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The Neo 430HA is a genuine "tour de force" loaded with numerous state-of-the-art features. This...

Simaudio MOON Neo 430HA

Rating:
3.5/5,
  • The Neo 430HA is a genuine "tour de force" loaded with numerous state-of-the-art features. This fully balanced, pure analog amplifier using a discrete transconductance circuit topology, selectable gain setting (14 or 20dB), an oversized power supply and a defeatable analog crossfeed circuit. Rated at 667mW at 600 ohms and 8W at 50 ohms, the Neo 430HA will effortlessly drive any headphone to its full potential.

    For headphone enthusiasts who desire perfection, the Neo 430HA is the ultimate solution. Borrowing various technologies from our more exotic and costlier Evolution series (M-LoVo, M-eVOL2) while incorporating the most advanced analog audio circuitry, the 430HA will achieve the very best possible sonic performance from your headphones. The optional DSD256 and 32-bit PCM capable DAC can be used with virtually any digital source such as computer for streaming music, satellite TV receiver or Blu-Ray player, offering the same fidelity as your music system.

Recent Reviews

  1. project86
    A really great amp.... for other people.
    Written by project86
    Published Dec 28, 2016
    2.0/5,
    Pros - Speaker-like presentation (if that's your style), killer (optional) DAC section, preamp capabilities, volume control implementation, build quality
    Cons - Speaker-like presentation makes your headphones sound somewhat slow and dull sounding, high price, it may be too large for some people?
    Headphones2.jpg



    Imagine yourself in charge of a traditional HiFi speaker company - a segment where sales are trending relatively flat (or worse) for the past decade or so. You look at the market and salivate at the rising sales figures of the "personal audio" category, pondering how you might get a piece of that action. Slowly, cautiously, you begin having your team translate their design prowess from speakers to headphones, under the assumption that they have a lot in common - it certainly makes more sense than designing turntables (the other hot category at the moment).

    If this sounds too measured and reasonable, an alternate version has the boss sending excited emails: "Headphones are hot! I want a set of our headphones on store shelves within the next 6 months!!"
    I suspect one of these scenarios has unfolded numerous times throughout the audio world; hence recent launches of headphones from KEF, Polk, Sonus Faber, PSB, Focal, Paradigm, Bowers & Wilkins, and Klipsch, with plenty more to follow.

    It was only a matter of time before a similar scenario took place on the amplification side of things. Why should brands relatively unknown outside of headphone circles - Woo Audio, Violectric, Cavalli, and Eddie Current among others - have all the fun? Thus we now have dedicated headphone amps from the likes of Pass Labs, Bryston, ModWright Instruments, and Manley, just to name a few, with more certainly on the way as time passes.

    Well, now you can add veteran Canadian firm Simaudio to the list. Their Moon Neo 430HA sets out to offer world class heaphone amplification along with preamp and optional DAC duties, all in a very traditional Simaudio enclosure. Ever notice how a lot of headphone amps are oddly sized and/or shaped? The 430HA fits right in with the entire line of Simaudio Neo products, and wouldn't feel out of place in most any proper audio rack stuffed with full-size audio components.

    SACD2.jpg


    Let's clarify before we go any further - the "base model" 430HA is a $3,500 beast purely dealing with analog ins and outs. Adding the optional DAC board brings the cost up to $4,300 and updates the name to 430HAD. Or, at least that's what I've seen it called all over the web. And it makes sense - D for Digital, right? Thing is, I don't see that extra D mentioned anywhere in Simaudio's technical papers, nor have I ever seen their marketing actually use the term. Go ahead, check their website - you won't find it. So, I'm going to resist the urge to use what is essentially a nickname at this point, but I will be discussing the DAC board since I feel it is one of the strong points of the product, regardless of moniker.

