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CD Player
Moon CD 3.3

Price: 11 900 zł (with XLRs)

Distribution: AudioForte

ul. Rejtana 7/9, Warszawa
tel. 22 6466999


WWW: Simaudio

Text: Marek Dyba
Photo: Marcin Olszewski

Last couple of months of listening to or reviewing audio equipment made me think „Canada” as equivalent to „good audio”. Many of the devices I had a chance to review recently came from this country and all of them turned out to be very interesting ones. Of course there is a bit of exaggeration in my words but not that much. Tenor Audio, Hansen Audio, Bryston – all of them come from this country. And now I've found out that Moon was also made in Canada ... .

Moon has been present in mankind's history for ever – gave light during dark nights, created a scenery for romantic affairs, was described in many ways by poets and s-f writers, and the most powerful nations on Earth raced to conquer it first.

So why did the owners of Simaudio decide for a Moon to be their brand name? I have no idea and that is why I can interpret it any way I like. I think they saw audiophiles as romantics who try to achieve, grab something beautiful that is so close but still just out of reach. The beauty of the sound of this particular Moon product I should be able to appreciate after listening sessions but for sure grabbing one is not a problem anymore since the world became a global village. Anybody who would like to get one for himself should just visit Polish distributor – Audioforte and choose something he can afford from a quite wide spectrum of devices offered by Simaudio. I received for a review a player that by price tag is positioned somewhere in the middle of the range - CD 3.3. It is the same price level as the other (also Canadian) device I reviewed recently - Bryston's BCD1. These two manufacturers have a different background but still it seemed very interesting to compare the sound of both of them. Bryston's target group are professionals and thus its look I might describe as elegant simplicity – no fancy elements. Moon's targets are audiophiles and those nasty creatures require not only a good sound but also a good look from their beloved system elements. They need to have a possibility to impress their friends who usually don't appreciate really the sound but they would recognize great looking player when they see it. I have to admit that people responsible for Moon's design did a fabulous job – it is beautiful! Solid, silver aluminum front with characteristic extrusion and all function buttons placed in it, extremely well readable red display (the best one I know regardless the price tag), blue LEDs (but finally with lights intensity adjusted so that it doesn't hurt your eyes!), and small, elegant logo – they all create really nice image. I should mention also already one detail that I've found quite important – Simaudio follows market's trends and Customer's expectations and offered not only coaxial output but also input, so I was able to test this device also as an external D/A converter.


Discs used for listening sessions::
Patricia Barber, Companion, Blue Note/Premonition, 7243 5 22963 2 3, CD.
Bobby McFerrin & Chick Corea, Play, Blue Note, CDP 7 95477 2, CD.
Pepe Romero, Flamenco, LIM, K2HD 022, K2HD.
Pink Floyd, Wish you were here, EMI Records Japan, TOCP-53808, CD.
Wiener Philharmoniker – Böhm, Beethoven: Symphonie no 9, DG, 445 503-2, CD.
Bear McCreary, Battlestar Galactica: Season 3 [Soundtrack]
Eva Cassidy, Eva by heart

When I had Moon in my system many different reasons forced me to listen to the music mostly in the evenings and nights which means at very modest sound levels. It had its advantages – when you listen quietly you have to focus, pay more attention to the details, stretch your listening capabilities more than usually. It is also a bigger challenge for the system – it's not that easy to deliver full, rich, detailed music with its dynamics when the amplifier uses only small fraction of its output power. My system with 300B SET and horn speakers manages such situations very well and Moon didn't have any problem to fit in. I should start with so called „first impression”. And it was huge when I played first CD - Patricia Barber's Companion. The soundstage, to be more precise the width of the soundstage grew significantly. My system offers fabulous depth of the soundstage but the width is mostly limited to the space between the loudspeakers. Moon literally moved lots of phantom images way out of this space so I just unconsciously started to look for them all over the room. The next recording - Play by Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea proved that CD 3.3 can even exaggerate when stretching soundstage's width a bit as the keyboard of Chick's piano was obviously to wide but nevertheless it did it in such a charming way that I wasn't bothered at all. In fact if I hadn't been listening quietly I might have even not noticed that. I really liked the way Moon presented voices – both Patricia's or Bobby's. The lady's voice timbre – bit dark, harsh, the natural sibilants – it is all there, shown with precision, „air”, totally effortless. Bobby's voice has even greater scale, but no matter if he sings high or low, or even used his own body as a percussion instrument – it always sounded very natural, palpable. Sometimes I could hardly believe that these sounds came from a human body, and I had to grant it to CD 3.3 that it stood up to the challenge of Bobby McFerrin.

I could really appreciate the size of the soundstage and its gradation when listening to Companion and to all these percussion instruments coming out of nowhere. One thing was how nicely Moon was able to differentiate the sounds helping me to figure out what exactly made the sound. The other was its ability to pinpoint exact location of them and again presenting some of the sounds way out of the space between speakers. That was something my CEC player couldn't do and neither could Bryston. And even if it was in fact slightly too beautiful, not 100% realistic approach it still worked for me, made listening more interesting and pleasurable.

