This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Esoteric UX-1, Ancient Audio Lektor Prime, Raysonic Audio CD228,, AMR CD-777 [on review], April Music Stello CDA-500 [on review], Aura Neo [on review]
Preamp/Integrated: April Music Stello Ai500 [on review], Aura Groove [on review], Aaron XX [on review], Audio Analogue Crescendo [on review]
Speakers: Zu Essence, era 5 SAT, Amphion Helium 510 [on review], Gallo Strada & TR-3 [on review]
Cables: Complete loom of ASI Liveline
Stands: 2 x ASI HeartSong 3-tier, 2 x ASI HeartSong amp stand
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S
Sundry accessories: Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; Nanotech Nespa Pro; extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters, Advanced Acoustics Orbis Wall & Corner units
Room size: The sound platform is 3 x 4.5m with a 2-story slanted ceiling above; four steps below continue into an 8m long combined open kitchen, dining room and office, an area which widens to 5.2m with a 2.8m ceiling; the sound platform space is open to a 2nd story landing and, via spiral stair case, to a 3rd-floor studio; concrete floor, concrete and brick walls from a converted barn with no parallel walls nor perfect right angles; short-wall setup with speaker backs facing the 8-meter expanse and 2nd-story landing.
Review Component Retail: $999

Wicked cool? As the original mobile music server now up to 160GB of capacity, the iPod really is. High-brow 'philes of course dissed its D/A conversion and analog outputs as altogether unfit for real men. Then Wadia's 170iTransport came along and tapped the digital signal. Hurray?

Not really. Wadia forgot to include a D/A converter to finish the job. Even their to-be-released 171iTransport won't have one. What were they thinking?

As we all know, middlemen increase costs. The Wadia and later Onkyo ND-S1 were nothing but middlemen, essentially empty boxes that released an iPod's digital signal and passed it on for external processing. Past tense? Absolutely! That approach is now passé.
Like most cost-conscious audiophiles, David Solomon and Jim Spainhour don't like middlemen either (Onkyo ND-S1 to left). They used to import Musical Fidelity to the US but now run their own brands era Speakers and Peachtree Audio instead.

Introduced at CES 2010, their Peachtree Audio iDecco is the latest spin on the proven Decco and Nova platform which garnered Stereophile's Product Of The Year 2009 distinction.
Wicked cool²! The iDecco finally does what Wadia & Co. ought to have done all along. It's the first product to 'hardwire' an iPod cradle to an installed superior DAC for a 'pure digital' connection. Here it's to an entry-level* ESS Sabre 9006 chip on a multi-layer board with more than 450 components and 11 regulated supplies. This cuts out the middlemen of two extra boxes with their own power supplies—digital receiver box, external DAC—and the digital cable. Now that's wicked cool. At least to the second power. If loaded with uncompressed files, it has the iPod morph into a bona fide legitimate high-end music server. At least theoretically, it should compete head-on with quite expensive traditional CD players on sound, crush the cheaper sort altogether. On convenience, it's game over for the antiques.
* Entry-level within the Sabre line. The ES9006/9008 make up their lowest tier, the 9012/9018 are the 32-bit variants, the 9022 includes a 2V driver and the 9016 is the 32-bit chip in 'ultra' designation. The 9006 includes an oversampling filter with selectable PCM fast/slow roll-off and de-emphasis, a dual phase-lock loop jitter reduction circuit, their patented Hyperstream™ 8 x oversampling DAC and a dynamic matching module. The ES9006 can operate in current or voltage mode.

**The specs say 40wpc but the small print shows a 6-ohm rating. Into the standard 8 ohms, it's closer to 30 watts per side.
Alas, the high-gloss black iDecco is a lot more than just—cough—a fixed-output upsampling DAC and reclocker for the iPod. It's a class A 6922-buffered preamp with remote-controlled variable 30-ohm outputs. It's also a 30wpc** integrated amplifier with a class A headphone socket of 10dB voltage gain, three transformer-coupled digital inputs—coax, optical, galvanically isolated USB—one line-level input, fixed and variable outs, component video outs as well as a shallow/steep digital filter switch, a selectable jitter function*** and external 115/230V converter switch.

*** "We found that many devices have more jitter than we initially allowed as acceptable. This could cut off the first few milliseconds of a recording. On the Nova, we wrote a software upgrade so that digital input 2 (opt/coax) allowed more incoming jitter so the beginning of the song would not cut off. On the Decco 2 and iDecco, we instead put a switch on the back to accommodate such devices."

