Moon Ace Neo

FOR En­gag­ing sound; good con­trol app; ex­cel­lent build AGAINST A lit­tle more def­i­ni­tion would be good

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

If you’re go­ing to have 'Neo' and 'Ace' in your prod­uct name, you’d bet­ter be aim­ing high. Moon has cer­tainly aimed for the stars – all five of them – with this all-in-one.

Ace stands for 'A Com­plete Ex­pe­ri­ence', and that’s ex­actly what Moon is of­fer­ing. It has ev­ery­thing you need from a mod­ern hi-fi, packed into one box. It’s an in­te­grated am­pli­fier with a high-res­o­lu­tion DAC and streamer. It has Bluetooth, wi-fi and in­ter­net ra­dio. And it has a phono stage.

All you need to do is add your favourite pair of speak­ers and – voila! – you can start play­ing mu­sic from vir­tu­ally any source.

All you need in one box

In­side, there’s a Class A/B am­pli­fier that out­puts 50W per chan­nel into 8 ohms. Then there’s a hi-res DAC that sup­ports ev­ery­thing from Spotify streams and MP3S to 32-bit/384khz and DSD256 files. We don’t know any­one with hi-res files that high but rest as­sured the Moon will play all your 24-bit WAV, FLAC and AIFF tracks.

The stream­ing sec­tion is where the Ace is at its most in­ter­est­ing and ver­sa­tile. You can stream all songs from your lap­top or NAS, as long as they’re all con­nected to the same net­work. You get ac­cess to vtuner’s in­ter­net ra­dio sta­tions, and there’s also na­tive Ti­dal sup­port for stream­ing Cd-qual­ity mu­sic. With Aptx Bluetooth, you can ping songs from your smart­phone or tablet. You’ll have to pair your device through the Moon’s menu, but it con­nects swiftly.

Con­nect­ing the Moon to your home net­work can be done via wi-fi or, for a more sta­ble con­nec­tion, the eth­er­net port. It con­nects in­stantly too, and we don’t ex­pe­ri­ence any dropouts in test­ing – which is ex­cel­lent news if you’ll be stream­ing a lot.

In terms of phys­i­cal connections, there’s a good spread of ana­logue and dig­i­tal in­puts at the back of the unit. There are two pairs of RCA in­puts (and one out­put), two in­puts apiece for op­ti­cal and coax­ial, and a USB type-b for con­nect­ing your lap­top.

Vinyl hasn’t been for­got­ten: a built-in mov­ing-mag­net phono stage means you can plug your turntable di­rectly into the Ace.

At the front, there’s a 3.5mm in­put to plug in mu­sic play­ers, and a 6.3mm head­phone port.

One of the most cru­cial things for a suc­cess­ful hi-fi sys­tem is how easy it is to live with. For a net­worked prod­uct like the Ace, which aims to play and stream ev­ery­thing, it be­comes all the more im­por­tant that sim­ple op­er­a­tions don’t frus­trate you be­fore you even have the chance to en­joy lis­ten­ing. The Moon gets that ab­so­lutely right.

A dream of a con­trol app

Ev­ery­thing just works. Con­nect­ing to the in­ter­net is done in­stantly. Chang­ing vol­ume us­ing the re­mote or the unit’s dial is smooth and in­stinc­tive. The MIND Con­troller app works like a dream.

MIND stands for Moon In­tel­li­gent Net­work Device, and it’s the con­trol brain of Moon’s stream­ing mod­ule. The re­mote con­trol is nicely built and works in­tu­itively with the unit, but it doesn’t get you very far when you want to ac­cess all the songs in your vast net­worked li­brary.

“Ev­ery­thing just works. Con­nect­ing to the in­ter­net is in­stant. Chang­ing the vol­ume is smooth and in­stinc­tive. The MIND app works like a dream”

That’s where the MIND Con­troller app comes in. With it, you can se­lect songs from ev­ery source – across the ana­logue in­puts, your NAS li­brary, your smart­phone, Ti­dal and in­ter­net ra­dio. It’s fast and plays songs with­out de­lay.

The app doesn’t try to be too clever. The in­ter­face is sim­ple but neat, with menus and al­bums or­gan­ised in a log­i­cal way. Al­bum art­work pops up as you smoothly scroll through the list. We don’t en­counter any hic­cups or lags, even af­ter a full week’s use. That’s im­pres­sive for any app.

Smart and ef­fec­tive

The de­sign of the Ace is sim­i­larly un­fussy. It's smart, ele­gant, and stur­dily built. The alu­minium chas­sis and brushed front are re­as­sur­ingly solid and of a high stan­dard.

