Over the MOON: my sneak peek at Simaudio’s new top-of-the-line North Collection

Over the MOON: my sneak peek at Simaudio’s new top-of-the-line North Collection

All prices listed in US $.

When Simaudio’s media relations representative Angela Brown invited me to a pre-launch sneak peak at the company’s new top-of-the-line North Collection series of products, I jumped at the opportunity. This was a big deal, even momentous. Simaudio wasn’t in the habit of upgrading its lines just to stoke new sales. There had to be a major up-tick in sonic performance to warrant it. Consider this: Simaudio’s last top-of-the-line range—the Evolution series—which the North Collection will gradually replace*, was introduced 18 years ago.

Back panel of the 641 integrated amplifier

Simaudio uses a clever system to designate model numbers to their products. Keeping in mind that the higher the number, the better the sound quality, the first digit in a model’s number signifies both the range in which the model belongs—entry level, middle, or top—and its rank in that range. The top range, which is where the North Collection resides, is referred to as the 600 series, the 6 representing where the model numbers in this range begin.

During my visit at Simaudio headquarters in Boucherville, Quebec, I asked Simaudio Product Director Dominique Poupart why the name ‘North Collection’? “First, to represent our Canadian identity,” said Poupart. “And because North is symbolically important. It’s the superior cardinal direction. It reveals the path and leads the way.

“And we believe that with this new series we’re leading the way,” continued Poupart. “Audiophiles are used to the idea that to achieve the best sound you need to go with separates. We still agree with this idea, but only as far as the amplifier is concerned, because an amplifier can generate a lot of amperes and noise that can affect the signal. That’s why there is no all-in-one product in the North Collection. As far as integrating a phono stage, DAC, and preamp, we think we’ve established that it’s possible to reduce the number of boxes and get better sound because of it. Our integrated units are by far the best of their kind in the industry, period.”

“Those are big words,” I told him.

“They’re true,” he replied.

The North Collection comprises six new products. While stylistically the series is immediately identifiable with Simaudio, it’s also a complete redesign, from top plate to feet, from the Evolution series. Well, except for the control knob, which survived the transition.

The new remote control—the BRM-1—is another matter. Included with all North Collection products save the amps, it’s very different from its predecessor. First, it’s so elegantly eye catching it might make even the most ardent remote-control hater turn his head to ogle it lustily. Bluetooth-operated, USB-rechargeable, the BRM-1 replicates the fluid feel of turning the actual volume knob and includes a small display at center to indicate volume and input selection. “Manufacturers have neglected the remote control,” Poupart said. “We wanted it to be as refined as the component itself, and make it pleasurable to manipulate.”

Inside the 891 network player / preamplifier
861 power amplifier

Aesthetics aside, improvements abound in the new designs, touching on everything from the volume control, semi-conductors, circuit boards, resistors, DAC chips and internal clocks to vibration control and internal shielding. It all amounts to what Poupart described as products that deliver greater transparency, a more defined soundstage, and a richer tonal palette than those of any product that came before.

Perhaps the most significant design breakthrough in the North Collection is the use of the company’s new MDCA (Moon Distortion Cancelling Amplifier) amplifier topology, which eliminates the use of local and global feedback by employing a circuit that, according to Poupart, “Analyzes the input and output signals outside the music signal path to determine what correction is needed in the output stage.”

The North Collection includes three fully-balanced, highly-versatile network players: the Moon 681 network player / DAC ($12,000), the Moon 791 network player / preamplifier ($16,000), and the Moon 891 network player / preamplifier ($25,000). Both the 791 and 891 include a high-end mm/mc phono stage, while the 891 improves on the 791 with better vibration suppression, a better volume control, the use of two, rather than one, DAC chips operating differentially for lower distortion, and improved components.

641 integrated amplifier

Three dual-mono amplifiers round out the new series: the 125Wpc Moon 641 integrated amplifier ($11,000), which comes with the BRM-1 remote control, the 200Wpc Moon 761 power amplifier ($14,000), and the 300Wpc Moon 861 power amplifier ($22,000).

“Marry the 891 preamplifier to the 861 power amplifier,” states the company literature, “to reach the summit of the North Collection.”

On the horizon: external power supplies for the line level components. All products in the North Collection come with a 10-year warranty and are 100% made in Canada.

For more information on the North Collection line, click here.

*Product Director Dominique Poupart explained the roll-out this way: “We may be announcing the new products now, but we are nearly 6 months ahead of availability. The first to become available will be the 791 and 761 in September, then the 641 and 681 in October, and finally the 891 and 861 before year end. Also, some current models will remain in production, including our 610LP and 810LP phono preamplifiers, and our flagship 888 amp and 850P preamp.”

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