Simaudio Moon Evolution 650D CD player Page 2
The kick drum and bass line in Brian Wilson's Live at the Roxy is cavernously deep but can sound bloated. Through the 650D it seemed to be depth-charge deepunusually soand rock solid: deeper, more solid, and better focused than I'm accustomed to hearing it.
Working through my mostly 16-bit/44.1kHz playlist, I was struck by the 650D's consistent overall sound: unusually transparent, delicately drawn, and ethereal, with an almost complete absence of digital glare and hardness. Yet the 650D accomplished this without noticeably softening instrumental attacks or smothering natural transient sharpness. Reverb trails were easy to follow as they naturally faded to black in an analog-like fashion similar to what I remember hearing through dCS's Debussy USB DAC ($10,999). I wished I'd still had the Debussy on hand for a direct comparison, but no such luck.
The spread between the speakers was pushed back from a line drawn between them, particularly in the center, helping to produce a picture with a slightly flattened U shape, that drew my ears in toward it. The farther I was pulled in, the more separated, articulate information I could pull from it. The Moon 650D's had a digital sound that drew me in and never pushed me away.
For instance, in the mono mix of the Beatles' "I'll Get You," from the 24-bit remastering of Past Masters issued on USB stick (FLAC files transferred to the Sooloos), each vocal element seemed unusually easy to separate out, as were all of Ringo's splashy cymbal strokes. There's an almost froggy lower vocal track by John Lennon that I don't recall having heard with such ease and clarity.
Likewise, the clarity with which it was possible to hear John's flubbing of the lyrics in the bridge: he sings "I'm gonna make you mine" as Paul correctly sings "I'm gonna change your mind." That's because it seemed so much easier to follow each singer's part leading up to the faux pas than I remember it having been.
So much in my system has changed since I last paid attention to such sonic minutiae, including the insertion of the MBL 9011 monoblock amps, the Ypsilon PST-100 Mk.II preamp, and some new cables, that determining what, exactly, were the contributions of the Moon Evolution 650D required swapping it out for something else. So with the Playback Designs MPS-5 SACD/CD playerDAC in place, I listened to "I'll Get You," using an SPL meter to match levels.
"I'll Get You" (1963) is about as primitive a recording as you can imagine, yet from it I was able to corroborate all of the observations I'd been making, and be assured that the source of these observations had been the Moon Evolution 650D, not the other new gear inserted in the system. Through the Playback, Paul's bass line wasn't as deep or as texturally well developed, wasn't as easy to follow, and was somewhat more diffuse and less well focused. Ringo's cymbals were more prominent because the upper midrange and treble region had been pushed farther forward, producing a glare that I could diminish only by slightly dropping the overall level.
There was less separation of Paul's and John's vocal lines, and the froggy quality of John's voice was somewhat homogenized into a softer mush. Most striking was the loss of clarity when John flubbed his line. Of course, you can hear this through both DACs, particularly when you're listening for it, but through the Playback, since I was less able to follow each individual vocal line, the mistake was less jarring, the word change just barely jumping out of the jumble.
Running through the full playlist again produced similar, now predictable results that pointed not toward the Playback MPS-5 being anything less than a very good DAC, but that demonstrated that the Moon Evolution 650D was superior to it in many ways, and overall more pleasing and less fatiguing to my ears.
Back to "Touch of Grey." Compared to the Simaudio's rendering, the kick drum through the Playback had sharp transient attack but lacked compacted weight and physical focus. The bass's attack was soft and diffuse, and the line faded then reappeared, jumping forward and back in the mix, depending on the note. Following the bass line was therefore more difficult, which made it less of an anchor for the track.
Garcia's voice was dimensionally flat and not nearly as well focused, and it appeared within a mass of instruments strung across the stage in a relatively straight line, with less delineation of depth or instrumental separation, compared to the Simaudio. There was more than a touch of gray to the Playback's harmonic production, in contrast to the Sim's more vibrant, more colorful soundbut most significant, the 650D's evenhanded decay characteristics helped produce three-dimensional images and a better-organized picture.