Its makers call the iDecco a 5-in-1 box. For once that's truth in advertising. To return to our high-brow audiophiles higher up who'd spend this machine's $999 on one power cord alone (easily more in fact), they probably view the iDecco's built-in Mosfet power amp stage as inferior to what they already own; and possibly the preamp stage as well. Fair enough. Peachtree Audio never positioned itself as ultra fi. They're purveyors of well-above average sound for the budget conscious. (Zu Audio recently bundled their Essence speakers with a Peachtree Nova for $3.999 including repainting the Nova shell to match their custom speakers colors. Talk about value. Cherry Nova below.)

But... even dyed-blue audio fanatics might still concede that uncompressed iPod files streamed into the iDecco's 24/96 Sabre DAC run fixed out into their ancillaries of choice could just cause their resident digital front end a bit of anxiety? It's this lure of the might which prompted today's assignment in a high-end context. To avoid jingoism and to be fair to Wadia & Co., one could obviously allocate the iDecco's "$1.000 for an iPod DAC" ticket differently. $379 for a 170i Transport leaves $600 and change for an outboard DAC plus digital link. Would that sound as good? Impossible to say without actual comparisons. Would it include a valve-buffered headphone output? Most likely not. No matter what, there would be greater box and cable clutter. Here the iDecco wins by default.

As a card-carrying high-ender rather than member of Peachtree's true target audience, I've until now held off on the serious music server equation. Frankly, the iPod's feature set serves me well. I neither need a larger display nor mondo capacity. Most CDs only sport a few tracks I spin regularly. The 160GB of my Classic go a long way. Once I max out, I'll buy a second iPod to remain mobile for battery-power anywhere consumption rather than, at this stage of the game at least, commit to a more massive stationary solution. A €3.000 RipNas with dual 250GB solid-state drives for example still requires a server interface (there goes one USB cable) plus most likely an external DAC with a second USB cable. I prefer integration.

All along, the big iPod iffiness was purely digital. This the iDecco now solved most elegantly and for a fair price. Wired into my existing Esoteric/FirstWatt/ASI big rig, could the dinky but slick iPod transform into the kind of high-performance yet compact music server I quietly hoped it might? Therein lies today's tale.

And, I had questions. What exactly was involved in tapping the iPod digitally? Since no iPod modifications are involved, common sense assumes it's outputting digital already - except that nothing shakes hands with that output on the other end. Does this handshake protocol involve an Apple receiver chip? Or instead, does secret software prompt the iPod to suddenly go digital which it never did before? This link shows the rough pin assignation of Apple's 30-pin interface.

Then there was the obvious licensing fee. That's simple business. But just why were digital iDocks still so rare? Was Apple turning down applicants en masse? Was nobody applying because the cost was prohibitive? Why had it taken this long to see a pure digital connection? Something was murky to my admittedly techno-peasant and non-economist brain. So I petitioned David Solomon for some enlightenment. But there's no shortcut to it: "We go through Apple for the required chip set but they don't want us to talk detail. It's very expensive but we wanted to do it right and partner with Apple. This goes hand in hand with our stated goal of helping to bring a measure of iTunes users over to the high end. Our side of the industry could use some new customers. You and the other mags could use extra readers. The users deserve a better way to listen. Seems like a triple win to me. Apple is obviously very picky. We caught the industry asleep with the Decco and have been talking to Apple for some time now trying to put this together. Hence we are the first to have this technology. Who says the little guy never gets a break?

"In lossless, the iPod now sounds every bit as good if not better than a CD. We'll be marketing the iDecco and anything else 'i' we do in the future as a reasonable CD player replacement. One thing we know for sure is that about 85% of our customers so far use a computer with the original Decco and Nova. I expect this to continue in conjunction with their iPods. This is good. We want to build out this bridge between 'civilians' and the world of high-end audio. I have believed for years that people strapped to their desk for hours on end may be the biggest untapped market in consumer electronics. The answer for this customer has mostly been powered speakers from the computer sound card. Good start but hardly a bridge. We believe that our one-box strategy, ease of use and real performance will get a lot of these folks to enter into a new world of performance without a physics degree. This market's potential is higher than any I've known for the last 30 years outside of the TV market. After all, everyone in our target sector owns at least one computer already - and more than one in two now uses iTunes on a regular basis."

Hey, that would be me! Except I've also got a mondo rig at the far end of my office space. That routinely plays me the tunes while I'm working the computer. I shall thus inspect the iDecco both within this grander context with the big speakers and expensive electronics—admittedly far from primary given its stated project brief—and on the desk top with my already matching era 5 SAT monitor speakers. Could this gleaming 5-in-1 box with the round corners be an additional twofer to bridge 'recreational' and 'serious' listening? To even make that distinction is neurotic already. But that's audiophilia. Serious it shall get then.

Enlarge! Enlarge! Enlarge!