Simaudio Moon Evolution Andromeda Reference CD player Page 2

A good way to get more specific about the Andromeda's performance is to start by recalling my experience with the Andromeda's predecessor, Simaudio's Moon Eclipse, which was my reference CD player for several years. (See my review in the April 2001 Stereophile, and the Follow-Up in the April 2003 issue.) The Eclipse was one of the best-sounding decks available at the time, and significantly less colored than its contemporaries, but it did have a slight but distinct, and consistently audible, sonic signature. Its strengths were superb reproduction of spatial cues and ambient detail, precise and powerful dynamics, and outstanding detail resolution. But it wasn't as powerful or as articulate in the bass as some other players, and its tonal balance was cool and somewhat lean.

The Andromeda bettered the Eclipse's performance in every way and, like the latest-generation electronics found in Class A of Stereophile's "Recommended Components," it all but "disappeared" into even the best systems. What traces of a sonic thumbprint I was able to associate with the Andromeda, however, were consistent with what I'd heard from the Eclipse. The Andromeda is an evolutionary step along a path already established by Sim, not a completely new generation or an entirely different design approach.

The Andromeda's tonal balance illustrated this evolutionary path. It retained a hint of the Eclipse's cool, slightly lean sound, but at a dramatically reduced level. The Andromeda was substantially more neutral than the Eclipse, or than any other CD player I've heard. Voices, both male and female, had slightly less weight and body through the Andromeda than from LPs or even through some other digital players. Similarly, violas, cellos, and acoustic guitars were a touch less woody and rich through the Andromeda than when heard live, as if their bodies were slightly smaller, or perhaps made of slightly stiffer wood. But I'm not certain whether the Andromeda actually sounded slightly cool, or merely lacked a bit of the extra warmth I usually find attractive in other components. As I listened to Joni Mitchell's Shine (CD, HearMusic HMCD 30457) while putting the finishing touches on this review, her vocals and guitar sounded just right—not the slightest bit cool or lean.

The Eclipse's other shortcoming, a slight lack of low-end power, wasn't at all evident with the Andromeda. The latter's bottom end never drew attention to itself, only to what was going on in the performance. In fact, the Andromeda's bottom end often highlighted shortcomings in other CD players' bass performance. I often found myself choosing one orchestral performance over another because of how well the Andromeda anchored the orchestra, and how nearly it could match the presence and feel of a row of double basses playing in unison.

In my 2001 review, I raved about how well the Eclipse's resolution translated into ambience retrieval and inner detail, the result being an uncannily realistic portrayal of the acoustics of the original recording venues. That sort of holographic re-creation of images and soundstage was an even more obvious strength of the Andromeda, and not only when I compared it with other digital players. The Andromeda's dimensionality, and the palpable feel of the musicians and the spaces they were recorded in, formed a baseline for my system: Any change in the ancillary gear or setup manifested as a greater or lesser degradation of this spatial realism. Conversely, I never found a situation in which inserting the Andromeda diminished the realism and feel of the performance and space. Even comparisons between vinyl and CD versions of the same recording often favored the Andromeda—its temporal precision and stability translated into slightly more distinct edges of aural images.

The Andromeda's transparency—which I judged by my ability to clearly "see" between the images and to the rear of the soundstage—was the best I've heard from "Red Book" CD. It wasn't as good, however, as the best amps and preamps available today, or first-rate vinyl and SACD setups. In my system, the Sutherland PhD and Direct Line Stage, the VTL TL-7.5 and S-400, and the Halcro dm10, dm58, and dm68 were all more transparent than the Sim, as was vinyl playback with the Lyra Titan and Grado Statement Reference cartridges. But until I've heard a CD player even more transparent than the Andromeda, it's impossible to say if I was hearing the limits of the player or of the medium itself.

The temporal precision and stability that contributed to the Andromeda's spatial performance also gave performances a lifelike pace and energy. When I listened closely—too closely to absorb the music, actually—I could hear that the Sim was beginning and ending notes more clearly than the other players I compared it with. This precision was most obvious with instruments rich in upper-midrange and treble energy, such as bells or perhaps a piccolo. Other players, when compared with the Andromeda, seemed to attach a blurred overhang to both ends of the note. And nuances and transitions within notes, such as slight shifts in how a trumpeter worked the instrument's mouthpiece, were much more precise and definite through the Andromeda than through other players.

When I backed off and listened instead to the performance as a whole, I inevitably found that the Andromeda engaged me more in the music than did other players. The latest round of baby-boomer CDs from Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty, and Joni Mitchell may have thoroughly disgusted the kids, but they had me squeezing in every possible minute of listening before I had to box up and return the Andromeda.

Impressive indeed
No matter how you look at it—in terms of design, execution, build quality, appearance, or most significant, performance—Simaudio's Moon Evolution Andromeda Reference CD player is an impressive audio component. It's impressive, too, that Sim has remained confident enough in their design approach to continually refine it until it has reached this level of execution. With the Andromeda, Simaudio makes a simple, matter-of-fact assertion that this is the way a CD player should be designed, and this is how "Red Book" CDs should sound.

I can't disagree. I don't know if the Andromeda is the best-sounding CD player available today, nor do I really know how good CDs can ultimately sound. What I do know is that today, in my system, the Simaudio Moon Evolution Andromeda Reference is as good as it gets. I'm very, very impressed.

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