I saw the pics of the Sprout the old 70's and 80's tv shows came to mind, the ones where every family had a station wagon with fake wood strips along the doors.  Now I can't comment on how the Sprout sounds, I've never heard it, but I can say that it looks out of place without a set of white wall tires underneath it.   :)

 

The Nova sounds good enough make me very curious indeed as to the sonic characteristics of the Peachtree Grand Integrated, that should be a pretty impressive amp.

 

I'm trying to get myself onto a roll this weekend, I've got the Amber 50b warming up as I type and if I can get through that then there's Simon's Sony to be attacked.  I also have plans beyond that, but they'll probably intrude into next weekend.

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@@Cafad thanks for your thoughts and, interestingly enough, they are close to my own listening experience.

I say 'interestingly' because it I different ears, different room etc.

Yes, the grand integrated would be a very interesting listen as it is pretty much a completely different beast.

As mentioned, it is one of the nicest looking components around. The internet pics don't do them justice, they are very classy in the flesh.

Glad that it added to your integrated memory in a positive way. :)

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Good to hear we agree Daz, and as for the 

 

Glad that it added to your integrated memory in a positive way. :)

 

I've found that most of them do.  Even the ones I haven't liked (Cyrus, Onkyo, Rotel) have been worthwhile hearing, you need a "dislike" or "negative" reference point to weigh all the positive comments against or they just become words without meaning.  And the marketing departments of the world generate far too much of that stuff to need any assistance from me.

 

 

The next amp in line is the Amber 50b, once again with help from google (the new camera is due Wednesday) here are some pics of the animal I speak of.

post-130663-0-50499600-1433110181_thumb.            post-130663-0-58193500-1433110195_thumb.

 

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Nice big pics those, well done google!

 

The Amber is an interesting amp, one of those amps that was made far enough back in the past that many people haven't heard of it and those who have seem to have fond memories of it.  Unless it caught fire on them, apparently that happened every now and then, oops.  The amp is full of fuses (supposedly to stop the fireworks) both speaker and otherwise, they make it very clear in the manual that you need to match the speaker fuses to the speaker rating as the fuses are the only thing stopping the amp from over driving them.  Sounds a bit complicated doesn't it?

 

There's a lot to be said for the Amber in the area of connectivity, it has both pre out and power in sockets (you know, those sockets that have been recently renamed a "HT bypass") and several power plugs in the back similar to the older Sansuis.  The power amp section is rated at 50wpc into 8 and 90wpc into 4 with a 90K input impedance, that's pretty good.  Only a 15K input impedance on the preamp section though so I'm wondering if it might benefit from a buffer, I might give the Burson buffer a try in the chain later on.  There's also an optional sub sonic filter to reduce low level noise, so there is a bass reduction function (I wonder why that function never caught on in later years) on offer.

 

So, for amp number 63 I was using my Halcro EC800 cd player, Aurealis R1 interconnects and Redgum "Expressive Line" speaker cable feeding into my Lenehan/ETI S2R speakers.

 

Highs:  Very similar to the Nova in detail levels but with energy on display, more zing, triangles are sparkly, twinkly and quite brittle sounding but not hard or harsh in any way.  Trumpets are nicely raspy and brassy but also not hard or harsh.  Slowly played piano is an absolute treat but strongly played piano is not quite as nice.  8.0 (but 8.5 on the slower songs)

 

Mids:  Similar to the highs in that there is plenty of energy on display and the orchestral 'zing' is the most fun to listen to that I have heard in quite a while but apart from that it is fairly neutral... but... it is not a boring or bland neutral it is more a happy and friendly neutral that is satisfying to listen to.  8.0

 

Bass:  Nice presence, light on the impact and overall depth but good variation on tone within the bass region.  I have read a couple of posts on other forums where people are asking why their Amber doesn't give good bass and that is because, like the Nova, it concentrates on the mids and top end, bass heads will not get their rocks off from this amp.  However having said that it does do acoustic bass very well and if you feed it some haunting music (Dido's first album for example) it gets the atmosphere spot on without needing any extra bass depth so it does quite a bit with what it has.  So, quality is very good but amount present is a bit light, I was going to give it a 7.0 but I've upped it to a 7.5 on the strength of the quality.  

