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Peachtree Audio deepblue2 Bluetooth wireless music system

Peachtree Audio deepblue2 Bluetooth wireless music system

If you’ve followed Peachtree Audio from its inception, several points become abundantly clear. Firstly, Peachtree has always had a fierce desire to make high-end audio accessible for new generations of listeners, many of whom consider personal digital music players, personal computers, or smartphones their ‘audio source components’ of choice. Secondly, understanding that many listeners—young and old—are put off by the stratospheric prices commanded by some audio brands, Peachtree consciously set out to reduce the high price of the high-end. Thirdly, recognising that space is at a premium not only for college students and many young university graduates, but also for urban dwellers of all ages, Peachtree sought to find ways to make high-end systems more compact, yet still rich in sonic virtues. Put all of these factors together, give them a good shake, and what comes out will be a product much like the Peachtree Audio deepblue2 ($399, £449) Bluetooth loudspeaker.

To be candid, many traditional high-enders consider Bluetooth and high-performance audio to be more or less mutually exclusive. So, introduce the subject of a single-chassis, ‘stereo’ Bluetooth loudspeaker, which is precisely what the deepblue2 is, and you will really see many audiophiles groaning and rolling their eyes. Given the fact that such biases are already stacked against it, can Peachtree’s deepblue2 realistically hope to win the hearts and minds of veteran audiophiles? Well, despite all odds, it can and does, largely by winning approbation in the old-fashioned way: namely, by delivering unexpectedly good sound quality and plenty of it at a more than reasonable price.

The deepblue2 is slightly larger than typical Bluetooth speakers and it incorporates both a more elaborate driver array and a considerably more powerful amplifier than many of its competitors. The driver array consists of a left/right pair of 1‑inch soft-dome tweeters and 3‑inch midrange drivers, plus a single, shared, long-excursion 6.5‑inch woofer. Powering these drivers is a stout, 440‑watt amplifier.

Following the precepts of the late, great Henry Ford, the deepblue2 comes in ‘any colour you want, as long as it’s black’. The styling and finish of the matt black unit (whose chassis panels are done up in a soft-feel, Nextel-like coating) is simple, elegant, and purposeful—never flashy or ostentatious. In fact, the deepblue2’s ‘all-business, all-the-time’ appearance almost seems to say, ‘Never you mind the glitz; with me, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.”

 

The deepblue2 provides three inputs: a 96/24‑capable optical digital input, a 3.5mm stereo mini-jack-equipped analogue input, and an aptX Bluetooth wireless input. The unit provides five top-mounted control buttons: a Bluetooth input selector/pairing initiation button, an input switching button (for toggling back and forth between the optical digital and analogue inputs), an on/off button, and a pair of up/down volume control buttons. The remote included with the deepblue2 reprises these same control functions while adding two more: namely, a speaker mute button, and a pair of ‘+/–‘ bass level controls.

Interestingly, the deepblue2 can be paired with up to five Bluetooth devices simultaneously, so that by pressing the Bluetooth button repeatedly (on the unit itself or on the remote) one can toggle through a series of paired Bluetooth devices (such as a PC, a tablet, a smartphone, and so forth). I found this feature extremely handy and convenient as I have different music libraries and also different music apps on my various Bluetooth devices. The deepblue2 made it simple to switch between my favourite Bluetooth devices at will.

To make operation more intuitive, the deepblue2 features two sets of five multi-coloured, multifunction LEDs loosely aligned with the unit’s top-mounted control buttons, with one set of LEDs facing forward and the other canted upward. The LEDs briefly illuminate in blue whenever volume settings are adjusted (more lights indicating higher volume settings), or they will illuminate in white whenever bass level settings are adjusted (more lights indicating high bass output settings). Further, the left-most set of LED’s also illuminate to reflect Bluetooth pairing status; when the deepblue2 is in pairing mode, the LEDs alternately flash between white and blue, but when appropriate the LEDs will stop flashing and switch to pure blue to indicate pairing has been successful (the unit also emits a gentle ‘beep’ tone to provide an audible pairing confirmation).

