Simaudio Moon 430HA Headphone Amplifier – Review
I have been watching this amplifier for a while now and I was really curious on how it will perform. Moon impressed me with some of their products over the years and the 430HA really got my attention. I am also glad they realized that headphones are a big slice of the audiophile pie.
General Presentation & Specs
The 430HA headphone amplifier first impressed me with its good looks. It has a typical Simaudio design and build quality. Looking at the front panel I noticed I did not have a xlr balanced output, just a 6.3 single ended one. It seemed very curious at first, as I have read that it will be a fully balanced headphone amplifier. After a few seconds I realized that the shiny lcd had an actual slide which gave access to the 4 pin xlr and 2x 3 pin xlr outputs.
The unit has a very appealing design and build quality. One thing I have to specify here: the frontal right/left corners are made of plastic. At that price, I would have wanted it to be all metal.
Output power/ch. at 600/300/50Ω ………………. 667mW/1.33W/8W
Headphone Impedance ……………………………… 20 – 600Ω
Frequency response (audible) …………………… 20Hz – 20kHz ±0.1dB
Frequency response (full range) ………………… 2Hz – 90kHz +0/-3dB
THD @ 1kHz, 0dBFS (A-weighted) ……………. < 0.005%
Intermodulation distortion ………………………….. < 0.005%
Signal-to-noise Ratio …………………………………. 120dB
Crosstalk ………………………………………………….. 110dB
Input/Output Impedance …………………………….22KΩ /0.22Ω
Shipping weight…………………………………………. 20 lbs / 9 Kgs
Dimensions (width x height x depth) …………. 16.9 x 3.5 x 13.8 in. 42.9 x 8.9 x 35.1 cm.
Indeed, some interesting specs, and yes, this is a powerful amplifier. Let’s go through some more interesting things I have seen as technical aspects:
An oversized power supply using 2 toroidal transformers in conjunction with 8 stages of DC voltage regulation
4 stages of our M-LoVo (MOON Low Voltage) DC regulation circuit; a highly sophisticated circuit that is virtually free of noise, yielding an exceptionally fast, precise, and stable DC voltage. This circuit, found in the Evolution series 810LP Phono Preamplifier and 740P Preamplifier, results in a power supply with a virtually unmeasureable noise floor
M-eVOL2 volume control circuit using MDAC’s (operating in a current steering R-2R configuration) which alter the audio signal’s amplitude, yielding no sonic degradation of the signal, regardless of the selected volume setting. This circuit, found in the Evolution series 600i & 700i Integrated Amplifiers and 740P Preamplifier, offers 530 steps and channel matching of 0.1dB
EuP compatible eco-friendly power (less than 0.5W) in standby mode with defeatable 20 minutes inactivity “auto shut off”
Tests and Listening Impressions
The 430HA also has an optional DAC board that you can add:
Optional DAC with four (4) digital inputs (S/PDIF x 2, TosLink x 1 & USB x 1) allowing for use with virtually any digital source; Supports DSD64, DSD128 and DSD256 (USB input only); Supports PCM 16/44.4kHz to 24/192kHz (all inputs) and up to PCM 32/384kHz (USB input only)
Fortunately, the review unit has this option included, so I was very curious to test this as well. I was very pleased to find it very close to the Moon NEO 380D DSD Dac, which I liked very much. It has some of the same things I love about 380D and it has a very good synergy with the amplifier, the whole unit producing a very musical and enjoyable sound. It has the same magic in the mids as 380D as well. Actually you can read my review of 380D and get a good impression of the DAC included in this amp. Bare in mind that it’s not quite 380D but not too far from it either.
Adding the DAC option to 430HA seems like a very good idea, as it isn’t an expensive upgrade and you will have a good DAC as well.
I have also heard it as a pre-amplifier in a speaker system and it did its job pretty well.
To test the amplifier I have let it burn in a lot and the sound has really changed during this period, growing to its full potential.
The heavy chords from the beginning have an incredible presence, body and visceral impact. They also have an echo that show a very deep soundstage. I love how the sounds fade away into darkness as it gives a more out of the head sound experience.
At the beginning of the song you realize that this is a detailed amplifier. The guitars begin with pleasantly smooth but sparkly plucks. The voice struck me as very present and emotional. The song just flowed smoothly into a nice state of relaxation.
Leonard’s voice has an emotional presence throughout the song. The backup voices and the instruments around his voice are very well put into scene, showing a deep and a holographic soundstage.
The drums from the beginning are strong and full bodied, showing deep and present bass . The guitars are amazingly musical, showing good detail in their extension. The voices are again very present and emotional………………………………………………Sorry..the trumpet just kicked in and I was seduced by it into a musical trance. The guitars, the trumpet, the voices were musically impressive, leading to a very enjoyable listening experience.
The growls were visceral and life like. The drums and instruments were full bodied and vibrating with energy. The song was full of energy that was efficiently transmitted to me.
