Moon by Simaudio 888 monoblock power amplifier Page 2

Although the class-AB Moon 888 consumes a relatively low 50W at idle, its prodigious power output and linear power supply mean that it won't be the most energy-efficient device in your home. It has two standby modes: Low Power and Default. Though Low Power powers down all but the logic circuit, Simaudio recommends using Default mode, in which the gain stages remain active. This maintains the 888's ideal operating temperature: it's always ready to play, without warmup. Whether your concern is environmental or financial—the latter is unlikely, if you're dropping $118,888—you're covered.

Sound
The Moon by Simaudio 888s arrived while the EgglestonWorks Viginti speakers were still in my system. I'd spent a few weeks listening to the Vigintis as driven by the darTZeel NHB-458 monoblocks and taken lots of notes. Within a few minutes of listening to Vigintis driven by the Moon 888s, I realized that all of my notes had to be tossed out.

For whatever reason(s), the darTZeels weren't able to effectively control or grip the Vigintis' woofers. My notes turned out to be more about the interaction of the darTZeels and EgglestonWorks than about the sound of the speakers themselves. This was yet another reminder that any equipment review, published in Stereophile or elsewhere, should be read only as a rough sketch, not a detailed roadmap—even if the reviewer is a navel-gazer intent on telling you just how discerning and particular his listening abilities are. (And don't get me started about seemingly molecular-level reports from hi-fi shows at which demo systems are set up in hotel rooms.) Don't ever forget: Any equipment review is built only on the shaky foundation of the review sample's interactions with the system's other components.

818moon.ins.jpg

The Moon 888s' grip on the Vigintis' woofers produced a seismic shift in the speakers' sound. I'd been about to write that the EgglestonWorks had somewhat sloppy, underdamped bass. Now, with what was clearly the right amplification, they were producing a far more enjoyable and reasonably well-controlled visceral wallop. But if you prefer tight, polite bass that stays in the box, look elsewhere.

I listened to the Moon 888s driving the Vigintis, my reference Wilson Audio Alexxes, and Sonus Faber's Aidas (review in the works). For whatever reason(s), the Moon 888s sounded most different from the darTZeel NHB-458s with the EgglestonWorks Vigintis. And both amps sounded different, in different ways, from Boulder Amplifiers' big 2150 monoblocks ($99,000/pair), which I reviewed in February 2017.

The Moon 888 dispelled the myth that high-powered amplifiers are lumbering giants that can't possibly match the nimbleness of lower-powered ones, and that it's best to match the amp to the speakers so that you don't "overpower" them and thus lose speed and resolution of detail.

The Moon 888 nimbly drove all three speakers, including the Sonus Faber Aida, which is specified as having a sensitivity of 92dB and a nominal impedance of 4 ohms. In other words, it could pump a couple of thousand watts into the Aida—a speaker that in my room needs, on average, probably less than 20W! Yet the Moon 888 drove the Aidas with agility. It was comfortable just loafing along, putting out a few class-A watts.

For much of the time the Moon 888s were in my system, I forgot they were there and went on, listening to music and to other components I was reviewing. Believe me—had the 888s produced homogenized sonic boredom or committed obvious aural sins such as grain, etch, smear, or glare, I'd have heard them. If that's not a strong endorsement of the 888's lack of a sonic signature of any sort, I'm not sure what is. Those who think that a powerhouse amp operating at such low ebb might lose focus would be mistaken.

When my attention at last returned to the Moon 888s, I noted, with familiar recordings, their obvious bottom-end grip. It never sounded mechanical or overdamped, though bass was somewhat tighter than through the darTZeels, which sound more relaxed on the bottom. I also noted the Simaudios' solid, vividly three-dimensional imaging and their ability to produce a big soundstage when the recording contained that information.