    Let's talk versatility. Perhaps owing to it's relatively large size compared to many headphone amps, the 430HA has a generous amount of connectivity. Remember, this thing can be a full-fledged pre-amp as well, so the more choices the better. We get three analog inputs - two RCA and one XLR - along with a pair of RCA outputs in fixed and variable form. On the digital side there's a Toslink jack, a pair of coaxial inputs, and the ever-important, DSD-ready USB port. Less likely used but still potentially helpful are the proprietary SimLink ins and outs (for pairing with other Simaudio gear) plus a 12V trigger out, IR input, and RS232 for custom integration. That's already quite a bit and we haven't even covered the actual headphone jacks - ostensibly the most critical aspect of a device like this.

    Analog.jpg
    Digital.jpg


    At first glace, the front panel looks simple - just a standard 1/4" headphone out, plus a little 1/8" input for quick use with iPhones or other portable devices. Take a closer look and... you probably still won't see anything beyond that. But wait - what's that little nub just left of the 1/4" jack? Sliding it left (with a buttery smooth action I might add) reveals balanced headphone outs in both 4-pin XLR and dual 3-pin XLR format. That means the 430HA handles every common headphone termination short of specialty stuff - I'm talking balanced connections on the Astell & Kern, HiFiMAN, and Pono devices, where each brand uses their own unique type. But as far as the vast majority of gear goes, Simaudio has us well covered.

    Buttons.jpg

    Knob.jpg

    Front2.jpg




    Internally, the 430HA is just as ambitious. Simaudio describes it as a "fully balanced, pure analog amplifier" using a "discrete transconductance circuit topology". The power supply features two shielded torroidal transformers, 35,000uF worth of capacitance, and a total of 7 stages of voltage regulation. Design inspiration is taken from Simaudio's Evolution series models such as the 740P preamp ($9.5K) and the 810LP phono stage ($12K). That's not bad company to be in.

    PowerSupply.jpg


    Significant engineering was brought to bear on the volume control - an absolutely critical aspect of any high-end headphone amp. It usesSimaudio's proprietary M-eVOL2 design, again borrowed from other tried and true models in the Simaudio portfolio. This essentially boils down to a pair of current steering R2R ladder DACs on each channel (so four total, as is befitting a true balanced design) to vary the amplitude of the signal. It gets a bit complex but just know that the audio signal remains in the analog domain at all times, unlike some digital attenuation schemes which throw out bits as the volume drops. The end result here is an obscenely black background, essentially perfect channel matching, and 530 total steps in .1dB increments. It's a brilliant execution that you really have to "feel" for yourself to fully appreciate.

    OutputStage.jpg


    Expensive headphone amps should give correspondingly high performance, and that's the context in which I judged the 430HA. On the plus side, this thing drives any pair of headphones you can throw at it without breaking a sweat. It's capable of dumping 8 watts into 50 ohm loads, yet delicate enough to drive sensitive IEMs without unwanted noise. That last bit is a serious difficulty with powerful desktop amps, and is often overlooked in many reviews. Lots of amps are powerful, but a silent background and ability to drive very sensitive IEMs well is a mark of excellent design. I mean it - this thing works with any headphone except electrostatic models (of course).

    Now, you've no doubt heard that statement in reviews of other headphone amps from a variety of publications. Those reviewers likely then proceeded to list the 3 or 4 or 5 headphones they used to arrive at that conclusion. Which is cool - that seems thorough enough right?

    Me, I like overkill, so I tested no less than a dozen headphones on this thing, plus a half-dozen in-ear monitors just to seal the deal. I tried everything from the 600 ohm beyerdynamic T1 to the AKG K3003 which dips down into single digit impedance. I used some balanced-armature-based custom IEMs with sensitivity in the 120dB range, and then switched to the HiFiMAN HE-6 rated at just 83.5dB. I used cables with 1/4" termination,1/8" plus adapter, 4-pin XLR, and even dual 3-pin XLR which is a style I thoroughly dislike. Through all this I can say the 430HA never missed a beat. That volume control is superb - I never once found myself unable to dial in the perfect level for a given headphone or IEM. There are two gain settings (14dB and 20dB) but I found that the lower option worked for me 99% of the time.

