Moon by Simaudio Neo 340i integrated amplifier

August 26, 1944: The liberation of Paris. Imagine ranks of tattered Canadian soldiers marching past the Moulin Rouge à Paris. The voice of Édith Piaf singing "Ou sont-ils, mes petits copains?" (Where are my boyfriends?). Maurice Chevalier crooning "Ça sent si bon la France" (It smells so good in France). A Canadian army tank with the words Kaput and Finito painted in white above the word Montréal, motoring past the Eiffel Tower. Remember the fresh, celebratory taste of fine Champagne.

This was the place, the mood, the reverie with which I began my examination of Simaudio's Moon Neo 340i integrated amplifier. Why? Because Canada's contributions to the Allied Forces and to perfectionist audio are underappreciated. Because French is the official language of Boucherville, Quebec, where Simaudio Ltd. has its factory. And because Paris and Canada are two of the places I have most visited, most explored, and most loved—in real life, in memories, and in dreams.

The first song I remember playing through the Moon Neo 340i was "Paris," sung by Piaf on Edith Piaf (LP, EMI/Music for Pleasure MFP 5046). The sound of the barrel organ and accordion accompanying The Little Sparrow seemed so tangible and direct that it took my mind immediately to Montmartre: to cobblestones, dancing poodles, and organ grinders. Even before Piaf began singing, I recognized the Neo 340i's exceptional ability to dig straight through to the microphone(s) and recording venue. I knew immediately that listening to the Neo would be like drinking Bollinger Grande Année Brut 2002 ($120/750ml).

Along with the Neo, I was using a Pioneer PLX-1000 turntable with Ortofon 2M Black cartridge, and Magnepan .7 loudspeakers. When la grande Piaf whispered into the mike as a drum tap-tap-tapped in the distance behind her, I locked in completely: In my mind, the dark space between the édith and the drum was charged—with dim light, dust, and smoke. I could sense the height of the drum from the hard floor.

I was listening to a performance recorded in 1949!

That, my dear readers, is the nature of this vivid French studio recording, the diminutive French songbird, and the sparkling brut clarity provided by the Moon Neo 340i driving the Magnepan .7s.

One reason the Magnepan .7s played so well with the Simaudio integrated is that Magnepan speakers prefer amplifiers that double their rated output into 8 ohms when presented with a 4-ohm load—as does the Neo 340i, which is specified as producing 100Wpc into 8 ohms or 200Wpc into 4 ohms. The Maggies' infamous hunger for current was satisfied by the 340i's ability to continuously deliver up to 30V at 12 amps, with 22-amp peaks. The Neo 340i uses four bipolar transistors per channel, operated in class-A for the first 5W, and in class-AB for all subsequent joules per second.

I am a slow-working audio reporter. I need months—sometimes a year—to get a proper feel for a product. This is especially true with integrated amplifiers, because today's models can be heavily laden with features, each of which takes time to appreciate. The Moon Neo 340i has been in and out of my system for more than a year—so long that I had to upgrade its DAC and firmware to finish this review. The basic 340i, without phono stage or DAC module, can be had for $4700. Later, you can add a moving-magnet/moving-coil phono stage ($400) and/or a DSD DAC ($900). That's $6250 for Lune Ö la carte. Or you can buy a 340i that includes all of these options—Simaudio calls the package the D3PX—for $5800. Simaudio sent me the D3PX edition.

The Moon Neo 340i D3PX is a textbook example of a contemporary, top-quality, full-featured integrated amplifier. On its backside are four analog RCA inputs, one of them dedicated to the phono board, and four digital inputs: TosLink, two S/PDIF RCAs, and USB. There are two line-level (RCA) analog outputs: one fixed, the other variable. Standard features on all Neo 340i amps include: SimLink, to provide two-way communication among various Simaudio Moon components, including the MiND streamer; a 12V trigger; a RS-232 port for custom installation, bidirectional feedback, and firmware updates; and an IR port for external control.

On the Neo 340i's classy-looking signature faceplate are a ¼" headphone jack and a 1/8" Media Player (MP) input jack. Just above those are two buttons: Spk Off, which turns off the output signal to the speakers when you're using headphones; and Mute, which switches off the output signal to everything, including the fixed and variable RCA outputs.

To the left of the central, red-lit display is a cluster of five buttons. At the top is Standby, which disengages the input section from the remainder of the 340i's circuitry, though all circuits remain powered up. Just below that are buttons to engage the MP input and to turn the display off and on, and below those are two more, for toggling between input options.

Page 14 of the Neo 340i's manual is dedicated to the operation of its remote control. At the bottom, it states: "NOTE: The buttons labeled don't affect the operation of the 340i." Immediately, I knew: Simaudio has done this only to annoy me. Boooo! Hiss! Grrrr!

