Simaudio Moon Evolution SuperNova CD Player

Equipment report
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Simaudio Moon Evolution SuperNova
Simaudio Moon Evolution SuperNova CD Player

Back in the late 90s I reviewed the Simaudio Celeste PW- 5000 integrated amplifier. It was my first experience with a component from Simaudio, the Canadian firm established in 1980. It was a terrific little amp—well constructed and musically engaging. In the following years my positive impressions of Simaudio gear only increased with each new component I had the fortune of reviewing. And without fail, it was for the same basic reasons. Simaudio gear seemed to play “cleaner” than other comparably priced efforts. By this I mean to describe the general absence of an electronic footprint—the extent to which a component gets out of the way of the music. And so it goes with Simaudio’s latest and most advanced single-box CD player, the Moon Evolution SuperNova player. [I can second Neil’s description of Simaudio products getting out of the way of the music. —RH]

Based on the no-holds-barred Moon Andromeda (a two-box transport/DAC stack) the front-loading SuperNova joins the Andromeda as the Red Book source-component kingpins in the Simaudio lineup. It’s a fully balanced differential design that uses a 24-bit/352.8kHz processing circuit and 24-bit BurrBrown PCM1798 DAC/digital filter. The digital and analog stages use individual power supplies, independent toroidal transformers, and a precision 25ppm digital-clocking circuit. Residing at the top of the Simaudio food chain, it features more stages of DC regulation, which helps to reduce noise from chip components.

The four-layer, pure-copper PCB increases channel separation and shortens the capacitor-free signal path, which allows for a lower noise floor. Simaudio also provides a digital input to allow a music server or other streaming digital player to benefit from the high-quality DAC configuration.

And, dear Prudence, is this baby heavy! The chassis construction is first-rate, very rigid and designed to damp vibrations wherever they might arise, internally or externally—a Simaudio tradition. Particularly welcome is a large digital display that’s easily readable from across the room instead of from a couple of inches away. The display can be dimmed or powered off or on at the user’s discretion. Heavy conical footers are provided for further resonance control and mechanical grounding. Finally, in the interests of preserving your furniture, Simaudio includes tiny center-punched pucks for the footers to rest upon. A heavy-duty full-function aluminum remote control completes the package. I would be remiss in failing to note just how fast the SuperNova responds to commands. The drawer extends and retracts like it had ESP. Tracks cue up and begin playing like they were doubleparked. Obviously someone in Simaudio’s software department doesn’t like waiting for his music.

To begin with, here’s what you will not hear with the SuperNova. You will not hear a warmed over “analog-style” signature. This player is sure-footed with images. Its transient reproduction is fast off the line, and it slides through complex rhythm and percussion material like the skids had been greased. The SuperNova is deadbang neutral and will not mask the trademark digititis of early digital recordings that sent every sentient audiophile scurrying back to their turntables. A theme that was reinforced a short time ago when I reviewed the 20th Anniversary edition of Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat [Shout Records]. Recorded to multitrack Sony digital, Raincoat always sounded best in the vinyl version distributed by Cypress Records. Remastered by Bernie Grundman, the revitalized CD is a huge improvement over the 1987 compact disc but played through the high-resolution lens of the SuperNova you can easily hear the advancements of today’s digital playback bumping up against recording antiquity. The SuperNova is so transparent and dynamic that you can spot the original recording’s truncations of upper harmonics, the hardness in the treble range of piano, the synthesized edges that hobble transients and suck the air out of acoustic instruments and put the squeeze on ambience. It’s still a great recording but now you can peer behind the curtain and almost see the knobs being twirled. But that’s what living with the SuperNova is like. It imparts so little personality of its own that it resembles a musical chameleon. Due to the breadth of its resolving power, the smallest external changes can skew the sound in any one of many directions. This was a trait I noted while listening to a trio of interconnects. From the diminutive Crystal Cable Piccolo, to the mid-price Nordost Baldur, to the premium Synergistic Research Tesla Apex, I could hear changes in imaging specificity and, most particularly, in the amount of “air” each cable could retrieve from an orchestral performance. After this I began wondering if the SuperNova even had a personality.

Though the SuperNova doesn’t flatter poor recordings, well-recorded-and-mastered CDs sound superb. Its sonics are unlabored and continuous in the more clinical way that is typical of digital’s best-of-breed. If cornered I would say that the SuperNova leans slightly to the cooler side of neutral in contrast to another personal favorite, the Marantz SA-7S1, a CD/SACD platform that is a champ at ambience retrieval and a bit warmer than the SuperNova. But with the Simaudio there is just so little noise and grunge. Its sensitivity with micro-dynamic information draws it ever closer to the best SACD playback, while rhythmically it just “feels” ahead of every beat—high in the “jump” factor that colleague Jonathan Valin describes so well. Among its strengths the SuperNova restores harmonic texture to acoustic instruments. There are no cardboard cutouts among the violins, bass viols, and cellos during Anne-Sophie Mutter’s performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto [DG-SACD]. They are reproduced with an ear to the delicate gradations that represent the complexities of harmonic decay and not just the initial attack of transients off the bow. I got the same result listening to the gravel-throated Bob Dylan sing “Working Man’s Blues #2” [Modern Times, Columbia]. Though Dylan works with a limited vocal palette, a player like the SuperNova permitted me to hear more of the way he applied those vocal colors. You can even perceive some oddball musical details, like the weirdly muted “wa-wa” trombone solo on Norah Jones’ “Sinking Fast” [Not Too Late, Blue Note] or the floating images of “found-sound” that slip into the mix throughout Tom Waits’ Mule Variations [Anti- Epitaph Records].