    Headphones.jpg
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    Surprisingly, I also quite enjoyed the selectable crossfeed option. Crossfeed is a method of blending information from the left channel into the right channel and vice versa, with the intention of creating a more natural sound. Headphones, by nature of their design, completely isolate the signal going to each ear. This can take away their sense of realism at times - especially if you're mainly accustomed to speaker listening where the channels obviously mix before hitting the ears. There are many ways of implementing crossfeed and much of the time I find it more obnoxious than helpful.... it tends to collapse the soundstage and make the timbre all wonky, while the "natural" effect it strives for never really materializes.

    In this case I find it actually listenable. No, scratch that, I find it pretty damn convincing. It's not too strong but not too subtle either. It doesn't change the tone of Lee Morgan's trumpet. It's not dark and compressed. All of these things I've heard from other attempts at crossfeed, so I'd call Simaudio's implementation a success. Nothing's perfect though, and I do hear a somewhat diminished sense of imaging in exchange for the "out of head" sound being produced. Image specificity is a bit hazy and indistinct compared to what I'm used to, though I suspect speaker listeners might not agree. Headphone listening is, after all, something of an acquired taste, and I'm so used to the standard presentation that I may not be the best judge of something like this. For speaker listeners, the crossfeed circuit may well be preferable even in the imaging department. Me, I still use it off and on, especially with hard panned older jazz and classic rock material.

    By now I've established that the 430HA has no shortage of power, while retaining the delicacy required to successfully drive IEMs. I've also praised the crossfeed implementation as one of the best I've heard. But aside from that, how does this thing sound? Why am I dancing around on that stuff when I have yet to paint the sonic picture of how this amp is voiced?

    I suspect my delay is related to the mixed feelings I have. On the one hand, this amp does numerous things right. In some aspects - volume control, connectivity, and the ability to drive any headphone - it may well be the best headphone amp on the market today. It's an incredibly well-built amp with a thoughtful design, using quality parts, and it comes from a veteran audio firm with enormous pedigree. Which is why it's difficult to admit, but the actual sound signature of the amp itself just isn't what I hoped it would be.

    CayinAKT5p.jpg


    To my ears, across a wide range of headphones, the 430HA has a powerful sound which I'd describe as "musical". There's a distinct warmth involved - from Gary Karr's "1611 Amati" (which turned out to be neither) to Pastorius and Mingus, and forward in time to well recorded electro from Mr. Oizo, Infected Mushroom, and Photek, the 430HA has low end guts very few competitors can match. If you like a healthy does of sledgehammer-in-the-face, this amp can certainly do that. If you like beautiful, nuanced, full-bodied tone, it can do that too. If you want a more measured and delicate response without any added warmth whatsoever.... the 430HA isn't necessarily the best match. It wasn't so obvious at first but the more time I spent with it the more I realized this coloration was always present. Did it make the music sound more enjoyable at times? Absolutely. If it was just this one bit of coloration I probably wouldn't complain. Problem is, the warm signature doesn't stop there.

    Detail retrieval is what I'd call good but not great. It helps to have that inky black background, and with some (many?) headphones it seems to unlock all the resolution they are capable of producing. But with a Sennheiser HD800, an AKG K812, a HiFiMAN HE-6, or a Jomo Audio 6R IEM, I get the impression some detail is being glossed over. I'm all for warmth and smoothness but this goes just a bit far for my taste. The resulting sound is a bit slower than I'd like, and not really as transparent as I would have expected either. Piano and strings in particular just don't have the proper sense of bite required to sound totally convincing. Female vocals are generally acceptable but at times feel a bit lacking too. This would be fine for a tube amp where I had options to roll in a different signature if desired. But on a reference caliber solid-state amp I guess I just expected more transparency.

    And that's where my complaint gets complicated. You see, I actually quite enjoy listening to the 430HA in the right context. Paired with the very neutral Anedio D2 DAC, and driving the HiFiMAN HE-6 which is occasionally bothersome in the treble range, I find the resulting sound to be very listenable. Or, switch out the Anedio for the Resonessence Labs Invicta Mirus Pro (using the spectacular new ES9028Pro DAC chip), and maybe swap out the HE-6 for the analytical Sennheiser HD800, and again we get a system I could jam to all day. Trouble is, I don't feel it's quite worthy of the high price tag - I can definitely assemble a similarly musical system for less dough. It's frustrating that although the amp will happily drive any headphone in existence, it won't necessarily have the proper synergy with each one. In fact I'd say there are more misses than hits overall - any somewhat darker headphone just isn't a good match in my book.

