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Moon Neo MiND streaming UPnP renderer

Moon Neo MiND streaming UPnP renderer

The streaming world has all but been cracked, but there are still many audio enthusiasts who have a good, existing system with a range of fine digital products from a previous generation. They have no real way of adding streamed music content from a local or online source to their existing system and have no real inclination to sack a fine digital product from the bygone age of maybe a decade or so ago. For them, the Moon Neo MiND streamer is the perfect tool.

MiND stands for ‘MOON intelligent Network Device’. It’s not the first UPnP renderer MiND device in Moon’s arsenal, but this one is designed to be a little more ‘shelf-friendly’, with its gently rounded front panel and solid Neo series build quality. It also takes advantage of a couple of years of development over the original box, and that makes things just that little bit smoother and easier.

The Neo MiND doesn’t feature an in-built DAC. Instead, it has an Ethernet port, a slew of traditional digital audio outputs (Coaxial, TOSlink, AES/EBU), a pair of aerials for wireless/Bluetooth play, and a trio of 12V triggers for multiroom use. Simply connect the streamer to your local network (wired or wirelessly, the manual is comprehensive enough to make both pretty easy), download the iDevice or Android app to a phone or tablet on the same network, and you are done.

The app works well too, albeit using a paged menu system instead of more immediately intuitive apps like Linn Kinsky, or Naim’s app, and especially Roon. If anything, the one point against the Moon Neo MiND (aside from repeatedly typing out that lower case ‘i’) is it lacks Roon support. Given the cost of the Neo MiND relative to the cost of a full Roon license, this is possibly not a deal-breaker, especially as we have been reliably informed (by Dr. Seuss, no less) to see some Roon in the Moon, soon!

I used the Neo MiND in a wired Network with a Naim Uniti Core doing the music serving, and with a trusty-but-rusty Wadia 121 DAC as converter, through its S/PDIF input. Attaching it to the Wadia is a perfect example of the Neo MiND’s primary use; a well-loved DAC that was designed in the early part of the century, and supports 24/192 PCM and USB, but has no provision, and no possible upgrade path, for network connections. The Moon Neo MiND has enough digital outputs to allow most DACs to retain their original connections (if this Wadia were connected to a CD transport via S/PDIF, there was still AES/EBU and Toslink available, and either of these could also be fed by the Neo MiND. In effect, the Wadia 121 ‘sees’ the Neo MiND as just another digital transport. The use of S/PDIF has another advantage, as it allows direct comparison between the output of the Naim Uniti Core and the Neo MiND playing the same tracks, because the Naim has its own BNC-equipped digital output.

 

The Neo MiND is a remarkable performer, capable of extracting so much from the digital data it is presented. The usual digital complaints of a thin, flat, and undynamic sound that used to be fired at CD are now passed on to streaming. In fairness, in some systems, not without due justification because they are thin, flat, and undynamic. Here, however, the Neo MiND doesn’t just challenge that perception, it quashes it altogether. I found myself quickly dispensing with the test recordings and the audiophile-approved list, and spending many hours in the company of Bob Dylan. Desire[Columbia] is one of my favourites from the 1970s, but the sound stands or falls on the quality of the orchestration of ‘Hurricane’ (one of his few protest songs of the decade). Far from the thin, undynamic, lacklustre, and distant sound commonly associated with streamed Dylan of this period, the Moon Neo MiND feeds a DAC a more articulate, full-bodied, musically and temporally accurate signal that is also extremely dynamic. The net result is an extraordinarily listenable digital feed, akin to that of a really good CD transport.

The comparison in sound quality between the Uniti Core direct to the Wadia, and through the Neo MiND was fascinating. Notionally at least, I expected the two to either sound the same (implying transparency on the Moon’s part) or to hear the Naim sound better (by virtue of less devices between music and DAC). In fact, the sound of the Neo MiND was markedly better than the Uniti Core in this respect. The on-board BNC link of the Naim sounded listless and shut in by comparison. Granted these differences were relatively subtle, there was no stamping of feet or swearing, but the Moon eclipsed (see what I did there?) the Uniti Core just enough to be noticeable.

The Neo MiND sits in a product category that was effectively invented by Moon, and the company remains damn good at it, with a fine balance of cost and performance that other brands tip in their own direction: you want ultimate performance… go with the dCS Bridge and pay two and a half times as much as the Neo MiND. Or, you want ultimate value… go with the Arcam rPlay (review in the pipeline) that doesn’t reach the same heights, but costs one-quarter the price of the Moon device. The Moon Neo MiND dominates the optimum balance position, and does so beautifully.

The Moon Neo MiND UPnP renderer/ streamer does its job so well, you sometimes wonder if you are being subtly influenced to like it through MiND control. It slots into practically any system with a DAC with ease and brings what could easily be dismissed as a ‘legacy’ system bang up to date. The chances are, if you are exploring this kind of upgrade, the Neo MiND might be your first Moon product, but once you’ve played with it for even the shortest time, you’ll realise it won’t be your last. Outstanding and highly recommended.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Type: UPnP Renderer with CRM-3 remote

Inputs: 100Base-T RJ45 Ethernet interface, IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi interface and Bluetooth (aptX)

Digital outputs: SPDIF, TosLink & AES/EBU

Network protocols: DLNA 1.5 Compatibility, Online content from TuneIn and other “Music Services”, Local Playlists, Gapless Playback, Silent track scanning
Supported file formats: Wave, FLAC, FLAC HD, AIF, AAC, ALAC, MP3 (vbr/cbr), WMA-9 ,OGG Vorbis, up to 24-bit/192kHz

Dimensions (W×H×D): 17.8 ×7.6 ×28cm

Weight: 3.1kg

Price: £1,700

Manufactured by: Moon by Simaudio Ltd

URL: simaudio.com

Distributed in the UK by: 
Renaissance Audio

URL: renaissanceaudio.co.uk

Tel: +44 (0)131 555 3922 

Tags: FEATURED

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