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Simaudio Moon Evolution 750D CD Player/DAC Review

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Publisher’s note: This Review was published in January, 2012 originally.

Simaudio Moon 750D CD Player DACThe Moon is a cold, sterile place. Well, at least the side facing away from the sun is cold; the side facing the sun bakes in approximately 107 degree Celsius sunlight. Have you heard about the new restaurant on the Moon? The food is out of this world, but it has no atmosphere! Since there is no atmosphere, the temperature can change in a hurry. If you were standing on the surface of the Moon in sunlight, the temperature would be hot enough to boil water. And then the Sun would go down, and the temperature would drop 250 degrees in just a matter of moments. I’d call that a “freeze-fry” environment!

So, why would anyone want to name a series of components after the dead orb that hangs above us? The Sun has infinitely more happening; it’s a regular “ball O’ Fire”, quite an energetic thing. I don’t think you would want to compare a component’s sound to that of a hunk of sterile matter in a vacuum; no body, no character, no life. Why on Earth would anyone name their product “Moon”?

Simaudio didn’t; the moniker “MOON” does not stand for the nocturnal orb but rather for the acronym Music, Omega, “O” Class stars, and Note. Music and notes need no explication for audiophiles. When I consider the letter Omega I think either of Charlton Heston in The Omega Man as the last normal human alive, or the claim of Jesus, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” Simaudio likewise thinks in ultimate terms, suggesting that the 750 Moon is the end of your search for a quality digital source.

The other letter “O” standing for O Class stars is timely as I just finished reading The Sun’s Heartbeat by Bob Berman, a thorough physical account of the nature of our own star. From Berman we learn the phenomenal output of the sun – every second it emits the equivalent of 91 billion 1 megaton H-bombs! It’s almost conceptually impossible to imagine the infinitely larger, more luminous O Class stars which would make our Sun seem nearly as a candle’s flame. Simaudio suggests they are creating a far more brilliant product than the competition by the allusion to O Class stars.

I admire the creativity in the naming of this product, as well as the ambition of the company to establish a clear mission statement and objectives. Simaudio chose for their company’s symbol a framed section of the treble clef tilted like the Earth on its axis, which brings the otherworldly logo closer to home. Further explanation of Simaudio’s company principles can be found on their website.

DSOTM!

Such a brilliantly named product begs a theme review, so we will draw upon loony-tuned, I mean lunar-related music to guide us through the discussion of the 750D. Let’s start with the classic Pink Floyd tune Dark Side of the Moon (DSOTM).

I perused a thread recently discussing the topic, “You know you have a good stereo if…,“ which suggested that a good stereo should be able to clearly reveal the closing lyrics on DSOTM. Mention of Pink Floyd reminds me of a moral decision I made as a teen. I attended a Satanism In Rock Music seminar where the lyrics of various artists and groups were analyzed. Up to that point I had never considered seriously the message of songs, I just mindlessly mouthed them. After that event I went home and scoured my entire collection, being horrified to discover many of my albums had what I considered disgusting themes. I junked the entire collection, among the albums a white vinyl copy of Dark Side of the Moon!

Yes, how foolish, as that and perhaps other albums would be worth much today. However, it was a smallish collection of perhaps 25 albums. In addition, teenage handling (although my albums looked far better in condition than those of my friends’) and their being played on rudimentary equipment ensured they would have compromised quality today. My shock at the vulgar nature of the lyrics of the popular music I had collected caused me to re-establish my collection at the opposite end of the spectrum with only instrumental music, much of it synthesized. Finally, over time after a long drought of the recorded human voice I started filling in selected vocals until once again I had a healthy, wholesome mix. Everyone has joys in their journey in audio as well as regrets. I regret not having the money from a white vinyl copy of Pink Floyd, but I have never regretted my decision about what genres of music I will or will not play. One of my goals as an audiophile is that I not just establish a good sounding rig but that on my system I play qualitatively good music.

A lot of well recorded material will never enter into my collection because I consider its message to be vile. I walk a tightrope in this regard. I would not seek the works of Metallica, yet when I heard an instrumental version of Enter the Sandman by Apocalyptica I loved the edginess of it and had to add it to my Rhapsody song collection. It’s quite the experience as the trio of cellists apply guitar-riff-like abandon to their instruments. My mental “lyrics filter” is still quite strong in my mind; when I listen to it I mentally block what little of the refrain I know and concentrate on the music being played.

I had forgotten the small voice at the end of the DSOTM (among other not so benign voices at the beginning) in the right channel which says, “There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it’s all dark.” I love subtle oddities in music which must be teased out by a good system. Over the years I did recover a copy of DSOTM partly because I recalled the terrific engineering of Alan Parsons and how pieces like the clock chime opening of “Time” are so good for demos. Seeing the discussion online I rushed to the rig to play the song “Eclipse” – and was disappointed. The final (omega!) commentary was easily heard, not subtle after all. The Moon 750D is too competent to obscure that passage. After all, it’s a 32-bit player built to the extreme. I consider teasing out the spoken dialogue at the end of the song “Money” a far more difficult task. No, the 750D does not render it all perfectly distinguishable, so don’t feel poorly if your rig doesn’t either. When I went online to seek the lyrics for it my mental filter concluded it’s just as well left a mumble.