 

Vocals:  F: With strong vocals it does a fairly good job, 7.0, but with slower and softer vocals it really shines, I would give it an 8.5 on Enya's entire best of album (I sat through the entire thing because it sounded so damn good), so I think I have to average it at 7.75.  

M: The amber likes the guys too, male vocals have a nice sense of body to them and this doesn't seem dependent on strength or speed like the female vocal performance does.  8.0

So the Amber has definite variable strengths in the vocal area, if you play to those strengths it is an excellent performer, if you don't it still does a good job but... well... why would you not play to its strengths?

 

Soundstaging:  It is rare for an instrument to come directly from a speaker with the Amber, I would guess that about 80% of the sound sits somewhere in the space between with occasional forays behind the speakers and the rare sound that comes from just beyond them.  It makes for a bloody brilliant, and I have to say somewhat surreal, listening experience (my apologies for the technical language).  This must be exactly what people mean when the say that the speakers disappear, you don't notice them because they don't seem to be doing anything, the sound seems to be coming out of the back wall rather than from the speakers.  The effect is practically magical, I'm going to give it an 8.5 with the option to upgrade that to a 9.0 with more evaluation.  

Also instruments don't always sit still within that space, they sometimes move, and I could swear I heard Mark Knofler move back slightly from the microphone two or three times, you can pick up that movement more as a 3D effect than as a change in volume with the Amber.  Yes, colour me very impressed indeed.

 

Overall Performance Integration:

Great sense of acoustic energy, loves orchestral shifts and swings in both pitch and tone, very enjoyable to listen to.  Fades in and out are very captivating.  And then there is the soundstage to consider

 

Ability to Emote:  7.5 on the stronger, harder tracks to 8.5 on the slower ones, the Amber conveys the meaning of the vocals and the feel of the song very well, so well in fact that the change from one track to another can cause a bit of an an aural/emotional shock.

 

Electric Guitar Test:  I really wanted to turn this up, 8.5, it's got energy, it's got just a slight sense of feedback and it's got the guitar able to move around within the soundstage.  

 

80's Rock Test:  Very, very 80's, 8.0, not that much of a surprise really since the amp is old enough to remember the 80's.

 

And some more comments/observations.

There seems to be a sort of soft, sonic overbearance present that helps to fill the room and just has to add to that overall soundstage effect, it seems to help put that zing into things and adds an atmospheric effect as well.

The Amber can exhibit a very soft touch when required and it does so with a sort of soft atmospheric aplomb.

 

Now this amp is pretty old, early 80's I think, and it does show some signs of that age.  It took a few days of operation for it to settle out and it takes about 45 minutes for it to warm up (but that's alright because it's worth it).

It may well be in need of some TLC and perhaps a recap.  If that is so then a service may well help it pick up its portrayal of harder, faster music and since it is so good at the slower stuff I'm pretty keen to give that a try.  

 

And to think I picked up this little gem from ebay for $325.  Finds like this one are just one more reason to love this hobby.

 

 

Next up, Sony 700ES.

 

 

Edit:  I've just taken a peak inside the chassis and found a sticker dated 05/88 so it's a little younger than I thought but it can certainly still remember the 80's.

 

Edit:  Pics added.

post-130663-0-08448800-1433576249_thumb.

post-130663-0-04374600-1433576266_thumb.

Edited by Cafad

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Thanks for the reviews Cafad. I had a couple of Amber Series 70 high current power amps which I sold late last year. Went for a song after not getting much interest on the SNA classifieds. I suspect the new owner is very happy with them. They were very easy to listen to and no SS edginess at all. Vocals really sounded hypnotic and bass was more than sufficient for my ears. I suspect they would shame many modern amps.