    ConceroHE1000.jpg


    What's the deal here? Is this amp just a failure? How did that happen? I'll come right out and say that I feel Simaudio voiced this amp for speaker-listeners. It seems very intentionally designed to avoid listener fatigue, which can be a big issue when the distance from transducer-to-ear drops from 12 feet to about an inch. When that happens, the amount of micro detail coming through grows significantly. That album which you've always found ever-so-slightly bright on your speaker rig? It can become intolerable if you're not used to anything but speakers - even on a system which headphone aficionados would call "neutral".

    My theory is that Simaudio had this very thing in mind when putting the finishing touches on the 430HA. Compared to other "reference" style amps such as the Auralic Taurus MKII, the HeadAmp GS-X MK2, or a pair of Questyle CMA800R amps in dual-mono mode, the 430HA sounds a bit slow and - as much as it pains me to say this - almost boring in a way. Yet those amps might be seen as overly bright or aggressive to ears more accustomed to speaker listening. Which, I'll happily admit, is not the demographic I fall in to. So the thought occurs to me that this may well be an issue with my preferences and expectations rather than a real deficiency with the amp itself. I suppose it's a matter of perspective.

    My experiences with other Simaudio gear throughout the years gave me certain expectations. I loved every amp of theirs I've encountered, from their entry-level integrated units to their big Evolution amps. In contrast, I've never really clicked with their digital stuff. I've owned or auditioned various CD players of theirs in the low-to-mid range and even tried some of the (rather expensive at the time) DVD players like the Stellar and Orbiter back in the early 2000s. None of it was terrible but neither did it strike me as being anything special in a sea of worthy competition. I really wanted to love them based on my history with Simaudio amps - but I just couldn't.

    So you can imagine my surprise when the amp section of this dedicated high-end headphone amp didn't blow me away, yet the $800 add-on DAC section managed to stand out as being a huge success. Seriously... most add-on DACs begin at "forgettable" and go downhill from there. Not this thing. It's got excellent resolution, impressive imaging, and a tonal balance that just works. I'd happily put it up against any sanely priced DAC I've heard in the last few years.


    SabreDAC.jpg


    And that's not just hyperbole. Direct comparisons are easy thanks to the multitude of inputs/outputs on the 430HA, so I took the opportunity to run it through its paces with a few other units I have on hand. Compared directly to the Woo Audio WDS-1 ($1,195), the Simaudio DAC is more open and airy sounding, with a much more believable top end. It's not even a close contest. The M2Tech Young DAC ($1,695) has a touch more midrange liquidity, and thus initially seemed more organic than the relatively matter-of-fact Simaudio DAC. Yet after much back and forth I discovered the Young doesn't satisfy in terms of bass impact and texture. It sounds loose and sloppy where the Simaudio is very tight and impactful. And again, that Simaudio top end is so clean, making the otherwise respectable M2Tech unit seem a touch dull in comparison. Out of these three models I would choose the Simaudio DAC every single time.

    I suppose it's an unfair comparison though. The DAC card only "costs" $800 but ends up piggybacking on the existing power supply and output stage. Which means it would cost quite a bit more if offered as a stand-alone product. In any case, you'll have to move up to something substantially more costly to improve on this experience - an Auralic Vega or an Exogal Comet Plus for example. Unless you already own or have plans to own a REALLY nice stand-alone DAC, I'd say go for the built-in option and simplify your system. It's that good.

