Moon by Simaudio Neo 340i integrated amplifier Page 2

I mention all this because it sounded to me that the Simaudio design team has made some sophisticated viscosity-oriented design choices that have resulted in audio products, like the Moon Neo 340i, of unique transparency and fluidity.

Phono Stage: Moving-coil
I change phono cartridges often. Therefore, I'm always happy when an integrated amplifier includes choices of gain (40 or 60dB) and loading (100 ohms or 47k ohms plus 0pF or 100pF), as does the Moon Neo 340i D3PX. Simaudio uses active circuitry—as opposed to transformers—for the extra gain.

Unlike most phono stages, in which choices of amplifier gain and cartridge loading are made with little switches or buttons, the Neo 340i's phono stage requires that you (or your dealer) remove the amp's top plate and reposition separate right- and left-channel jumper blocks for each choice. I know, it sounds tricky, maybe even dangerous—but it's not. It's simple, almost foolproof, and explained very clearly in the manual. The whole procedure took me less than 10 minutes, and its simplicity gave me the opportunity to experiment and be fickle.

Most important, the results were worth the effort: The sound quality of the 340i's $400 phono-stage option (less, of course, if it's ordered as part of the entire D3PX package) is so ridiculously good that I doubt most users will ever want further upgrades. If they do, Simaudio's Moon Evolution line offers three standalone phono stages, the 310LP ($1800), 610LP ($7500), and 810LP ($13,000).

My only complaint: My Zu Denon DL-103 cartridge was not perfectly happy with the Neo 340i. The Zu's 40-ohm impedance plays more naturally and in a more relaxed manner into 470 or 1000 ohms than into either of the 340i's choices of 100 ohms or 47k ohms. Into 47k, the Zu was too uptight.

Meanwhile, the 6-ohm internal resistance of my Jasmine Turtle cartridge was more than happy with the Neo 340i's 100-ohm setting. It played stronger, cleaner, and with more detailed bass than it had with any other phono stage I have in the bunker. (My review of the Turtle moves slowly forward . . . )

DSD DAC
Last July, Simaudio introduced an upgrade for the Moon Neo 340i's DAC that improved on what I'd already felt was the 340i's strongest asset. My review sample's original DAC was fast and sure, open and clear, with bass that played exactly as it should. But compared to my reference D/A converter—Halide's DAC HD ($495), which always sounds warmly detailed, juicy, and alive—the Neo 340i's original DAC sounded a bit brisk and chilly, like a cloudless November day. The new DSD DAC demonstrated increases in neutrality and materiality, and felt a bit bolder, yet more at ease.

I believe strongly in the importance of high-end audio dealers. The future and quality of our sacred hobby rests squarely on their shoulders. If you buy an amp or speaker on the Internet and it sounds bad in your listening room, you have no one to blame but yourself. Worse, you have no one who cares, or wants to help you. But high-end audio salespersons are there to be exploited as teachers, oracles, lifestyle consultants—and maybe even friends.

I mention this because I did not feel confident in my ability to install the 340i's new DAC board and do the necessary firmware upgrade. So I took my review sample to the charming and knowledgeable Michael Toto, of New York's famous Stereo Exchange. The upgrade process began with his welcoming smile, included a lot of impassioned jabber about headphones, amps, and speakers, and ended with my satisfied grin and a handshake. Dealers rule!

Headphones
Like a hooded monk with an inkwell, I spend my days sitting at a desk, writing and imagining. My hood is a pair of headphones—I listen to Tidal, and play my diverse collection of files downloaded from HDtracks. I enjoy the LSD intensity of listening through high-quality earspeakers. I find that headphones force my ADHD mind to focus—and remain focused—better than do speakers en l'air ouvert. For several months now, Simaudio's Moon Neo 230HAD headphone amplifier ($1500 with DAC) has been firmly ensconced in my desktop reference system. While the 230HAD plays with a tighter, breathier, and punchier authority than the 340i's headphone output, the 340i exhibits a similar (but more softly-focused) clarity that flatters the female voice more than the male.

Through the 340i and AudioQuest NightHawk headphones, I'm now listening to "High on a Mountain," from the New Appalachians' From the Mountaintop (24-bit/192kHz, Chesky). This bluegrass standard by Ola Belle Reed is such a mournful lament—"High on a mountain standing all alone / wondering where the years of my life have gone"—that it chokes me up every time I play it. The luminous recording of this group—which features the girl I want to run away with, singer Noah Wall—is a potent mix of musical and recording artistry. With the 340i headphone stage, I felt like Noah Wall was standing directly in front of me; I could have reached out and touched the mandolin and violin players with my left and right hands respectively. Chesky's binaural imaging was accurately described, but the roadhouse punch was missing.

