Simaudio Moon i-5 integrated amplifier Page 3

And when it came to vocals, it was almost surreal how effortlessly the i-5 floated lifelike images, illuminating them without succumbing to the kind of colorations and exaggerations that frequency anomalies might otherwise elicit. On track after track of Tony Bennett's superbly recorded Playin' with My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues (Columbia/RPM CK 85833), the degree of detail with which an imposing range of male and female vocals was rendered was most impressive—at times it seemed I could overhear the words forming before they were even sung. On "Good Morning, Heartache," the i-5 accurately depicted all the breathy, slightly nasal articulations of Sheryl Crow's breathy soprano while conveying the chesty power of Bennett's tenor, without any one frequency jumping out at me. What's more, throughout this recording, the Simaudio got the piano's attack, decay, sparkle, and broad scope just right—not to mention the warm shimmer of the cymbals and the sepia resonance of the bass. It also got all the gradations of strumming and plucking of a lightly amplified acoustic-electric guitar well enough that I heard them the way the guitarist did—the up-close percussive sound and body resonances of the acoustic chamber, with a touch of hang-time from the amp.

Listening to a well-recorded rock album like Jeff Beck's ferociously varied, Indian-flavored You Had It Coming (Epic EK 61625), I never felt as if the i-5 lacked for rhythm, pace, drive, focus, or speed. On "Left Hook," with its wildly processed drum sounds and low-end descents, the transients had real snap, crackle, and pop, without ever becoming edgy and fatiguing. Yet on the ultra-bluesy "Rosebud" and the rarefied flotation of "Nadia" and "Suspension," the i-5 conveyed all the caustic, biting, romantic, sensual aspects of Beck's complex guitar tone while rendering the big and small gestures of the mix with subtlety and power. Other amps can altogether miss this forest for its trees in giving you the boom's rush.

Thinking of bigger full-range speakers and a larger room when your ship comes in? By isolating the power section from the front end (via the pre-out), the i-5 retained its high-end value as a dedicated, standalone preamp. Listening off-axis? The i-5's balance control behaved in a subtle, non-invasive manner. However, for big, multi-driver, power-hungry speakers, you might indeed need to invest more money in separates, given how much more freedom there is to do things right with more robust, dedicated transformers and power supplies.

At $2595, Simaudio's Moon i-5 is a competitively priced, no-compromise, audiophile integrated amplifier with a solid-state heart and a tube soul. It never sounded edgy or fatiguing, or ponderous and bass-heavy, like some comparably priced solid-state muscle amps I could name. The i-5's sound was warm, quick, and focused, richly layered, smoothly nuanced, and naturally compelling in its portrayal of bass energy and dynamics. And while to some extent the i-5 suggested the midrange liquidity and top-end smoothness of tubes, its exceptional control of bass, localization of images, and scrupulous resolution put it on a par with the best solid-state integrated amps (and even some separates) I've heard in the last five years.

While the i-5's midrange was nowhere near as juicy and detailed as my old standby, the Mesa Tigris tube integrated, and its presentation not quite as forward, it had the kind of honest, natural, realistic character. The Tigris is tonally more forward and richly voiced, the i-5 more laid-back and...correct.

Perhaps the i-5 is a touch too laid-back and refined for some. Punchy? To be sure, but for sheer impact, you might consider tubes or separates. But for the money, you'll be hard-pressed to find something that blows the Moon i-5 out of the water. To spread all of those compromises around yet retain a realistic sense of high-end scale and grandeur at what might be considered an entry-level price...well, that's an achievement. The Simaudio Moon i-5 is worthy of auditioning with the most revealing speakers you can find.

21 Lawrence Paquette Drive
Champlain, NY 12919
(877) 980-2400