As already mentioned before Simaudio equipped this player with coaxial input so I had to try it. I hooked up my simple file player capable of playing FLAC files and gave it a try. I started with OST from Battlestar Galactica TV series (the new version - season 3), not only because I liked both the show and the music but most of all because it included various pieces of music. You could find there famous Bob Dylan's All along the watchtower (interpreted also by Jimmie Hendricks or U2) but here it was a ... hard-rock version.

Electric guitars sounded quite convincingly but in my opinion they lacked bit of a harshness, roughness they normally should have presented in this kind of music. Sound offered by Canadian player was well balanced and bit on the soft side which was very good for many kinds of music, but when one wanted to play some hard-rock or even „heavier” music one might have missed something a bit. There are a lot of very subtle music pieces in this OST. String instruments create discretely a background for what is happening on the screen. CD 3.3 presented this kind of music very well filling the room with sounds wondering around the listener, creating an impression of endless cosmic space and thus allowing him to forget about the world and go for a journey to the far end of the universe. Again the phantom images were precisely placed in space and very well differentiated.

Another tune started with heavy electronic bass and CD 3.3 ... dealt with it. Bass went low, was quite compact, but it didn't have the dynamics of Bryston, lacked bit of a slam. Although I wouldn't call this player a master of dynamics and I realize that there are others that do this part better, but I also know that they would usually offer greater bass at the cost of bit laid back midrange. Moon gently favors the midrange, that delivers most information to us, but it doesn't cause bass and treble to be laid back.

When one uses the coaxial input „d1” would be displayed and the resolution of the input signal – 44.1 as a standard but D/A converter accepts signal up to 192 kHz. I would describe the sound of files played via this input as a very … analogue one. Dense, rich but soft sound that matched the recording of Eva Cassidy very well. Acoustic guitar felt very realistic, accurate and natural and vocalist's voice timbre was also beautifully reproduced.

In the perfect world I would have had a high resolution version of this recording for comparison with CD. It was not a perfect world so all I could have done do was to rip the CD to FLAC file and than play both – once from a disc, and than from a file. My test proved that using same DAC when playing CD and file I got almost same sound. Almost as I found some small differences – when played from a disc the soundstage was wider (did it prove what manufacturer claims? - M-Quatro gel-based floating suspension should be responsible for the unusual size of the soundstage), FLAC file offered bit more smooth, analogue sound. Anyway this was the same quality just a bit different approach but either way a high-class sound.

To summarize my experience with this interesting player – what we get is a sound that should fit to most systems as long as you don't expect CD player to correct something in the sound. If your system is well balanced, with neutral sound what you need is a player that doesn't ruin this and CD 3.3 should be a very good choice. It should do your system good if it needs just a small touch of warmth – really small touch executed by its nice, warm midrange. So if your system is too transparent, too analytical or too dry sounding Moon also might be what you're looking for. And of course this „first-impression quality” - widely extended soundstage is your remedy of a problem with lack of spatial effects. But you need to keep in mind that CD 3.3 is not the king of transient attack and dynamics – it is not its disadvantage but there are some other players on the market that do this better. People who don't listen to rock and/or symphonic music might not even recognize that. Coaxial input is an extra feature and some competitors also already started to offer it in their designs. You might use it just to plug some kind of file player to your system to get a similar quality of the sound as from CD and on top of that you can also play some HD files.


As I mentioned at the very beginning this is a particularly nice looking player with solid, aluminum, silver front panel (it might be silver or black), with characteristic extrusion and all function buttons placed in it and fantastic red display. All the buttons operating the drive system are placed right below it and the others below the display. The latter is the best I've seen so far in any CD player – you don't see many displays in red color but its main advantage is the size of letters and numbers it shows – you won't have any problem reading them even from a distance. I also pointed out already the blue LEDs that play their role perfectly without being so bright that it hurts your eyes – that's a message for other manufacturers – it can be done! Simaudio used Proprietary CD drive system with in-house developed hardware and software. Audiophiles usually appreciate more the heavy, solid drives with slowly opening drawers but Moon offers quite a thin one, looking even fragile but moving fast and quietly. CD drive system is mounted on M-Quattro gel-based 4-point floating suspension for vibration damping, allowing ambient and spatial cues in recordings to come to life and my experience with this player proves manufacturer right. Just one explanation – I listened to the player first and only later read what manufacturer wrote about it. At the back panel you will find RCA output (XLRs are an option you need to pay a bit extra for), coaxial output and input (so this device might be used also as D/A converter and as a transport), RS-232 port that is used for software updates and IR input for external control. SimLink controller port allows for 2-way communications between other compatible MOON components which allows to control them with just one remote. Next to it there is main power switch and IEC socket that is placed vertically. Circuit uses internal upsampling with 24-bit/1.411MHz processing. D/A conversion is managed by BurrBrown PCM1798 (24/192) chip and the signal goes through 8x oversampling digital filter. A proprietary Simaudio's solution called M-AJiC (MOON Asynchronous Jitter Control) and high precision 25 PPM clock solve the problem of jitter. All digital and analogue circuits are mounted on a single PCB to minimize signal path length. Each circuitry has its own respective ground plane.

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