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Sound - the amplifier
First with the familiar Transporter converter i.e. via one of the Nova's analog inputs, I kicked off with Holly Cole's Romantically Helpless. And what I heard was quite satisfactory - a grown-up amplifier pushing the speakers into gear. Bass cracked, the album's first-rate dynamics came across and Mrs. Cole's voice compellingly walked the thin line between girlish charm and expressive maturity. Long story short, the Nova booked no shortcomings. With a €1,300 machine however, I honestly expect more than simply doing no wrong. Compared to the last amp that came through here at €200 less, Exposure's 2010S, the Peachtree Nova neither matched its dynamics and liveliness nor its degree of precision and control. The bass of the Nova was more potent however but not as articulate or dry.

But, the Nova is no mere integrated. It includes a converter which most competitors don't. To test the secret weapon, I switched to one of its digital inputs and let the Logitech Transporter supply the ones and zeros. While nothing in the previous paragraph turned sudden lie, sonic changes immediately manifested as deeper colors. Bass and treble gained presence, staging moved forward and also expanded laterally. Now there was more life in the music. Curious, I switched the digital filter from 'sharp' to 'slow'. The sound changed again but for my tastes, became a bit too warm and soft. Reverting to the steeper filter instantly reset sharpness - not in terms of Tabasco of course but you get the drift. I favored the sharper filter setting and felt that 'slow' might be more suitable for inferior audio data.

Lucinda Williams' World without Tears confirmed impressions. When the Transporter supplied an analog signal, things got more polite. With the Nova DAC, liveliness increased. With Lucinda's voice, this was interesting. Somewhat salacious over the analog input, the digital input turned her just a tad more ordinary. What I still could not determine was why the valve. While I could extinguish and relight its blue LED illumination by remote and also perceive the attendant 'click' over the speakers, I could not hear any difference. To suss out the ESS Sabre converter's virtues without the Nova's amplifying circuitry, I tapped into the line-out to process the analog signal via a trusted and familiar amplifier, my black/silver Jadis Orchestra. This put the ESS Sabre and AKM AK4396 DAC of the €2000 Transporter on equal footing with the very same amp after all.

Sound: The converter
Patricia Barber's Modern Cool was up first. The former differences between converters with the Nova's amplification were duplicated, albeit at a far higher level. Once again, the Nova had greater emphasis in the frequency extremes than the Transporter. As long as the Nova also handled amplification, this was more a function of quantity. Once the Jadis took over, this turned into a solid serving of extra bass quality. The cracking bass of "Postmodern Blues" had more presence and body and seemed a touch more realistic than over the Transporter. Brushed cymbals had more uppermost shimmer while the actual connection between brush and cymbal was nicely differentiated. The earlier test run had already assigned deeper tone colors to the ESS over the AKM but its brilliant resolving power became fully apparent only over my resident Jadis machine.

Where the Nova is a bit more potent in the mids, the Transporter practices a minor recession to make for easier intelligibility. Barber's voice moves more into the foreground, seems even more nuanced and accentuated. Percussive instruments too move forward but this recording's tendency toward minor hissiness is somewhat minimized by the Transporter. To avoid misapprehensions, all this occurred at a very high plateau well beyond clear-cut rights and wrongs. The Transporter too is a first-class machine whose virtues so far inspired real loyalty. Here it was far more about personal taste rather than musical truth. The differences between Nova and Transporter reminded me just a tad of comparing quality analog and digital sources. The Transporter veered towards analog, the Nova towards digital.