Suppose you have a reasonable mid-range record player. Does it then matter what kind of phono preamp you connect to it? What would the differences be and, not unimportantly, is the difference in price audible/explainable/justifiable? We’re going to experience it with you, because we have almost the entire lineup of phono pre-amplifiers from MOON in house!
MOON (by Simaudio); a familiar brand to the faithful Alpha reader. Made in Canada, originally an amplifier brand, exclusive but not unattainable and we mean the entry-level models. MOON has a less pricey version for each product category. For example, we previously tested the MOON 230HAD headphone amplifier/DAC/preamplifier which has an excellent price/quality ratio.
The construction of MOON’s products can be recognized by the series; the integrated amplifiers range from the 200 series to the 700 series. The power amplifiers from the 300- to the 800-series. We also like the modular structure. For example, it is possible to add streaming modules. Who is interested in MOON components from the 700 and 800 series must count on a substantial investment. The 780D V2 streaming DAC starts at € 14,500, the 888 power amplifier costs € 135,000 per pair. So you know.
There are four phono preamps: the 110LP V2 (€ 550), the 310 LP (€ 1,950), the 610 LP (€ 6750) and the 810 LP € 12,500). The 610 and 810 can also be upgraded with a separate power supply, the 820S (€ 7,250). We received all MOON phono preamps for testing, except the 810LP. That was more our choice, since another turntable would really be appropriate.
The test setup
We have as record player the STD 305D with SME 3009-II tone arm and ADC TRX-2 cartridge. STD (Strathclyde Transcription Development) is a brand that unfortunately had a short existence. Like Linn of Scottish origin, it made turntables that matched the quality of the same Linn. Our example does date from the early 80s, but it came new out of the box a few years ago and has been completely checked and tuned.
The SME arm is a classic that was in production from 1959 to 2003 with almost half a million copies sold. SME still makes tone arms, turntables and precision instruments for aerospace and Formula 1. Still found in studios in use by broadcasters. The ADC element is considered one of the better Moving Magnet types with a precision and soundstage usually found with much more expensive Moving Coil elements. If we have to make an estimate of the price range in which this set falls today, we arrive at an amount of € 5,000-7,000.
We play the Alpha Audio reference set in the acoustically highly optimized listening room:
- Driade Model 3S speakers
- Pass Labs XP-12 preamplifier
- Bryston 4B SST3 power amplifier
- Driade and Grimm interlinks
- Driade Flow speaker cable
The three MOON phono preamps have been switched on for over a day prior to the test so that they are well warmed up. All units have been ‘burned in’. We listen to some vinyl versions of tracks we know well:
- Jacques Loussier – Little Fugue in G (Teldec Direct Metal Master)
- Steven Wilson – Pariah, Live at the Royal Albert Hall, 180 gr vinyl
- Radiohead – Present Tense, Moon Shaped Pool, 180 gr vinyl