Simaudio Moon LP5.3 phono preamplifier
Out of the box, the LP5.3 proved quiet and sweet-sounding, with bass that was well-controlled, tuneful, and rhythmically solid, a harmonically rich midband, and a somewhat closed-in top end. The LP5.3's macrodynamics lacked the exuberance of the finest phono stages I've heard, but thanks to its impressively low noise, the 5.3's nuanced microdynamic shadings—the kind that contribute to "believability"—helped create a consistently engaging sonic picture. Over time, the top opened up nicely; though I wouldn't say it ever became particularly airy or fast, I'd take the 5.3's top-end performance over the aggressive, etchy, and wiry variety every time. I don't mean to imply that the 5.3 sounded dull or sluggish—anything but.
Most important, the Moon LP5.3's overall tonal picture was exceedingly sweet, well-balanced, and inviting. Image solidity and three-dimensionality were noteworthy regardless of price. The LP5.3 cedes performance to far more expensive phono preamps only at the margins, and does so evenhandedly. Given its sturdy build quality, flexible configurability, balanced outputs, black backdrops even when run single-ended, and its tight, deep bass, the LP5.3 is silly good and easy to recommend. And at $1400, it's a steal, a bargain, a best buy, and a no-brainer.