Simaudio Moon i-5 integrated amplifier Page 2

Then I remembered that certain fine wines need to be swirled around the glass a bit, to combine with the air before they can open up, bloom, and thus reveal their inner substance and defining characters. So I gave the i-5 substantial cook-in time—low-level music signals 'round the clock for a few weeks—and repeated this process a number of times during my auditioning but before my final listening tests. I reckon that you've got to put at least 300-500 hours on this baby before you can form a balanced opinion about its sound. Because of this, the i-5 is meant to be powered up all the time; it has a rocker switch on its rear panel next to the IEC inlet, and a standby switch on the front—all accessible via the heavy-duty remote control of cast aluminum.

The first thing I noticed about the i-5 was how smooth, quiet, and transparent it was. The amplifier had exceptional speed and drive, and projected a sense of ease and authority. I was quite taken by its clarity, coherence, and realism, the elemental purity and neutrality with which it conveyed the emotional experience of music. Its presentation was warm yet neutral and natural, faithful and nonfatiguing; it drew me into the experience, engaged me, and fleshed out a wealth of detail without hitting me over the head or italicizing any particular frequency range. The i-5 was all about the music—no more, no less.

I used two two-way loudspeakers that are easy to drive: the stand-mounted Joseph RM7si Signatures and the floorstanding Meadowlark Hot Rod Shearwaters. While the Josephs do like a bit of power to really open up, that didn't represent a problem for the i-5, which always sounded as if it had something in reserve, and provided plenty of gain without grain or strain.

So while the i-5 puts out "only" 70Wpc into 8 ohms, it offers a full 6dB of dynamic headroom, which led me to suspect that for instantaneous bursts it probably behaves like a better-endowed amp. Once the initial break-in period was completed, the i-5 was able to reproduce big transients with utter conviction, portraying dynamics with vivid realism and steely coherence—even at lower volume levels—while maintaining its aura of grace and refinement.

Don't think that the i-5 sounded prissy or polite, cold or analytical. It possessed levels of sonic liquidity and, for want of a better word, personality that set it apart from most of the solid-state designs I've auditioned. Though I wouldn't characterize it as having a "tube" sound, the i-5 didn't reflect conventional solid-state characteristics either. Its top end was smooth, sweet, and fulsomely detailed, while its control of bass frequencies was swift, sure, and solid, punchy and extended, with oodles of harmonic detail. Often it seemed to fill out the bottom of the Meadowlarks in such a taut, focused, linear manner that my brain was able to complete the low-frequency picture.

Such effortless focus and control translated into a gloriously layered, open, transparent midrange, superb soundstaging, and pinpoint depiction of complex images. I was impressed by the i-5's portrayal of energetic, multifaceted music as different in execution as the dense electronic polyphony of King Crimson on Vroom Vroom (Discipline Global Mobile DGM0105) and the percussion-inflected, polyrhythmic mélange and elaborate acoustic orchestrations of Elliot Carter's Symphonia and Clarinet Concerto (Michael Collins, clarinet; Oliver Knussen, London Sinfonia, BBC Symphony; Deutsche Grammophon 459 660-2). It had an ability to sort out and illuminate individual images amid a welter of instrumental details, metric changes, and colliding dissonances, helping to make sense of arranger Robert Fripp's opaque accretion of violent textures in King Crimson's "Conundrum," and able to maintain midrange clarity with extraordinary control of huge bass transients in the more or less ballad-styled "One Mind." The i-5 projected Adrian Belew's vocals in a realistic, compelling manner while conveying a thoroughgoing impression of the venue's ambient cues.

Likewise with Carter's Symphonia, in which a confluence of wildly contrasting musical events flits about like butterflies mating on a crisp summer night: The i-5 rendered the cinematic scope and scale of Carter's cuts, crossfades, superimpositions, and multiple images on a huge holographic soundstage. Better yet, for all the complexity of Carter's timbral palette, the i-5 let me experience each instrument both as a distinct entity and as an integral part of an immense orchestral canvas.

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