Convenience and construction details aside, the deepblue2 is the sort of device that will either succeed or fail on the basis of sound quality, and on that basis our bet is that it will be a great success. Here’s why.

Many Bluetooth speakers, and the marketeers of same, can talk a good game in terms of sound quality, but when the sonic moment of truth arrives many come off sounding thin, brittle, edgy, boomy, compressed, lacking in both bass and treble extension, and may—in the worst cases—not only sound ragged, but grotesquely coloured. It is no wonder, then, that knowledgeable audiophiles are as a rule sceptical of the entire product category. Nevertheless, the deepblue2 is one of the rare exceptions to the rule.

First off, it offers full-bodied dynamics most other Bluetooth speakers could at best only dream about. For example, I have been listening to the deepblue2 in a roughly 170 square foot office and in that small-to-mid-size space the Peachtree is able to generate uncomfortably high volume levels with no noticeable distortion and without even breaking a sweat. So ample are the Peachtree’s dynamic reserves that I’m confident it could also fill much larger spaces with sound—again without showing any apparent signs of strain. Few other Bluetooth speakers could make such a claim with straight faces.

 

Second, the deepblue2 produces unexpectedly deep (hence the name ‘deepblue2’), powerful, and punchy bass. While no one is likely to race out and trade in his or her present subwoofer on a deepblue2, I think there are very few (if any) Bluetooth speakers that could keep up with the Peachtree’s low frequency performance. Put on a recording that features electric bass and drums and you’ll hear exactly what you would hope to hear: meaty, beefy, soul-stirring bass.

deepblue2’s bass is not only potent and ample, but also intelligent and here’s what that means. Audiophiles of a certain age will remember when integrated amplifiers commonly included so-called ‘loudness contour’ switches, whose purpose was to apply compensatory EQ boost designed to help bass levels sound more hearty and better balanced when playing music at lower volume levels. Well, the deepblue2 features a 21st-century take on the loudness contour in the form of what Peachtree calls its Smart Volume circuit. Peachtree observes that, “The human ear is less sensitive to bass frequencies at low volume,” but adds that the deepblue2‘s Smart Volume circuit “automatically adjusts frequency response at the low end of the volume range to compensate for the ear’s lower sensitivity.” The claimed benefit, according to Peachtree, is that, “you get full and clear sound even at very low levels.”

But the benefits of the Smart Volume circuit do not end there. At the opposite end of the loudness spectrum, and especially for those who simply like to crank things up a bit, the Smart Volume circuit will, says Peachtree, “lower peak signals to ensure great distortion-free sound.” Although I mostly tend to listen at moderate levels, I’ve tried the deepblue2 at both very low ‘late night’ levels and also at ‘kick out the jams’ levels, and I can report that in both instances the operation of the Smart Volume circuit appears to be blessedly subtle in the actual listening. As a result, one is rarely, if ever, aware of bass boost being applied at low levels or of selective compression being applied at higher levels. All one does notice is that, at low levels, the sense of bass weight and depth remains fully intact, while at higher levels the deepblue2 almost never sounds as if it is running out of steam. Loud or soft, the deepblue2 just sings along, sounding consistently well balanced and unflustered.

Finally, once broken in, the deepblue2 sounds remarkably open and articulate for a product of its type. Let me be very candid, though. More so than many Bluetooth speakers I’ve encountered, the deepblue2 really does need its run-in time (as would many other types of high-quality speakers). Straight out of the box our review sample sounded somewhat rough-edged, raw, and ragged—giving an underwhelming account of itself during the first few minutes of operation.

However, the good news is that the worst of the Peachtree’s break-in shortcomings faded very quickly—as in about the first two hours or so of use. In the early going, you might find as I did that you can actually hear the speaker’s performance improve in real-time (with the sound getting noticeably better from one song to the next). Our review sample continued to improve over the next 10+ hours or so (and it may get even better still), but it has in any event come up to very good form within just a few hours of operation.

