Simaudio Moon Evolution SuperNova CD player

Tony, a mechanic friend of mine, once ran down for me his "national characteristics" theory of automobile engineering. Germans, he said, love precision engineering but don't take repair into account, so their engines are always placed in wells so perfectly proportioned that skinned knuckles are inevitable. British cars, he said, are marketed to a nation of tinkerers, hence the existence of dual carburetors. And Italian cars? "Well, let's just say they all resemble espresso makers." He said it—and he was the proverbial Fiat mechanic named Tony.

I think of Tony's theory every time I hear a component from Simaudio. True to the Canadian national stereotype, Simaudio doesn't much brag or cause a lot of fuss. Their gear is always impeccably constructed, intelligently engineered, and easy on the ears. Easy on the eyes, too, if you buy into its Corbusierian aesthetic of form follows function. Plus, you get the whole package at a price that, compared to those of competing ultra-high-end products, seems reasonably sane. Impressive, no? Yet despite Simaudio's 25 years of quality audio, every time I receive one of its components, I'm surprised yet again to learn all of those things I already know.

Case in point: The Moon SuperNova CD player ($5200), which I agreed to review after hearing it at Home Entertainment 2006 and promptly forgot about—until Simaudio's Lionel Goodfield called to inform me that it had shipped. Even though I'd seen early-production prototypes, I was stunned when a huge carton arrived, weighing about 50 lbs and only just compact enough to fit down my Jeffersonian stairwell.

Unpacking the SuperNova, I was struck, as if anew, by its rigid corner-post-and-panel chassis, its clean lines, its exceptional fit'n'finish. I screwed in its four conical leveling spikes, set it up on a Black Diamond Racing carbon-fiber The Shelf, and cued up violinist Claude Chaloub's eponymous CD (Teldec 8573-83039-2), thinking I'd set it and forget it while I ran it in and let the power supply stabilize.

I never made it out of the room. What did it take to force me to remember the SuperNova? Hearing it, that's all. And that was before it settled down.

A Wizard/A True Star
The Moon SuperNova employs a Philips transport and upsamples the 16-bit/44.1kHz audio signal to 24-bits and 352.8kHz sample rate and before sending it to differentially balanced Burr-Brown PCM1798 DACs. Internal clocking is accomplished by "a very accurate 25 PPM digital clocking system," according to Simaudio's website. The analog and digital power supplies are separate, and the voltage regulation includes Independent Inductive DC Filtering (I2DCf), which means that each chip—op-amp, DAC, digital filter, etc.—has its own inductor, for a total of 20. Circuit boards are all four-layer pure copper, and analog and digital circuits are both fully differential and dual-mono. The signal paths are said to be capacitor-free and use a DC servo circuit with a 6dB/octave analog filter.

That's pretty much standard audio jewelry for an ambitious player of "Red Book" CDs—and the SuperNova is impressive—but it has something that most CD players don't: a digital input for that extra digital source lurking in your audio system. (In mine, it was a Slim Devices Squeezebox.)

The centrally mounted, red dot-matrix display is big and readable, and the front-panel controls are many and well labeled. The SuperNova's massive remote controls all Simaudio Moon components. Rear connections include the usual single-ended RCA and balanced XLR inputs, RCA S/PDIF input, RCA S/PDIF and AES EBU digital outputs, and a global power switch/IEC module. An RS-232 bus, SimLink loop, and IR input round out the connection possibilities.

The SuperNova is designed to be left on at all times; the front-panel Standby control powers down the display and the analog output section.

Big bang
For the first few days, I just left Claude Chaloub playing on repeat in the acoustically treated small listening room next to my office, driving my Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista preamp/Nu-Vista 300 power amp stack and a pair of Dynaudio Special Twenty-Five loudspeakers, the idea being to let it settle in and do whatever it is that components do when they break in. I thought I'd stay out of the room for a few days—some folks believe that what's really broken-in during this period is the listener. The problem with that theory was that I kept hearing music coming out of there—engrossing, compelling, engaging music that made continuing my self-imposed exile an act of will.

After the break-in period, I also tried the SuperNova in my big-boy rig upstairs—Krell Evolution 202 preamp and Evolution 600 monoblocks driving Dynaudio Confidence C-4 speakers—as well as in a system mating Ayre's K-1x preamp and MR-X monoblocks with Vandersteen Quatro Wood speakers. In all that exalted company, the SuperNova was right at home.

Who you calling a white dwarf?
Starting with the Chaloub disc, I was immediately impressed with the detail and dynamic contrast offered by the Moon SuperNova. The sound was direct and grain-free, with a great low end balancing a crisp top end. The soundstage was wide but seemed a tad shallow.

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