Moon 390 Streaming Pre-amplifier – Review

Moon 390 Streaming Pre-amplifier – Review


The Moon 390 streaming pre-amplifier is a complete high-end listening solution for modern and vinyl music fans.

The Moon 390 streaming pre-amplifier is a complete high-end listening solution for modern music. Simply connect this to your power amplifier or a pair of active loudspeakers. The Moon 390 streaming pre-amplifier features a networked streaming module, a pre-amplifier, headphone amplifier, phono stage as well as USB and 4K compatible HDMI switching and with AptX Bluetooth for good measure.

Design

The Moon 390 streaming pre-amplifier is a result of several other successful Moon products for the audiophile. Simaudio has built upon its heritage of outstanding audio products by combining the functionality of the award-winning MOON 350P pre-amplifier and MOON 380D DAC with the latest high-end streaming architecture to create the Moon 390 streaming pre-amplifier. The 390 features a terrific array of analog and digital connection possibilities, so no matter how you play your music, the 390 will perform seamlessly.

The Moon 390 streaming pre-amplifier features the MiND 2 streaming module.   MiND 2 (MOON intelligent Network Device) is a Simaudio bespoke way of streaming and listening to your music. MiND 2 allows the playback of all the most common file formats, including DSD and MQA (via local files and TIDAL Master files). The MiND 2 also boasts a USB host port, permitting access to music on USB thumb drives. Finally, MiND 2 will also stream any digital or analogue input of the 390 to other MiND 2 zones on the same network.

The Moon 390 streaming pre-amplifier is designed to deliver an outstanding high-resolution streaming experience through music services such as Tidal Masters, Qobuz Sublime+ and Deezer Hi-Fi. The DAC architecture supports PCM (up to 32-bit/384kHz), DSD (up to DSD256) and is MQA certified. It is also Roon Ready and has Bluetooth aptX connectivity.

Quality

I’m sure I’ll have written this before, but it is Moon, so the quality is excellent, it almost goes without saying.  The 390 comes in black, silver and a two tone silver/black combination.  I have the black one and the brushed metal finish is good to touch, with no fingerprint issues to speak of.  I have the ‘matching’ Moon 330A power amplifier and I have to say they do look really good together.  They immediately draw stylistic comparison with my own Naim NAC-N 272 & NAP 250.

The OLED screen is not the biggest if your eyesight is fading like mine but it is perfectly detailed with streaming artist and track info, as well as the file format clearly shown.

The volume dial to the right is one of the nicest, with a smooth uninterrupted turn.   Volume can be adjusted with the App and/or the remote as well.  Either side of the OLED screen are the input selections and set-up buttons which are very intuitive.

The CRM-3 remote control is familiar and one of my favourites, even ahead of the Naim standard remote.  It is heavy, accurate and has a nice feel.

One of the key pluses in this 390 control system is the MiND App which is one of the better Apps.  Once you get used to the App it is a very effective control system.  Tidal, Qobuz and Deezer Hi-Fi are very accessible.  I’ve still not used Deezer (there’s a bit too much involved on a free trial for my liking) but I’ve had a good play with Qobuz this week and the interchange between Tidal and Qobuz is seamless.  It reminds me of the Auralic Lightning App, surely the best one out there?

The rear layout of the 390 is clean and tidy, there is plenty of room for fiddling about.  I’m using the Nordost XLR connections to deliver the signal to the power amplifier so there is plenty of room.

The 390 unit itself is reassuringly heavy and in the standard HiFi dimensions.

Specifications

Spec

from the site
Analog input impedance  22 kΩ
Max analog input  5 V RMS
Max gain  10 dB
Output impedance  50 Ω
Crosstalk @ 1 kHz  -116 dB
Frequency response  10Hz – 200kHz -0.5 dB/-3 dB
Signal to Noise ratio  125 dB
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD+N)  0.0004 %
Intermodulation Distortion (IMD)  0.0003 %
Headphone output power (600 Ω / 300 Ω / 50 Ω)  100 mW / 200 mW / 0.8 W
Headphone output THD  0.005 %
Headphone output IMD  0.005 %
Power Consumption @ Idle  25 W
Power Consumption @ Standby  20 W
Power Consumption @ low power Standby  4 W
AC Power Requirements  100-240V / 50-60Hz
Weight 10 kg
Dimensions (width x height x depth)  42.9 x 8.9 x 33.3 cm

