REVIEW: 2019 Peachtree Nova 300 Integrated Amplifier

There is something genuinely special about the latest version of the Peachtree Audio Nova 300 integrated amplifier that is hard to let go of – Howard Milstein explains WHY! 

Since its inception some 12 years ago, The Peachtree nova series has been praised by critics as one of the best integrated amplifiers available, at any price! This amplifier has accumulated many awards and industry honors along the way.

Even so, the company was not satisfied sitting on its laurels but have constantly been finding ways to improve their products in cutting edge style since then. This is definitely the sign of trendsetters who will not relent to idle inactivity. 

Previous models of the Peachtree integrated amplifiers used a tube buffer which has since been removed in the flagship Nova Series, to reduce distortion and signal to noise ratio. Another new upgrade is the switch to their new-generation ICEpower Class D amplifier modules that in Peachtree’s (and my own view) have, without doubt, surpassed many of the Class A/B amps in sonic character and overall neutrality. The innovative and patented Hybrid Controlled Oscillation Modulator is used (HCOM) to ensure high output, wide bandwidth, low noise, robust stability, and a simplified overall design.

The prevailing sound quality of Class D amplification has fully come to fruition and has been indisputably acknowledged by The Sound Advocate as being able to compete with the finest Class A/B amplifiers.  (See reviews our past reviews of the AVM CS2.2 and Wyred-for-Sound’s mINT integrated.

The current Nova 300 incorporates an ESS Reference 9018K2M Sabre DAC 32-Bit/384kHz PCM and 5.6MHz DSD (double-DSD) compatibility. It sports Asynchronous USB, Coax and (2) Optical inputs The Asynchronous iOS input is there for direct digital input from Apple Lightning devices – with exclusive Peachtree DyNEC (Dynamic-Noise Elimination Circuit) technology.

Also onboard is a moving magnet phono input and a HIGH OUTPUT discrete headphone amplifier The Optional Wi-Fi module is currently in development and was not provided with our sample. It should be a must for most enthusiasts, so if you already own this amplifier, get the update!

Having had some online conversations with Peachtree Audio’s President, Andrew Clark, I had mentioned that upon first installing the Nova 300, the amplifier did something to my reference loudspeakers that were immediately noticeable, quick to identify and enormously rewarding in a few specific areas. (to be observed further on). Andrew specifically noted that the Nova 300 “controls driver motion very effectively without sacrificing musicality. It is also intensely quiet so the music rides well above the noise floor’. He reiterated, “One of my first auditions was with a pair of Wilson Sabrinas and I was blown away. I was expecting it to sound good, but wasn’t expecting it to extract every ounce of goodness from those speakers”.

In 2017 Peachtree Audio celebrated its 10th anniversary. As of 2019, The Nova 300 amplifier certainly deserves a completely new, in-depth performance evaluation and as you will see shortly, there are a few alluring surprises that this amplifier has up its sleeve that may have been missed in previous updates from the audio press. (As of April, Peachtree Audio has also recently released their Nova 500). This journey is about to begin!

THE NOVA SOUND ENTERS

As you can see, the Nova 300 is quite a beautiful piece of equipment. Our sample was supplied with a glossy, dark ebony mocha finish and polished silver faceplate. The amplifier puts out a huge, 300 watts of clean, continuous power per channel with an 8ohm load and peaks at 450 watts at 4 ohms – this small ‘monster’ will tame virtually any loudspeaker that it is connected to. Auditioning this amp with 3 pairs of loudspeakers confirmed this in no uncertain terms! However, it is more than just power that puts this integrated amplifier way above almost anything else. It drove each speaker system effortlessly, and quite amazingly, integrated with and allowed each test loudspeaker to exhibit the utmost in their inherent sound reproduction with a natural beauty that is quite rare for any amplifier, let alone a unit at this price point.

