Simaudio Moon Evolution 740P line preamplifier Page 2

Or take "Like a Rolling Stone," from Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited, either the SACD (Columbia CH 90342) or, still better, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab's set of two 45rpm LPs (Columbia/MFSL 2-422). I don't know how many times I've heard this song, but I'd never heard so much of the piano in the mix, or the airy whoosh of the Hammond B-3 so distinctly, or—as a visiting friend, a Dylan fanatic but not an audiophile, commented after listening with me—the raw edge of so much anger in Dylan's voice. But, as with Carter's cover of Reinhardt's "Nuages," what I found most riveting was the band's cohesion: all the music breathing forth at the same time.

I was particularly struck by how the 740P captured the sound of acoustic pianos. One reason pianos don't sound convincing through most stereos (or from most recordings) is that there's so much going on across the range of loudness and frequencies: the percussiveness of the pianist coaxing the keys and the hammers hitting the strings; the dynamic contrasts in the pressure and release of the pedals; the bouquet of overtones wafting into the air; the resonant vibrations of the piano itself; and the mingling of all these sounds together. To get all of this—and to make it all seem to be coming from the same object in space—demands a lot of a sound engineer and a stereo. A slight discontinuity in frequencies, a slight smearing of time or phase alignment, can mess it up. With the Simaudio 740P, I heard all of it, or at least all that the recording and the rest of my system could parse. I suspect that this, too, has something to do with Simaudio's ways of keeping the low-level signals pure.


Or take Analogue Productions' breathtaking reissue of Duke Ellington's aptly titled Masterpieces by Ellington, either the SACD/CD (CAPJ-4418-SA) or, especially, the LP pressed by QRP (APJ-4418). Duke's piano isn't the sonic highlight of this demo-disc jaw-dropper recorded by Columbia in 1950, but I'd never heard it sound so much like a piano, all its elements (percussiveness, tone, overtones, resonances, etc.) emanating from one place at one time.

Speaking of Analogue Productions, on their 45rpm LP reissue of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong's wonderful Ella & Louis (AP-4003), I'd previously found the rhythm section undermiked; I'd had to strain to hear what the musicians were doing. The 740P whisked away the burlap: the rhythm section still seemed way back there, no question, but I heard every chord Oscar Peterson played (and his piano was all there), along with Buddy Rich's every snare swipe and cymbal tap (and he hit them in rhythm: it turned out they're an integral piece of the music).

Or listen to Don Pullen play "Resting on the Road," from his final album, Sacred Common Ground (CD, Blue Note 7 32800 2). I've hauled out this track for many reviews, sometimes to take note of the flesh-inflected hand drum on the right, always to remark on how well the component in question gets Pullen's keyboard virtuosity: his heartbreak hesitations, elbow rumblings, and fiery cross-octave scrambles. But, again, I'd never heard them so heartbreaking, physical, or fiery. At one point, as Pullen chopped through arpeggios the way a skilled chef chops onions, I thought that maybe the 740P wasn't getting it quite right; I remembered this passage sounding louder or fiercer through other systems, including ones of which the 700i had been a part. But swapping out components and listening again, I realized that, with those other systems, I hadn't clearly heard the notes and chords Pullen was playing; the passage may have seemed louder or fiercer because it was muddier. But in no way, with this or any other album, did the 740P ever sound too analytical; its clarity didn't come at the sacrifice of musical warmth.

As I wrote at the beginning, transparency isn't the most important trait in audio. But as I also wrote, transparency can enrich all that's good about a component or a system (and, probably, exaggerate all that's bad about it). In all other ways, the Moon Evolution 740P was terrific. Horns, woodwinds, drums, voices, guitars: all sounded as they should, in terms of tone, color, size, and dimension—or at least as much as a given recording allowed.

