Configuring the ACE to run as a network player was straightforward thanks to new MiND set-up software for streaming from either outboard storage such as a NAS drive or from music services such as Tidal or vTuner. On the front panel the set-up button opens a Network menu where you select Config and either Wi-Fi or Net. From there select Automatic (DHCP) or Manual. Presuming you’ve already downloaded the MiND app, let it find your network. It takes the ACE about a minute to reconfigure for a network, and you’re off and streaming. The process went fairly smoothly and ran without glitches for the duration of the review period. Pairing to Bluetooth went equally seamlessly using the same set-up menu. There are also power-conservation settings and screen-saver options.
Sonically the ACE conveyed a rich midrange-centric tonality, with impressive dynamics, good low-level transparency, and nicely focused imaging. Bass response, both in extension and pitch definition, was very good, although the ACE will soften impact slightly depending on output demands and speaker sensitivity. As I listened to a hi-res file of Malcolm Arnold’s Sussex Overture [Reference Recordings], I particularly admired the Moon’s tuneful pitch management in the midbass, a region that is the backbone for projecting orchestral weight and hall ambience. On a dynamic and concussive showpiece like Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, the ACE handled the onslaught of heavy percussion and explosive brass and winds with confidence. In an absolute sense, the Fanfare’s sense of air and three-dimensional space could have been more thoroughly reproduced, and some dryness attached to the loudest brass passages, but the ACE showed very good overall performance with a demanding piece of music.
With its vivid midrange expressiveness and tonal color, the ACE made quick work of a wide range of vocalists from the soaring Alison Krauss, to the gravel and grit of Tom Waits, to the Dylan-esque nasality of Tom Petty. DSD files of Cat Stevens’ Tea for the Tillerman manifested a particularly warm acoustic and a relaxed musicality, his distinctive voice purring and growling persuasively.
With a slight emphasis on warmer hues and a lightly shaded top-end, the ACE’s personality takes on what I would term a more conservative balance designed to complement the kind of speaker match-ups that would be expected in its price segment. This is another way of saying that the ACE doesn’t over-reach in the treble; it sounds lightly rolled on top, a trait that is forgiving to a great many loudspeakers and tweeters, budget or not.
There’s one aspect that seems to be in the blood of Simaudio and its Moon brand: a clean, quicksilver sense of speed and transparency, which the ACE also evokes. I’ve had long experience with this company, and this fleet-footedness and transient alacrity have characterized Moon products as far back as the 90s, when I reviewed Simaudio’s Celeste PW-5000 integrated amp and, the Moon i3.3 (Issue 198). It’s these traits that captured the low-level detail and sustain, the insightful keyboard touch from the jazz great Bill Evans’ piano on Live at the Village Vanguard, as well as the leading-edge transients and sustained attack of concert pianist Kissin performing a pot-boiler like Pictures at an Exhibition.
All-in-one solutions are a deceptively complicated business, but the Moon ACE makes the job look simple. Easily moving between analog and digital platforms, it proved to be a sophisticated and highly musical workhorse, ran strongly without incident, and offered performance and flexibility that often out-stripped the competition. As an antidote to system sprawl, it was also contagiously good fun to operate day in and day out. Indeed, it’s a component that holds a lot of aces and is well worth going out of your way to check out.
Specs & Pricing
Power output: 50Wpc into 8 Ohms
Inputs: 4 Analog; 7 Digital, USB, SPDIF (2), Optical (2), Ethernet
Outputs: 1 preamp, 1 subwoofer, 1 headphone
Dimensions: 16.9" x 3.5" x 14.4"
Weight: 24 lbs.
Price: $2900 (ten-year warranty)
1345 Newton Rd.
CANADA J4B 5H2
Sota Cosmos Series IV turntable; SME V tonearm; Sumiko Palo Santos cartridge; Ortofon Quintet Black cart; Ortofon 2M Black cart; Parasound JC 3+ phono preamp; dCS Puccini disc player; Lumin S1 music player; Synology NAS; MacBook Pro/Pure Music; ATC SCM19A, TAD ME1 loudspeakers; Audience Au24SX cables and power cords; Synergistic Atmosphere Level Four, Nordost Frey 2, Audience Ohno, and Kimber Palladian power cords; Audience USB; AudioQuest Carbon firewire; Wireworld Starlight Ethernet; VooDoo Cable Iso-Pod; Audience aR-6 TSSOX.