Moon 390 network player/preamplifier

Solid-state preamplifiers,
Music servers and computer audio
Moon 390
Moon 390 network player/preamplifier

I’ve come across Moon’s output several times in my reviewing career, as a few years ago I was asked to review a Moon phono stage. I enjoyed living with it; it was not only well-constructed, well thought-out, but it had a lovely communicative sound that was striking.

At the Munich show a couple of years ago, I heard the Moon Ace, the all-in-one Swiss Army Knife that Alan reviewed in Issue 138, playing through a pair of bookshelf Martin Logan’s, and was staggered that the unit could quietly, without any hint of pretence be producing an arresting sound that was quite out of the price point in which it was born. I bought the unit and have enjoyed it ever since.

This year at Munich, the Simaudio room was using the 390 Network Player Preamplifier, along with the 400M monoblock power amps, driving some B&W802d2 speakers. Again, I was struck by the talent of this combination and by its effortless music making, and on some of the hardest tracks I could throw at it. I listened for a good hour, not really being able to comprehend the how and why of what this combination was doing, so I was naturally thrilled at the prospect of spending more time with this kit.

The 390 Network Player Preamplifier is more than just a Swiss Army knife. In fact to call it thus would be to sell it short. It has been brilliantly thought out. As a preamplifier, it’s reasonably comprehensive. It has analogue and balanced inputs and it has a configurable phono stage, suitable for use with moving magnet and moving coil cartridges and with the ability to set capacitance, gain, input impedance and even change the EQ curve from RIAA. It has a built-in DAC with Toslink, SPDIF, AES inputs, and a USB Type B input capable of up to DSD256 and PCM 384kHz.

There are four HDMI inputs for video or SACD, which is a brilliant touch. I have experimented with video receivers, and I am always shocked to see what a hit you take on audio quality over two channel audio. The 390 does not support multichannel audio, however.

Thus the 390 can take HDMI inputs from say a Sky Box, a DVD player, Apple TV etc., and impressively play the audio. Useful, and maybe a game changer for some. The HDMI output is 4K compatible. There is a USB port for connection to a hard disc etc., and a Simlink for a proprietary way of connecting a Moon CD player.

The volume control operates purely in the analogue domain and avoids some of the sonic compromises associated with a digital control. It uses an optical encoder to create the same ‘feel‘ as a digital control. The power supplies benefit from trickle-down technology from the 780D Digital Converter, which also uses the Moon Hybrid Power Supply, where there is essentially a digital switch in the first stage of the supply blocking DC et al., and a linear analogue power supply to feed the unit.

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