The guitars are mesmerizingly musical on this song as well. They have a very sparkly attack, followed by a detailed extension. The drum also went deep showing a strong and bloomy bass.
I love this piece and 430HA managed to deliver it to my expectations, which are quite high in this case. The instruments were detailed and well delimited in a large and 3d soundstage. The passage from one instrument to another is done gently and smoothly, leading to a musical – refined listening experience again. 430 has a very interesting presentation. The instruments have detail and impact, leading to a visceral sound experience, but still manages to keep it smooth, leaving the song to flow easily without being tiresome.
The bass on 430HA proved to be quite good, showing excellent extension with good impact and control. This song also presented good energy and PRAT that lead to a toe tapping experience.
430HA has a deep and present bass that enriches the lower end in a very pleasant way. It also has good impact and control, but I would say that its extension is the most remarkable feature that leads to a full sounded experience.
The mids are rich and detailed. I love how both instruments and voices sound on 430. They have a very smooth, present, but still visceral presentation.
The treble is quite smooth and pleasant to the ear. It still has sparkle when it needs too but it doesn’t present any type of harshness. It was actually a very good thing if you pair it with HD800.
The voices have a very strong and emotional presence in the songs.Actually, this is one of the first things I noticed about this amplifier. You can feel that those voices have a body attached to them. They also have good texture and extension.
The attack is good, but not very strong, leading to a smoother sound, that can sometimes be more musical and less tiresome. The extension and decay are natural and detailed.
Refined, Musical but Still Visceral and Engaging Sound Signature
The passage from one instrument to another is done gently and smoothly, leading to a musical and refined listening experience again. 430 has a very interesting presentation. The instruments have detail and impact and also visceral, but still manages it to keep it smooth, leaving the song to flow easily without being tiresome.
The details on this amplifier are very good as well. You can hear very subtle sounds in your favorite songs. What I like about this section is that they come in a natural and sometimes subtle way, not being forcefully pushed in front .
This is another strong point for this amplifier. The sounds are very well defined and separated in the stage. They also have an interesting way of fading out, showing a deep and holographic soundstage and a very black background.
Compared to Audio GD – Master 9
The bass on Master 9 is faster, has more control and a stronger punch. However, the bass on 430 is a little more bloomy and has better presence, leading to a fuller sound experience on 430, and a more neutral one on M9.
Both are good in this section, but 430 sometimes has a better presence/body on the midrange while M9 has a little more detail and texture. For example the voices are cleaner and better textured on M9, but more present and emotional on 430.
The treble is good on both amps, but more detailed and sparkly on M9, while smoother and a little less tiring on 430. M9 is not bright, but more on the neutral side compared to 430.
Because of the treble and transparency, the sound seems a little more opened on M9. However, I found the soundstage to bee a little deeper and more holographic on 430. You can pinpoint the instruments better on 430 especially in depth.
The attack is stronger on M9, and the decay is a little faster than on the Moon. This leads to a more powerful attack on M9 and in general a better PRAT and energy overall, while the sound can be a little more musical on the Moon.
Both amplifiers are clean, but M9 wins in this department and is still the most transparent amplifier I have listened to yet.
The details on both amplifiers are very good but M9 still holds the upper hand here, with Moon not very far from it.
The 430 has a smoother sound signature while M9 has more energy and impact. Moon also has a fuller sound that brings more emotion into some instruments and voices, while M9 is more on the neutral side. Moon has a more refined and sometimes more musical presentation. As I said above, 430 has a flowing characteristic, in which the passage from on musical note to another is done in a relaxed manner, but still having viscerality, good instrument extension and good details. Master 9 is different, as the attack on the notes is more powerful, leading to a more abrupt but more energetic passage.
Both amplifiers are very good and the 430HA is one of the best I have ever tested until now. Overall, I still prefer M9 for its transparency, transients, control & details, but Moon does bring some very interesting features that I described above and may very well be more important to some users.
Reviewing the 430HA was a pleasure. Moon managed to achieve a very pleasant sound once more. It’s a very hard balance to get between smoothness-musicality-transparency-energy, but Simaudio managed to achieve it.
I am pleased to see that Moon finally entered the headphone market and with such a product. The price is a bit steep and they do have competition, but if you want a good headphone amplifier, you should definitely consider the 430HA.
- Very deep and full bass that enriches the lower end. Good impact and control
- Very good midrange: very rich, present and visceral
- Smooth treble with good details but it could use more sparkle
- Very good details
- Very good soundstage – deep and holographic
- Very good instrument separation
- Good transparency
- Musical – Refined sound with very pleasant tonality
- Good Build quality
- Very good looks
- Frontal right/left corners are made of plastic
- Some may prefer a little more neutral sound presentation
- While 430 has a very nice balance between smooth and energetic, some may prefer a little more energy