    As a preamp, the 430HA is about on the same level as the DAC. Which is to say: highly satisfying, though in this case I'm not surprised in the least. I have less experience with Simaudio's line-stage gear as compared to their DACs and amps, but what I have heard I've really enjoyed. The most recent example I had in my system was the Moon 350P from just a few years back. It was their most affordable preamplifier at $2,500 and did a bang up job in that class and beyond. Despite being primarily focused on headphone amplification, the 430HA is easily just as capable a preamp as the 350P - perhaps even a bit better as far as purity of sound. It does give up a bit in terms of inputs/outputs but makes up for that in transparency. Not to mention that volume control which is so much more satisfying to use. The 350P volume control was perfectly fine but the 430HA feels much more precise and, in a word, expensive. Unless you absolutely need all those extra ins and outs, the 430HA is hands down the better preamp.

    Stax.jpg


    Conclusions
    In the end, I am somewhat torn on the 430HA. I love the look and feel of it, and very much enjoy the crossfeed option too. I could easily see using this thing as the heart of all but the most complex system thanks to its generous connectivity options. It would sound great as an integrated DAC and preamp, being very competitive in those areas. If I was shopping for that sort of device in the sub-$5K range I would certainly consider this device regardless of the headphone aspect.

    Having said all that, I'm not completely sold on it as a reference class headphone amplifier. It just seems to lack the level of transparency I crave. Mind you, it's still an excellent headphone amp - superior to the BHA-1 from Canadian competitor Bryston ($1,695) to name one example. But for $3,500 I expect to be blown away and in this case it just doesn't happen. I prefer the warmth of my Violectric V281 which doesn't sacrifice detail in the process, and doesn't cost as much either. And the Pass Labs HPA-1 is clearly the better amp as far as I'm concerned (though, as with the Violectric, you lose out on the non-headphone related features compared to the 430HA).

    I admit to being in the minority here. Headphone maestro Tyll Hertsens raved about the 430HA as have many others in the community. Then again, Audio legend Bob Katz described the 430HA as "overly soft" so I know I'm not crazy. Perhaps this is ultimately one of those products like the Chord Hugo and the Beyerdynamic T1 where you really need to try it for yourself to judge. Where I hear a lack of transparency and finesse, others may very well hear a speaker-like, fatigue-free presentation unique among top solid-state headphone amps.

    Despite my misgivings, I'm still thrilled to see a company like Simaudio take the plunge into headphone gear. They recently launched a sibling model dubbed the 230HAD which is a smaller integrated DAC/headphone amp without the balanced outs. At nearly 1/3 the price of a DAC-equipped 430HA, that could well be the product I was looking for all along. I definitely look forward to taking it for a spin one of these days.



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      sheldaze, Kramer01 and crabdog like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Kramer01
      @project86 Thanks for taking the time to reply.
       
      I'm in the market for a sub 1500$ desktop amp. Looks like it would make sense to go for the V280 if one is not interested in all the functionality of the V281. As a headphone amp for HD650, HD 800 and T1v2 will the V280 perform as well as the V281? 
      Kramer01, Jan 1, 2017
    3. cpzzy
      A wonderful sounding amp, but somewhat a little bit too "soft" for me 
      cpzzy, Feb 4, 2017
    4. cpzzy
      Really gave my utopia a more electrostatic-like sound, however the attack and soft, slow bass is something i've been struggling with
      cpzzy, Feb 4, 2017
  2. longbowbbs
    The Moon Neo 430 HA with DAC. TOTL Swiss army knife for your audio needs
    Written by longbowbbs
    Published Sep 5, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Exceptional clarity and power
    Cons - None for headphone use.
    Moon Neo Series 430 HAD Reference Headphone Amplifier
    With optional DSD/32-Bit PCM DAC
     
    Eric Neff
    Headphone.Guru
    June 2015
     
    2015-02-2812.26.40.jpg
     
     
    CanJam at RMAF last October was bursting at the seams. Jude Mansilla and his incredible team had filled their huge room at the Marriott Tech Center in Denver to capacity and then some. The spill over went out into the adjacent lobby and many exceptional Headphone manufacturers took up residence there filling that additional space as well. At one table was a company I did not expect to see at CanJam, but up in the Marriott tower with the other high end two channel companies. It was Simaudio. For 35 years this state of the art firm from Quebec has produced audiophile lust worthy solid-state excellence. They were debuting their new fully balanced pure analog reference headphone amp, the Moon Neo 430HA. This was their first foray into headphone specific gear and the unit was being introduced to the world at CanJam. I made a beeline to the table and quickly plugged in my HD800’s with custom balanced Toxic Cables Silver Widow’s. Then, a show patron came up and we had to postpone the listening session. Excellence delayed!
     