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Thanks for the reviews Cafad. I had a couple of Amber Series 70 high current power amps which I sold late last year. Went for a song after not getting much interest on the SNA classifieds. I suspect the new owner is very happy with them. They were very easy to listen to and no SS edginess at all. Vocals really sounded hypnotic and bass was more than sufficient for my ears. I suspect they would shame many modern amps.

I suspect you are correct, I just tried out the Amber as a power amp being fed by my Burson Conductor and the combination gave me great truckloads of deep, powerful and yet rather mellow bass (and a ground loop hum so I can't go that way in the long term, but it was worth a try).  So if the 70 series is anything like the 50 series then yeah, they'd shame a few of the current (no pun intended) crop all right.

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Jeff

 

What type of sound does the new room produce compared to the other 2?

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Love your work mate, keep it up. It's going to take a while to get used to that new room but I'm sure you'll manage ;)

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Jeff

 

What type of sound does the new room produce compared to the other 2?

Just a bit different.  I can't run the volume up too far without getting a bit of upper bass reinforcement so anything above about 80db is not real pleasant.  Back up in the north I was listening to quite a bit of music above 75db but now that I live in suburbia I tend to sit down around 65db so while it isn't an issue that stops me I will sort it out just as soon as I can figure out how to read the graphs produced by Room EQ Wizard (and sort out how to do something about them).  There's a little more detail on display too, probably because I'm sitting only half as far from the speakers as I was before.

 

 

Love your work mate, keep it up. It's going to take a while to get used to that new room but I'm sure you'll manage ;)

I don't think it will take as long as I originally thought it would this time.  The Amber has already proved that I can have a great 3D soundstage without any serious mods or treatment, if I keep it on hand for regular aural re-calibration then I think I can put this whole 'getting used to a new room' on the fast track.  It'll still take a few more weeks but I was expecting a few more months so weeks are good.

Edited by Cafad

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Hello Cafad,

 

Hope I'm not derailing a more informed discussion amongst mates here but I just discovered your thread and am starting to enjoy poring over it already but was immediately engaged by the Peachtree popping up when I opened it as it's my current amp. I'm relatively new to the hobby, kinda came in sideways via headphones, and budget and cramped living conditions preclude a large system at present, so the Peachtree's doing a great 'one box' solution for me .

 

This preamble is all leading up to an actual question - Did you experiment with tube in the preamp? Reason I'm asking is I can't really detect any difference whether on or off and I'm wondering, is mine blown? [it lights up] or is the stock tube really subtle and I should try another? or is it just a gimmick? Any light you can throw would be welcome and if this would be more appropriate in a different Forum please let me know.

 

Thanks for the great thread

Michael

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I found it made a slight difference, of the negative variety. :)

I am not a fan of tubes, I must say, but I found this dulled the detail a tad. It usually stays off when I am listening.

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Hi Michael, Darren has jumped in and said pretty much what I was going to (thanks Daz).  I found a small difference in the level of detail available, in that the tube reduces the detail a bit, not a large amount but it is a reduction none the less and smooths things over a little.  It would be handy to use if you had bright or hard speakers, or if you just liked looking at glowing tubes (and some of us do) but it wasn't a big draw for me.

 

Try throwing on a track with lots of mettalic or brassy sounds on it, that should help you differentiate between the tube and ss preamp stages.

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Hey Darren & Cafad thanks for corroborating my own experience which was that it made it sound ever so slightly..... worse! Good to get a second opinion when you're new to tubes, luckily it was bought in spite of that feature rather than for it. :)

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Thanks to caleb I am now an official member of the Plinius owners club.

 

And here is a pic to illustrate the point.

post-130663-0-49867000-1433546998_thumb.

 

And a bum shot.

post-130663-0-49213600-1433547076_thumb.

 

I've already got a few interesting things to say about the Plinius 9200 but they are going to have to wait until after my weekly shopping trip.

 

Enjoy your long weekend everybody!

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A beautiful timeless design, good on ya Jeffro.

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