Audiophile vs. The mp3

Being what I would consider a “moderate” audiophile (i.e. I can absolutely hear the difference, appreciate the quality, yet never spent the overwhelming amounts of cash to achieve a super high level of bliss), I found myself over the last ten to fifteen years, trading in the fidelity for the convenience of the MP3.  On my computer at home, I probably have almost 30k songs to choose from.  Now, I would never load all of them onto a portable device at one time, yet, I do rotate playlists as my mood changes.  Talk about convenience! !t was and still is, great.  However, I always felt the sound coming from my computer and third-party speakers never sounded that good.  Actually, to be completely honest: it was awful.  

So, what does one do?  Over the years, some of us have all learned about loading content (MP3s) with varying degrees of compression.  The less compression, the better.  The best way to keep the sound quality of the content is to use some form of “lossless” compression.   While using lossless will absolutely take up more hard drive space, the cost of larger capacity hard drives continue to drop, making it affordable to keep large volumes of content; however, I’m still using my computer speakers which are truly dreadful.

Now I’m very excited about a product line from Peachtree Audio.  Peachtree understood the need for convenience and the explosion of iTunes music and the desires of folks to enjoy their music in a much better way.  They created a product called the Decco about a year ago.  That was their first product and my first awe inspired audition.  From the first Decco, they have created three new products, the Decco2, iDecco and the Nova.  This second generation of products is nothing more than incredible!  One of my colleagues has already discussed the iDecco, which incorporates an iPod dock.  However, it's the Nova that made a real impact on my home digital music library.   

The Nova is a very well built integrated amplifier.  Which means no Am/Fm tuner, just eight inputs for both analog and digital sources.  For my test, I used the USB from my computer and connected it directly to the USB input on the Nova.  

After switching the audio decoder on my computer to “external DAC,” I was almost there.  I pulled a small pair of nice bookshelf speakers I’ve had laying around the house and hooked them up.  Within a couple of minutes, I had iTunes up and began an evening of rediscovery.  

The Nova has 80 watts per channel, so I had more than enough power to meet my needs.  More importantly, the sound quality was astonishing.  I spent hours starting one song and then jumping quickly to another and then another.  It was like hearing these songs for the first time.  I honestly didn’t think anyone could make older, highly compressed MP3’s sound so good.  Was it as good as my newer lossless material?  No, not at all, however, I was now able to hear all the subtleties and details in the music again.  All this from a box about the size of a VCR.  Fifteen minutes into listening, I began to laugh and quote Will Smith from “Independence Day….’I… have Got to get me one of these!” 

I could go into all the technical specs, but if you’re like me, I really don’t get hung up on all the data, I just want to see or hear how it performs.  So, if you have a lot of digital music or just starting out and you would like to really enjoy it, you must audition the Nova.  On performance, I give this an A+.   If you have any thoughts or questions, post them here. 

Mark Tabor