A reissue of the Takayuki Kato Trio's Guitar Standards (Three Blind Mice/JVC XRCD) was instructional. This superb recording features the guitar center stage, the bass in the right channel, and the drums to the left. Through the 650D, the warmly recorded guitar's focus was compact, with the plucks of strings well articulated and the guitar's body contributing a bit of warmth well below the image of the strings. When the guitarist strummed, through the Playback the warm bloom fought the strum and occasionally overwhelmed it. The bloom seemed to remain well controlled and under the plucked strings through the Simaudio, helping to produce a more immediate and consistent guitar image centered between the speakers. Through the Playback, the body warmth blended with the strings to produce a larger, bloomier picture with diminished focus and less physical clarity.
The better the recording, the more pronounced were the differences between the DACs. Through the Moon Evolution 650D, the piano in M&K's For Duke sounded more woody and three-dimensional, while the trumpet in the right channel was more transparent, physically better organized, and floated farther free of the speaker. And Markus Schwartz & Lakou Brooklyn's superbly recorded Equinox (24/96 download, Soundkeeper SR1002), and Reference's 24/176.4 Arnold Overtures, not to mention the superiority of higher-resolution digital sources in general, further amplified the differences between these two very good DACs.
But more interesting was a comparison of the CD layer of the Rolling Stones' Beggars Banquet through both DACs vs the SACD layer through the Playback (SACD/CD, ABKCO), compared to the 24/176.4 download from HDtracks.com decoded through both DACs. (Got that?) First, the CD layer (transferred to the Sooloos) through the Simaudio surprised me with nice textures that were mostly free of cardboardy overlay. The bongos and bass lines in "Sympathy for the Devil" were tactile, but Mick Jagger's voice sounded somewhat hard and two-dimensional. Through the Playback, the bass and bongos were less tactile and had a harder edge, while Mick's voice was more in my face.
The 24/176 download of this album sounded fantastic through the 650D. The stage depth expanded dramatically, the attack structure became far more supple, the sustain lengthened, and the decay seemed to go on foreverlike those pesky "artifacts" that make vinyl so pleasurable. I could crank it up and feel only pleasure. Mick's voice became far more believable and three-dimensional, and when the 16-bit version of the track began, I could sense that the "room sound" was missing.
Through the Playback, the 24/176 file produced bass and bongos that were somewhat drier and less texturally supple. The overall picture was flatter, but it was a big improvement over the CD layer. However, the Playback shone with the SACD. The bass line's texture was more supple yet better defined, the stage was more three-dimensional, and the bongos had more skin in the game. The SACD sounded better than the 24/176 file through the Playback, but the best sound, in my opinion, was the 24/176 file through the Moon Evolution 650D. Then, the track positively came to life.
The transport operated smoothly, but reporting on the differences between the Sim's CD transport, AES/EBU, TosLink, and USB inputs would be redundant: All three produced essentially the same sound with 16-bit audio. With the 650D's USB input limited, for the time being, to 16-bit/48kHz, I'd be happy to write a Follow-Up on the new input board when it's released, because it should be obvious by now that the Moon Evolution 650D is a great-sounding CD playI mean, CD transportDACthat I'd love to spend more time with.
At $8000, the Simaudio Moon Evolution 650D, made in North America, is not inexpensive. But it's beautifully built (if not so beautiful to look at), and it performed flawlessly during the review period. Most important, its sound rivaled the best PCM digital I've heard in my listening room. I'm sorry I didn't have the dCS Debussy here for a direct comparison, but I suspect that the 650D is comparable for $3000 less. Still, the price of the input-board upgrade has yet to be announced; if you need a hi-rez USB connection, it will cost somewhat more.
The Moon 650D impressed me with its extremely solid yet supple bass performance. If your speakers go low, you'll appreciate what it can do. As I write this, I'm listening to the pipe organs on Pipes Rhode Island (CD, Riago CD 101), and this player has bottom-end muscle. But more than that, the 650D is essentially free of glare and grain on top, while exhibiting exceptional transparency and transient clarity. It also managed sweetness and delicacy without sounding soft or mushy. The 650D made CDs and CD-resolution files sound about as good as I've heard them sound here, while its decoding of hi-rez files produced exceptional soundstage width and depth combined with analog-like imaging.
I loved Simaudio's Moon Evolution 650D. Ignore the somewhat less than appealing industrial design and go directly to the sound, and I think you'll love it as much as I do.