I’ve got another new toy in my home: the Peachtree musicBox. Of course, there is a story behind it. Since moving to a new home 5 years ago, I have never had a permanent office. We’ve been doing a lot of DIY stuff around the house, so my rickety 25 year old computer desk always seemed to get moved to an area where we were not doing something. We finally settled on an area for my office, then one day the old desk just collapsed! I viewed that as a sign for me to get a new desk. I found a cool line of eco-friendly bamboo furniture called Legare. I got a bunch of it in (it’s extremely inexpensive) and finally had the makings of a home office. If you have read my blogs, you know I spent a lot of time in the fall of 2010 ripping all of my CD’s into AIFF. I figured it’s time now to enjoy some music in my new office.
I called up my buddy Dave Solomon, at Peachtree Audio and told him my plan. Soon their latest system, the musicBox, was on the way. Peachtree started up a few years ago, with the concept of offering an integrated amp with a tube preamp stage, and inputs for all of the latest digital sources, including a USB input. Their first units were average in size, but also had a slot in the back to accommodate a Sonos ZP-90 player. The musicBox is different in that it is physically smaller, taking up less space on your desk. You can get it packaged with their little mB3 speakers, but I could tell from looking at them, I would not be satisfied with their sound, so I had Dave send me their DS4.5 speaker to go with the musicBox.
The musicBox is only about 9” wide and 4” tall, so it fits well under my dual arm computer monitors. It’s got a lot of inputs as well. There is, of course, USB-but also coax digital, optical digital, and an analog input. You also get a preamp out which can be handy for driving a subwoofer, and as if that were not enough, there is component video out to get a video feed from you iPod! On top, there is a dock for an iPod as well. The front has a full sized headphone jack and a little IR pick up window. One cool part is the little glass window showing off the tube in the preamp stage. As most of you who have been around tube gear know, tubes give off a nice little orange glow. Well, Peachtree decided to put a bright blue LED under the tube that lights up when the unit is turned on, giving the tube a blue glow around its base.
Peachtree’s DS4.5 speakers are a Michael Kelly design. Michael is founder of Aerial Acoustics, a line of great sounding high-performance speakers Audio Advice has carried since the 90s. These new 4.5s have 4” long throw woofers with a silk dome tweeter. They have a 1/4” threaded mounting insert on the back along with a very small port. The musicBox by itself is $699 and the new DS4.5 speakers are $599 per pair. To sum up the pricing, you’ve got about $1300 in the system were you to buy it a la carte. I connected the musicBox to my new Dell Windows 7 based computer with a new Diamond USB cable AudioQuest sent me to try out.
Listening at a desk is a far different experience than sitting several feet in front of a pair of speakers. I set the 4.5s up about 4 feet apart, centered on my chair. I sit about 2 feet from each of them. This is what is called “near field listening”. One interesting thing about this set up is that just about every recording you own was probably mixed down by a recording engineer sitting in front of a similar set up. If you look at pictures of the inside of most recording studios, you will see a pair of monitors almost on top of the mixing board. The way I set the 4.5s up resulted in a sound like wearing a huge pair of over the ear headphones. It’s actually quite engaging.
Since my office has a Windows 7 machine, I was not able to use my favorite program, Pure Music, for listening. I am currently using J River, a Windows program I found that does a better audio job than iTunes. So, how does it sound? I would say fantastic for the money. It definitely passed my “tapping the foot” test. I find that when a music playback system gets me engaged enough in the music, I start tapping my foot, which means to me it’s probably very good. The DS4.5s have amazing bass for their small size. No, they do not go down into deep extremes. But when you only sit 2 feet away, it gives you a pretty good sense of realistic deep bass. As with any Michael Kelly design I have ever heard, the top end is just as open and silky as you could ask for. Near field listening also gives you an amazing 3-dimensional image. It really does sound like a huge pair of headphones.
Speaking of headphones, I decided to try out the headphone jack on the front panel. At first I tried my new B&W P5 headphones. The sound was just great, far better than coming out of my iPod. I then tried my reference pair of Grado headphones. The Grados are a lot harder to drive than the B&Ws. While the Peachtree musicBox did a decent job with them, it’s clear the headphone circuit is designed for the type of headphone that works well with an iPod. I’ve not had a chance yet to try the iPod dock, although I really do not have a use for it. I have all of my music sitting on my network, so the USB cable gives me everything I need. I think if the musicBox were someone’s primary system, the iPod dock would come in very handy, though.
I’ve been using the Music Box about 90% of the time I sit at my desk. Most of you know I love what I do for a living, so sitting at my desk is never a real chore. I’m typically doing something I enjoy, from data analysis spreadsheets to researching new products. However, the musicBox has made working even more fun! I usually go to J River, set it up for total random play of my collection. After a few songs, it will land on an artist I’ve not listened to in ages, so I’ll switch it to that album. I also found it to be a great way to enjoy Pandora.
I’ve saved the best for last. The DS4.5s and Music Box sell separately for $1298. The great news is, if you buy them as a package, the cost is only $999. I can’t think of a better, more cost-effective way to make your time sitting at your desk at home, office, or both more enjoyable. I give Peachtree’s musicBox coupled with the DS4.5 speakers an A-Plus!