A couple of weeks back I took a drive up to Midlothian, VA to collect a pair of Sonus Faber Cremona M speakers, which I’ve written about here: Sonus Faber Cremona M review.
Since the drive up to Midlothian was a 4-hour round trip, I decided to have a look around at the classified ads to see if there was anything else in that direction to help justify the time spent behind the wheel. That’s how I came upon the Moon W5.3SE. It involved another hour of driving in the wrong direction, but, as it turned out, it was time well spent.
According to Simaudio’s own website here, “The [Moon W5.3] SE version produces 175 watts into 8 ohms, 350 watts in to 4 ohms and 700 watts in bridged mono configuration. It also uses MOON Bipolar output transistors with unprecedented gain linearity resulting in improved bass response and even more accurate sonic reproduction. Also unique to the SE version are tighter matching and tolerances for certain critical electronic parts.”
Moon W5.3
Power Amplifiers
Launched in: 2007
Discontinued: 2011

Simaudio – The Company

Simaudio is a Canadian company that specializes in the design and manufacture of high-end audio products. Founded in 1980, the company has built a reputation for creating some of the finest audio equipment in the world, including amplifiers, preamplifiers, CD players, and digital-to-analog converters. I’ve owned two of their products over the years, the Simaudio 380D DAC and the Simaudio W10 Monoblocks, both were excellent, particularly the 380D DAC.

One of the key features of Simaudio’s products is their use of what the company calls “MOON sound.” This refers to the warm and natural sound that their equipment is known for producing. To achieve this, Simaudio uses high-quality components and meticulous engineering to create products that are capable of reproducing music with exceptional clarity and lifelike detail.

Simaudio Moon W3.5 Special Edition Power Amplifier

I’m not big into powerful solid-state amps, particularly when they’re heavy and somewhat jeep-like in appearance and footprint, but it helps that the Moon W5.3SE tips the scales at a fairly modest 60 lbs or so. Getting the amp into position required setting up a temporary amp stand in the middle of the speakers, removing the shorting links in the XLR sockets, disconnecting my Straightwire XLRs from the Veloce Saetta Hybrid amps and making the connection into the Moon, then connecting the Iconoclast speaker cables to the hefty binding posts (bananas used)….ten minutes and I had the thing powered on and warming up.
The build quality of the W5.3 SE is top-notch, with a solid aluminum chassis and attractive black faceplate.  It also features balanced and unbalanced inputs, as well as a 12V trigger input, which makes it easy to integrate into any high-end audio system. For those wanting to bridge amps, that’s possible with the 5.3 series, and there are rather odd rubber pads placed on the top of the chassis to facilitate stacking one amp atop the other.
Simaudio Moon W5.3SE amp review
Now I’ve learned over the years never to change two things in the system at the same time – at least when they’re both unknown quantities. So obviously I changed two things in the system at the same time – new speakers by way of the Sonus Faber Cremona M and the Moon W5.3SE. In fairness (to me), I’d hooked up the Cremona M to my Veloce Hybrid amps and spent a couple of hours with them, so I did have the benefit of a minimal amount of experience with the new speakers prior to introducing the big Moon W5.3 amp.

Simaudio Moon W5.3SE amp review

I don’t have many ‘wow’ moments these days unless it’s looking at the miserable state of my checking account, but stepping from the Veloce Saetta Hybrids to the Moon amp was quite the wow moment. I wasn’t expecting the Moon amp to come anywhere close to the level of performance of my Veloce amps, but the Moon came very, very close. Scarily so. In fact, in some important areas, the Moon amp surpasses the performance of the $18,000 Hybrid monoblocks.

The first thing that struck me was the heft and solidity that this amp delivers. The Moon presents a more solid bottom-end foundation than that provided by the Veloce Monoblocks, not necessarily more extended, but just more authoritative from around 400 hertz down. You can literally feel the impact of kick drums, and bass notes just seem to have more presence in the mix. The midrange is also excellent, vocals have nice purity of tone and there’s just a hint of warmth through the mids which resembles that inflected by the 6H30 tubes in the Veloce Monoblocks. This certainly doesn’t feel like a stereotypically ‘glassy’  sounding solid-state amp, perhaps partly due to the fact that the first 5 watts are produced in pure Class-A. The top-end isn’t quite as open and extended as the Veloce Monoblocks, there’s a tad less air and a tad less detail, but not much is missing and I really could just be nitpicking here.

