|Simaudio has received
widespread recognition for several extremely high-quality amplifier designs that are
reasonably priced by audiophile standards. For this review, Simaudio supplied a
five-channel version of their Moon Aurora power amplifier, the less expensive of their two
multichannel models. At a list price of $4500, the Aurora is still expensive, but is said
to embody the same lofty design goals as Simaudios other highly regarded Moon
Simaudio Moon Aurora
Price: $4500 USD
Dimensions: 19"W x 8.75"H x 26"D
Weight: 106 pounds
Warranty: Five years parts and labor
- Balanced (XLR) and single-ended (RCA) inputs
- Toroidal transformer
- Bipolar output devices
- Symmetrical circuit design
- Seven-channel version available
- Black or silver faceplates available
- Gold-plated binding posts
- Removable aluminum faceplate "cheeks"
- 12V trigger
- Removable IEC power cord
The first thing I noticed about the Aurora is that it
doesnt look like other multichannel amps, most of which are not much to look at.
Even those costing as much as $5000 are often nondescript boxes of modest size whose
appearance creates little excitement or passion.
The Aurora, on the other hand, should immediately instill a
sense of confidence with its incredible build quality and understated but rugged good
looks. Weighing a backbreaking 106 pounds and much deeper and taller than most amps, the
Aurora will definitely not fit in a standard equipment rack, but will require a dedicated
amplifier stand or need to be placed on the floor. Its thick aluminum faceplate is
available in black or silver finishes and comes with contrasting removable
"cheeks" and what appears to be a centrally mounted heatsink that looks more
ornamental than functional. Much larger and more functional heatsinks run the entire
lengths of both sides of the Aurora, whose chassis is incredibly rigid. Picking up and
moving the amp was difficult -- it felt almost like picking up a solid chunk of steel. I
and my back got the sense that this is one extremely serious amplifier.
Around back are the main power
switch, a socket for the provided IEC power cord, gold-plated binding posts of very high
quality, and balanced and single-ended inputs for each channel. The front panel has only a
small recessed button, just below the power indicator light, to place the amplifier in
The Auroras good looks and massive build quality are
backed up by impressive specifications. Simaudio claims that it produces an impressive
200Wpc into 8 ohms and 400Wpc into 4 ohms. The Auroras power-supply transformer is
rated at 2kVA, and its power-supply capacitance is stated as 177,000µF. It uses six
"precision-matched" bipolar output devices for each channel. The Aurora is also
available in a seven-channel version ($5300) claimed to have 183,000µF of power-supply
capacitance and weighing 112 pounds.
Simaudio says that the Auroras circuit design is
similar to that of their more expensive Moon Titan amplifier, but slightly less
sophisticated. It has class-A output up to 5W and fully balanced circuitry right up to the
output stage. All circuit-board tracings are pure copper with very short paths. The Aurora
looks as if it would cost a lot more than $4500.
The Aurora sounded like it looks: big, bold, and powerful.
Not only did it have wonderful macrodynamics; it was also able to sort out complex music
and film soundtracks with precisely defined images, and revealed very fine detail. For
such a powerful solid-state amplifier, the Aurora had a silky, refined treble that
maintained its smooth sound and never became strained. Its vise-like control of the bass
was astounding, extracting huge amounts of tightly controlled low frequencies from every
speaker I used it with. The Aurora provided a bracing, vivid presentation that was
revealing of speakers and source components, yet it never sounded unnatural or forced. In
fact, it had such a polished and sophisticated sound that I often forgot just how powerful
and authoritative it could be when called on for those duties.
Saving Private Ryan is a favorite demo DVD because
of its room-shaking bass, but it also has a complicated and finely detailed sound
design that is often overlooked. The Aurora effortlessly drove the Snell XA1900THX fronts
and SR30THX surrounds with excellent control over the bass frequencies, allowing these
speakers to blend seamlessly with the colossal ICS Sub24 subwoofer. Even more impressive
was the Auroras ability, in this films many battle scenes, to place voices
precisely in the front soundstage among the chaos of the onscreen action. Far-off gunshots
and echoes in the surround channels had a real sense of distance, and small details, such
as the footsteps of soldiers running across debris-littered terrain, sounded astonishingly
real. Even with this punishing soundtrack, the Aurora always had plenty of power in
reserve, and possessed an amazing amount of finesse that allowed it to resolve even the
tiniest details buried deep within the soundtrack.
Subtle directional cues of distant creaking noises were
eerily reproduced. The Aurora provided a sense of spaciousness in the House of Pain, in Blade
II. As the Bloodpack and Blade first approach the House of Pain, a massive bass beat
emanates from the main speakers; as they move onto the dance floor, the bass output shifts
mainly to the subwoofer. With the Aurora, the bass from the main speakers was just as
tight and controlled as that from the sub. Lesser amplifiers, Ive found, can make
this passage sound loose and anemic in comparison.
