“An el­e­gant, all-round mu­si­cal per­former”

FOR Fine bal­ance; good sense of tim­ing; mu­si­cal per­for­mance AGAINST No built-in DAC; no DSD sup­port

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - First Tests -

Its moniker might evoke some Or­wellian gov­ern­ment de­part­ment in charge of brain­wash­ing the masses, rather than a class-lead­ing hi-fi com­po­nent, but de­spite its rather eerily men­ac­ing acro­nym, the Moon Neo MIND is noth­ing more sin­is­ter than a re­ally good streamer.

It is worth not­ing that MIND ac­tu­ally stands for ‘MOON in­tel­li­gent Net­work De­vice’. Ef­fec­tively this means it does ev­ery­thing you’d ex­pect from a streamer – namely that it draws from all the mu­sic stored on your mo­bile de­vices and NAS drives, plus stream­ing ser­vices via its con­trol app, to col­late one whop­ping great mu­sic li­brary ac­ces­si­ble in one handy place.

Phys­i­cally, the MIND seems happy enough in its role, quite con­tent just to blend in to your hi-fi rack. The black chas­sis is rather fea­ture­less, apart from a pair of lo­gos, a trio of con­trol but­tons and LEDS to in­di­cate in­put se­lec­tion – wi-fi or Blue­tooth – and sam­pling rates on its fac­ing edge, and a mod­est vent on its top.

There is con­sid­er­ably more to re­port round the back, with the head­line news be­ing its lack of ana­logue out­put. So if you’re with­out a stand­alone DAC, or don’t have one built into your am­pli­fier, you’ll have to fac­tor that into your bud­get. To give you an idea of about the pre­mium you’ll re­ally need to fac­tor in, we tested our MIND unit with a Chord 2Qute (£995).

Ironic er­rors

On a more pos­i­tive note, there are AES/EBU, SPDIF and op­ti­cal dig­i­tal out­puts, so com­pat­i­bil­ity with any out­board DAC shouldn’t be a prob­lem. Along­side these, through the back gate is where you’ll find a power socket and switch, eth­er­net in­put, ter­mi­nals for wi-fi and Blue­tooth an­ten­nae and Sim­link con­nec­tions for use with other equally en­abled Moon com­po­nents.

There’s also a one-size-fits-all re­mote con­trol in the box, which is use­ful for skip­ping tracks some­one else has cho­sen when you’ve re­lin­quished con­trol of the ipad. But in any case, you’ll prob­a­bly be do­ing most of your in­ter­ac­tion with the MIND via its des­ig­nated con­trol app.

This is usu­ally the point of our re­view where we in­sert a line about how the app looks nice, but keeps los­ing con­nec­tion, or that it opts to play Ala­nis Moris­sette when we typed in Schu­bert. Thank­fully, the MIND app is with­out such teething prob­lems – it is, how­ever, a bit on the clunky side.

Takes some get­ting used to

Moon says that the MIND has been “de­signed to al­low a per­son with ba­sic com­puter knowl­edge to take full com­mand of a mu­sic li­brary”. While that sen­ti­ment does es­sen­tially ring true, some func­tions – such as search­ing for artists on Tidal – take us through too many menus for it to be hon­estly de­scribed as in­tu­itive.

We end up build­ing a queue of songs, when all we want to do is press and play. It’s the kind of thing you might even­tu­ally get used to, but we’ve tested plenty of con­trol apps where ‘get­ting used to’ its ba­sic func­tions just isn’t nec­es­sary.

If all this is be­gin­ning to sound a tad neg­a­tive, rest as­sured the caveats end here. Be­cause as soon as you start to lis­ten to the MIND, you stop car­ing that play­ing your next song might take a frac­tion of a sec­ond longer than it prob­a­bly should. In­stead, you will start to ap­pre­ci­ate just why Moon omit­ted a DAC in or­der to fo­cus on its dig­i­tal per­for­mance.