In fact, by any normal measurement, one would say that the Moon W5.3SE produces a detailed and transparent sound, with excellent clarity and dynamic range, not quite up there with the very best, but ever so close. The Moon amp also throws a wide soundstage and presents impressively tight and layered imaging, though soundstage depth falls a little short of the Veloce Hybrid amps.

A record I’ve been spinning quite a bit lately is Jethro Tull – Stand Up (Analogue Productions 45 RPM / 180 Gram). I’ve about a half dozen or so copies of this album (only one from Analogue Productions) and it always amazes me just how well-recorded this thing is, given its 1969 release date! Sure, the mix is a little odd, as were most of Tull’s early recordings, with vocals often placed way off-center and instruments (including the drum kit) popping up in different locations from track to track. But the soundstage is wide and spacious via the Moon/Sonus Faber combo with images clearly delineated and with plenty of air and clarity. Listening to the track ‘Bouree’, the bass line seems to be as well-defined and punchy as I’ve heard it, and there’s a nice sense of pace and timing to the track that hasn’t struck me before in quite the same way.

Here’s a tip! If you want a left-field recommendation for an album with some great music that’s brilliantly recorded, well here it is: Sergio Mendes – Primal Roots sergio-mendez-primal-roots(Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’77). Sure, you’re going to lose some street cred with the guy at the used record store when you bring this up to the counter, but trust me, it’s worth it! From www.allmusic.com: “Many of the tracks here are ritualistic in structure, with call-and-response vocals, sprinkled with native Brazilian percussion instruments like the agogo, cuica, atabaques and the weird single-string berimbau, creating mysterious moods and grooves.” 

My take is that the album sounds like early Santana without the guitar! As I’ve said already, the music is great and the recording quality is excellent. The first track, Promise Of A Fisherman (Promessa De Pescador), has a deep bass line that really sounds excellent with the Moon W5.3SE, and there’s an organ that kicks in about halfway through the track that literally sets things shaking in the room if your system can reproduce it well enough!

There’s lots of space and ambiance on the recording that the Moon does an excellent job of capturing, and the various hand-claps and bells, which can sound harsh with some equipment, sound bloody marvelous via the Moon and Sonus Faber Cremona M combo.

Here’s a YouTube of the first track just to give you a flavor of the type of music:


Simaudio Moon W5.3SE amp review

Overall, the Simaudio Moon W5.3 SE is a great 2-channel power amplifier that offers high-end performance and solid build quality at a pretty reasonable price. These appear occasionally on the used markets at around half their original $8500 MSRP, and for $4-5K I’d say this is something of an audiophile bargain. The best endorsement I can provide is in the fact that I haven’t gone back to my $18K Veloce monoblocks at the time of writing this, I’m enjoying the W5.3 SE way too much.


CAH March 2023 (scroll down for the review equipment)


Simaudio Moon W5.3SE powering Sonus Faber Cremona M speakers

Other equipment used in this review include:

  • Basis Audio Debut Gold Standard Vacuum with Graham Phantom B-44 arm and Audioquest AQ7000 cartridge (rebuilt by VAS in NYC)
  • Walker Precision Speed Controller
  • Manley Steelhead RC phonostage with NOS tubes throughout.
  • Veloce Audio Platino LS-1 Battery powered linestage with Lithio updates.
  • Lumin U1 Mini Streamer
  • OPPO BDP93 Universal disc player
  • Gustard X16 (I know, it’s out of place here…I sold my Denafrips Terminator DAC/GAIA DDC and I’m waiting on a Lampizator landing).
  • Veloce Audio Saetta Hybrid Monoblocks (6H30 input tubes, Hypex Class D modules, Lithium battery packs).
  • PS Audio P10 regenerator
  • Iconoclast speaker cables (on loan), various PCs and ICs including ESP Reference, Straightwire XLR, Cardas, Nordost Heimdel II phono cable)