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Peachtree Audio Decco and Era Design 4 Satellite Speakers

August 13, 2008 By Steve Guttenberg



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Peachtree Audio Decco and Era Design 4 Satellite Speakers
Peachtree Audio Decco - behind the small window is the tube that powers the preamplification stage

The New Order

I'm almost embarrassed to admit it, but I'm a hold out. I never listen to music over my computer, even as I've become increasingly aware that the traditional CD and/or turntable-amplifier-speaker based hi-fi system is on its way out, and that some of the most revered audiophile manufacturers like McIntosh, Linn, and Kaleidescape are designing component-grade music servers.

So sure, my interest is piqued, but I have a fantastic high-end audio system, why would I ever want to listen to tunes over my computer?

Good question, maybe because that's where more and more music is coming from. There's great stuff streaming over internet radio; XM and Sirius Satellite Radio sound best over the web; and CD quality and higher music downloads are starting to appear. So now I'm willing to make a move, as long as the gear sounds decent.

The nice folks at Peachtree Audio are way ahead of me.

Peachtree Audio Decco and Era Design 4 Satellite Speakers

A couple of years ago they figured that since most iPod owners have a sizable chunk of their music collection, or the whole enchilada stored on their computer, they started developing the Decco--a stereo vacuum tube amplifier with a built-in digital-to-analog converter with USB, Toslink, and coaxial digital connectivity. And since some music lovers are still listening to analog sources they gave the Decco a pair of stereo inputs to accommodate a cassette deck and maybe an AM/FM radio. Vinyl fans are welcome, but they'll need to purchase a separate outboard phono preamplifier and plug that into one of the Decco's analog inputs.

The Decco's preamplifier outputs could be used with either a more powerful amplifier or a subwoofer, but I doubt those two options will be necessary. The Decco's "Bass EQ" button supplies a six-decibel boost at 50 HZ to pump up the bass to work wonders with small desktop speakers. It did the trick with the little Era Design 4 Satellite speakers I used with the Decco. Hook up chores via USB were dead simple; so even I, a serious computer phobic nerd, had iTunes up and running in just a few minutes.

I love the look of the Decco's curvy cabinet and satin finished aluminum front panel, decked out as it is with a row of five input buttons and a silky feeling volume control. Trust me, you won't ever need to consult the owner's manual to play the Decco; you select a source, say, USB, and adjust the volume to your liking, that's it.

Oh, and sitting behind the little "window" next to the volume control you can't miss the vacuum tube. Its golden glow is a welcoming beacon to audiophiles, a visual conformation that the Decco means business. The tube handles preamplification duties while the built-in solid-state power amplifier pumps out 50 watts per channel.

The rounded casework is distinctive and Peachtree'a build standards are comparable to high-end components selling for more than double the Decco's real world MSRP. The small, grey plastic remote controls just the basics: Volume, mute, and input selection. Peachtree throws in a spare tube; that and the installed standard tube should keep the Decco grooving for at least five years of heavy use (after that replacement tubes are widely available).
 
The Era D4 speaker is a synergistic match to the Decco: it's just the right size—not so big it would hog too much desktop real estate—or so small the speaker couldn't deliver bona-fide high-end sound. Its sexy curves and modernist style complement the Decco's. Lifting the 9.6-inch tall speaker out of its shipping box I was surprised by its heft and rock-solid cabinetry. The 1-inch silk dome tweeter and 4-inch woofer are high quality drive units.

My speaker samples were impeccably finished in high gloss black, but the D4 is also available in real Rosewood and Cherry veneers (just like the Decco's). Sturdy wall-mount brackets are included with the speakers.

The Decco/Era system produced a remarkably spacious, yet nicely focused soundstage behind my iMac. That's what first caught my ear, but then while listening to folk singer Teddy Thompson's meditation on fame, "Shine So Bright," the sound was disarmingly natural. Thompson's soaring vocals and sumptuous string arrangements erased any thoughts of evaluating the sound as mere computer audio. No, we're talking high-end audio, albeit shrunk down to fit on my desktop.

Peachtree Audio Decco - behind the small window is the tube that powers the preamplification stage

The D4 is a formidable little speaker so Lee "Scratch" Perry's reggae beats were wonderfully nimble, totally free of bloat, and when I nudged the volume higher, powerful enough to set me grooving in my seat, the speakers' bass was deep, but not so deep I'd be fooled into thinking a subwoofer had materialized. Unless you have a real appetite for a room shaking rumble you won't be tempted. Still, it's nice knowing that you can always add a sub.

With my computer based listening out of the way I hooked up my Zu Druid Mk IV floor standing speakers to the Decco. Wow, the sound was wonderfully warm and sweet, the Decco's tube was definitely working its magic, guaranteeing this amplifier won't be the limiting factor in a bedroom, dorm, or office based music system.

Audiophile that I am I preferred the sound of CDs over everything I heard over the USB input (your mileage may vary). I also checked out the sound of the Decco's headphone jack. It was very different, distinctly less "tubey" than the sound over the speakers.

Peachtree Audio and Era are both owned by Signal Path International; which is based in Bellevue, Washington. Signal Path is so proud of the Decco they actually supply the company owners' direct-line phone numbers with the unit, precisely because they want immediate feedback from their customers—I think that's fantastic. Decco is the first component from Peachtree Audio, and more good stuff is in the works.

The iPod boom just keeps booming along, and if Signal Path can snag even a tiny piece of that they'll have a lot more customers. Sounds like a plan to me.

PRICES: Decco, $799; Era D4, $599/pair ($100 extra for wood finishes for the amp and speakers)

CONTACT: 704.391.9337 signalpathint.com

Comments

The one thing that I am waiting for is a wireless dish network for my audio system. There are several offers on the market, but the price is way too much for my pocket so I'm waiting until it goes down.

I really like the design of these speakers. They combine the old-fashioned look with the classic shape of an old stereo.

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