Vinyl’s continued resurgence is as surprising as it is impressive -- surprising because the format seemed doomed to extinction when digital playback, via the Compact Disc, took a foothold in the 1980s; and impressive because, despite the continued dominance of the CD and other digital formats, vinyl has not only survived, but has grown significantly over the past decade. It proves that, if a format has the requisite sonic qualities demanded by audiophiles, that demand will ensure its survival, even if something new comes along. In contrast, I doubt that anyone thinks the lo-fi cassette tape will make a comeback anytime soon -- the quality was never there.
Simaudio’s new Moon Evolution 810LP phono stage, which Graham Abbott reviewed last month in Ultra Audio, is proof that top manufacturers, too, are taking the vinyl resurgence seriously. The 810LP, which costs $12,000 USD, has been designed by Simaudio to be "an all-out assault on phono preamplification." That assault seems to have succeeded.
While the 810LP isn’t the most visually beautiful phono preamplifier Graham has ever seen, he found its build quality beyond reproach -- hardly surprising, given that other SoundStage! Network reviewers have found Simaudio’s series of Moon Evolution components to be exceptionally well built. Graham also thought its feature set and flexibility were first-rate: "The 810LP is easily the most flexible analog source component I have encountered. It offers 64 separate impedance loads ranging from 12.1 to 47k ohms, 16 capacitive loads, a whopping 16 gain settings from 40 to 70dB, and two equalization curves. I can’t think of a cartridge that the 810LP couldn’t accommodate. Providing this level of flexibility while keeping the signal paths short is laudable, and worth the extra effort at the user end." It’s hard to imagine a potential user whom the 810LP wouldn’t suit.
Right away, Graham noticed that in terms of sound he had not heard better: "More than any other source component I’ve ever heard, the Simaudio Moon Evolution 810LP made my speakers seem to disappear -- and that was right out of the box after being plugged in for only ten minutes! Over time the soundstage got even deeper and incredibly wide, with the unerring ability to clearly place and delineate individual musicians within a fully fleshed-out acoustic. And for the first time, my stand-mounted monitors got very close to describing a truly life-size image. Peter Gabriel’s Passion, his music for the soundtrack of The Last Temptation of Christ (200gm LP, Geffen/Classic), besides being musically compelling and authentic world music, is a large slice of audiophile ear candy. The 810LP placed instruments precisely on an incredibly layered and ordered soundstage with massive amounts of acoustic space and air. Never before had I heard this record with so much separation between performers -- and when a featured soloist was out in front of the other musicians, the distance between them was palpable. This effect was particularly compelling with good classical recordings in which soloists were clearly spotlit against the backdrop of a full orchestra, itself distinguishable as individual sections and players rather than a homogenized wall of sound."
In comparison with other phono stages he’s used, Graham had this to say about the Moon Evolution 810LP: "Switching back and forth between the Simaudio and my Herron VTPH-1 tubed phono preamp ($3650), I noticed that the Herron hardened a bit in the upper midrange, especially with violins and trumpets. The Herron is fast, better with transients than most tubed models, but the solid-state 810LP was better still; even more surprisingly, instruments such as cymbals had more shimmer, longer decay times, and much more textural nuance and body. For a tube lover like me this was shocking, but I haven’t heard a tubed phono stage that can better the Simaudio in this regard. . . . The Esoteric E-03 phono stage ($6000), which I reviewed a while back, is a master of detail and control; the 810LP was even better at both, while delivering a much more textured and tonally rich sound. Conversely, where the Nagra VPS ($5995) is tonally rich and soulful, the 810LP was even more so, while also sounding far more transparent and immediate."
If there’s a knock to be made against the 810LP, it’s the price: 12 grand. The phono stages that Graham compared it with were all far cheaper, as are most on the market. The 810LP is obviously intended for a well-heeled consumer. But the pursuit of perfection is often a costly one, and the folks at Simaudio will argue that their spare-no-expense approach was the only way to offer such a rich feature set and achieve the level of sound quality they desired. Based on everything the 810LP exhibits, we wholeheartedly agree -- which is why the 810LP is the very first phono stage to be included in our list of Recommended Reference Components.
Manufacturer contact information:
1345 Newton Rd.
Boucherville, Quebec J4B 5H2
Phone: (877) 980-2400, (450) 449-2212