System Audition: Simaudio Moon / Joseph Audio

May 13, 2011
5 mins read

It was an offer I simply couldn’t refuse; Tom from Orange Road Audio was in the process of moving and asked me politely if I could ‘hang on to’ some HiFi gear for a month or so, while he sorted himself out with new premises. ‘Write something about the equipment if you like’ muttered Tom as he sauntered out of Turned On Audio in Onehunga, and to be honest I didn’t really register what he meant as there was quite a hubbub in the shop that morning.

Now my take on ‘some HiFi gear’ didn’t really prepare me for what turned up on my doorstep about a week later, as Tom began unloading the cartons from his sturdy audio mover.

What he’d loaned me was none other than the near-flagship Evolution 750D DAC/Transport and 700i integrated amplifier from Simaudio Moon, along with a pair of statuesque Joseph Audio RM25XL floor-standing loudspeakers. As if that wasn’t enough he produced another box containing a hefty 2 box aluminium-clad power conditioner from Quantum, and yet another carton laden with high-end Nordost cabling including Frey balanced interconnects and speaker cables, along with Brahma and Vishnu power cables.

Within seconds I had about 60 grands worth of extra audio equipment in my lounge, yet as daunting as that sounds I quickly got down to business and began the disconnection/reconnection business.

Firstly, both Moon components were absolutely exquisite in both construction and looks, with the 750D weighing as much as a seriously large amplifier.

The 700i was a magnitude heavier in weight, its bomb proof aluminium/steel enclosure hiding what must be a massive toroidal transformer (it’s a dual-mono design) while on-board facilities are comprehensive and well implemented. Four single-ended RCA inputs and a separate tape monitor (tapedeck – remember those?) join one balanced input on the rear panel, and all these inputs can be configured as HT pass through inputs – this means a HT receiver can also control the output volume of the 700i, great for those having to share a room with the Home Theatre as well as the 2 channel real deal.

With 175 clean class AB watts per channel on board the 700i needs a top-class source and that’s where the matching 750D comes in. This battleship of a component utilises the increasingly popular high-end ESS SABRE32 Reference Audio 32 bit DAC along with a whole host of audio enhancing Moon technology including a floating suspension system for the disc mech, and completely separate and regulated power supplies for both digital and analogue sections.

As its name suggests the DAC can also be used by other components, and I had a great time using my very modest Squeezebox Touch to play standard redbook and Hi-Res files from my Mac Mini upstairs in the computer room. The 750D sports no less than four digital inputs (AES/EBU, RCA, USB and TOSLINK) while both balanced and RCA outputs are on board. The USB DAC input is limited to 16/48 resolution and Moons website was quite emphatic: they didn’t implement 24/96 or 192Khz resolution as it would have pushed the price of the 750D outside their target price level, but did suggest those looking to use this connection as their foremost source could use aftermarket USB dongles such as the well regarded Hiface M2Tech interface.

I could go on and on about all the tech on offer but to be fair the Lamborghini aesthetic really took precedence. It’s difficult to explain just how these Moon components look in words – hopefully the accompanying pics do a better job.

The Joseph Audio RM25XL’s were a slightly different story in terms of appearance: each tall real wood veneer cabinet  was clad in Henry Ford’s black, a slightly sobering visual experience compared with the glorious metal-clad Moon duo, but they were extremely well constructed – my favourite ‘knuckle rap’ test produced a high pitched ‘ping’ when I performed it on the cabinets, along with a corresponding feeling of pain. That’s a good sign.

The RM25XL’s are a 2-way three driver bass reflex design, the large rectangular port faces the floor at the bottom rear of each enclosure, this meant that siting the speaker within close proximity to a rear wall wasn’t as critical as a speaker with a rear-facing port. A single 25mm Sonatex tweeter is flanked above and below by 2 metal coned 7″ bass/midrange drivers in a classic D’Appolito configuration, and the overall size of the RM25X’s promised a pretty much full-range listening experience. I’ll admit the silver on black look worked better than I first thought, I’m not a fan of painted wood veneer but the attractive matt silver woofer cones saved the day for me.

Fine quality metal cone/spikes anchored each 32kg cabinet to my carpet over concrete floor, while after experimentation when siting I decided a half metre gap from the rear wall (and well clear of side walls) gave excellent boom-free bass performance.

Along for the ride was the 2 box Quantum QX4 mains purifier /QBase4  power distribution box – once plugged into the system (I ran the system using my modest Belkin PF40 for a while) it made substantial improvements to an already impressive sound, a sweeter treble, better mids and tighter bass with a lower noise floor among the many palpable attributes I heard once it was plugged in.

Once this impressive system was placed, plugged in and turned on it was time for the listening to begin – here’s a short WD video of the system in action:

First of all the RM25XL’s took some time to break in: metal cones are renowned for being a touch strident at the start of ownership, but once properly run-in (this pair were shop floor display units with very little use) the big Josephs began to sing, thanks in part to the sumptuous Simaudio electronics.

Within a few weeks of listening things began to change: midrange detail became transparent and honest, the fulsome bass tightened up and became more articulate and defined, while a slightly ragged treble became more integrated and sweeter. Whether listening to Beck’s Seachange in 24/96 via the DAC input (Squeezebox Touch – take a bow), or Trilok Gurtu’s Crazy Saint’s Believe album (featured on the short video) the Moon/Joseph Audio system provided a seriously high-end sound in my listening room (the lounge, in other words). The system produced a credible soundstage, vocals were locked into place and micro detail (gongs, bells and the sound of the singers breathing etc) were very apparent and heightened my enjoyment of the music.

What was also surprising was the control the 700i exerted on the RM25XL’s in terms of bass – I’m sure a lesser amplifier (and there are plenty of those) connected into the system would lose it in the bass dept, but the sheer current and high damping factor of the 700i made sure the big speakers produced tight, punchy extended bass without boom or bluster.

Even good old vinyl didn’t miss out on the fun – at the same time I’ve had the diminutive Moon 110LP for review (pending), this was connected to my Pro-Ject Studie using my recently aluminium bodied Denon DL103R. Although seemingly out of its depth in this company (it’s an entry level product), the little 110LP gave a stirling performance with tracks from Tom Jones Praise And Blame album, and my 180gsm copy of Marvin Gayes What’s Going On was quite delightful considering the very affordable price of the little phono stage.

To wrap up the article: yes none of the components I’ve talked about (except the Moon 110LP phono stage) are what you’d cal budget products, unless you’re the guy who owns Facebook. What you do get however, is fantastic and accommodating sound quality (I didn’t have to do much ‘tweaking’ with the gear), pride of ownership (build/construction/styling all first class) and ease of use.

I think I’ll buy myself a Lotto ticket this weekend…

Gary Pearce

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