Compact and dinky it might be but Moon says that this little phono amplifier can punch above its weight (and size). Paul Rigby reviews the 110LP v2
Allow me to throw you a few stats to give you an idea of what you’re dealing with here. This is a little box spanning 127 x 42 x 165mm and weighing in at around 1.5kg. So this little phono amplifier is just the thing if you’re short on space. It’s also demure and shy in its general appearance. This low profile look will again appeal to many who don’t like their hi-fi to parade in front of them. Some hi-fi kit does a veritable calypso while wearing head feathers and a rainbow skirt. Not the 110. Low key. Low vis. Low height. Thats the Moon 110LP v2.
When you are matching your cartridge with this phono amplifier, you’ll be faced with banks of DIP switches underneath (see image below). Now look, I’ll tell you straight that I dislike DIP switches intensely. They are finicky, confusing and easy to configure incorrectly. That said, you are given a nice little pen-type piece of plastic called a DIPStick from Grayhill which assists with the switch moving and, in sonic terms at this price, DIP switching is best system available. Other solutions will either degrade the sound performance or demand a dramatic price hike. So, like me, you’re lumbered. The settings themselves are not too puzzling, to be honest but I found that I wasn’t sure – at least initially – where the switch was. The well lit image below, oddly enough, looks rather clearer than real life. Maybe when shadows loom in those recessed DIP switch pits then… That is, at first glance, it was tough to know where a switch was sitting: on the left or right. I got the hang of that pretty soon but I can imagine someone pushing to breaking point a DIP switch to the right which is already to the right because it looks like its on the left! Phew! If you catch my drift. Just don’t push too hard, the switches are not hard to move. If you’re pushing a switch to the right and it just won’t shift, it’s probably already there.
Those settings include impedance (i.e. 47kΩ, 475Ω,100Ω, 10Ω), capacitance loading (i.e. 0pF, 100pF,330pF, 430pF), gain (40dB, 50dB, 54dB, 60dB, 66dB) and a user selectable curve (IEC/RIAA).
The wall wart-powered aluminium chassis includes four-layer PCB tracings using pure copper and inductive DC filtering. It also features a socket for the 24V switch mode power supply, arrives in any colour you want as long as its black and comes with a 10-year warranty.
I began with a vinyl version of Nancy Wilson’s You’ve Got Your Troubles from the original Capitol/EMI pressing of A Touch of Today (1966). This album features a measure of compression so, while there’s plenty of detail on offer, the upper mids are pushed to the edge. This means that any hi-fi product that’s not perfectly neutral will push this recording into the bright zone and you’ll know about it pretty pronto.
As for the 110LP v2 in action? This box is as neutral as I’ve heard in a while from a relatively low cost phono amp. There was no hint of the 110 forcing the issue within the upper mid or treble zones. Instead, the Moon took its foot off the pedal and let the music do its thing.
Upper mids were not only balanced in terms of presentation, the low noise from the unit meant that the midrange was able to rope in more detail than I would have expected at this price point.
What I mean is that the reduction in noise increased the 3D effect of the soundstage so the music seemed to push backwards towards the rear wall of my listening room. As the soundstage moved backwards, the new space wasn’t just heard as an empty void, of course, it was filled by new detail. So, on one channel, a quite frantic acoustic guitar strum added finesse and delicacy to the sound of the strings. With some phono amps, that acoustic guitar could sound restricted and a little forced.
Let me elaborate. Imagine standing in a room, looking through a window and seeing a face on the other side squashed against the glass. Now, as you stare in horror and before you reach for your phone to call the Police, observe that face. Apart from the bent nose, the cheeks are flattened, the eyes look a little scary and the lips will be distorted. That’s the equivalent effect that some phono amps can produce if all they offer is a flat 2D soundstage.
The 110LP v2 gives, in effect, more room for details to manifest themselves. So, you’re back in your room with this odd looking person on the other side of the glass? Imagine that they slowly move backwards, the lips detach from the glass, the nose unbends, the eyes blink and the face slowly emerges, offers form, structure, new depth, more detail can be seen, new subtle aspects of the cheek bones are visible for the first time and, hey, they actually look quite attractive. I wonder if they’re free for dinner tonight…?
But enough shenanigans. Do you see how a 3D soundstage is actually important when appreciating delicate details?
I changed the music to a more dynamic and bass heavy master from rock outfit T2 and It’ll All Work Out in Boomland and the track, Morning. Again, the result was a balanced output with bass offering a wealth of information, transient detail, reverb response and more but doing it within the confines of the mix without booming and dominating or affecting the midrange. During the early part of this track I was impressed, during a high energy, rather noisy part of the sound, how the drums were kicking up a storm, the guitar was a beast of noise and yet the delicate cymbal taps were clearly evident with enough space in and around to offer their own reverb tails. The sense of order and discipline was high yet the naturalistic flow of the music was also important here. The detail on offer never appeared forced or false and plastic in any way.
