Well, time marches on, and I promised that I would write some more about my thoughts and experiences with the Peak/Volcano. I previously mentioned that I would touch upon the unit as a headphone amp, and while I will do so in a minute, Achristilaw, the next reviewer, and I have been exchanging notes, and I am hoping that he will have a bit more to offer on the subject shortly (no pressure there Achristillaw, my friend ). I did get manage to squeeze in a bit of listening with my HD-600's before shipping out the Peak, but most of it was a low volumes. It was quite nice, and did not leave me with any fatigue, so it clearly passed my biggest test. I guess I was spoiled by using the unit as a preamplifier, because while listening through headphones was quite nice, listening to my speakers was just that much more fun.
I did, however, bring the Peak to the Seattle gathering last week, and seemed to be received well. Most everybody seemed to comment on the range and quality of the highs that the Peak could produce. They seemed very extended, but not shrill or glassy. Its not something one normally expects with a tube amp, but this is a hybrid design, and I have to believe that Pete knew how to take the best of both worlds and make them sing (pardon the pun). Several listeners raised concerns about the mid-range being "congested", and I was not able to get in a listen before the meet ended and the amp was packed up for shipping. I mention this issue because Achristilaw mentioned that the stock tube may have been damaged in transit, or possibly before, and that this problem seemed worse when the unit arrived. Fortunately, had had an identical stock tube, and, with a quick roll, he felt all of the problems cleared up. so, I cannot comment about the mid-range issues with any confidence since it may have been a the fault of a tube that was damaged or going bad. I'll leave that issue to Achristilaw to further comment upon.
I think its now time to summarize. But where to begin? The Peak clearly made a huge difference in the sound of my system, and anything that can do that with such magnitude is always something for consideration. I almost sprung for a Rega Apollo whenthey were first released, but held back the differences in the sound from my system were very subtle. So, purchasing the Peak will not leave me wondering if my purchase had an impact on my system.
A headphone amp/preamplifier combo? Yes, they are in the market, but many excel at one function and not the other. Todd and Pete seem to have got it right on both counts in my book, and I think that they are offering a high quality sound package at a reasonable market price, especially when you compare them to the competition. The unit is hand built by Todd and Pete in the US. If you live in the US, I find this to be a big advantage if you should ever need service. Shipping items outside the US, for US residents, is expensive and time consuming.
Finally, its hard to put a price on being able to audition a piece of equipment in my home, and to also be offered a 30-day money back guarantee. There have been many pieces of gear that I have considered, but they are not available locally, and their on-line dealers offer nothing other that to describe the sound of the gear to you (insert your own pithy comment here). I am sorry, but my budget does not allow me to spend over a grand on something that I cannot return if it does not perform in my system. I can understand a restocking fee, but final sale does not cut it for me. Are you listening Almarro? So, hats off to Todd and Pete for giving us the Peak and Volcano! Its been causing me a few sleepless nights. Oh well, as I said earlier, "Ignorance was bliss".