The coherence of the 360-degree soundstage on the DTS CD of
Boyz II Mens II [DTS 71021-51001-2-8] was thrilling. "Thank You"
sounded especially tight and controlled, which gave the song excellent pace. The vocals
were always clear and pristine. The Auroras exceptional control over the mid and
upper bass allowed the baritone vocals in the a cappella cover of "Yesterday" to
blend perfectly with the other voices; the vocals had an effortless and unrestrained
quality in all channels.
With its sophisticated sound and incredible power, the
Aurora worked synergistically with the many components I had on hand. It was an ideal
match for the smooth-sounding Moon Stargate surround
processor, which Simaudio also provided for review, but sounded equally good with the
highly revealing Bel Canto PRe6 -- my reference
multichannel preamplifier. The Aurora even retained its sound quality with the Onkyo TX-SR800 THX Select receiver, which I used as a
processor with the Snell THX Ultra2 speaker system.
This combination provided dynamic, punchy sound.
The Sound of Music
While the many channels in a home-theater system can help
mask minor deficiencies in a multichannel system, listening to two-channel sources through
the Energy Veritas V2.3i floorstanding speakers without the aid of a subwoofer
demonstrated the Auroras true capabilities. The Auroras bass, so
impressive in a 5.1 system, was even more remarkable in a stereo setup. The huge drum
whacks on Dadawas Sister Drum [WEA CD 99592] were simply amazing: taut, fast,
with no discernible overhang. The control of the bass was absolute -- at times, it seemed
as though the Aurora was somehow directly coupled to the woofers. The haunting vocals
imaged precisely from different positions in the soundstage with a great sense of depth;
Dadawas mournful rendition of "Di Wei Shin Kan" was so lucid and pure it
brought tears to my eyes.
Male vocals, such as Willie Nelsons weathered,
gravelly pipes on Stardust [Columbia/Legacy CK 65946], were strikingly clear, but
female vocals were especially memorable. Holly Coles breathtaking covers of
"Almost Like Being In Love" and "God Only Knows," from Shade
[Alert 6152810392], were simply stunning. The slight waver in Coles voice in the
opening verse of "Almost Like Being In Love" was spine-tingling, and more
uptempo cuts, such as "Too Darn Hot" and "Heatwave," were delightfully
playful and demonstrated Coles uncanny knack for interpreting songs in a refreshing
way that makes them her own. Whether it was Holly Cole, Dadawa, or Willie Nelson, the
Aurora went beyond simply reproducing these artists musical performances to
communicate their passions and emotions.
The Simaudio Moon Aurora compared favorably to my reference
Bel Canto eVo6 multichannel amplifier ($4900).
Although the eVo6 has excellent bass capabilities, it could not match the Auroras
prowess in this area. The eVo6 simply did not have as much control over the drum whacks on
Dadawas Sister Drum as did the Aurora. In comparison, the eVo6 sounded
somewhat loose and did not have the same sense of authority. Another example was the
percussion on "Ganges Delta Blues," from Ry Cooder and V.M. Bhatts A
Meeting by the River [Water Lily Acoustics WLA-CS-29-CD], which was more tightly
controlled by the Aurora. However, the eVo6 seemed to have more soundstage depth and was
better able to re-create a sense of space within the church where the album was recorded.
The eVo6 also seemed to have an even smoother midrange and treble than the Aurora. This
was evident with Stardust as the amp maintained the gravelly character of Willie
Nelsons voice, but lessened the slight edge of the close vocal miking.
It would be impossible for me to say which of these
amplifiers is the better. Both excel in nearly all areas of performance, the Aurora
impressing with its absolute authority and precision, the eVo6 appealing just as much with
its slightly more relaxed and ultra-smooth sound. I could happily live with either as my
reference multichannel amplifier.
Save the Last Dance
The Simaudio Moon Aurora deserves to be compared with some
of the very best multichannel amplifiers available. Massively built, with incredible bass
performance and huge power reserves, it has an amazing amount of refinement that makes it
suitable for high-quality two-channel systems while maintaining the ability to drive
speakers to home-theater-approved sound levels. The Aurora unquestionably lives up to the
high standard set by Simaudios Moon series of components, and should be seriously
considered by anyone looking for a state-of-the-art multichannel amplifier at a sensible
|Speakers - Snell Acoustics
XA1900THX (mains), SR30THX (surrounds), ICS Sub 24 (subwoofer); Energy Veritas V2.3i
(mains), V2.0Ci (center), V2.0Ri (surrounds), e:XL-S12 (subwoofer); Infinity Compositions
P-FR (mains); Boston 555x (center); Mirage Omni 260 (surrounds); Paradigm PW-2200
- Simaudio Moon Stargate, Bel Canto PRe6, Onkyo TX-SR800
|Sources - Pioneer DV-45A
universal audio/video player, MSB Link DAC III (with 24/96 Upsampling, Half Nelson, and
P1000 power-supply upgrades)
- Analysis Plus, Audio Magic, ESP
|Monitor - Toshiba CX32H60