Simaudio MOON 280D MiND 2 Networked-Attached DAC Page 2

All that makes the 280D MiND 2 refreshingly fiddle-free, right through to the analogue outputs – on both unbalanced RCAs and balanced XLRs – that are at fixed level. Furthermore, as PM notes in his Lab Report, the company has picked its favoured digital filter setting for the ESS Sabre ES9018K2 DAC and offers no additional user adjustment. This gets my vote as I've wasted far too much reviewing time flicking between all kinds of digital settings on some rival devices.

sqnote On Point
That directness of set-up and use carries on through to the sound of the DAC, which is direct, to the point, free from any significant foibles, and entirely enjoyable. Whether used as a conventional DAC or as a network source, the 280D MiND 2 is totally consistent in its presentation of the music, even though buying this device to use it purely as a DAC might seem somewhat perverse, so complete is the network integration here.

1021sim.remSo yes, I tried it coupled to a MacBook Air, and indeed from the digital outputs of a couple of legacy source components I had to hand, but I was happiest using this unit as it is intended – connected to my home network, and fed from my NAS-full of music, as well as various streaming services. And of course, it also saw service as a Roon end-point, where it could handle just about every format in my music collection.

There's a precision about the sound here that's immensely rewarding, but the MOON 280D MiND 2 never sounds excessively 'technical', as can some extremely revealing digital components. With the crisp rhythms and dark tonal colours of The Soloists of Byzantine Music's Misa Flamenco set [Psalmus PSAL037; DSD128], the atmosphere is evoked in striking style, while the focus is always on the vocals and instruments, from solo voices in a reverberant church acoustic to the snap and speed of guitar. Its soundstaging is persuasive and well-focused, too.

Sting And Sizzle
The 280D MiND 2 is also beautifully detailed and well-balanced with Roberta Flack's take on Carole King's 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow?', from the recent 50th anniversary remaster of her Quiet Fire album [Rhino Atlantic], with a really intimate view of her voice – as there is throughout the album – and an entirely natural drawing of the accompanying instruments. It's all rather tinglesome, as is the way it helps the system present an entirely 'in the room' perspective.

But this unit can slam, too, as is clear with The White Stripes' much-chanted 'Seven Nation Army', from Elephant [Third Man Records TMR200]. Here the celebrated bass motif is resonant, deep, yet tight, while Meg White's percussion has real thump, sting and sizzle, the whole impression being of a fresh live performance despite the familiarity. And as for the cover of 'I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself', this is pleading, then angst-ridden, and then just majestic, the 280D MiND 2 giving it full breathless expression.

Deep Dive
What's more, this streamer/DAC is able to bring this wide-open, yet entirely human-scale, insight to whatever one chooses to play. So Sonya Bach's Rachmaninov recital [Rubicon RCD1058; 192kHz/24-bit] benefits not just from the speed and precision here, but the warmth and generosity of the sound, giving a presentation as gorgeous musically as it is rewarding in hi-fi terms.


PSU board [near left] feeds separately regulated supplies for the Stream 810 Wi-Fi board [blue], the network adapter [brown, underneath] and main audio board with its ES9018K2 DAC [far right]

Nor are these qualities limited to the playback of gentle, audiophile-quality recordings. With the bonkers bombast of Origin Of Symmetry (XX Anniversary RemiXX) by Muse [Warner 96kHz/24-bit download], the 280D MiND 2 allows the listener to get deep into the mix – and boy, is there a lot of depth there! – while keeping the tracks pounding and driving. It's all gloriously over the top, but still rather wonderful in its excess, and the streamer/DAC delivers it all.

Arguably its best aspect is the ability to bring out all that detail while using it to contribute to, rather than distract from, the musical experience. This is clear on the cover of 'Human Nature', made famous by Michael Jackson and recorded by Miles Davis live at the Vienne Jazz Festival very shortly before his death [Merci Miles!; Rhino R2 653962].

It starts jazz-lite, and then Davis starts to fly into ever-greater improvisations, as part of a cracking set including a smoky cover of Cyndi Lauper's 'Time After Time' and tracks by Prince and Marcus Miller. OK, so it's not Miles at the height of his powers but, in the hands of the 280D MiND 2, even this very late career recording is as thrilling as the crowd on the night in 1991 found it.

That combination of detail and generous warmth also serves well a large-scale orchestral recording, such the Iván Fischer/Budapest Festival Orchestra Brahms 3rd Symphony [Channel Classics CCS SA 43821; DXD]. Here the might of the orchestra is as impressive as the soundstage focus the 280D MiND 2 conjures up and the way one can listen in to the various sections, not to mention the drama of the great opening movement.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
A fine example of an integrated streaming platform, DAC and control app, the 280D MiND 2 is a stronger proposition thanks to expanded compatibility with streaming services, all accessed through the well-designed, easy to use MiND Control software. It may be something of a plain Jane among a field of rivals with large colour displays, touchscreens and the like, but it sounds excellent and is a delight to use.

Simaudio Ltd
Quebec, Canada
Supplied by: Renaissance Audio, Scotland
0131 555 3922