Today we have something special for you on the test bench because although we like to test the big brands, we are as happy to work with an unknown brand. A young company that brings out an exciting, new product is something we can always relate to. Today we take you to Malmö in Sweden where a small team from Moonriver Audio has been working slowly but steadily on a beautiful integrated amplifier. The Moonriver Audio 404. Let’s check it out!
Moonriver Audio currently only has two models in its range but we suspect there is more to come. The two current models are the ‘regular’ 404, which we received, and the more expensive ‘Reference’ version. Both amplifiers are made entirely by hand and are the result of three years of intensive research.
Moonriver Audio’s slogan is ‘Fågelsång’ which means birdsong and although it seems a bit far-fetched at first glance, in retrospect it is not so badly chosen. Time for a closer look!
Construction and Appearance
First of all, the distinctive front with side panels made of walnut that provide a retro look stands out. We think the combination of the dark brown wood and the black front is very successful. There is no accounting for taste but the finish on the Moonriver Audio 404 is excellent. This amplifier exudes style and class and we really dig it. Anyone who says looks are not important is deluding themselves. A beautiful speaker or special amplifier, with or without vu meters, always increases the experience.
Moonriver Audio had a clear picture in mind when designing this amplifier and as far as we are concerned they succeeded in their goal. With a nice mix of retro and modern touches, we see this Moonriver Audio 404 fitting into many a living room. Personally, we like more of a sleek and clean look but the front of the Moonriver Audio 404 is very intriguing.
First of all you have the 4 larger rotary knobs each with their own function. There is a volume knob, a balance control, a dedicated tape monitor and a knob to select the inputs. Between those rotary knobs there are two thumb switches that allow you to dim the lights on the one hand and a switch between mono and stereo on the other. A nice option for those who still often listen to mono recordings from the 50s and 60s. On the left we see a push button to bring the amplifier to life.
Cassette and reel to reel
The Moonriver Audio 404 is a modular, integrated amplifier which means you can customize it. A phono stage (MM or MM/MC) and usb dac are among the options. We received the “naked” version and that suits us because we are especially curious about the amplifier itself.
The Moonriver Audio 404 has 2×50 watts class A / B on board and although that seems a bit meager, we experienced the watts are very ‘pure’. So you will not run out of power quickly. If you have really tricky speakers then (Dutch) importer Hifi Matters recommends the ‘Reference’ version. The design of both amplifiers is identical and so there will be little difference in sound.
At the back we see five single-ended inputs (no xlr) and another separate tape output. Although until recently we thought this unnecessary, with the revival of the cassette and reel to reel we must admit that this option is becoming more relevant again.
Inside we see a very pure circuit with a neat layout. The construction consists of solid materials and for the preamp only discrete components were used. The entire thing is built in dual mono and in addition to the large toroidal transformer there are five separate power supplies in this amplifier that lead everything in the right direction A fine Blue Alps volume knob and a handy balance knob provide a lot of ease of use. The Moonriver Audio 404 comes with a small but nice remote control that fits well in the hand. There are just enough buttons on it and you can adjust the volume quite finely. It does take some getting used to because that adjustment is done incrementally. We rarely had to turn the volume higher than nine o’ clock to play pretty loud.