Peachtree musicBox – great sound quality from your iPod
Melbourne, VIC – 15th June 2011 – The musicBox has a great amplifier, tube-preamp, DAC, headphone amp and built-in iPod Dock- all at a ripper price. If sound quality from your iPod is important to you you’ll love PeachTree’s magic box.
The “red letter days” in Hi Fi are those very few that change your perceptions of what is possible. They are both a blessing and a curse, because although they take you to a new level, you know you will never be satisfied with anything less. They often involve crippling expense and crusades that become obsessions. Red letter days that I can recall involve hearing my first moving coil cartridge, my first valve amplifier and my first electrostatic speakers. My very full garage will attest to the fact that the crusades that have followed those events have been the cause of considerable expenditure and domestic disharmony.
However, like most of the rest of the world, over recent years I’ve become addicted to the convenience of storing and playing my music digitally, from laptop, iPod and iPad. Whilst the convenience is irresistible, the sound quality is only so so – till now. The Peachtree Musicbox is the magician that changes all of that forever. Now my iPod and my computer are high quality music sources every bit as good as my expensive CD player. I am pleased to report that in this instance this is much more of a blessing than a curse, because although I’ll never be happy hearing my digital music played any other way in the future, for such a magnificent product to be available at under $1,000 there is very little to complain about.
What it does
The Peachtree Musicbox is many components in one, the Swiss Army Knife of Hi Fi if you like. It is all of:
- A digital iPod dock (more below)
- An integrated amplifier
- A quality DAC
- A quality headphone amplifier
- A separate valve pre-amplifier
In addition the valve in the pre-amplifier can be switched in or out of circuit, although I preferred it included. The pre-amp output can be fed to a separate power amplifier, and there is also an output for a sub woofer.
How it works
This is an inspired blend of the old and the new in Hi Fi, to use a valve pre-amp with a dedicated digitally based music source. I’ve never heard the music stored on my iPod or computer sound so clear and detailed. The slight valve warmth nicely balances the available detail from any digital source through the Musicbox’s high quality internal DAC and the result is stunning detail rendered musically. The Musicbox bypasses the iPod’s own internal DAC and processes the digital signal through a much higher quality DAC and this is clearly the secret to its superior sound. It is claimed by Peachtree to be the equivalent of the sound of an expensive stand alone CD player and I can but agree. Most other iPod systems take an analogue signal from the iPod’s own internal DAC and the result is always pleasant but not what most people would consider to be true high fidelity. The same signal path applies when connecting a computer through the USB connection. Again, feeding a digital signal to the Musicbox’s internal DAC produces stunning results.
So, great sound, a magnificent product to look at and to use – what’s not to like? The only minor downside for me is that the power amp section is a little too low powered for my preferred bookshelf speakers, the venerable Rogers LS 3/5A. The Peachtree company has two higher powered models, the iNova and iDecco, however they are considerably more expensive. My LS35A’s were driven to adequate levels but they are generally happier being fed with 40 to 50 watts than the Musicbox’s 20 watts. I’d be tempted to explore utilising more efficient speakers like the John Blue 3’s which are much easier to drive. Other than that I have no quibbles at all. The headphone amp is excellent and although I am not an enthusiastic user of headphones, through the Musicbox I can see the attraction. The remote is adequate and convenient and the overall finish and operation of the controls on the Musicbox are first class.
I could see myself using the Musicbox in a number of different ways. First and foremost, now I’ve heard the quality of sound that can be achieved from any iPod or computer, the convenience that is so useful day to day is no longer at the expense of quality of sound. I suspect that my iPod will become my main music source and I will either find satisfying efficient speakers or use the Musicbox as a music source and preamplifier and add a power amplifier if I insist on using my inefficient old 3 5A’s.
The other option is that someone like me with more Hi Fi hardware than I really need, could use the arrival of the Musicbox as a stimulus to simplify and downsize and end up with a very adequate complete Hi Fi system by adding a phono preamplifier and a turntable. The opportunity to achieve this degree of rationalisation and simplicity, whilst still getting superb sound is a true win/win situation and it won’t do any harm domestically either.
We welcome veteran audio reviewer Michael Main to the STAR AV website. Michael is a prominent Melbourne lawyer and a senior partner in one of the city’s most established law firms. His dream is to retire and open a high-end audio-video store so he can indulge in his decades long passion for music, movie and great AV equipment.