    The next day I was introduced to Lionel Goodfield, Simaudio’s Director of Marketing. We discussed the 430HA and I asked if a review piece could be made available. He graciously agreed to ship a unit after CES. Patience is sometimes hard! Time slowly passed and soon after CES a brand new 430HAD (The D indicates the optional DAC board is included) arrived. I knew I was in for a fun review when the UPS deliveryman handed the box to me and said “Wow! Moon gear is amazing!” Turns out I have an audiophile deliveryman.
     
    Opening the box I was presented with the Neo 430HAD, Power cord, small remote control and Owner’s Manual.
     
    I placed the unit into the middle of my system as both a headphone amp and as a 2-channel pre-amp and got to it.
     
    2015-02-2812.50.09.jpg
     
     
    USES:
     
    One of the big attractions for me with this unit is its incredible flexibility. Simaudio designed it to be first and foremost a no holds barred reference headphone amplifier. However, given the pedigree of the 430HAD it offers many of the features found in the Simaudio reference Evolution line. Most notably some trickle down tech from the Evolution 740P Preamplifier such as the M-LoVo (Moon Low Voltage) DC Regulation circuit, the M-eVOL2 530 step volume control an oversized power supply using seven stages of DC voltage regulation and significant internal bracing for vibration control. Additionally, the inclusion of the optional DSD/32-bit PCM DAC utilizing the TOTL ESS Sabre 9018K2M chip makes the 430HAD the digital centerpiece of both a high-end two channel or headphone rig. Adding the very affordable 180MiND streamer allows for local network access to all of your digital files and on line streaming services with your tablet device as an interface.
     
    I decided to play with the Pre-amp functions while the amp burn in was progressing. Lionel had mentioned the unit needed 300 hours of burn in. He was right. The sound changed significantly over the first 200 hours or so settling in to its final full-bodied sound after the full 300 hours had passed.
     
    I connected my VPI Scout 1.1 turntable to analog input 1. My two-channel uses the Vandersteen Model 2Ce Signature II’s fed by an Audio by Van Alstine Omega II 200wpc solid-state amplifier. Queuing up Leonard Cohen’s Almost Like the Blues from Popular Problems, I dropped the Dynavector 10X5. Incredible space and depth! The clarity and detail was immediately apparent. The funny thing about pre-amps is they seem to be something that is simply a switching device. You hook up gear through it and it is the traffic cop for the various sources. I had never heard the system sound this open and the only thing I changed was the 430HA taking center stage within the system. The most common comment I have heard from many listeners is “Clean”. Non-Digital also popped up from several people. I did not order this unit as a pre-amp but wow does it perform!
     
    Next I put the optional DAC up against my Wyred 4 Sound DAC2 DSDse. This is a $2549 stand-alone reference DAC so it runs 3X the price of the Add on board. I ran the W4S from its balanced outputs using Wyred 4 Sounds C2 PCOCC Premium XLR cables into the Moon 430HA. Each unit uses the ESS 9018K2M chip too. A solid month of comparative listening led me to prefer the W4S unit to the Add in board, but not nearly by 3X in performance. The W4S DAC2 DSDse has a raft of Vishay resistors and a beefy power supply; The DAC board has its own separate oversized power supply, advanced DC regulation and an in house designed 3rd order analog filter. No off the shelf unit for Simaudio! After much comparison, a small advantage in detail and depth was all I could credit to the higher priced unit.
     