In sim­ple terms, the MIND doesn’t sound like a typ­i­cal streamer. It is al­most en­tirely

“As soon as you start lis­ten­ing to the MIND, you be­gin to ap­pre­ci­ate just why Moon omit­ted a DAC in or­der to fo­cus on its dig­i­tal per­for­mance”

free of those telltale de­fi­cien­cies in tim­ing and dy­nam­ics, in­stead per­form­ing with a level of mu­si­cal­ity we’ve heard rarely, if be­fore at all, in this price bracket. We feed it Manch­ester Or­ches­tra’s A

Black Mile To The Sur­face, and get the tex­ture of Andy Hull’s lus­cious, wa­ver­ing vo­cal lines, set among har­monies painted with broad, bold strokes. The MIND ren­ders voices with full body and de­tail, but more im­por­tantly with such a level of ex­pres­sion that the char­ac­ter of the songs are not lost, even when play­ing over Blue­tooth or via a com­pressed stream.

Watch this space

The nat­u­ral de­liv­ery of vo­cals catches our at­ten­tion, but, as the al­bum livens up in terms of in­stru­men­ta­tion, the MIND swings open its doors and shows us the amount of space avail­able, and just how much of that space it is able to of­fer each in­stru­ment with­out los­ing com­po­sure or the over­all sense of or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Trade Manch­ester Or­ches­tra for the New York Phil­har­monic as it per­forms Holst’s

The Plan­ets un­der the guid­ance of Zu­bin Me­hta, and that spa­cious­ness is even bet­ter ex­pressed: as ar­range­ments grow, the MIND seems like an ever-ex­pand­ing uni­verse, find­ing the space to let each in­stru­ment breathe, never trou­bled in find­ing am­ple room for them to per­form.

The com­plex piece also fur­ther ex­poses Moon’s grasp of both large and small-scale dy­nam­ics, con­quer­ing the grand swells with en­ergy to spare, just as it finds the dy­namic in­sight to keep each line from los­ing di­men­sion.

Hu­man per­for­mance

Fans of Moon’s sig­na­ture sound will also be pleased with the tun­ing here. There is no lack of punch, no sense that the Moon Neo MIND is short of in­ten­sity, but, over­all, it has that more laid-back tem­per­a­ment of many of its sta­ble-mates.

It’s noth­ing re­ally to do with the tim­ing – the MIND does that well too – but it has a gen­er­ally more re­laxed char­ac­ter, sid­ing to­wards a more hu­man per­for­mance than the up­tight and me­chan­i­cal de­liv­ery of some com­peti­tors. Of­fer­ing the MIND Hot Chip’s In Our

Heads, for ex­am­ple, there re­mains all the pre­ci­sion of a tidily pro­duced elec­tronic al­bum, dance beats snap­ping at the heels of the next track. But with­out the kind of clin­i­cal pre­sen­ta­tion that can so of­ten leave us cold when lis­ten­ing to a streamer. Here, you get the full sense that this is a band of hu­man be­ings play­ing the al­bum, not merely code punched into a com­puter with some­one singing over the top.

Son­i­cally, we can’t crit­i­cise the MIND: it is a bal­anced, el­e­gant and all-round truly mu­si­cal per­former. If you haven't al­ready got a suit­able DAC else­where in the chain, you’ll need to fac­tor in the cost of one. That would re­ally make this a £2700 streamer (if used with a Chord 2Qute) all told.

But for a sound this nat­u­ral com­ing from a streamer, even that would still be a bar­gain if you have the funds.

“Fans of Moon’s sig­na­ture sound will be pleased with the tun­ing. Over­all, it has that more laid-back tem­per­a­ment of many of its sta­ble-mates”

No ana­logue out­put means you have to fac­tor the cost of a DAC into the MIND

A fea­ture­less black chas­sis means the MIND will blend in to your hi-fi rack

The re­mote is handy, but you’ll prob­a­bly use the con­trol app more

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.