Peachtree Audio NovaPre/220

Peachtree Audio NovaPre/220

Given their compact size and the rather basic cooling requirements of the power amplifier, placement for both NovaPre and 220 does not pose any difficulties and a system based on this pair will be operational in a matter of few minutes. If someone intends to use the USB port to stream files through a Windows machine he should install the driver, a procedure that will not take more than a few minutes, too.
During the review we used both the analog input of the NovaPre and the USB port (with a Win7/ foobar2000/WASAPI Netbook) to stream high definition files. A Teac Esoteric P70/D70 transport/DAC connected to the analog input was used as the main digital source, while a pair of ATC SCM-50PSL was used as the reference loudspeaker.
Some parts of the listening sessions were used to gain a general feeling of the differences between the two output stages of the preamplifier. Between the discrete class A and the op amps output, my personal preference was probably towards the later, mainly because of the better, more clear and well-defined soundstage. Obviously the discrete output is far from being classified as inferior or anything like… Instead, listening through it gives a little “bigger” and more impressive character, making the whole feeling more spacey, all high valued attributes that a lot of listeners are paying attention to.
In hybrid operation mode, i.e. by adding the tube buffer, the general behavior of the system did not appear to change significantly. In close inspection, there is, probably, a slightly different feeling in the sense that the overall sound acquires a certain soft and more pleasant character. Do not expect anything of a big scale though, since it is a very small, discreet change we are talking about here. These observations drive to the conclusion that both output stages are useful and the final choice is more a matter of personal taste. With this background, the better part of the listening was made through the op amp output stage and without the tube buffer. There was, however, an exception, which will be left to be analyzed last…
Peachtree amplifiers replaced both the preamplifier and the power amplifier in the system (Melos Plus Series Line and Parasound HCA3500). The first impression one gets while listening to the NovaPre/220 pair is that of an exceptional drive capacity. In a listening room with small/medium volume, driving the SCM50s near their limits appeared to be an easy task for the 220. Moreover, while the listening level remained the same as usual (no need to compromise here, obviously) there was neither fatigue nor any sign of harshness.
With this level of performance in terms of loudspeaker drive and taking into account the quite low noise figures for both amplifiers, it is not surprising that the sense of the dynamic range and the microdynamics was excellent. The system appeared to have significant headroom to operate comfortably and the task to approach its real limits proved to be a difficult one and one that needs some real aggression towards the volume control (and probably your ears and neighbors, too…).

Peachtree Audio NovaPre/220
Peachtree Audio NovaPre/220

This dynamic behavior combines well with a sense of a transparent and neutral character. The Peechtree system offered extended (although slightly overdamped) lows, with good detail and good sense of scale. Instruments like the double base, appeared as well focused sound objects in the space between the loudspeakers while the rhythm section was clearly defined, with good timing and presence enough to grab listener's attention. Mids were characterized by a sense of proximity, enough to offer the impression that the system is highly capable to present the details included in each track. The listener feels that it is close to the stage, has good sense of the mix and only in certain recordings he will miss some of the depth and atmosphere. Needless to say that, for those cases, the use of the discrete output stage, although a task difficult to undertake during a listening session, could offer a more deep, diffused and immersive sound stage, probably with some cost in the details part. Voices, both soloists and chorus, were rendered with great articulation and very good description of their position and movement, adding to the realism of the whole soundstage.
At the upper part of the audio spectrum, the system sounded airy, with good timing, and typically good description of harmonic content, both through the analog input, and the USB port. The DAC included in NovaPre is not just a simple accessory but, apparently, a serious effort for this price range, which can comfortably explore the benefits of high resolution files. Extended listening of such files showed that the high frequency region has no traces of harshness and can be truly balanced, relaxed and enjoyable.
Last but not least, there are some comments about the headphone output. Peachtree was not particularly advertising it and it seems to be of a typical design, a good add-on for the user, just in case he wants some private listening time. Listening through a pair of Grado RS2 proves that this design target was achieved, with the result being quite accurate and pleasant, suitable for long, relaxed sessions, even that -given both the competition and the market trend to pay more attention to headphone users- one reasonably expects something more from Peachtree (at least in the future…). However, beyond those facts, it also appears that this output is more influenced by the use of the tube buffer. We are not dealing with something unexplainable or technically complicated here, though: Probably, the lack of interaction between the loudspeakers and the room makes easier to spot differences introduced by the buffer, adding to its usefulness. Almost all the listening through the headphones included the buffer, as it appeared to offer some benefits to the whole experience.


Considering the price asked, both NovaPre and the 220 power amp are a real bargain. This is a system that can support an adequate number of sources (mostly digital), has great loudspeaker drive capacity (in fact, in this price range it is rather impossible to set up a sensible loudspeaker/room combination that the 220 cannot drive well), features elegant design and offers the possibility of some experimentation with a double output stage and a switchable tube buffer. How reasonable is to ask for more?

Listening Sessions Recording

The following recordings were made with a DV-RA1000 Tascam master recorder (using 24bit/192kHz sample rate) and you can download them to have an impression of what the device under review sounded like. It is obvious that any recording of this kind could not be absolutely transparent but, according to our experience, the majority of sound attributes we listen to, during the actual listening sessions, are preserved. No need to say that you should use these samples cautiously and for informative purposes only. Do not rely on them exclusively to make any buying decisions. The file format is .wav, so expect that the zipped files will be quite large (even if the clips are about a minute or less long. You could use an ABX listening tool like the ABX plug-in for foobar2000 if you want to make some more elaborate experiments. Contact us if you have any questions.

Listening Sessions Recording TOC
File #01 NovaPre, Class A, 16bit/44.1kHz
File #02 NovaPre, Class A, 24bit/96kHz
File #03 NovaPre, OpAmps, OpAmps/Hybrid, Class A/Hybrid, 16bit/44.1kHz
File #04 Reference (dCS Puccini u-Clock/Teac Esoteric D-70

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