    Shortly after I finished my DAC comparison, the LH Labs Geek Pulse Infinity DAC/Headphone Amp came in. The Pulse sports the newest TOTL ESS chip the 9018A2QM. Also, the Pulse comes in at over $3500 in this configuration with again a raft of Vishay resistors at critical points, Femto clocking and the option of a separate power supply (The LPS or LPS4) for an addition $750-$1200. You can use the Pulse as a stand alone DAC or a combination DAC/Amp. It is similarly priced to the Moon 430HAD too. As a stand alone DAC sourcing the 430HA via the balanced outputs, I preferred it to both the DAC card and the W4S. More depth, more detail and as some would say, more plankton: Quite an achievement. There is no downside to the 430HAD DAC board as this was an even more expensive unit and while the differences are discernible, they are not large. We are reaching the summit of Detail Mountain here. Considering the totality of connectivity the 430HAD offers as a digital centerpiece to a higher end system the convenience/performance factor is very high!
     
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    Ultimately though, what we are here for is the 430HA’s Headphone performance.
     
    Headphone Listening:
     
    After a month of solid burn in I was ready to enjoy some headphone time. I am a big fan of Female vocals. To get started I plugged in the Sennheiser HD800 open dynamic headphones into the 4 pin balanced output and queued up Alison Krause & Union Station’s title song Forget About It. (CD Rip AIFF 1411 Bit Rate 16/44.1 Sample) Alison is one of our generation’s great talents as her voice has an amazing purity. She is backed by one of the most complete bands in Union Station. The individual talents here are huge. The 430HA conveys great space and location. It is a simple thing to visualize the band as if you were there listening live.  Piano strikes were distinct and clear. Guitar and Dobro finger work was clear with the nuanced timbre of fingers on strings. Drum kicks have a special reverb that creates a 3D quality to the listening experience allowing the extraordinary nature of Alison’s voice to shine through.
     
    Next up I switched headphones to the MrSpeakers Alpha Prime closed planar magnetic headphones. Alter Bridge’s Fortress Cry of Achilles (CD Rip AIFF 1411 Bit Rate 16/44.1 Sample) brought the power. Alter Bridge is a long time favorite power rock band. Mark Tremonti is one of today’s best lead guitarists and the 430HA allowed that speed and skill to show through with the stadium filling energy of being there live. Myles Kennedy’s powerful tenor soars above the strong support of Brian Marshall’s thunderous bass and Scott Phillips manic drums. Guitar chords are crisp and tuneful. Some amps struggle with so much information blasting though them. Not the 430HA. It allowed each part to play individually and completely without smearing them into an indistinct wall of sound.
     
    Moving to a hi-res file I switched to the Audeze LCD-X open planar magnetic headphones and Chicago V State of the Union. (24/192 AIFF HDTracks.com) I have enjoyed this album for over 40 years and the clarity of the horn work is excellent. I want to hear the brass. The tone leaving the bell of the horn should be clear and clean. The Audeze’s delivered in spades as the 430HA paired brilliantly with this TOTL planar can. Bass guitar work established a firm and succinct foundation for the guitar, horns, saxophones and vocals. The control the 430HA had with the low-end grandeur of the LCD-X’s was state of the art. The active bass line of the next song on the album, Goodbye, was as good of a headphone presentation as I have heard. High hat work shimmered off to infinity. This was a mountaintop experience!
     
    Another band I enjoy is Muse. They remind me of Queen in their orchestration and operatic approach to rock music. Their album, The 2nd Law (24/96 AIFF HDTracks.com) has a tune called Madness, with some great low frequency electronica that lights up the bass of any high-end headphone. Layering awesome guitar work on top and you have a calliope of sound delivered in all the beauty of a newly painted circus wagon. Each sound was as distinct as a new color painted on for primary or accent yet once again the great separation allowed the whole to exist as an intricate and beautiful creation.
     
    For my final listening session I switched to a CD played on my Denon DVD-5900 DVD/SACD player. Fitting for the end of this review I chose The Last Goodbye from The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armies performed by Billy Boyd. (CD 2014 Warner Bros.) The song speaks of the snow falling on fallen brothers. Symbolic, because this amp has slain every solid-state amp I have ever listened to. The emotion it allows through my reference headphones (and my Vandersteen’s as system Pre-Amplifier) is the best solid-state sound I have experienced in my home. I have realized that it does not matter what I listen to with this extraordinary device. I will get the best presentation.
     