818moon.3.jpg

4AD Records recently reissued, from high-resolution digital files, the Cocteau Twins' Head Over Heels (LP, 4AD/Beggars Banquet CAD 3709), of which I also have an original 1983 UK pressing. This Scottish duo of Elizabeth Fraser (vocals) and Robin Guthrie (guitar, bass, drum machine) produced an unusual sound that paved the way for the later shoegazer genre. Other than the deep, explosive bass that begins the album, and other bass accents and effects, Head Over Heels sounds as if the mixing engineer used the "echo return" from the board and forgot to include the actual recording—it's bright, jangly, and echoey. A solid-state amp with a hard or rough-edged sound might produce a homogenized glaze instead of separating and defining the individual bright, airy elements, as well as fail to reproduce this recording's prodigious artificial depth and spacey three-dimensionality. But the Moon 888s delivered a pristine rendering, preserving and detailing all of the recording's crystalline threads without smear or glaze. The reissue has deeper, more powerful bass than my 1983 LP, but if all of the original's top-end ice and shimmer was intended, the reissue loses it, while also managing to homogenize and flatten the original's spaciousness.

When I reinserted the darTZeel monoblocks in my system, I could still hear these differences, but not as dramatically. The Moon 888s unmasked everything on top without adding high-frequency and/or transient glaze or smear. High-frequency transients were icy when called for, as in Head Over Heels—they were cleanly rendered and free of smear and/or grit. And the 888s naturally and convincingly delivered the pluck and warmth of nylon guitar strings, such as those on Leonard Cohen's Songs of Leonard Cohen (LP, Columbia CS 9533) or on your favorite Charlie Byrd album—mine is Bossa Nova Pelos Passaros (LP, Riverside RM436/RS9436).

Someone should reissue Clarinet Summit, by clarinetists Alvin Batiste, John Carter, Jimmy Hamilton, and David Murray, recorded live at the Public Theater in 1984 (LP, India Navigation IN-1062). Sadly, all but Murray are now gone. This beautiful recording nails the clarinet's tone and texture, and reveals an amplifier's midrange soul—or the lack thereof. The darTZeels nail it, and, somewhat to my surprise, so did the Moon 888s, though the Simaudios traded some of the clarinet's warm yet reedy roundness and body for a more effective reproduction of this live recording's air and space.

In the superb The Concert Sinatra, Frank Sinatra is accompanied by Nelson Riddle conducting his own arrangements for large orchestra, recorded live to 35mm tape on the Samuel Goldwyn Studios' Soundstage 7 (LP, Reprise RS-1009/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab MFSL 1-345). The Moon 888s' reproduction of this record produced a vivid, warm, 3D Sinatra hovering in space between the speakers on a cushion of air, with a sense of the voluminous stage behind. If you enjoy 3D sound, the Moon 888s delivered it.

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Compared to my reference darTZeels, which do a damn good job of it, too, the Moon 888s produced "blacker" backgrounds and more air, without in any way sacrificing the rich sheen of Riddle's massed strings. There was nothing boring and/or homogenized about the 888s' sound—and nothing that sounded analytical or mechanical.

I've concentrated on the Moon 888's reproductions of the midrange and high frequencies in part because, when I first heard them in January 2017, at the Consumer Electronics Show, the sound in the room, for whatever reason(s), was unpleasantly icy, and audiophiles who don't appreciate solid-state amplifiers often call attention to this area. In my system, it was where the Moon 888 was most impressive.

Conclusions
Not having heard Simaudio's less costly Moon 880M monoblock, which was reviewed by Brian Damkroger in June 2013, I can't be sure, but I'd bet the Moon 888 sounds similar, albeit with greater nuance, grace, and finesse, especially in the upper octaves, and greater transparency overall. Of course, if the recording is poor, you're going to hear that poorness in all its awful glory—but that's not the amplifier's fault. However, with the best recordings, regardless of genre or whether it was on LP, CD, or hi-rez file, the Moon 888s produced the highest level of sound quality in my system, passing along warmth or chills, transparency or sludge, grain or greatness, as dictated not by the electronics but by the recording itself.

To say that the Moon 888s delivered what I'd expect and demand for $118,888/pair is not to say that it will necessarily meet the expectations of every audiophile, especially those who prefer warmth and, perhaps, a more fleshed-out harmonic presentation even if it's not on the recording. But they sure met mine.