Design features

Moon 390 streaming pre-amplifierROON Ready device
Tidal Masters, Deezer Hi-Fi and Qobuz Sublime+ Music Services
MQA and DSD decoding
Stream local source to other zones
Menu-configurable MM/MC phono stage
High End ESS DAC PRO chipset
Up to 32-bits / 384 kHz sampling rate (USB)
Multi-room synchronised playback
HDMI 2.0 switcher (4k, HDCP 2.2)
AptX Bluetooth
OLED screen

Nordost Norse 2 series Heimdall speaker cable

MHP (MOON Hybrid Power – Universal Power Supply)

Performance

Set-up – Nordost

I am rather fortunate to have the loan of a Moon 330A power amplifier with which to review the Moon 390 streaming pre-amplifier.  Even more fortunate, I have been supplied with a Nordost bonanza, featuring two Nordost Heimdall 2 power chords, a Nordost Heimdall Ethernet shielded cable as well as two Heimdall 2 XLR interconnects and 5 meters of their super flat speaker cable that is to be seen to be believed.

The Nordost cables are from the second tier of their product range that features Leif universal cables, then Norse 2, featuring the Heimdall 2 products I have, then Valhalla, and finally the Odin cables that are Supreme Reference cables.

A feast of Nordost cablesTotal cost of this Nordost cables set-up is a cool £4,702 incl. VAT.

I’m running the 390 through my pinpoint Jern 14 DS speakers which are sat on a very expensive speaker stand set-up, namely my old B&W CM7s!!!

Tidal Masters

with the super speedy Nordost Ethernet cable, there is no lack of pace or energy

It is a real treat having Tidal Masters and, whatever the arguments are about the Masters series, they sound really good on the 390 today.  Aphex Twin’s ‘Ageispolis’ is a good example of the quality available from MQA, the complex sound is wide open and a sound to behold.  The deep three dimensional soundstage presented from Tidal Masters by the 390 and 330A in tandem is as good as I can imagine it to be.

One of my favourite pieces of music is Rachmaninov’s 2nd piano concerto and Vanessa Mosell’s (with the London Philharmonic Orchestra) recording of it in Tidal Masters is probably second only to the Ashkenasy recording.  Here, the dense manic piano and orchestra are presented wide apart and the rhythm of the recording wanders through fabulously.

For dynamic performance, listen no further than the EDM explosion that is ‘Terror Squad’ by Zomboy, though it is rather explicit!  What a sound, as the tiles move on the roof, I’m minded to turn the music Nordost Ethernet cableup, not down!  The 390 streamer has been faultless through my review period and here, with the super speedy Nordost Ethernet cable, there is no lack of pace or energy.

Finally in this bit, for theatric fun, coupled with a great recording in MQA studio quality I listen to Strawberry Swing.

The White Album has just been remixed wonderfully by Sir George Martin’s son, Giles.  It is available in Tidal Masters and it really does sound so crisp, new and exciting despite being fifty years old.

Qobuz 96kHz

It is really quite satisfying to be able to switch between Qobuz and Tidal Masters without any fuss

I’ve managed to get myself a little Qobuz trial and I have to say it is really rather nice. Oscar Peterson’s Trio have featured in my first listen and I have to say the OKNOTOK reproduction is working beautifully at a 96kHz sample rate, though frustratingly I have no idea of the bit rate, something I don’t like about Qobuz.

I’ve listened to the ‘Introduction to Qobuz’ playlist and as a Tidal subscriber, I’m impressed.  It is really quite satisfying to be able to switch between Qobuz and Tidal and Tidal Masters without any fuss.  This is really using these music services properly and doing them, and the music, justice

Phono – Rega Planar 3

The Moon 390 streaming pre-amplifier has a very impressive phono stage

The Moon 390 streaming pre-amplifier has a very impressive phono stage that offers both Moving Magnet and Coil inputs, depending on your cartridge.  The choice is made simply in the set-up menu.  In the set-up menu you can select gain options, impedance and capacitance.   I’ve chosen a lower gain setting of 40db and, since I have no experience of impedance and capacitance settings, I’ve gone for the settings in the system, 47kOhms and 100pF respectively.