As for the 740P's bass, how deep it will go will depend a lot on your speakers. As far down as my Revel Ultima Studio2s go—fairly far, if not to subterranean depths—the 740P conveyed the full character of bass instruments. I never heard mere rumble, as I had from the James Carter album with some earlier systems; the 740P let me know (as others had not) that Cyro Baptista's bass drum, heard loud and solo at the start of "Nuages," is banged—or, more often, caressed—throughout the song. On Jasmine, a lovely duet album by Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden (CD, ECM 2165), Haden's double bass sounded more present. Though not to the same degree, the sound of the double bass is as complex as the piano's: the snap of the fingers, the pluck of the strings, the vibration of the wood. With the 740P I heard all of this in perfect alignment; it felt almost as if Haden had come back to life, or as if I'd traveled back in time to hear him.

But surely something must be wrong with the 740P—or, at least, not completely right?


Two things
First, in the April 2011 issue, I compared two high-priced, high-powered integrated amps: Simaudio's Moon Evolution 700i and Krell's FBI. The Krell was more adept at handling bass dynamics and the forward edge of transients: the whack of a drum, the pluck of a string, the sss of a sibilant. The Simaudio was more agile with the tonal colors of an ensemble or an instrument, the flow of a rhythm, the seamlessness of the audioband from bass through midrange through airiest highs. The Simaudio 740P had this same set of strengths, as well as . . . I won't say weaknesses (that would exaggerate it to the point of falseness), but lesser strengths. The 740P was remarkably neutral, with a slight tilt toward warmth—which, if there has to be any sort of tilt (and there almost always does), is the tilt I prefer. But these are only general remarks; I no longer have the Krell FBI, so I couldn't make direct comparisons. But I hasten to say that the 740P outperformed the 700i on all these fronts.

My second caveat concerns a question of absolutes. After listening to the 740P for a while, I reread JA's review of the Pass Labs XP-30, which he described as something close to the proverbial ideal of a "straight wire with gain." I'd begun to think the same might be true of the 740P, but before I indulged in superlatives, I needed an established world-beater, or something close to it, as a reference. So I borrowed JA's review sample of the XP-30, let it warm up for several days (he'd long ago unplugged it), and listened carefully.

It sounded different—maybe leaner—or was I just getting used to it? After a couple weeks of listening, I concluded that the XP-30 was a bit better, and certainly more transparent, than the 740P. With the XP-30, the stage went farther back, there was a bit more air between instruments, and the elements of the sounds of complex instruments (eg, pianos, double basses) seemed a bit more cohesive (there seemed to be more elements, just as a higher-bit HDTV has a more comprehensive color palette). All of my observations here about the 740P's see-through, hear-everything wonders? Add another 20% percent or so of clarity and luster for the Pass XP-30.

I didn't listen to it long enough or closely enough to the Pass Labs XP-30 to make a definitive judgment on its sound quality. I'd borrowed it just to see if the Simaudio was the last word in transparency. Apparently not, it turned out. However, the 740P costs a lot less—$9500 vs the XP-30's $16,500 and the Moon Evolution 740P definitely ranked high in the league of last words. It's a league I'd never dwelled in for very long, and I'll be sad to leave it when I send back the Simaudio Moon Evolution 740P—or should I check my bank balances, gulp hard, and make that: ". . . if I send it back"?

Simaudio, Ltd.
1345 Newton Road
Boucherville, Quebec J4B 5H2
(877) 980-2400

TruthSpinner's picture

Is that not the exact same type of tech that Accuphase has been using in their volume controls for about thirteen years now?

BillK's picture

These always reminded me of the last decade's Mark Levinson preamps.

I'd be curious to read how this preamp compares to the 850P as well.

mkwglyg's picture

The 740p sounded veiled. The highs lacked airiness, soft and smooth. Stereophile got it right here but the rest of the reviews are just polite words.
The bass is muddy as well.
The mevol2 stuff sounded hi-tech which served no purpose but thats just marketing hype.

It is just appalling that the review described the unit as transparent and then goes on to say that it lacked airiness. How can a preamp which costs a hefty 9.5k be transparent when its high frequency is obviously veiled.

No wonder stereophile refuses to rate it after a lengthy review. They just dumped it under cat K