We keep beginning these reviews of state-of-the-art digital products with variations on the theme of ‘how the digital world is changing’ for a reason: it IS changing. Moon’s prestigious Evolution range is perfectly indicative of that change. The digital top spot in Moon’s top range used to be held by the 750D CD player, but this year that was ousted by the Evolution 780D, a combined digital converter and network streamer.
CD players – essentially DACs with CD transport mechanisms – remain in the Moon catalogue, but it’s possible these players are the last of their line and subsequent generations of Moon digital products will evolve from the 780D (well, an ‘Evolution’ pun was irresistible). In fact, it’s already happening; products that have a direct link to the 780D design brief have already begun to appear in Moon’s more affordable NEO range.
Viewed on a surface level, the Evolution 780D is a nine-input digital converter, already next-gen ready thanks to its USB, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and aptX Bluetooth connections, alongside the optical and coaxial S/PDIF and AES/EBU inputs. It’s a dual-differential DAC layout where each of the two ESS9018S Sabre DAC chips sports essentially 16 unique DAC circuits per channel that can support PCM to 24-bit, 384kHz and DSD to quad-speed/256. In other words, it can support bleeding-edge formats, for which there are but a handful of tracks. Nevertheless, the logic behind this is if it can process at this resolution, 24/192 and DSD 64 should be a breeze. While I’m not wholly convinced of the need for this endless specification arms race given the paucity of music available in astronomic-resolution, there doesn’t seem to be much sign of a ceasefire yet. Irrespective of file format, the Evolution 780D also features a Femtosecond-grade internal clock, to show jitter who’s boss.
Moon has started a move to a new Hybrid Power (MHP) supply in the 780D, a high performance universal Power Supply using conductive polymer parts, high speed digital switching, and analogue linear regulators post stages designed to smooth the DC output. With an increasing number of DAC designs going switch-mode only, which works well for digital stages, it’s great to see a digital device take its analogue side just as seriously.
The net result of all this taking power seriously does have its downside – acronyms! The dozen stages of DC voltage regulation include two M-LoVo (Moon Low Voltage Regulation) stages and four I2DCf (Independent Inductive DC filtering) stages. All connected with SimLink comms. And probably a PIAPT (Partridge In A Pear Tree) somewhere, too.
Elsewhere, the 780D is all aircraft-grade aluminium, super-thick PCBs, isolating corners, and the kind of last-a-lifetime, you could drive a tank over it build we have come to expect from Moon’s top Evolution range. It also has Moon’s trademark huge red LED front panel readout. It features balanced and single-ended analogue outputs; we preferred single-ended, but not by much.