Simaudio Moon P-5 preamplifier & W-5 power amplifier Page 4

The sound of the P-5 was confirmation of its familial relationship with the W-5. Frequency balance and extension were eminently satisfactory, and noise levels were undetectable at any sane volume setting. Used with a single-ended connection (Cardas Cross), the P-5/W-5 combination was capable of relaxed, nonstrident reproduction of signals from both analog and digital sources. Switching over to a balanced connection (JPS Super2) produced an improvement in inner detail, but I couldn't judge whether that was due to the balanced nature, the differing cable characteristics, or the establishment of a new, clean signal path. The difference was small enough not to obsess over, but I still preferred to do the bulk of my listening with the JPS cables on the Moon and Sonic Frontiers components.

The W-5's midrange/treble reticence is also a characteristic of the P-5, but to a much smaller degree. Compared to a direct bypass from the DAC to the power amp, the P-5's dryness was barely noticeable, but could effect a calming of more strident sources. Thus, there was a "blackness" to the background that was the product of the extremely low noise levels and the tendency to hush other sources of noise. When I listened to the Stamitz Quartet's performances of Janácek's string quartets (Bayer BR100151), the passionate, interweaving instruments emerged from the velvet silence in an almost eerie way. The concomitant of this was a slight loss of immediacy, but without any dulling of the upper frequencies on well-balanced recordings.

I thus waffled, and continue to do so: Was the P-5 an exceedingly accurate and quiet preamp that permitted a more uncolored view of the music than others I've used? Or did it sap just a bit of the liveliness inherent in the music? This is not an easy question to answer; the P-5 was capable of remarkably exciting and dynamic performance, and committed no significant sins. On the other hand, the combination of P-5 and W-5 demanded careful matching of sources, speakers, and listening room. As mentioned earlier, the pair successfully complemented the big dipoles in my fairly reverberant room, which has a definite bloom in the lower reaches of the spectrum. With some other cones-in-a-box loudspeakers, the pre- and power amplifier seemed just a bit too literal in their presentation. There's nothing wrong with that, but I sometimes longed for a bit more extraversion than the reserved Moon combination offered.

The P-5's character (or lack thereof) was quite accommodating, and did not color or distort the music. It was thus a suitable mate to other power amps, complementing their spirit with its decorum. The combination of the DNA-1 with my resident Klyne preamp sounds lively and bracing, but switching the Moon P-5 for the Klyne made the sound more soothing without sacrificing immediacy. The residual remnant of reticence in the P-5's midrange made for the only difference between it and the Sonic Frontiers Line-2. I recall describing the Line-2 in my December 1997 review as innocent of imposing any color on the sound, but my experience with the Moon P-5 makes me wonder if such a determination is possible. With most of my equipment and most of my preferred recordings, I deemed the SF preamp more natural, the Moon ever so slightly withdrawn.

However, with a change of power amp or DAC, it was pretty easy to judge the Moon more natural and the SF a bit forward! For example, the presentation of Ry Cooder's voice on Jazz is always distinct from the presentation of the supporting voices. On the CD version (Warner Bros. WB 3197-2), the Moon P-5 rendered Cooder's voice on "Nobody" just recessed enough to make the disparity with the chorus disconcerting. When I switched to the LP (Warner Bros. WB 56488), I heard a satisfactory balance. The performance of the SF Line-2 was complementary and preferred with the CD, but not with the LP. In fairness, the preference was as subtle as that between two fine cognacs: notable primarily on direct comparison, while each remained thoroughly satisfying.

Bottom line
There are very few components out there that lack even a bit of personality, so careful matching of the system and listener preferences are essential. This acknowledged, these two components will please many and disappoint none. Their performance and aesthetics combine elegance and strength.

The Moon W-5 power amp is an outstanding driver for planar speakers, and a superb one for most other speakers I tried. Along with its transparency, delicacy, and prodigious dynamic power, it offers a decidedly nonaggressive presentation that can be a welcome characteristic in the right system.

The Moon P-5 has transparency, very low noise, and flexibility of control; its foibles are inconsequential. It worked well with every source and system, and should be considered among the finest line preamps available today.

The Moon W-5 and P-5 constitute another outstanding example of Canadian success in high-end componentry.

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