The curved edges make it look a tad more in­ter­est­ing than your stan­dard rec­tan­gu­lar box. The neat fas­cia keeps things un­clut­tered, with only a hand­ful of but­tons, a re­spon­sive vol­ume dial and a prom­i­nent, easy to read OLED dis­play. Even from an an­gle you’ll easily be able to read the song/artist name, vol­ume level, time lapsed and file type.

The but­tons on the front panel al­low you to delve into the Ace’s menus, from where you can con­nect to wi-fi, turn off the dis­play, check for firmware up­dates and more. Other but­tons let you se­lect the in­put, dim the dis­play and mute the sound.

You’ll be lis­ten­ing long…

The Moon Neo Ace is an invit­ing per­former that makes you want to lis­ten to ev­ery sin­gle song in your li­brary all over again. We start by stream­ing from our NAS drive, and five hours later we’ve pretty much gone through all our favourite al­bums. The Ace un­cov­ers loads of de­tail. You can easily place ev­ery in­stru­ment in the wide, open sound­stage. Play Alice in Chains’

MTV Un­plugged on vinyl and it’s ob­vi­ous they’re per­form­ing to a live au­di­ence. Con­versely, Nick Cave’s vo­cals on (Are You) The One That I’ve Been Wait­ing For? sound in­ti­mate in its studio record­ing.

It may present like an easy-go­ing, smooth pre­sen­ta­tion, but the Ace also han­dles dy­namic shifts with great con­trol and sub­tlety. The slow, melan­choly build up of the pi­ano and strings in Ól­u­far Ar­nalds’

Raein is com­mu­ni­cated beau­ti­fully, with the pi­ano notes sound­ing solid and the mu­sic un­fold­ing del­i­cately to tell its story.

The top end soars high with sweet­ness and sparkle in the dreamy-folk-indie-pop songs from Of Mon­sters and Men, never sound­ing too bright or coarse. The more ag­gres­sive notes in Rage Against The Ma­chine’s songs are de­liv­ered with punch.

Some might want a touch more at­tack and author­ity to the Moon’s pre­sen­ta­tion. The stop and start of notes could be that bit more def­i­nite. Nick Cave’s voice has slightly more grit and grav­i­tas when we use our ref­er­ence (and much more ex­pen­sive) Naim streamer as the source.

A cap­ti­vat­ing lis­ten

That said, the Ace re­mains a pleas­ant and cap­ti­vat­ing lis­ten, but what makes it spe­cial is just how smooth and en­gag­ing it sounds, re­gard­less of file type or record­ing qual­ity. Of course, that means the Moon can­not re­veal ev­ery flaw in a record­ing but it doesn’t trade any of its alacrity, de­tail def­i­ni­tion or fluid dy­nam­ics to achieve its won­der­fully bal­anced but ex­cit­ing sound. It’s a tricky thing to get right but the fact Moon has been able to em­ploy that sonic char­ac­ter across all of the sys­tem's in­puts – wired and stream­ing – means that it in­tends ev­ery in­put to be used.

We can imag­ine do­ing so. The streamer sec­tion, the phono stage and the USB in­puts all have sim­i­lar tonal char­ac­ter­is­tics. The big­gest sur­prise was vtuner in­ter­net ra­dio. It’s usu­ally on the low­est rung of the lad­der when it comes to sound qual­ity, but when a hi-fi can make old Sav­age Gar­den and Cardi­gans tunes sound so good over the ra­dio, you know you’re in for a treat.

Mu­si­cal en­joy­ment a pri­or­ity

You won't be sur­prised to read that we’re rather taken with the Moon Neo Ace. It’s a won­der­fully tuned sys­tem that puts en­joy­ment at the top of its pri­or­i­ties, re­gard­less of what’s be­ing played. We love how easy it is to get along with. Its con­trols and net­work fea­tures work seam­lessly and we’d hap­pily live with it in the home.

There are very few sys­tems that com­bine all your sep­a­rate hi-fi com­po­nents so ef­fort­lessly in one box. If you’re look­ing for a new hi-fi sys­tem but can’t bear the thought of fill­ing your home with mul­ti­ple boxes, the Moon Neo Ace is for you.

“The Ace has all you need in a mod­ern hi-fi. It’s an am­pli­fier with a hi-res DAC and streamer. It has Bluetooth, wi-fi, in­ter­net ra­dio and a phonos­tage”

Con­trol the Ace us­ing its re­mote or bril­liant MIND Con­troller app

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