Randy Crawford, in her sultry, Cajun voice sings “Cajun Moon” on her Naked and True disc, reminding us that the moon can inspire not only stories of vampires and werewolves but also summer evenings spent in the arms of a loved one while its pale light reflects dimly. I’ll never forget spending one memorable night in Egypt watching the full Moon in transit over the great Pyramid of Giza, an experience which evoked powerful emotions.

So then, is the Moon Evolution 750D sterile or romantic? Is it akin to a harder edged solid-state amplifier or a velvety but soft-edged tube amp? Is it a cold, calculating performer or a helplessly romantic vinyl stand-in? Jokes aside, the Moon 750D is not like a restaurant without atmosphere; it creates a most welcoming environment. It complements mood music, reinforcing the southern drawl, bayou-bred character of Crawford’s voice.

Some equipment can be as harsh to tame as an alligator; most DACs I wrestle into submission by toning down the upper frequencies and protecting against an overly analytical sound. The 750D needs no such taming; it’s all about laid back sound, like sitting on a porch swing on a summer day. Mellow and relaxed are two words which aptly apply to this DAC/player. Compared to brighter, edgier DACs the 750D will blunt shrillness, take the edge off of sharpness and reinforce the bottom-end versus the top-end. The last piece on Naked and True is a slap in the face; after listening to sultry, seductively smooth crooning for the better part of an hour the level fairly jumps in a bass heavy remix of “Give Me The Night.” The overcooked bass line took on even more proportionately ponderous size than normal because the 750D subtly shifts attention from the top-end of the sound spectrum toward the bottom-end. The practical benefit here is to allow more edgy pieces of music to be played at nearer “live” listening level.

Inside view of the Simaudio Moon Evolution 750D CD Player/DAC

Appearance and functions

The appearance of the unit moves beyond space age and into futuristic bordering on the alien. A melding of two aluminum rays flare out from the center to fat spiked legs. The front and rear thick aluminum plates sandwich a powder coat black main body with horizontal heat fins jutting from the sides. All this angularity evokes a sense of sharpness, belying the smooth, contoured sound the unit emits. The tilted treble clef logo sits above a thin solid aluminum CD tray, which is itself above the display with blessedly huge alphanumeric digits! Easily, the 750D wins my display visibility award, since with or without glasses at a distance of about thirteen feet I could read all indications on it. While a throwback in appearance to a dot matrix printer, the powerful pixilation is forgiven granted its user friendliness.

The spikes on the bottom of the chassis are not so friendly. Isolating the unit properly requires the diminutive accompanying protective disc footers to be placed precisely underneath. One false move and your beloved shelving unit will be pitted or scratched. The diminutive size of the discs, the heaviness of the unit, and the fact that the spikes are recessed far enough underneath that they cannot be easily seen when placing the discs means safety requires this be a two person job. Simaudio would do well to make these miniscule discs of a much more generous size, or incorporate footers on the spikes, so as to alleviate damage to rack systems. I missed a disc one time and the result was a hole poked in the wood shelf. It’s a good thing I have mellowed with age, nor spent a fortune on the rack. I can’t imagine what might race through a person’s mind who would own a rack made of rarer materials or glass if the player scratched it. It’s one of those installations where you might want to think better of the, “I can handle it,” confidence.

A full set of controls, which collectively mirror the remote control’s functions, are divided into roughly equal groupings to the right and left of the display. On the left are, from top to bottom, STANDBY, PROGRAM, DISPLAY, REPEAT, INPUT, RANDOM, and TIME. In keeping with a more otherworldly appearance there are no words on the face of the unit but rather symbolic indications. On the right hand side the symbols indicate Load/Eject, Play, Forward and Backward Track, Pause and Stop.

The main power switch is found at the rear of the unit next to the 15-Amp IEC power cord socket. Even when the front power switch is in the Off position the unit remains “powered up at all times for optimum performance,” according to the Technical White Paper on the 750D. When the unit is taken out of Standby mode a red LED is illuminated, but when it is powered up fully the LED turns Blue.

The 750D has on the backside a bi-directional RS-232 port as well as ports for Simaudio’s “SimLink” connectors, thus allowing full control of the unit from system remote controls. The “IR in” port allows use of an infrared remote control receiver. The Owner’s Manual instructs that a pair of 4-pin XLR connectors is supplied, “for future use when an external power supply will be made available for the MOON 750D.”

Centered on the backside are four inputs, AES/EBU, SPDIF (digital coaxial), Toslink/optical, and USB. Beneath are the two digital outputs, AES/EBU and SPDIF. Finally, there are both RCA and Balanced/XLR analogue outputs. Simaudio recommends use of the XLR outs for the analogue output, but as with every other player I have ever used, the quality of the cabling used must be factored into the equation. Between brands it is entirely possible that a particular RCA interconnect may outperform a competitor’s XLR interconnect – or vice versa! In an extreme rig one will usually be able to hear a difference even with the same model of interconnect between RCA/XLR terminations. The owner simply has to make the comparison with cables on hand to determine the superior result in a given system.

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