What of the Nova125’s 6N1P tube buffer? Frankly, I came into this review thinking that I might enjoy using the buffer, since I have been a proponent of hybrid tube/solid-state amplifiers in the past. However, in doing some admittedly crude “blind testing” with and without the tube buffer, I consistently found that I preferred the clearer and, to my ears, more explicit and less colored sound of the Nova125’s solid-state circuitry. Your mileage, of course, may vary, but for the bulk of my listening tests I felt more comfortable with the tube buffer disengaged (though I continued to try it from time to time, just to keep an open mind).
Finally, I wanted to check out the Nova125’s headphone amplifier section and for this purpose I listened through my reference Audeze LCD-3 planar-magnetic headphones, comparing back and forth between the Nova125 and the superb Burson Audio Soloist headphone amp (the Burson is essentially a handmade Australian headphone amp/preamp that sells for just under $1000). What I found was that the Nova125 sounded very good, with plenty of output for powering the Audezes (which are not the easiest-to-drive headphones around), a reasonably low noise floor, and a rich (but not overly rich) and articulate sound.
Nevertheless, the Burson sounded even better, with more detail, superior three-dimensionality, and an even lower noise floor. In fairness, though, let’s acknowledge that the Burson costs two thirds what the Nova125 does, yet provides only a fraction of the Nova125’s functionality. Once you throw that consideration into the mix, I think the Nova125’s headphone amp section has got to be considered icing on the cake.
To sum things up, I would say that Peachtree has taken the Nova125 forward, not just by a small incremental step, but by a giant leap. Relative to the original Nova, which was a very high-value product in its own right, the Nova125 offers a front-end DAC section that is better, an asynchronous USB input that is much better than the original Nova’s USB section, and a power amplifier section that is just light years ahead of the original Nova’s amp. Perhaps best of all, the Nova125 has lifted many of the equivocations and qualifications that applied with the original Nova; at last, Peachtree has given us an affordable amp/DAC that can drive fine but power-hungry speakers in an effective way.
SPECS & PRICING
Power output: 125Wpc into 8 ohms, 220Wpc into 4 ohms
Inputs: One asynchronous USB, two coaxial SPDIF, one optical SPDIF, one stereo analog, one 12V control signal.
Outputs: Speaker taps, 1/4-inch headphone jack, one variable level stereo preamp output
DAC: ESS Sabre 9023
Jitter: <3ps measured at master clock.
Resolution levels supported: MP3, 16/44.1, 16/48, 24/88, 24/96, 24/176, 24/192
USB: Asynchronous up to 24/192
Optical: Up to 24/96
Coax: Up to 24/192
Tube complement: One 6N1P (used for headphone amp, switch-selectable tube buffer stage)
Frequency response: 20Hz–20kHz +0.5dB
Dimensions: 14.8" x 4.37" x 11.5"
Weight: 21.65 lbs.
2045 120th Avenue NE
Bellevue, WA 98005
Digital Sources: AURALiC VEG ADigital Processor, Rega Isis CD player/DAC, Musical Fidelity kW SACD player, Oppo BDP-105 universal/Blu-ray player. Windows PC feeding the DAC sections of the above devices with uncompressed digital audio files.
Linestage Preamplifiers: Burson Audio Soloist, NuForce Reference P8, AURALiC TAURUS MkII
Power Amplifiers: NuForce Reference 9 Special Edition monoblocks
Integrated Amplifier: Rega Osiris
Speakers: GoldenEar Triton Seven, Magnepan 1.7.
Headphone Amplifiers: Auralic Taurus MkII, Burson Audio Soloist, HiFiMAN EF-6, and more.
Headphones: Audeze LCD-3 and LCD-2 with Rev2 drivers; HiFiMAN HE-400 with Rev2 drivers, HE-5LE, HE-500, and HE-6 ; and more.
Cables: Furutech Flux-series interconnect, speaker, and power cables; Kimber B Bus Ag USB cables.
A/C Power: Furutech Daytona 303 power filter/distribution system, power cable as above, PS Audio Soloist in-wall power conditioner.
Equipment Racks and Room Treatments: Auralex Studiofoam panels, RPG B.A.D. panels, Solid Tech Rackof- Silence Reference racks with various vibration control accessories