The 2019 Peachtree Audio Nova 300

As referenced above, when the Nova 300 was first connected into my system, without even any ‘burn in’ time, one startling observation was immediately noticed audibly. Having put on an old 1968 re-mastered, aptly competent EMI recording into the Marantz S10s1 player of Mozart’s Symphony 39 with Daniel Barenboim and the English Chamber Orchestra, (48 kHz/16-bit.) immediately—as the 3rd movement started; the transients of the horn section seemed to “burst forth” with not a touch of ‘smear’ from the background of the silent sound stage. This quick and most remarkable, harmonically clear “attack” was not noticed before from the previously integrated amplifier the Peachtree had replaced. Mind you—this was not in any way subtle. Undoubtedly, I was completely drawn into the music coming forth and much to my delight, I would soon realize, though far from anticipating as such, that there would be a few more intriguing sonic improvements I was about to discover The Peachtree Nova 300

GETTING DOWN

As I always initially listen to a piece of equipment without classifying or dissecting any particular part of its frequency range, (how can any competent music/audio reviewer worth his salt not?) after a day or two of extended auditioning, I began to take note of the fact that this amplifier was also prominently displaying a tighter bass/mid bass response. In this respect, as Andrew mentioned above, the Nova truly did hold a ‘firm grip’ the loudspeakers drive units. While the bass became firmer, it did not in any way sound ‘bloated’ or over extended in relation to the speaker’s comprehensive balance. This unexaggerated ‘hold’ on the bass response was perceptively and evenly integrated within the loudspeakers overall tonal response. 

Quite naturally, the next thought that came to my mind was, “will this amplifier do anything more intrinsic to my system? Changing speakers can be a laborious chore for me. Although I have set marks for my reference pairs, I usually take another half hour measuring every distance from each wall as well as its toe-in angle to the exact centimeter and as to the latter, currently never more than 20°! Quite obviously, this will exemplify optimum stereo imaging (assuming the loudspeakers are capable of such) as well as the best overall response of the speakers in question.  

Having been overly thrilled with Peachtree’s effort driving the Quad ESL63’s, and my current review pair of Dali Oberon 7’s, these were now replaced with my vintage pair of Spendor BC1’s. This loudspeaker is particularly sensitive in its treble response as to ideal system matching. To my illustrious surprise, the Peachtree Nova 300 was able to uplift this speakers mid/treble balance to even higher degrees of accuracy and musicality than many more expensive amplifiers I had used in the past. Could it be a touch of mid-high frequency warmth? I do not think so! Of course, one could quickly presume I had an audible memory lapse? —not on your life. This also applied to the Dali Oberon 7 loudspeakers lower treble response; allowing it to emit an even smoother transaction from its mid-bass drivers to its treble unit. For whatever reason, the Nova 300’s sound attributes were doing something that was inching it even closer to my heart.

More distinctively recorded program material was now quickly sought after; these included a 192 kHz FLAC download of George Szell’s Cleveland Orchestra of Beethoven and Mozart, as well as Simon Rattle’s BPO Nutcracker excerpts; oh gosh, and a new Digital remaster of James Taylors most recent compilation. And the list goes on…

James Taylor Warner Brothers flac recording

The Nova 300 gave the upper mid-treble range on all the loudspeakers used an unequivocally smoother, airier and subtly beautiful high frequency response. Being just as notable was a sublime soundstage width—with particular orchestral recordings emerging across, beyond and behind the imagined stage (front wall) of the speakers and room. Adding to that, I had not heard an integrated amplifier display so much exact sweetness to string sounds; reticent when called for yet superbly delicate and strongly refined when the program sources offered as much.

The 4 major brass instruments had great transient response while never sounding glaringly ‘sharp’. Oboes in the far back center were self-effacing yet properly realized. Stereo images remained beyond reproach and only added further image localization to the attributes already inherent in the loudspeaker’s individual designs. The Nova 300 presented a characteristically pristine amount of reverberation and ‘decay’ time quite akin to my recognition of the sound displayed at a few of the best concert halls I’ve been to. In my listening room, the Nova was bringing together the associated components to an inordinately blissful state of being.