Given a choice between the Moon by Simaudio 888, the Boulder 2150, and the very different-sounding Ypsilon Hyperion, which would I choose? That's my business. Which you'd choose is yours. I'm sticking with the darTZeel NHB-458s. They're not perfect, nor are any of the three mentioned above, including the Moon by Simaudio 888—to some degree, they all "sound." But based on what I've heard, clearing out Simaudio's skunkworks closet has paid off. Hopefully, the sonic gains made at the top of the Moon line will eventually trickle down to more affordable models at the middle and bottom.

COMPANY INFO
Simaudio Ltd.
US: Simaudio Ltd.
2002 Ridge Road
Champlain, NY 12919
(450) 449-2212
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Bogolu Haranath's picture

Why so "Heavy"? ........... Linkin Park :-) ..........

Ortofan's picture

... "could pump a couple of thousand watts into the Aida — a speaker that in my room needs, on average, probably less than 20W!"

Over on the Harbeth forum, Alan Shaw posted an example of a music piece that exhibited a dynamic range of about 22dB. In that case, even if your speakers required an average power of only 20W, you'd still need an amp capable of an output of about 3,200W to reproduce the instantaneous +22dB high peaks without clipping.

Does that mean you need an amp that can output 1, 2, or 3kW continuously and, as a result, costs $100K and weighs several hundred pounds? Not at all.

Simaudio should have the skunkworks engineers take a look at the old Hitachi class G amps and then design a new amp which can output maybe 100W-200W continuously and possibly 500W-1kW for some fraction of a second - and one that wouldn't need to cost a fortune and weigh a proverbial ton.

hifiluver's picture

Sensitivity of Harbeth SHL5's are 86dB/1W/1m, 20W would produce a scary 99dB at 1m . Not sure how the journalist came to the figure of 20W. If you need 22dB headroom peaks off a base of 1W which is already very loud, you'll need an amp clean to 160W. Most decent amps rated 100W continuous should be able to meet this.

Anton's picture

You are spot on.

Ortofan's picture

... live music - even when using unamplified acoustic instruments. The key is peak - not continuous.

Watch this video of a Harbeth Monitor 40 demo:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRMR9JZ1m0s

The peak power shown on the amplifier's display is close to 800W, which means that the peak output from the speakers is about 115dB SPL. No one in the room seems to be distressed by those sound levels.

The demo track being played is this one:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhuJxdaU87I

hifiluver's picture

Yes and yes. And you're absolutely right.

Can Mr. Shaw's walking to the back of the room at position 5:08 on the video be taken as distress? How far from the speaker do you estimate he was finally standing and how many dB do you estimate that to be, as opposed to where he was standing initially?

Ortofan's picture

... was too loud for Mr. Shaw, note that they were evaluating the first samples of the latest version of the Monitor 40 speaker. Perhaps he just wanted to determine how the speakers sounded from farther back in the room. In any event, no one there has their fingers in their ears or seems to be rushing to turn down the volume control.

hifiluver's picture

'..'

hifiluver's picture

'...no one there has their fingers in their ears or seems to be rushing to turn down the volume control.'

… which is a big credit to the speakers and the electronics. But how many people listen to music like this, hours on end, in a room this big, a distance from the speakers at what still could be 99 to 100dB? Yes it proves a point, thank you gentlemen, but in doing so lost some pragmatic credibility in my estimation. I’m surprised Mr. Shaw would actually post this video because I think it’s insincere, especially when he says Harbeths are nearfield monitors.

A Ferrari can flex its muscles in certain conditions e.g. on a racetrack. A Ferrari will also work on a normal road but it won’t be (and shouldn’t be) using its full capabilities when a Toyota Camry will do the job.

