In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that music lovers who keep up with the times often prefer high-quality personal audio solutions based on the music libraries of streaming services – fortunately, manufacturers are offering more and more players and headphones for the most demanding users in terms of sound quality, and streaming services are becoming more and more The technical parameters of the content have been increasing every year. When at home, such a person wants to use the music library in a familiar format, and would prefer something compact to a multi-component system.
These reasons largely explain the success of compact wireless audio systems – connect your smartphone or audio player to such a speaker and personal audio turns into a home system that doesn’t take up space and is pleasing to the eye. But what to do if you are accustomed to a high level of component home systems with full-size speakers and the sound quality of a monoblock audio system does not suit you? After all, even premium models of monoblocks from renowned manufacturers are not able to abolish the laws of physics – this is especially true for acoustic systems. And here universal “combines” come to the rescue – devices that combine all the electronics in one housing, to which you just need to connect a couple of speakers. Moon ACE from Simaudio is exactly such a device.
Review of an integrated amplifier with built-in network streamer and phono preamplifier
The history of the Canadian company Simaudio began back in 1980 with the release of the Sima integrated amplifier, named after the company’s founder, Victor Sima. It was a classic transistor amplifier operating in class AB and featuring a strict but memorable design. At the turn of the century, Simaudio created a sub-brand of exclusive audio equipment Moon, and as a result, all of the company’s products began to be produced under this brand.
A closer look
The Moon ACE model combines an integrated amplifier, a network streamer, a digital-to-analog converter, a phono stage for working with moving magnet (MM) drivers, and a headphone amplifier in one package. This is the first and only model in the company’s range with such wide functionality. Perhaps the main distinguishing feature of Moon ACE is that all the listed “modules” of this device are made at approximately the same quality level (traditionally for Simaudio – very high). That is, none of the components were added, as they say, “for show.” For example, a phono stage. On the one hand, it is obvious that the main focus here is on digital content, and the network streamer and DAC “rule the show” in Moon ACE. In this case, many manufacturers implement a phono stage on a pair of microcircuits – as they say, “so that there is one.” But not Simaudio. Looking ahead, I’ll say that the phono stage here is very good! And if you plan to use a vinyl player in your system, it will be quite possible to do without an external phono stage.
The Moon ACE combine can provide access to almost all (exceptions below) current digital and analog sources of music content, including all popular streaming services, music libraries located on servers on the network (for example, on NAS), Internet radio stations, vinyl records (you only have to add a vinyl player), SACD and CD optical discs (you only have to add optical disc transport) and tracks stored in the memory of your smartphone or tablet (via Airplay 2 or Bluetooth). Let us immediately note what Moon ACE will not help with. Firstly, it does not have an internal storage device – accordingly, it cannot be either an autonomous source of content or a music server. Moreover, the model is not equipped with USB-A ports, which means you won’t be able to connect an external drive with audio files to the Moon ACE.
In Moon ACE, the network streamer is implemented on a powerful digital platform of its own, MIND (Moon Intelligent Network Device) of the second generation. For integration into a home computer network there is a wireless Wi-Fi adapter and an RJ45 Ethernet port. The streamer provides access to many popular streaming services, including Tidal Masters, Deezer Hi-Fi and Qobuz Sublime+. In addition, Moon ACE can act as an access point for the Roon system, UPnP/DLNA servers, Tidal Connect and Spotify Connect services. To control the streamer, the most functional and convenient option is the proprietary Moon MIND Controller application, available for mobile devices running iOS and Android. In principle, the streamer can be controlled through any universal UPnP application, for example, Bubble UPnP,
The DAC built into Moon ACE is implemented on a dual-channel Saber32 ES9010K2M chip from the famous company ESS Technology. The device, when connected via USB, is capable of decoding PCM digital streams with parameters up to 32 bit / 384 kHz and DSD up to DSD256. Moon ACE can also work with the MQA format. To connect digital sources, there are two optical and two coaxial digital inputs, as well as a USB-B port for connecting a computer. To broadcast high-resolution audio from a computer to this port, you need a special driver, which can be downloaded from the official Simaudio website.
Finally, we get to the analog part of Moon ACE. The basis for the “combine” was the Moon 240i integrated amplifier, to which a MIND network streamer unit was added. These two models even have the same appearance, with the exception of the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth antenna and the RJ45 Ethernet port on the rear wall of the case. Like any high-quality “integrated” device, it is based on a powerful toroidal power transformer – the guarantee of free breathing of the output stages, which here are made on LM3886 assemblies from National Semiconductor, operating in class AB. And don’t let the power figures in performance characteristics confuse you – only 50 Watts when operating at an 8 Ohm load. As they say, this is what 50 watts are needed – Simaudio has always been distinguished by the use of measurement methods that are close to real operation. In general, believe me, most speaker systems
To connect analog sources, in addition to the Phono input, three more inputs are provided – two linear on the RCA connectors on the rear and one on a 3.5 mm minijack on the front panel. Moreover, any of the two linear inputs on the rear wall of the case can be configured via the system menu as a power amplifier input – a useful feature for integrating Moon ACE into a multi-channel home theater system as a two-channel “power amplifier”. There is also an output from a preamplifier, to which you can, if necessary, connect an external power amplifier, active monitors or an active subwoofer.
The design of Moon ACE is quite traditional for Simaudio components – a strict front panel with a large information OLED display, a large knob for adjusting the volume and scrolling through system menu items, as well as neat buttons, framed by slightly rounded sides, by which the company’s components are unmistakably recognizable. The front panel is made of aluminum, and the durable steel case Moon ACE reliably protects the electronics from external interference. The manufacturer offers two finishing options – completely black and two-tone (black front panel and silver sides).
Moon ACE testing took place in one of the cozy demo rooms of the Nazarov Gallery audio salon with initial acoustic treatment. Moon Voice 22 bookshelf speaker systems, specially designed to work in tandem with Moon ACE, were chosen as partners for Moon ACE. That is, it will be difficult to find a more organic combination, both in technical terms and in the nature of the presentation of musical material, and even in price. Standard and high definition test material was played from a NAS server. In addition, we listened to music tracks from the Tidal service in 24/96 resolution, largely to test the usability of streaming.
Moon ACE from Simaudio will allow you to minimize the number of components in a stereo system and, at the same time, provide exquisite thoroughbred High End sound . Just add a pair of speakers of the appropriate class to it (the best option is branded Moon Voice 22 monitors ), provide Internet access and enjoy the music. This bunch will definitely surprise you.