A dual mono integrated Class AB powerhouse (sporting a claimed 125W into 8 Ohms), this was a pricey bit of kit when launched for £5,750 in 2010. It’s well built and nicely finished, but a £6,000 Japanese product it isn’t – there’s no lavishly surfaced brushed aluminium, staggering shutlines and a profusion of beautifully acting buttons. Instead, the Moon feels more industrial but still looks good in a modern way, and has real character. It certainly doesn’t feel cheap, with a large volume knob with a beautiful action and a massive LED display which can be configured to name the input you’re using.
Inside, the Moon sports a ‘no overall feedback’ design, twin custom proprietary toroidal transformers, an ‘oversized’ dual-mono power supply, proprietary Moon bipolar output transistors with ‘unprecedented gain linearity’, gain offset for each individual line input with a ±10dB range (so each input sounds the same volume) and Class A operation up to 5W. The four layer printed circuit tracings make for an ‘exceptionally short’ signal path and better grounding, says Simaudio. Four pairs of RCA phonos on the back panel complete the picture, along with one pair of balanced XLRs, plus a SimLink Port, RS-232 and WBT speaker jacks. Vital statistics are 48lbs and 18.8 x 4.0 x 18.1 inches.
Fresh out of the box, the 600i sounds clean and smooth and nice but nothing more. It really needs a good few hours under its belt, whereupon it opens up and adds scale and subtlety to whats basically an honest, unfussy and unfailingly civilised character. Not with the Moon 600i do you get hard shouty midband or take-your-head-off treble; even at its worst, you’ll never need to make excuses for it. But when in its stride the Moon starts to sing in a way that begins to make sense of its premium price tag.
As Sonar Kollectiv’s cover of 4hero’s Universal Love showed, the Moon 600i has a capacious, muscular and punchy sound, holding together the song’s complex mix with alacrity. It’s grippy but not in the sense that it has to be seen to be at all times, like an eighties Naim. You’re not treated to the very first few nanoseconds of the note’s envelope, but still the Moon gives it too you as part of the wider musical picture. Tonally, it’s one of the nicest Class AB amplifiers I’ve heard, with a tremendous lack of grain, hardness or any other offending characteristic. Smooth and seamless right across the frequency range, you find yourself dissolving into the music rather than sitting in fear of it shouting at you on that particularly acerbic female note. Indeed, the only ‘tell tale’ it produces that gives away its solid-state orientation is a slight lack of tonal colour to instruments; there’s less of a grain to voices or patina to acoustic instruments than via a good tube amp.
Despite this, the Moon remains very detailed. It’s certainly not one to shine a spotlight on everything at the back of the mix, but listen and it’s all there in the right proportions. The 4hero remix of Fragile State’s Every Day a Story was a joy; The opening four bars of processed electronic percussion sounded hard and metallic, but so they should, and then that massive acoustic baseline kicked in, the 600i serving up vast tracts of low frequencies in a completely breathless way. All this time, the rest of the mix stayed snapped into sharp focus, the amp tracking the beautiful backing keyboard swirls perfectly and holding fast with the percussion. Moving to the break, and there was real delicacy to the piano playing before the hard, industrial electronic percussion came back in again. It was on music like this that the big Moon excelled, showing its happy mix of power and subtlety to best effect. It captures powerful sounding music in its best light, and at high volumes, while showing no signs of stress and offering the sort of subtlety you’d expect more from a low power Class A job. As such, it’s great for techno and rock music.
Talk About the Passion from REM was masterful, the Moon serving a spry but smooth rendition of this early eighties indie masterpiece. The sound shuffled along, the amp throwing out a rich rendition of Michael Stipe’s plaintive vocals, whilst injecting its lovely cello parts with satisfying body. At the same time, it made Peter Buck’s lead guitar sing, showing just how rhythmic his playing could be. Drums very fast and beautifully syncopated with the bass guitar, making for an unshowy but highly satisfying rendition. This song also showed up the Moon’s innate treble chaos; there was no sense of me having to reach for the treble trim pots of my NS1000Ms to preserve my ears, yet those hi-hat cymbals came over and vivid and full of life.
A truly impressive performer, perhaps you could characterise the Moon as quintessentially Canadian; it just gets on with the job without show, flair or frills but still makes sure it’s having fun! It has a large, spacious soundstage, a punchy, dynamically articulate sound, an even and seamless tonality and no rough edges. So it’s the perfect integrated amplifier, then? Well no. It’s certainly close to the perfect all rounder, inasmuch as it’s jack of all trades and master of some, but this amplifier’s quintessential ‘very good at everything’ character by definition means it doesn’t quite excel anywhere. Not for everyone, but for some this will be everything they’ll ever need.