Ortofan's picture

... from the CES in 2015, also with CH Precision amps.
As noted in the comments, there is one peak power reading of over 1700W and another of almost 1200W.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UP8i8F62OlM

Bogolu Haranath's picture

So, is 24 Bit recording and playback better than 16 Bits? :-) ...........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Google search says, maximum sound pressure levels of classical music played by an orchestra in a concert hall is 98 db :-) ...........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Unless we are recording 1812 cannons .......... Loudest cannon according to Google 120 db :-) ..........

hifiluver's picture

Lets jog our memory on Newtons 2nd law. Can a domestic loudspeaker reproduce the sound of a cannon? or is what we hear on Kunzel's 1812 a scaled version for our living rooms?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Which begs the question ......... How many of us are willing, able and prepared for listening to the sound of firing cannons in our listening rooms? ........... Please raise your hands :-) ...........

hifiluver's picture

...and before the five-oh starts showing up in our street.

Anton's picture

1812 cannons?

Come on. I want accurate reproduction of that jet engine on "Back in the USSR" at 120 - 140 dB.

I wanna experience the sensation of a Sperm Whale echolocating right there in front on me. (Gotta be careful when you read that word, you know...;-D...) 174 dB.

We are audiophiles, we need to dedicate ourselves to accurate recreation of the live event!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

According to Google ......... Blue Whales are the loudest on the planet, 188 db ........... Howler Monkey, a land animal is second loudest, 140 db .......... And yes, Blue Whales can sing :-) ..........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

According to Google ........... Tiger Pistol Shrimp is the loudest 200 db ........ It lives under sea .......... Blue Whale 2nd loudest 188 db .......... Yes, blue whales can sing :-) ...........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

These instruments can get loud ........... Trumpet 110 db, clarinet 114 db, trombone 115 db ...........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Transmission line speakers use somewhat similar principle for bass frequencies .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Bose "wave guide" technology is somewhat similar ..............

Bogolu Haranath's picture

According to Wikipedia, the "perceived" dynamic range of 16 bit audio can be 120 db or more with noise-shaped dither ............

Ortofan's picture

http://www.speech.kth.se/prod/publications/files/qpsr/1982/1982_23_1_031-048.pdf

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The report you are referring to is from 1982 ......... I don't know whether that matters or not .......... The information I got is from Google ......... I don't know whether that info is current or not ........ You can check Google if you are interested .........

John Atkinson's picture
Bogolu Haranath wrote:
Google search says, maximum sound pressure levels of classical music played by an orchestra in a concert hall is 98 db :-)

That's an average or RMS level, which is not relevant to amplifier clipping. What matters is the peak value. In the early 1980s I designed and built a true peak-reading SPL meter for an article published in Hi-Fi News magazine. IIRC, the highest peak I measured with that meter at a classical orchestral concert from a mid-hall seat was 108dB (unweighted).

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Herb Reichert's picture

from that Alan Shaw video is a SPL meter (I have two in my iPhone) - why not show the viewer those 22dBs in action? I want to SEE that 115dB SPL. and a volt-amp meter accross the amplifier's output terminals!

Ortofan's picture

... a speaker sensitivity of 86dB/1W/1m should result in a peak SPL of about 115dB (for each speaker).

CH Precision claim that their amp is equipped with a "DSP that monitors the instantaneous output voltage and current" and that "both values are sampled at around 100 kHz, ensuring peak values are properly detected." If you doubt the accuracy of the power readings, ask Cossy or Heeb for the specifics of their power monitoring circuit and display.

Regarding the sound level meter on your iPhone, you should verify the response time of the meter. Most inexpensive SPL meters have a relatively slow response time and won't be able to capture instantaneous peaks with a duration in the millisecond range. Also, the meter must have a peak hold function in order to allow you to read those peak levels. Typically, this sort of performance is only available from professional instruments, such as those from B&K.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Google search says, for a 86 db sensitive speaker we need 1024 watts to produce 116 db SPL ......... The same watts can produce 120 db SPL from a 90 db sensitive speaker .............

hifiluver's picture

Someone still has to sit no more than 1 meter away from the speakers to appreciate each and every one of those decibels.

hifiluver's picture

The Dutch gentlemen mentioned the amps are bridged. If the measurement is not compensating for this, we might be seeing twice the Watts being indicated on the meters.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I remember several years ago one of the audio reviewers did some welding with one of the class A amps from Mark Levinson ......... JA may know about this ........ Wonder whether these Sim Audio amps can do welding? :-) ..........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

