I've been researching upgrading my living room system for a few weeks now. Currently I have a Carver Receiver (original MXR-130), Pioneer PL-707 Turntable, Pioneer DV-578A Universal Disc Player, Denon DR-M44 Cassette Deck, and Def Tech SM450 Studio Monitors. I've been unhappy with the Carver's sound for some time, but since it's a second system that I use infrequently, I've let it slide.
However, I recently decided to get a nice pair of headphones (a whole other long story for another forum!) so I could listen to music more often again, and I now find myself listening in the living room a lot more. Unfortunately (or fortunately), my new Sennheiser HD600's are a lot more resolving than my speakers and gave me the shove I needed to finally upgrade.
After much reading both here (I've read this entire thread!) and at head-fi, I finally took some time to audition a number of integrated amps I have been reading about and put on my short list. I was mostly looking for a quality integrated unit with a very good headphone stage built in because I find myself really attracted to (obsessed with) headphone listening. I went with my "go-to" demo music (well recorded redbook rock, jazz, and classical) and HD600's in hand to audition the Peachteee Audio Nova and Decco2, Cambridge Audio Azur 650A, NAD C356BEE, and Marantz PM5004. The Marantz PM8004 and Creek Classic 5350SE were on my list, but neither was available. I also listened to a Pioneer Elite SC-55 because it closely matches my home theater AVR which I have spent a lot of time listening to. I did most of my listening with my HD600's because that's what I will use most often with this system. The store I visited had Def Tech SM350's on the shelf so, even though speaker fidelity isn't my top priority, I also got some idea of the sound and ability for the amps to drive my loudspeakers.
Long story short, I fell in love with the Peachtree Audio Nova. The Marantz was surprisingly a very close 2nd sound-wise, but I just loved the sound, features, build quality, and design of the Nova. The Nova is very musical and I think it has the easy going musicality to take the analysis out of my listening (which I tend to do) and let me enjoy my music. I also really like the all-in-one elegance of the Nova - that it has a great headphone amp, it will power my Def Techs, will take coax from my DVD player to bypass it's lousy DAC, and take RCA's from my cassette deck and turntable via RCA. I also like that it's ready for the future when I eventually start downloading and streaming (more on that in a bit). A true Jack-of-all-trades.
I ordered the Peachtree Nova in Rosewood today with Amazon Prime so I should have it by Tuesday. I also ordered a Musical Fidelity v-lps phono preamp for my turntable.
Finally, on a complete lark, I went to Crutchfield and ordered a Logitech Squeezebox Touch because I've been wanting to get into downloading hi-rez FLAC audio for some time but haven't had a way to listen to them! I feel the Nova was made for the Squeezebox and it's something my whole family will enjoy using.
The only thing the Nova doesn't address (and I never expected it to) is what to do with all of my SACD's and DVD-A's. I have read a little about HDMI de-embedders, but I could also replace my Pioneer disc player with an Oppo or Marantz Universal Player. I think disc players of this caliber have decent digital converters that should be more or less comparable to the Nova. Mostly though, I think I can live without hi-rez music upstairs - my home theater really sounds very good with both 2 and multi-channel music, so I don't have a screaming need to listen above 24/96 upstairs. Besides, If I solve that problem, then I'd have nothing to quest after...
Great thread. I've enjoyed reading about everyone's experiences and opinions. I've learned a lot.