I would say the sound of the deepblue2 approaches the overall standards of today’s nicer compact bookshelf speakers, but that may be selling the Peachtree short. I say this because most small monitors are two-ways (with all of the attendant pro’s and con’s of that format), where the deepblue2 is a three-way design. What this buys for the listener, among other things, is the use of true, dedicated midrange drivers that really don’t have to take much responsibility for producing bass. These drivers give the deepblue2 a certain measure of midrange panache and dynamic expressiveness that is uncommon for affordable small speakers in general and Bluetooth speakers in particular.

 

These qualities become particularly apparent on nuanced and subtly shaded female vocals, such as the delicate and unusually inflected voice of Anne Bisson as heard on “In the Wee Small Hours” from Portraits & Perfumes [Camilio]. Similarly, on that same track Peachtree’s well integrated tweeters and midrange drivers also let you clearly hear the upper partials and harmonics of the piano softly reverberating within the recording space—again, nicely showing the deepblue2’s overall sonic sophistication and refinement.

Similarly, put on a recording rich in textural and transient details, such as “Shenandoah” from the folk/bluegrass/jazz ensemble Ti‑Ti Chickapea [Change of Worlds, Orchard Park] and listen as the deepblue2 deftly captures the soaring lilt of the electric violin, the tart yet sweet attack of the mandolin, and the sharp-edged plectrum noises as heavily accented guitar notes are played. There are qualities of immediacy, speed, and textural richness here that would be smudged, smeared, or that go missing entirely in most Bluetooth speakers. Plainly, the deepblue2 offers terrific value for money, but let’s concede that it will not be all things to all people (which should come as no surprise given its size and very modest price).

Listeners who favour broad, deep soundstages may find the deepblue2 offers excellent rendering of soundstage depth, but for obvious reasons presents relatively narrow and not overly expansive stereo soundstages (except when the listener is seated fairly close to the Peachtree). In future, I would like to see Peachtree add a carefully designed soundstage enhancement circuit such as iFi Audio’s ‘3D Holographic’ system or ADX/Riva’s ‘Trillium Surround’ mode, both of which do an effective job of expanding perceived soundstage width.

I would also love to see Peachtree consider a future ‘Super deepblue2‘ model that would be equipped with a high-res USB digital input to make the speaker even more computer friendly (this seems almost a no-brainer, given Peachtree’s expertise in the field). Bear in mind, though, that both these hypothetical improvements would fall under the heading of ‘making a good thing even better’.

All factors considered, Peachtree Audio’s deepblue2 earns our enthusiastic recommendation and a heartfelt, ‘Well done!” Sonically speaking, the deepblue2 is so much more powerful, accomplished, and refined than most Bluetooth competitors that it really does seem to have staked out a class of its own. It makes a terrific—and terrifically affordable—starter ‘hi‑fi system’, especially for those who love music, but might not otherwise think of exploring high-end audio.

Technical Specifications

Type: Self-powered, single-chassis, three-way stereo Bluetooth speaker with sealed acoustic suspension enclosure.

Driver complement: Two 1‑inch soft-dome tweeters, two 3‑inch midrange driver, one 6.5‑in long excursion bass driver.

Amplifier Power: 440 watts

Frequency response: Not specified

Inputs: Wireless aptX Bluetooth input with up to 5 connected devices, one TOSLINK optical digit input, one line-level analogue input (via 3.5mm mini-jack).

Accessories: Manual, remote control, 3.5mm – 3.5mm analogue AUX cable, 3.5mm – RCA analogue cable, optical cable, mains cable.

Dimensions (H×W×D): 230 × 360 × 164mm

Weight: 7.3kg

Price: $399, £449

Manufacturer information: Peachtree Audio

URL: www.peachtreeaudio.com

Tel: 01 (704) 391-9337

Distributor information: Anthem AV Solutions, Worth Farm, Worth Lane, Little Horsted, Nr. Uckfield, East Sussex, TN22 5TT

URL: www.anthemavs.co.uk

Tel: 01825 750 858

Tags: FEATURED

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