Maris Jansons conducts Beethoven Symphonies Suntory Hall Japan

I next ripped the PCM audio track from Maris Jansons conducting all 9 Beethoven Symphonies. With all 3 loudspeakers employed, the Peachtree Nova300 went outright ‘over the top’ as it depicted striking orchestral detail, awesome bloom, and majestic depth perception as well as a neutral ‘subtlety that was simply quite awe-inspiring. I would venture to say that the Nova 300 DAC may have been exhibiting an audibly unique, yet humble sound virtue to the music. Arguably, it very well could be one of the finest sounding DAC’s I have ever heard in an integrated amplifier to date; (I’ve thoroughly auditioned four this year alone….and I have not even heard the Nova500 yet!) 

What is more stunning is hearing this type of performance quality in an amplifier that sells at a suggested retail price of $2,299! If you want Wi-Fi included, it is only an additional $200 or $249 if bought separately Peachtree has an added surprise: there is a limited launch price of $125 for all existing owners if they choose to upgrade. (Check current status). The Peachtree Nova 300 is an amplifier whose quality of reproduction will immediately make you think twice when comparing it to almost every other Class AB amplifier, be it integrated or a basic power amp. This unit is that good!

CLOSING

I could go on and on about the plethora of quality attributes as well as the definitive sound quality of the latest incarnation of the Peachtree Nova 300 integrated amplifier. Its power output and reproduction capabilities are quite simply unsurpassed at its asking price. There are times when an audio enthusiast quickly inserts a new component into his existing system and to a bit of his amazement, is struck by some fundamental qualities he initially observes on audition. However, the key here is can the product keep pushing out this quality over a period of time and with almost EVERY type of program source thrown at it.? I might further ask, “do you get a feeling of confidence” while being thoroughly ensconced in the musical enjoyment the product displays every time you listen to it? As for me, the evidence above speaks for itself.

As an afterthought, it would be quite nice to have an Ethernet connection to directly link into my cable system for streaming HD web and computer files. I find it a bit tedious hooking up a USB cable from a DAC or iPad (I do not have a PC in my listening room and my listening chair is at least 12 or 13 feet from my equipment and loudspeakers). However, as with many of the best audiophile amplifiers available today, Peachtree has some simple solutions available if you wish to take a different route. In this case, you will need to download and install the included USB 2.0 driver for playback of music files that exceed 96kHz when using a Windows PC. There are instructions for IOS applications as well which are solely dedicated to intelligently synchronize with Apple products. The Nova 300 includes a remote that is gratifyingly well thought out and an intuitive extra. It is a pure pleasure to use.

Finally, I adamantly believe that this amplifier can and should be used as a comparison to judge the quality of reproduction that can be obtained with other integrated high definition amplifiers–at or above its price point. Having said that, the Peachtree Nova 300 is a superlative product and value. This amplifier may not be leaving my facilities quite as early as predicted!

Associated review components: Digital: Marantz SA10s1 CD, Metronome Le Player 2/s CD/DAC / Analogue: Linn Lp12/ Naim Aero/Ortofon Cadenza Bronze /  Amplification: CIA PC•4 MKII Passive Controller / C100S power amplifier / Cables: Audio Art D1SE digital coax (custom) / Stager Silver Solid Interconnects / Tellurium Q Black II loudspeker cableMorrow Audio SP7 Grand Reference loudspeaker cables / Loudpeakers: modified Quad ESL 63’s / The Dali Oberon7 / Spendor BC1’s.

 

The Sound Advocate
    

Peachtree Nova 300 integrated amplifier- $ 2,299.00 / Optional Wi-Fi (available soon!) – $200 included or if bought separately.

Peachtree Audio: https://www.peachtreeaudio.com/ Contact: Mr. Andrew Clark: andrewc@peachtreeaudio.com

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