Performance wise, the Phono stage feels, sounds, at least as good as the Rega Fono I usually use.  It is clean, crisp and an absolute delight, this is a fine option.  I’m listening to ‘A Deeper Understanding’, by The War on Drugs, what a great sound.  The rhythm of the album is a delight and I feel a slightly softer tone from the vinyl reproduction than I’m used to.  The rise and fall of ‘Strangest Thing’ is perfectly delivered and the dynamic chorus wanders along wonderfully.

There is a separate analogue input if you have your own phono stage.

USB Stick

I have a load of 24 bit recordings on my USB stick, most notably a 24 bit recording of ‘Crush’ (also with explicit lyrics) by Cigarettes after Sex.  And wow, what an amazing sound, the presentation is dominant, powerful and all enveloping.  It is the superb reproduction and detail that I’m enjoying so much from this system.  Similarly, Nils Frahm’s legendary ‘Ode’ in 24 bits is spell binding.  Wonderful.

I’ve run a few DSD recordings through the 390 and the detail from the DSDs is absolutely fabulous.  I’d love to think we could buy commercial DSD recordings on a regular basis, but it just does not seem to happen, despite the fabulous quality from DSD when it is presented correctly, as here.

Bluetooth AptX

The Bluetooth is fine and connection is excellent. I’ve been listening to the quite remarkable S-Town podcast on this set-up, ridiculously over-presented, I know, but, well why not?

HDMI & Roon Ready

I’ve not had the chance to check this feature out.  I’m thinking about how to do it.

Additionally, I’m going to commit to get involved in Roon, once I understand what it is and get my head around the cost of it, which seems unnecessary to me.

Headphone Amplifier

The headphone output is absolutely stunning

The headphone output is absolutely stunning and I am mightily impressed.  The 6.5mm jack is at the front and when you put the headphones in the speakers are not automatically cut out as in some, most, systems.  Here you have turn the speaker off (Spk Off) if you want isolation.  There is also, thoughtfully, a mute button.    I was not expecting the headphone output to be this good, my Oppo Planar Magnetic PM-2s with high performance Atlas Xeno cables are absolutely singing here and the detail is stunning (don’t tell Nordost!), I’ve listened to OKNOTOK AGAIN, non-stop, in a horizontal position and it sounds so good here.  Is Exit Music (for a film) not the most beautiful piece of work ever?

Nordost Cables

the resolution of this system is as good as I have heard in a good while

It is pretty hard to comment on the cables explicitly but suffice to say the while system here is so beautifully balanced the cables are certainly not hampering the dynamic performance of this system.  I have a Power Conditioning block (Atlas) as well with the Nordost power leads so I should be getting the best from the power supplied.  I will say the resolution of this system is as good as I have heard in a good while.

Versus the Naim NAC-N 272 and NAP250

Would I swap my N 272 and 250 for this Moon 390 and 330A?  Probably.  The Qobuz and Tidal Masters compatibility clinch it for me because I’m getting what I’m paying for, which is not the case with Naim at this time (Nov 2018).   The overall ‘Moon sound’ is definitely very attractive.  I feel the playback generally is more forgiving, the accuracy and resolution is the same but I do like the sound of the Moon system.  Ultimately, Moon v Naim is Cashmere gloves versus leather gloves.  Neither are necessary if you have a decent pair of woolly gloves but if you have the money and you love gloves…

Maybe Moon v Naim is better described as Blur v Oasis?  Blur were understated, classy, effortless.  Naim is definitely Oasis, brash, brawny, less forgiving?  Of course, both were, and still are, brilliant.  As are Moon and Naim, as are Canada and England.

Overall

this is a pretty perfect system for me.  It is audio perfection and I would probably end my audiophile journey with this set-up

As I think I have indicated, to me, this is a pretty perfect system.  It is audio perfection and I would probably end my audiophile journey with this set-up and may be a pair of Kanta speakers (if they match-up, I’m sure they will)!  As I thought when I reviewed the Moon Neo ACE, you have to make early critical philosophical decisions when you enter medium – high end HiFi.  This system demands your attention.  I am a long way down the Naim tunnel (or is it a funnel?) so I’ll just enjoy these couple of weeks and be happy I have been fortunate enough to listen to Moon by Simaudio.

Love 

A slightly softer sound

Resolution

Tidal Masters and Qobuz seamlessly

Like 

Style

OLED screen

Wish 

I could swap it for my existing set-up.

The Moon 390 Streaming Pre-amplifier and the Nordoast cables are available at Renaissance here.

 

 

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