The Moon 110LP v2 sits between your turntable and amp to provide you with improved performance from your vinyl. John Pickford gets to grips with this compact and stylish black box.
The MOON 110LP v2 is a new phono preamplifier from Canadian manufacturers Simaudio. It’s designed for use in conjunction with amplifiers without an in-built phono stage or as a major upgrade for those with a basic Moving Magnet (MM) input.
The 110LP is small and light with a rigid all-aluminium chassis. However, the simple, stylish looks belie the comprehensive features of the unit. While the rear panel has gold-plated phono connectors for input and output, as well as a ground terminal and socket for the supplied wall-wart power supply, it’s the underside of the unit where all the clever action occurs.
Here, you will find a series of dipswitches, which enable the user to precisely calibrate the amp for optimum results with any cartridge; no matter what type you use now, or change to in the future, the 110LP can accommodate it.
The dipswitches located at the base of the unit allow four parameters to be adjusted. The Gain level can be set from 40dB, ideal for high-output Moving Magnet (MM) cartridges, up to 66dB for Moving Coil (MC) types with extremely low output.
There are three settings in between, and I found that the 60dB setting was sufficient for my low-output MC. Input impedance can be set to 10 ohms,100 ohms, 475 ohms or 47k ohms, the latter the default setting for MMs, as moving coil impedance varies considerably. Your MC cartridge’s specifications should give you a good starting point, though experimentation to achieve the best sound is worthwhile and can do no harm; you won’t damage any components even with the unit set to the least optimum impedance for your cartridge.
I settled for the 100-ohm option, finding it to be slightly more harmonious with my MC than the 475-ohm setting. Impedance adjustment is a worthwhile feature of any decent phono stage capable of MC operation. However, capacitance adjustment is relatively uncommon. Those using a moving magnet cartridge should experiment with this parameter, however most MCs should work well with capacitance set to zero.
Even more unusual than the capacitance setting is the equalisation curve setting. RIAA has been standard for decades, so I would not recommend using the IEC setting unless you have some esoteric equipment designed for this uncommon system.
Simaudio state that the 110LP’s performance will continue to improve during the first 300 hours of listening, and while I find this ‘break-in’ time recommendation to be on the high side, I concur that the unit is best left permanently powered up, unless it’s not in use for a considerable length of time. And with power consumption of only two watts when idle, you won’t be making significant savings by switching off between listening sessions.
With that in mind, the amp is unboxed and powered up immediately upon arrival and left for over 24 hours before being inserted into my reference system. Playing the title track from Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here (Harvest 1975), the 110LP instantly reveals its hi-fi credentials. The interplay between David Gilmour’s electric rhythm guitar and lead guitar is in correct proportion.
Through lesser equipment, these guitars can sound oddly balanced, only really making sense through quality hardware. As the track progresses, I am aware of the smooth, musical character of the unit. It conveys plenty enough detail but not in a forensic way. While the tonal palette is suitably wide, it paints its musical picture with broader brush strokes than I am used to through my valve phono amp.
Moving on to something more soulful, Marvin Gaye’s classic What’s Going On (Motown 1971) gives the 110LP the opportunity to show off its firm grasp of rhythms. What it lacks in finely etched detail, it makes up for with its musical timing, being right on the money in the boogie factor stakes.
My mono copy of Miles Smiles (CBS 1967) by Miles Davis highlights the 110LP’s excellent timbral resolution, with well-recorded acoustic instruments, the interplay between the band leader’s trumpet and Wayne Shorter’s saxophone being beautifully delineated.
The 110LP doesn’t dig as deep into the lower registers as the best phono amps and it seems happier with simply recorded music than complex studio productions. However, these criticisms are minor. The sound quality on offer
is excellent for the money and its fully-featured flexibility is faultless.