Simaudio Moon Neo ACE - Qvinta
Simaudio Moon Neo ACE
29. November 2016 ·
The £2800 Simaudio Moon Neo ACE is a versatile, all-in-one solution that you need only add
speakers to…there’s even an on-board moving magnet phonostage. John Scott finds out just
how ACE it really is.
Having reviewed Naim’s Superuniti all-in-one streamer/DAC/amp/tuner last summer, when I was
offered the opportunity to spend some time with Simaudio’s own single box offering I naturally
grasped it with both hands. Like the Naim Superuniti, the Moon Neo ACE combines a streamer,
DAC and amplifier in one box so that all the user has to do is connect it to a network, either via
Ethernet or wirelessly and add speakers. The ACE will then stream music stored on the user’s
home network, eg on a PC or NAS. Internet streaming from services such as Tidal and Internet
radio is also available. In addition, the ACE also has a moving magnet phono stage, something
missing from the Superuniti.
Canadian manufacturer Simaudio have been producing audio equipment since 1980, originally as
Sima Acoustics . The company became known as Simaudio in 1990, first launching the Celeste
range and then, in 1997, the Moon series of products. Over the years the company have developed
and released a range of products under the Moon banner for both 2-channel audio and multichannel home theatre use. The ACE (which stands for A Complete Experience) falls into the Moon
Neo “affordable luxury” range and provides a one box option from that range’s amplification and
streaming DAC products; a true “just add speakers” solution to anyone short of space or not looking
to build a system out of individual components.
Unboxing, Setup and Appearance
The ACE arrived in a standard cardboard shipping box, albeit Moon branded, and was internally well
protected. A user manual and set of quick start guides provide all the help you need to get the ACE
up and running. If you have previously used a streamer connected by Ethernet then this really
involves nothing more than connecting the Ethernet cable, attaching your speakers and plugging it
in. If you also want to connect a turntable, then a moving magnet phono stage is also provided.
Wireless setup is achieved via the display screen, a couple of buttons and a rotary dial on the front
of the unit, which also doubles as a volume control. The process of entering your network password
with the dial and buttons is very intuitive compared to some other streamers I have tried and I had
the unit up and running in a matter of minutes.
The ACE’s compact dimensions meant that it was equally at home on my television unit as it was on
my hifi rack. The ACE comes in either all black or black and silver options. The ACE II was supplied
with was all black and I think this would be my choice. The aluminium case has an attractively
curved front plate. The black front plate is accented by seven silver buttons, a silver logo and a
monochrome OLED display panel. The whole thing whispers understated elegance (it would scream
understated elegance but it is far too refined to do anything so vulgar). The five buttons on the left
hand of the display control power stand by, volume mute, display brightness – with an option to turn
the display off completely and the final two buttons toggle backwards or forwards through the inputs.
The two buttons on the right side of the display provide navigation through the set up options. The
front panel also has a headphone output and an input for a mobile media player.
The rear panel contains a wealth of inputs and outputs of a variety and sufficiency to put the ACE at
the heart of your audio setup. Round the back we have the moving magnet phono input plus an
USB input, 2 SPDIF inputs, an Ethernet port and 2 optical inputs. The ACE also accepts Bluetooth
connection along with wifi. So, whether you want to play vinyl, stream from a NAS or a USB drive,
connect to your phone or tablet by Bluetooth or hook up the audio from your TV, sat alive box or blue
ray player you are covered.
Control of the ACE is either by the front panel buttons – apart from using these for the initial setup I
had no need to use them again but I guess they are a handy option to have; by the attractive
supplied remote or by MIND, Simaudio’s control app for android and iOS devices.
The remote provides comprehensive control of the ACE and its slimline styling complements the unit
well. My only criticism would be that I found the flat-profiled buttons a little difficult to read but it
wasn’t a major issue. I have said in previous reviews that a streamer is only as good as its app and I
still firmly believe that to be the case. MIND is one of the best apps I have so far encountered. It is
intuitive to use and offers full control of the ACE including volume control and selection of inputs.
Access to Internet radio stations and Tidal (if you h ave a subscription) is also included. Every app
has its own way of doing things and some can take a while to get used to to but with MIND I was
quickly using my tablet to browse the files on my NAS, create playlists on the fly and explore new
releases on Tidal. Compared to Naim’s app for the Superuniti, the display is perhaps a little
cramped but in terms of functionality, the MIND app did everything I wanted it to do in an intuitive
fashion and, being generally highly critical of these types of app, I was very pleased with how it
operated. Like the Superuniti, the ACE uses the UPnP streaming protocol and how the app
displays your music library depends on the UPNP server that you have installed on your PC or
NAS. I have Minim Server, Logitech’s LMS server (in UPNP mode) and Synology’s Audio Station
server installed on my NAS and each presented the contents of my library slightly differently. My
preference was LMS but all were acceptable, with the caveat that Synology’s server does not
support gapless playback.
