Simaudio Moon Evolution SuperNova CD player Page 2

Out came Telarc's latest wonder disc: Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony's performance of Elgar's Enigma Variations, coupled with Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes (CD-80660). Well, nothing shallow about that soundstage. As with the Chaloub, I was again impressed by the heft of the bottom end and the SuperNova's subtle delineation of dynamic contrast. The sound was articulate and vivid without seeming unusually forward or crisp, yet I was very aware that its presentation was forward rather than laid-back.

Many of us choose our concert seats based as much on our sonic preferences as on our finances. I like to sit farther back in a hall, where the space's acoustics tend to soften the orchestra's direct sound. However, many people prefer the intensity of a front-row seat, where the direct sound predominates. The SuperNova has a lot of that up-front acoustic excitement, but not too much—I'd rank it around row G.

In fact, I'd say it was the perfect match for the forward sound of pianist Robert Silverman's performance of Beethoven's Diabelli Variations on the magazine's latest CD, Variations (Stereophile STPH017-2). Bob's aggressive attack in, say, Beethoven's 32nd variation on Diabelli's theme had heft, vigor, and intensity. The Steinway's direct sound was the focus, but the SuperNova also vividly reproduced the Mark Evans Austad Auditorium's acoustic. The decay (and sustain, of course) of the piano's overtones was rendered with clarity and microprecision.

John Atkinson has written about his experiences recording Variations. He mentioned "a faint whistle underlying the music" that turned out to be caused by his recorder/laptop's cooling fan. Stereophile Forums member "Todd" asked about it in a thread about the recording that he initiated, and readers jumped in, speculating that the sound might exist in Todd's system, not the recording. I listened carefully through the SuperNova and at first didn't hear it. I listened again at a far louder volume than I would have done for pleasure, and sure enough—there it was, faintly underscoring the music. This proved several things: 1) Todd has big ears, 2) the SuperNova has resolution and top-end extension, and (maybe) 3) Todd listens loud—not that there's anything wrong with that.

Unusual spectra
Let's not forget the SuperNova's gimme: its digital input. I mentioned that I found it handy for my Slim Devices Squeezebox, but I didn't mention how much of an improvement it made over the Squeezebox's internal DAC. The low-end weight was immediately noticeable, but extended listening also revealed a lot more space and air throughout the audioband. Is this another way of saying what JA said in his review of the Squeezebox in the September 2006 Stereophile—that, sans an external converter, "the 'silences between the notes' [did not have] the clear definition" we have come to demand from digital music? Yes. Exactly.

If you have an outdated or not-up-to-par digital source, the SuperNova can be a lifesaver. Don't get me wrong, I like the Squeezebox, and think it sounds awfully good for $300—but the SuperNova made it sound a lot better, and all I had to do was add a digital cable to the system.

What is that worth? You be the judge, but it seems like a huge bonus to me.

Stellar evolution
Because the Moon SuperNova costs about the same as my current reference digital player, Ayre's C-5xe ($5950), it seemed logical to compare the two. The Ayre, of course, is a universal player that also handles the DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, and SACD formats, but the "Red Book"–only SuperNova has its own bonus: that digital input. It all depends on how much hi-rez discs mean to you.

Although the recording industry in general has done a great job of guaranteeing that hi-rez music remains of interest to only a handful of us, Telarc isn't one of the companies starving us for choices. I had both the CD and SACD versions of the Elgar disc on hand. I would much rather listen to the SACD, so doing a cross-platform comparison, even one level-matched to within 0.1dB at 1kHz, perhaps wasn't fair. The Ayre had more presence, more definition, and a greater sense of solidity—not huge amounts, but noticeable.

Not a level playing field, you insist? Okay. I next tried to play my Squeezebox through the Ayre. Oh wait—you can't do that. So I decided to compare the CD version with the two players. The differences, of course, were far less noticeable. Although the Ayre and Simaudio do give slightly different perspectives on the recording, there were more similarities. Both provided oodles of detail, reproduced the acoustic of Cincinnati's Music Hall with great precision, and laid down an impressive foundation of bass information. However, I felt I heard a tad more direct sound from the SuperNova, which may be another way of saying that I thought its top octave was slightly more detailed than the Ayre's.

The Diabelli Variations reinforced this suspicion. Bob Silverman's Steinway had more clang through the Simaudio, more air through the [ahem] Ayre. I'm not implying that this was a matter of good and better, because I didn't feel the differences were substantial. In fact, I classify them as comparison differences, noticeable primarily because the artificiality of comparing components fairly begs that differences be audible. Listening to either component on its own, I tended to be completely satisfied, and to find each of them true to the music.

Finally, I listened to the CD layer of Nemesis' eponymous dual-layer SACD: a recording of Thierry Pilote's percussion music recorded in Montreal's église St. Jean-Baptiste (Fidelio FACD017). The recording is atmospheric, dynamic, and rhythmically complex (well, yeah—it's a recording of five percussionists). The SuperNova seemed to render the attack of the marimba, glockenspiel, and xylophones with greater crispness; the Ayre seemed to float the rich hash of overtones more firmly in the acoustic.

Which did I prefer? Both were absolutely convincing—after all, as Wallace Stevens observed, "Music is feeling, then, not sound." And both players conveyed the feeling.

Note to self: Simaudio belongs in the exalted company of the best high-end manufacturers currently plying the trade. The proof, if needed, is the Moon SuperNova, which is not only good but memorable.

The SuperNova is competitive with other digital players in the $5k price range and ranks among the best-sounding "Red Book" players I've heard. And its fit'n'finish are superb. If you care enough about music to spend five grand on a CD player, then music is too important to you to be relegated to the background. No worries there—the Moon SuperNova will put you front and center.

I would be remiss if I didn't emphasize just how useful that digital input was. It allowed secondary digital sources to impress me again with how good they could be, which went a long way toward making them primary sources. Maybe no music server lurks in your system, but you could use the SuperNova's digital input to improve the sound of your satellite radio (up to the limits of its resolution, of course), or to sweeten any other source that has ceased to compel.

I truly enjoyed listening to the Moon SuperNova, and that I definitely won't forget.

95 Chemin du Tremblay Street, Unit 3
Boucherville, Quebec J4B 7K4
(450) 499-2212
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