With the Audeze EL-8s, the plucked bass was soft and overly warm. Wall's vocals were nicely textured but less "in-the-room" than with the 230HD. The highs were sometimes quite attractive and non-fatiguing—but neither precise nor extended.

Unlike the 340i's phono stage and DAC, which are extraordinary enough to satisfy over the long haul, I suspect most high-end headphone junkies will feel the need for a better-quality headphone stage. If so, Simaudio is ready: the 230HD ($1500 w/DAC) and 430HA ($3500–$4300) would be natural choices.

Comparison: Rogue Audio Sphinx
As I have with the Magnepan .7s, I've been constantly rediscovering how just how much I love Rogue Audio's Sphinx integrated amplifier, the very first product I reviewed for Stereophile in August 2014. Folks, this baby jumps, thumps, and sings as it has no right to for $1295. But the Moon Neo 340i showed me exactly what I should expect for not quite four times the Sphinx's price: The Neo 340i delivered levels of microdetail, refined transparency, and mercuric nimbleness the Rogue can only hint at. The Moon described a recorded soundspace with the kind of tactile precision delivered by only the most expensive amplifiers. While the Sphinx plays the lowest octaves with masterful ease, the Neo showed me bass notes in full—unblurred and ungeneralized, from start to finish.

Comparison: Hegel Music Systems H160 and Line Magnetic LM-518IA
The Hegel Music Systems H160 ($3500) is a bold mountain climber of an integrated amplifier. Well trained and strong, it conquers your speakers with adolescent eagerness. But! The H160 plays music with a kind of bourgeois moderation that makes me yearn for a more bohemian libidinousness. Similarly, the Simaudio Moon Neo 340i's well-manicured precision made me wish for an occasional taste of slutty voluptuousness. On those days, I switched to the Line Magnetic LM-518 IA ($4400). Neither the Hegel nor the Simaudio could match my Line Magnetic for brilliant Van Gogh colors, verdant textures, or riotous debauchery.

60% pinot noir, 40% chardonnay
While it plays music beautifully, it's unlikely that the Simaudio Moon Neo 340i integrated amplifier was created for the inexperienced audiophile. Its virtues are substantial and varied, but much of its wonderfulness is subtler than my descriptions suggest. The character of its lively sound was strong—but a quiet strength. None of its charms jumped out and mugged me. It danced and sang well, but at its core, the Neo 340i was really about refinement and consistency. Through it, music sounded fresh and subtly articulated, always in good balance and proportion. Like Marantz's classic tube gear, which it resembled in sound and appearance, this integrated amplifier was created for audio cognoscenti—those who know how rare a really well-engineered amp actually is. For these reasons, I believe the Moon by Simaudio Neo 340i will hold its value: The way it satisfied this listener with its Champagne Brut audio aesthetic should never go out of fashion. Confidently recommended.

COMPANY INFO
Simaudio Ltd.
US: Simaudio Ltd.
2002 Ridge Road
Champlain, NY 12919
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Allen Fant's picture

HR-
is this integrated made in china?

John Atkinson's picture
Allen Fant wrote:
is this integrated made in china?

I believe it is made in Simaudio's Canadian factory.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

allxxnnddr's picture

The Only Simaudio Factory :) , 100% Canadian

Allen Fant's picture

Thank You- JA
it is always refreshing to read about companies who do not junk-source to china!

klosterman's picture

I only understood half, nevertheless, buckle up:

"Comparison: Hegel Music Systems H160 and Line Magnetic LM-518IA
The Hegel Music Systems H160 ($3500) is a bold mountain climber of an integrated amplifier. Well trained and strong, it conquers your speakers with adolescent eagerness.
But! The H160 plays music with a kind of bourgeois moderation that makes me yearn for a more bohemian libidinousness. Similarly, the Simaudio Moon Neo 340i's well-manicured precision made me wish for an occasional taste of slutty voluptuousness. On those days, I switched to the Line Magnetic LM-518 IA ($4400). Neither the Hegel nor the Simaudio could match my Line Magnetic for brilliant Van Gogh colors, verdant textures, or riotous debauchery."

jazzman1040's picture

Herb, if the Maggie's are untenable due to my room limitations, and of the other speakers tested, which did you prefer best with the Sim340i?

Old Audiophile's picture

I know this is more than a little late but, for what it's worth, this is one heck of a fantastic amp! Did some serious seat time with it last year with a pair of GoldenEar Triton 2+ and Martin Logan Motion 60xti. If I had been in the market for an amp at the time, the smile on my face might have purchased it on the spot. A short critical listen is all it takes, kids!

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