Sound
So far then, the ACE is a winner on looks
and functionality but how does it fare on
sound? It handles PCM up to 384khz and
DSD up to DSD256 (should you be able to
find files at either of these highest
resolutions).
Not all resolutions are
supported on all inputs. As I didn’t have
access to a turntable with a MM cartridge
during the period of the review, the phono
input was not tested.
Perhaps influenced by the ACE’s elegant
looks, I started off my listening with nothing
too raucous. Shelby Lynne’s Just A Little
Lovin’ is a first rate recording – a tribute to
Dusty Springfield in a soulful and
sophisticated style. The ACE allowed all the
dynamics and subtleties of the recording to
shine. The drums on the title track are
understated in quantity but not in quality,
each cymbal stroke gangs in the air with a
realistic decay and every snare thwack
resonates with the shell of the drum, not just
the skin. During the song, Lynne pauses
between lines and the print through on the
recording tape results in a pre-echo of the
line she is about to sing. The ACE picks
this detail up effortlessly.
This gets me in the mood for a bit of Dusty herself so it’s time for a spot of the classic Dusty In
Memphis album. On Son Of A Preacher Man, the ACE has no problem conveying the live feel of the
performance. In particular, the intricacies of Tommy Cogbill’s bass line which maintains a kind of
inverted dialogue with Dusty’s vocal are handled deftly.
Moving on to something completely different, solo piano can be tricky to realistically reproduce.
Streaming Khatia Buniatishivili’s version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition via Tidal, the
ACE conveys a realistic sense of the performance space and keeps the piano locked down solidly
within it. And proving that this is not a one off, the ACE also comes up trumps with Alice Sara Ott’s
live recording of Pictures At An Exhibition from St Petersburg’s White Nights Festival.
One of the qualities I really liked about the ACE was its volume control. I occasionally find that some
amplifiers lack subtlety in volume control – 12 may be just too loud for some situations but 11 not
loud enough, for example. Whether operated manually by the volume knob on the unit, by infra red
through the remote control or via wifi by the MIND app, increase or decrease in volume is handled in
smooth half steps and I never had a problem finding a volume level that suited my requirements.
Conclusion
The ACE is a stylish, compact, well built single-box design that provides everything you need to
deliver a high quality streaming solution. The inclusion of a moving magnet phono stage and a
variety of inputs provides added flexibility, giving it the opportunity to become an all-singing, alldancing entertainment centre, handling, vinyl, an external CD player and audio from TV, satellite or
Blue ray. Just add the speakers of your choice.
If I’m forced to make comparisons with the Naim Superuniti, and I suppose I am, then in terms of
absolute sound quality the Naim wins out. But, and it’s an important but, there is around £1000 price
difference between the Superuniti and the ACE, and that could buy you a nice turntable or pair of
speakers. You need to hear both and decide where you need your money to go. If you do go for the
ACE though, I doubt you’ll end up feeling short changed sound wise. The ACE matches
sophisticated looks with an equally sophisticated sound and comes highly recommended.
AT A GLANCE
Build Quality: Attractive and well put together unit that is complimented by a well thought out
app.
Sound Quality: Dynamic and detailed, yet subtle when needed. A sophisticated sound.
Value For Money: If there is a single box solution out there that offers better value for money
than the ACE then I really need to hear it. I get the feeling I may be wailing a while though.
Pros:
Good looks
Compact size
Competent control app
Detailed, involving sound
Cons:
I honestly can’t think of any
Price: £2800
John Scott
Specifications
Output Power at 8Ω: 50 Watts per channel
Input Sensitivity: 370mV – 3.0V RMS
Input Impedance: 22,100Ω
Gain: 37dB
Frequency response (full range): 10Hz – 80kHz +0/-3dB
Crosstalk: -100dB THD (20Hz – 20kHz @ 1 watt / 50 watts) 0.02% / 0.02%
Intermodulation distortion: 0.005%
PCM Bit-depth range / sampling rates: 16 – 32 bits / 44.1 – 384kHz
DSD sample rates: DSD64, DSD128 & DSD256
Shipping weight: 24 lbs / 11 Kgs
Dimensions (width x height x depth): 16.9 x 3.5 x 14.4 in. 42.9 x 8.9 x 36.6 cm
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