The quest for the best Integrated hi-fi amplifier abounds and over the years there have been many a press release claiming the best amplification from one box. I do not profess to have the answer but the Simaudio Moon 700i and the Mark Levinson No.585 are certainly two of the finest examples I have spent time with and along with the Devialet must be serious contenders for the title.
The No. 585 is a main fixture in my product range and although I have traded in many Moon products over the years this is my first experience of the 700i. I doubt it will hang around for long so I have had the amp on for a few days now to see how the Sim flagship integrated sounds. At £10000 the 700i presses all the right buttons, the build is superb as expected with a very pleasant feel to all the controls. The widely accepted test for amplifier quality – a quick couple of turns of the volume dial! – is easily passed. The fee running nature of the dial reminds me of the superb Tact Millennium MK1 ( now Lyngdorf). Compared to the Levinson the 700i is slightly smaller but it is still a sizeable amp. Both amplifiers blend silver and black with superb red displays that are easy to read from a distant sofa, remotes are weighty affairs that continue the quality feel. The similarities change slightly on the back panel with the No.585 featuring an inbuilt DAC and slightly wider spaced speaker outputs but the premium nature of both models continues here.
Similar as the amplifiers are on appearance the differences in the sound performance were very marked. There is no doubting both are on the same page for quality with the Moon and the Mark Levinson easily justifying their respective price tickets. The 700i delivers a very intimate sound with rock solid vocals and good control in the bass. There is no doubting the power on tap and with the speakers tested there was no sonic shortage in the bottom end – power is rated at 175w versus 200w on the 585. The background silence that focusses the sound gives the impression that the song is sung just for you and with certain music that creates an amazing involvement. Combined with a tremendous rhythm the Moon delivers a very engaging sound that catches you at subtle volume levels but holds your attention right up at the volume limit of the room. The intimate sound is slightly less appealing at the high volume for me as it seems to hold back on the energy and although the music is loud it is perhaps too polite.
The Levinson is different again – the bass and power is there in spades as it is with the Moon but there is more air and life to the music. Instead of the intimate feeling of a band playing just for you in the studio there is the involvement of being front row at their best gig. The top end feels free where the Moon appears slightly tense in comparison. The extra space and size to the sound works to the 585’s advantage at low level and normal listening volumes but the energy that was missing from the 700i is all too clear as the numbers on the dial increase. At the upper reaches the 585 is rocking with the best but there is a slight brittle nature to the sound right at the extremes of volume. The extra pace is an attraction to me as it benefits the varied selection of music I listen to. With a more classical music palate I think the 700i would triumph but for all round listening I am sticking with the 585 for now.
I tested the two amplifiers with Wilson Watt Puppy 5.1, JBL 1400 Arrays and Dali Epicon 6 loudspeakers and the characteristics were evident in each speaker. I used an Aria music server and Primare BD32 universal player. For music I was working through M and N in my music collection playing Mumford & Sons, Mop Mop, Miranda Sykes, New Order, Nick Mulvey, Nitin Sawhney and some Oscar Peterson.
For more information on the Mark Levinson No.585 click HERE
For more information on the Simaudio Moon 700i click HERE