I think the audio reviewer was David Clark and the amps were ML No: 20 :-) ...........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Ok ...... Surprisingly this info is available on Google ........... I checked it after I posted the above comments ........... It is true ...... The reviewer was David Clark and the amps were ML No.20 .......... What is even more surprising is that those class A amps were only lukewarm to touch even after the welding ....... Google even has the picture of the welded steel on the website :-) ...........

ppgr's picture

"Footnote 1: I was using the Moon 888s when I measured the spatially averaged frequency responses of the EgglestonWorks Viginti speakers that Michael reviewed in June, and one of the amplifiers went into protection a couple of times then." An 800 watts amplifier going into protection several times while driving a pair of speakers??? Either the speakers - or the amplifiers - are not optimally engineered fro real life, or am I missing something?

John Atkinson's picture
ppgr wrote:
"I was using the Moon 888s when I measured the spatially averaged frequency responses of the EgglestonWorks Viginti speakers that Michael reviewed in June, and one of the amplifiers went into protection a couple of times then."

I didn't have time to investigate further, I am afraid.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Muscles" ............. Diana Ross :-) ...........

Charles E Flynn's picture

I have seen so far only bits and pieces of this new eight-part series from HBO, but in every scene in which it appears that I have seen, the director and cinematographer have made the stereo system unusually intriguing, even when it appears in the background, out-of-focus:

http://www.vulture.com/article/sharp-objects-home-stereo-system.html

John Atkinson's picture
Simaudio electronics and Dynaudio speakers.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Bogolu Haranath's picture

It appears that the amps are not 888s ............. If they were, the whole cabinet would have come crashing down with 600 pounds of weight :-) ............

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Simaudio thanks you for all the support they are getting on this forum :-) .............

ToeJam's picture

They certainly are nice looking.

Indydan's picture

If Stereophile could get a review sample of the Naim Statement system, a review and comparison to the Moon 888 would be great!

I had the chance to hear the Naim Statement with Sonus Faber Aida's. That is an experience I will never forget!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Bryston has an amp 28-B mono-blocks, which they say can put out 1000 watts into 8 Ohms ............ May be Stereophile could review them? :-) .............

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be PS audio could make 1000 watt class-D mono-blocks? :-) .............

dumbo's picture

@JA

Question about this statement which I see on occasion for various Amp measurement tests:

"but it's fair to note that I didn't hold the wall voltage constant for this test"

How does one go about holding the wall voltage constant in a domestic living environment?

Thanks

John Atkinson's picture
dumbo wrote:
How does one go about holding the wall voltage constant in a domestic living environment?

Short answer: you can't, hence my measurements reflect an amplifier's output power under real-world conditions.

Longer answer: with an amplifier with unregulated power supply (almost all of them), if the wall voltage drops as the amplifier's demand for current increases, it will clip at a lower power than if the wall voltage was held constant. Manufacturers therefore specify the maximum power with a constant wall voltage.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Ortofan's picture

... variac or a power conditioner enable manual or automatic compensation for changes in AC line voltage?

https://www.variac.com/staco_3PN10_20.htm

https://www.tripplite.com/2400w-120v-power-conditioner-automatic-voltage-regulation-avr-ac-surge-protection-6-outlets~LC2400

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Both Variac and Tripp-lite have several negative reviews on Amazon ........ Like, smoke coming out, plastic burning etc. ..............

John Atkinson's picture
Ortofan wrote:
Wouldn't either a variac or a power conditioner enable manual or automatic compensation for changes in AC line voltage?

It would, though a Variac large enough to maintain a constant AC voltage with this Moon amplifier would be enormous. I do have a smaller Variac, but I decided years ago that our measurements of output power would reflect what our readers would experience, not what an amplifier would deliver under perfect conditions.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

allhifi's picture

I suppose the best advice in ts review would be taken from the author himself:

" ...Don't ever forget: Any equipment review is built only on the shaky foundation of the review sample's interactions with the system's other components."

pj

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