    Wrapping Up:
     
    I have the opportunity to roll a lot of great gear through the Headphone Man-Cave. The Moon Neo 430HAD is the single best Solid State headphone amplifier I have used. It pairs beautifully with every pair of headphones I have tried. The on board DAC is at a level where only the most particular user would look for something better. The flexibility as a Pre-Amp in addition to the top of the mountain Headphone performance makes it a keeper for me. I am buying the review unit. Hats off to Simaudio!
     
    Enthusiastically recommended!
     
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    Technical Specs:
     
    Type                                                               Solid State
    Configuration                                                Fully balanced differential
    Headphone Impedance                                20 - 600Ω
    Power Supply Transformers                       2 x 25VA
    Power Supply Capacitance                         35 000μF
    Type of Amplification                                  Discrete Transconductance
    Balanced Inputs (XLR)                                1 pair
    Single Ended Inputs (RCA)                         2 pairs
    Mini-jack input                                             1 (1/8”)
    Input Impedance                                          22,000Ω
    Output Device Type                                     Bipolar
    Balanced Headphone Outputs                   4-Pin XLR (1) and 3-Pin XLR (2)
    Single-ended Headphone Output              1/4” Stereo TRS (1)
    Single-ended Preamp Outputs (RCA)       2 pairs (fixed and variable)
    Output Power @ 600Ω                                667mW / channel
    Output Power @ 300Ω                                1.33W / channel
    Output Power @ 50Ω                                  8W / channel
    Audible Frequency Response                   20Hz - 20kHz (±0.1dB)
    Full-Range Frequency Response              5Hz - 100kHz (+0/-3.0dB)
    Output Impedance                                       1.25Ω
    Signal-to-noise Ratio (20Hz-20kHz)           120dB @ full output
    Crosstalk @ 1kHz (without crossfeed)      110dB
    Gain - Selectable                                         14dB or 20dB
    Maximum Output Voltage (Preamp)          8 Volts
    IMD                                                                 < 0.005%
    THD (20Hz – 20kHz)                                      < 0.005%
    12 Volt Trigger Output Operation              Direct Logic (0V = off, 12V=on) using a 3.5mm mono microphone jack with an output impedance of 1000 Ω _and current requirement of 12mA
    Available Faceplate Finishes                     Black, Silver and 2-Tone
    Remote Control                                           Full-Function (CRM-2)
    Power Consumption @ idle                      15 Watts
    Power Consumption @ Standby              0.5 Watts
    AC Power Requirements                           120V / 60Hz 240V / 50Hz
    Shipping weight                                          17 lbs. / 7.5 kgs
    Dimensions (W x H x D)                             16.9 x 3.5 x 13.8 in. (42.9 x 8.9 x 35.1 cm.)
     
    Features & Specifications subject to change without notice
     
    Additional Moon Neo 430HA technical information and specifications details can be found here: 
     
    http://www.simaudio.com/en/product/37-headphone-amplifier.html
     
    Price                         $3500 USD
    DAC Card Option     $  800 USD
     
    PROS:
    Exceptional depth and clarity.
    Power to drive ANY headphone via 2 levels of gain.
    Totally black background. No noise with sensitive IEM’s at Lo Gain.
    Incredible attention to detail leveraging 35 years of award winning high-end audio experience.
    Runs cool with very low power use in stand by.
    The Moon Neo 430HAD is a true reference piece.
    The addition of the DAC board creates a true digital hub for any system.
     
    CONS:
    None for headphone use!
    2-channel pre-amp output function is Single Ended only.
     
     
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      treebug and T Bone like this.
    1. XERO1
      Wow! Thanks for that great review.
      XERO1, Dec 28, 2015
    2. longbowbbs
      You are welcome. It is a great amp for any headphone.
      longbowbbs, Dec 28, 2015

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