With speakers: Magnepan .7
The more I use the Magnepan .7s ($1400/pair), the more I love them. Their extraordinary imaging, sweetness of tone, and down-to-earth naturalness are the antitheses of all things mechanical and "hi-fi." I believe that they are among the best speakers available today, at any price. The planar-magnetic, flat-panel .7s do what stand-mounted box speakers don't: They move copious amounts of air. Each speaker has 400 square inches of driving surface—eight times more than an 8" woofer, and more than 16 times as much as a 5.5" mid/woofer like the one in KEF's LS50. Moving that much air energizes a small room like mine in a way that lets me really feel the sound. Bass may not go very low, but it's present in the room with me, touching me physically. Little boxes can give the idea of bass—a simulacrum—but never bass that touches your skin. The Magnepan sound is always more tactile, more of the senses, than what I experience with little box speakers, whose sound is always more of the mind.

When I used the Moon and the Maggies to listen to my swamp-blues buddy Slim Harpo sing "I'm a King Bee" and "Rainin' in My Heart," from his first album, Slim Harpo Sings "Raining in My Heart . . ." (LP, Excello LP-8003), my room felt awash with rich, pulsing molecules of bass and midrange energy. The high frequencies were vaporous, but precise and wonderful. The Simaudio's apparent speed and transparency tamed the Magnepans' inherent sweetness to the point where the .7s began to sound like the high-resolution transducers they are. The reverb added to Harpo's seductive voice in this 1961 recording had an enticing presence of its own. Music emerged with such clarity and ease that I became relaxed and happy. This deeply satisfying amp-speaker pairing reproduced all types of music with charm and authority.

With speakers: Technics SB-C700
The fast, neutral sound of the Moon Neo 340i was enhanced by the low-distortion naturalness of Technics' SB-C700 stand-mounted minimonitors that I reviewed in January. I played Claude Debussy playing Claude Debussy, with soprano Mary Garden, from Claude Debussy: The Composer as Pianist: 18 selections recorded for M. Welte & Sons in Paris, in 1904 and 1913 (CD, Pierian 0001). I have revered this disc, and Debussy's unusual pianism, ever since its release, in 2000. The Moon and Technics have now made it my new religion.

This supremely crafted Welte-Mignon piano-roll recording was made using a finely tuned and restored Feurich-Welte piano playing laboriously rerecorded rolls from the collection of Dick and Helena Simonton, recorded in stereo using two Neumann KM 83 microphones. The results of all this love and labor are a stupefyingly real AAD recording that appears to capture every nuance of the French master's touch, pedaling, and expression. Debussy's deliberateness, hesitancy, and eccentric tempos in his La cathédrale engloutie seem more flesh-and-blood soulful than most pianists now living can muster on their best day at the keyboard. The Welte-Mignon recording piano even captured Debussy's half-pedaling!

This was another deeply satisfying combination of amplifier and speakers.

Phono Stage: Moving-magnet
If I could revive Josef Hofmann or Ignace Jan Paderewski, how close to their pianos would I like to sit? After a lifetime of wondering, I have concluded that I like close: front-row close. I want to see the pianist's knees move as he works the pedals. I want to hear the felts and keys returning to rest. I enjoy the affective reality of the player working the whole instrument. Which is exactly what I experienced listening to and watching, from the second row, Keith Jarrett at Carnegie Hall. I was staring up at Jarrett's knees and the bottom of the soundboard. I watched his feet stomp from about 30' away. This intimacy let me experience his playing with my entire body. His wayward affectations drew me in much better than if I'd been sitting in a balcony box.

Listening at home, I desire that same intensity and artistic presence. Happily, I received a nice measure of it when listening to Jarrett's Concerts Bregenz München (3 LPs, ECM-3-1227). I couldn't see Jarrett's knees, but I could hear his head and voice moving above the keyboard. I could hear his shoes on the pedals.

Vicissitudes of Power
The aspect of recorded music that is most affected by preamplifiers and power amplifiers is its viscosity—ie, how thick or thin or transparent the music sounds. This in turn affects grain, contrast structure, and, especially, musical flow. The perceived viscosity or plasticity of an audio amplifier's sound lies typically in its internal impedances, time constants, bandwidth, and voltage plus current capabilities. Musical viscosity also depends on the designer's choice of resistors, capacitors, regulators, and transformers.

Simaudio Ltd.
US: Simaudio Ltd.
2002 Ridge Road
Champlain, NY 12919

Allen Fant's picture

is this integrated made in china?

John Atkinson's picture
Allen Fant wrote:
is this integrated made in china?

I believe it is made in Simaudio's Canadian factory.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

allxxnnddr's picture

The Only Simaudio Factory :) , 100% Canadian

Allen Fant's picture

Thank You- JA
it is always refreshing to read about companies who do not junk-source to china!

Scott.Weinberg's picture

I only understood half, nevertheless, buckle up:

"Comparison: Hegel Music Systems H160 and Line Magnetic LM-518IA
The Hegel Music Systems H160 ($3500) is a bold mountain climber of an integrated amplifier. Well trained and strong, it conquers your speakers with adolescent eagerness.
But! The H160 plays music with a kind of bourgeois moderation that makes me yearn for a more bohemian libidinousness. Similarly, the Simaudio Moon Neo 340i's well-manicured precision made me wish for an occasional taste of slutty voluptuousness. On those days, I switched to the Line Magnetic LM-518 IA ($4400). Neither the Hegel nor the Simaudio could match my Line Magnetic for brilliant Van Gogh colors, verdant textures, or riotous debauchery."