MOON by Simaudio 700i v2 Integrated amplifier and 780D v2 streaming DAC

Integrated amplifiers,
Digital-to-analog converters,
Music servers and computer audio
Moon 700i v2,
Moon 780D v2

Each of the five inputs can be customised – the label can be renamed from its factory default of either B1, S1, S2, S3, or S4, and a maximum or an offset volume level (-10dB/+10dB) can be assigned. Inputs that aren’t in use can be disabled altogether, and each input can be made to bypass the volume control.

It’s a delightful volume control, mind you, so don’t go rushing to bypass it in favour of your source component’s alternative. Apart from being machined with the sort of well-weighted sturdiness of a bank-vault door, it allows ultra-fine tuning of the output level (which runs from 0dB to 80dB). From 0dB to 30dB, the volume is adjustable in 1dB steps – but from 30dB upwards, the output can be finessed in 01.dB increments. And in addition, MOON claims its use of an optical encoder system of volume control results in far less signal degradation than the more common potentiometer alternatives.

Despite its entirely different functional emphasis, the 780D v2 streaming DAC has more in common with the 700i v2 than just MOON’s signature aesthetic. It has the same big, bold and retina-bothering display, for a start off, the same ability to relabel each of its inputs to rationalise the user experience, and to defeat unused inputs altogether. In its own way it’s also a dual-mono design – there is one DAC chip (an ESS ES9018S Sabre32 Hyperstream) per channel running in mono mode.

As you might imagine, the specification is extensive and incorporates some excitingly large numbers. The 780D v2 features a total of nine (mostly physical) digital inputs: one AES/EBU, one USB, two Toslink, three S/PDIF (two RCA and one BNC), network via an Ethernet socket and Wi-Fi antenna combination, and Bluetooth functionality (to aptX HD standard). 

There are XLR inputs (one four-pin, one five-) for use with MOON’s 820S power supply, and a choice of XLR or RCA outputs to an amplifier. The same bidirectional RS‑232 and ‘SimLink’ micro-jacks as the 700i v2 is sporting make an appearance here too. 

The 780D v2 is Roon-ready and able to decode MQA through all of its digital inputs. Each digital input is able to deal with information up to and including a 24bit/192kHz standard, while the USB socket and network connection can go all the way to 32bit/384kHz, DSD256 and DXD. The MiND 2 streaming module that’s accessible via Ethernet or Wi-Fi also has TIDAL Masters, Qobuz Sublime+, and Deezer Hi-Fi integrated and ready to go, and can enable wireless streaming to any other MiND devices on the network.

The rest of the heavy lifting is mostly done by MHP (MOON Hybrid Power), a high-performance power supply using high-speed digital switching, analogue linear regulators and conductive polymer capacitors for low noise and rock-solid stability, and two-stage M-LoVo (MOON Low Voltage), a virtually noise-free DC regulation circuit. 

This as-long-as-your-arm list of promising abbreviations and optimal numbers is all well and good, of course – and the fact it all looks quite handsome in a post-bout Greco-Roman wrestler kind of way doesn’t do any harm either. But at over £26k for the pair, performance needs to be of the ‘life-changing’ variety if the MOON twosome is going to come close to justifying the outlay.

Using a selection of appropriately high-end loudspeakers, the sound the MOON duo delivers may not, in absolute terms, be ‘life-changing’. But there’s no doubt it’s ‘life-improving’ – and that’s true from a wide selection of digital file types and sizes, from music of all genres, at any kind of volume level. Heard in tandem, the 700i v2 and 780D v2 are – spoiler alert! – an absolutely thrilling listen.

Starting with a 16bit/44.1kHz copy of Grant Green’s His Majesty King Funk [Verve] via a CD transport into one of the 780D v2’s S/PDIF inputs, the MOON’s rousing all-court game is made quite obvious. The Selma March is unpicked in the most unfussy way, Green’s single-note line guitar-playing existing in its own, strictly delineated, space. Each accompanying instrument (organ, congas, drum-kit, and tenor sax) enjoys the same elbow room and is distinct down to the last harmonic nuance – and yet the interaction between players and the unity of performance that’s so essential to the jazz ‘experience’ (even one as four-square and formulaic as this one) is explicit too. Green’s background responses to each of his bandmates’ turns in the spotlight are sympathetic and lyrical, and that boogaloo lope so typical of mid-60s jazz is described in the most rhythmically unambiguous manner.

Grant Green was nobody’s idea of a musical pioneer, but he was an articulate and committed performer – even when, as with this album, chasing as wide an audience as possible. The 780D v2 retains all the subtlety and judiciousness of his playing during the D-to-A process, and the 700i v2 lets no detail escape it either. As a result, the listener’s view into the recording – not just the explicitly detailed fact of the instruments but their response to each other – is as clear as freshly laundered crystal.

A fairly abrupt change of gear to Yesterday Was Dramatic – Today Is OK by múm [TMT] as a FLAC download from Bandcamp gives an even more frank demonstration of the wide-open nature of the MOON electronics. The clatter and glitch at the top end of I’m 9 Today is anchored by droning keyboard pads at the bottom of the frequency range, while a combination of melodica and giggling occupies much of the midrange – and the streamer/DAC/amplifier chain of command lays it absolutely bare. The disparate sources of the sounds, the mechanics of the way they’re stitched together, and the resulting patchwork is made completely obvious. 

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