Simaudio Moon Evolution P-8 preamplifier Page 2

From first power-up, the Evolution P-8 performed faultlessly and impressively. It was, by far, the quietest preamp I have ever (not) heard. Even with my ear to a tweeter and the volume full up, I could hear absolutely no difference between Standby and Operate. In other words, any noise that the P-8 might generate—and nothing is completely silent—was much lower than that from any of the power amps I played it through.

Even more impressive, to me, was the precision of the volume control. While setting up to do some acoustic measurements with the Goldline TEF-25 analyzer, I set up its calibrated microphone at the listening position, fed pink noise through the P-8, and went to adjust the level, when I discovered the strangest thing: The output on the TEF-25's readout matched and tracked the P-8's readout within 0.1dB over a 20dB range! The fact that the readout was the same as that measured in the room was a fortuitous fluke—that is influenced by the electrical sensitivities and gains of all the components, as well as by the room acoustics. However, the fact that these levels tracked each other so precisely is a high compliment to the P-8. This kind of accuracy is a rare and satisfying thing, and indicates that the P-8 is a well-designed and superbly made line preamp.

But the purpose of the Evolution P-8 is to make music, and that it did, to my complete satisfaction. With the P-8 coupled to the W-8 and to the Revel Ultima Studio or B&W 802D loudspeakers, I found that the system sounded unconstrained in both dynamics and resolution. From bass to treble, there was a consistent transparency and ease. Of course, I could not A/B it with another preamp, but I could put it in the signal line of one channel using the HT bypass and compare that with the other channel, which entirely bypassed the P-8. The Moon was undetectable. Whether the P-8 was in the left or the right channel between the Bel Canto Pre6 preamp and the power amps, the only differences I could detect were fixed to each channel by the room's acoustics.

When the P-8 served as the system's only preamp, it was just as self-effacing. I could enjoy Markus Groh's nearly over-the-top performance of Liszt's Piano Sonata in B Minor (SACD, Avie AV2097) at low levels, but could also let it raise the roof with no loss of detail or change in balance. Both the bass pedals and the ping of the higher keys were always evident; it's just that I got closer and the piano got bigger! Voices, too, were natural and uncolored. Hans Theessink's deep voice on "Late Last Night," from Call Me (SACD, Blue Groove BG-4020), is an audiophile-demo classic, but this was the first time I'd heard such an ideal balance of his voice's resonance and its grit.

The P-8's soundstaging was as good as I've heard from two-channel sources in this system and room. I hauled out Dean Peer's Think...It's All Good (CD, Turtle TR0004) for his powerful bass-guitar dynamics, coupled with an airy spaciousness inhabited by lots of other spicy sounds. For this, a JL Audio Fathom f113 subwoofer supplemented the B&W 802Ds below 30Hz. Nothing could restrain me from turning the music up and up and up—not to hear it better, but to relish it the more. Again, at all levels, the sound through the P-8 was taut and meticulous right down into the nether reaches, and somehow it never seemed loud.

My favorite stuff, symphonic music and opera, benefited equally from the P-8's transparency. When there's so much going on, to hear it all one needs is a system that is essentially grain-free. I listened to a live recording of Orlando Paladino, Haydn's dramma eroicomico, with Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducting the Concentus Musicus Wien (CD, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 82876 73370 2), and felt as if I were at the event. I heard each distinctive voice in its place, with a perfect balance between pit and stage. The only distractions were those of the original live event.

I reported on the synergy of the Moon Evolution W-8 and P-8 in my review of the former in March, so I refer you to those comments. I will add, however, that the P-8 was equally compatible with the Classé CA-3200, Bel Canto eVo 2006, and Bel Canto Ref1000 power amps. It was as if the P-8 delivered an optimal signal that permitted each amp to perform at its best. That said, each amp sounded somewhat different in voicing, a determination also made possible by the P-8.

The P-8 replaced the Bel Canto Pre6 for a while. Later, I used it in bypass mode when the Pre6 returned and I expanded to a full multichannel system. (Oh, for a six-channel P-8!) Compared directly to the Pre6, the P-8 was quieter. It was also more mellow, or less bright—but either phrase implies a fault on one side or the other, and any fault here was relative and context-dependent.

That said, the P-8 is definitely a Simaudio Moon. On quick switchover, it seemed more soft-edged than some other preamps, but that was a contrast effect—I detected no restriction in high-frequency or transient response. I wonder if the P-8's very low levels of HF noise accounted for this. With FM and LP reproduction, a constant low level of background noise seems inaudible because we adapt to it. Nonetheless, that noise can interact with the music in a process called stochastic resonance, and the result is that our auditory systems report to us that HF signals are enhanced. This can contribute to the highlighting of details, but in the case of the oh-so-quiet P-8, all the details were there, and in their correct proportions.

Using the W-8 to drive the Revel Studios, I slightly preferred the brightness of the Pre6—but with the B&W 802Ds in the same system, I much preferred the P-8. Switching to the Classé CA-3200 amp helped the Pre6 become a tad smoother through the 802Ds, and approach the sound of the P-8.

The Simaudio Moon Evolution P-8 reminded me of Lewis Carroll's Cheshire Cat. When the Cat is conversing, or when I use the P-8's controls, either is engaging company. Otherwise, their corporeal representations fade, each leaving behind only its most notable feature. In the case of the P-8, that was the sound of the music (and the smile on my face). The P-8's not-inconsiderable price of $11,000 deters me from making any statements about its value, but I could find no fault with its operation or its sound. For this time and in this place, the P-8—especially when paired with the W-8—is as good as it gets.

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Boucherville, Quebec J4B 7K4
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