The best compliment I can offer the Moon 110LP v2 is that I often found my attention drifting away from the review in hand and becoming lost in the music. Which is why this review took twice as long as it should have. Ten minutes would go by and then I’d suddenly click back into work mode, realising that I should be making notes at this point. The 110 is thus an involving piece of kit and one that integrates easily and efficiently into any balanced hi-fi system. Tonally, it is very impressive indeed with an organic clarity that is mightily impressive at this price point.
If you’re building a top-end budget analogue system and have a To Do shopping list? You don’t have to look to the heavens for guidance on the phono amplifier selection, just the Moon.
MOON 110 PHONO AMPLIFIER Price: £399 Tel: 0131 555 3922 Website: www.simaudio.com
GOOD: tonal balance, neutral presentation, midrange clarity, disciplined bass, value for money
Don’t forget to check out my Facebook Group, The Audiophile Man: Hi-Fi & Music here: www.facebook.com/groups/theaudiophileman for exclusive postings, exclusive editorial and more!]
Pro-Ject RPM3 turntable
Spendor A1 speakers
Black Rhodium cables
Blue Horizon Professional Rack System
Harmonic Resolution Systems Noise Reduction Components
All vinyl was cleaned using an Audio Desk’s Ultrasonic Pro Vinyl Cleaner
Richard28th April 2019 at 10:24 pm
I appreciate there’s approx. £300 difference in price but where does the Schiit Mani compare to this?
Paul Rigby29th April 2019 at 8:47 am
I’d go for the Moon.
robert berlinguette21st July 2020 at 3:00 am
moon the best of the best that all robert berlin
Roger29th April 2019 at 12:36 pm
Hello Paul. How would the Moon compare to the Graham Slee Era Gold V in it’s presentation ?
Paul Rigby29th April 2019 at 2:50 pm
I haven’t heard one live, I’m afraid Roger although colleagues tell me that it can be on the cool side around the midrange. If that’s the case, then Moon should offer better balance but, as I say, I cannot confirm.
Louie3rd July 2019 at 2:10 am
Recenyly, I bought a Rega Fono MM MK3, but found it is little disappointing for my Rega P3/Exact combination.
A Fono MM has rich midrange but lose some sparkling in treble and bass area, also weak in transparency.
How would the Moon compare to Rega Fono MM MK3 in overal sense?
Paul Rigby3rd July 2019 at 10:55 am
I like the Rega, it’s an excellent product but I think I’d plump for the Moon on this occasion. It offers superb value for money and is a bit of a giant killer.
Loue3rd July 2019 at 11:41 am
Thank for quick reply.
I think 110lp’s sound nature is very similar to Schiit Mani.
How do you think of this comparison? i.e. 110lp vs. Mani.
Paul Rigby4th July 2019 at 9:05 am
Hi Loue – the Moon is superior. Simple as that.
Louie3rd July 2019 at 2:14 am
Oh, I am also interested in comparison with TRICHORD DINO MK.3.
Greg M17th August 2019 at 5:11 am
Paul; Just signed up for your news letter Very interested in hearing more from you an the Moon 110 v2 vs the Schiit Mani. Specifically some details on the sound differences. Thank you.
Paul Rigby19th August 2019 at 10:46 am
Hi Greg – I’d go for the Moon – although the Mani is excellent for the price. General sound quality, basically.
Adrian30th August 2019 at 4:16 pm
Hi Paul. How is the moon 110 compare to dynavector p75 mk4? For my rega p3 and Ania cart. I am considering these 2 in comparison to my rega fono mc.
Paul Rigby30th August 2019 at 4:23 pm
You’ve got me there, Adrian – The P75 is very good indeed, I know that. Not sure how it compares to the Moon because I haven’t done a full test or an A-B comparison. The Moon is excellent, I know that but, bottom line? I would probably grab the better deal of the two or the one that you feel most comfortable with.
r art23rd September 2019 at 4:03 pm
How does this compare to the Trichord dino Mk3?
Paul Rigby24th September 2019 at 10:24 am
The Dino is excellent and, if you did buy this, you wouldn’t be disappointed. In its basic form, though, I’d go for the Moon.
That said, the Dino is designed to be upgradeable in stages by swapping over power supplies, cables, etc. Hence, you have an upgrade path up to around £1,000 in value over time. So it depends on how you want to approach the hardware and how you see your upgrade path. Have you seen my Dino review?
Rich Art25th September 2019 at 10:07 pm
I haven’t yet had a chance read as yet. But will do.
Paul Rigby26th September 2019 at 10:41 am
No problem Rich.
Humberto9th October 2019 at 7:40 am
Thanks for the review Paul, your writing style is quite entertaining. I read your review and purchased the Moon 110LP. I replaced Schiit Mani. I hit the Mani’s limit. It’s Wonderful phono stage for budget gear, but when paired with Atoll 200 signature and Buchardt s400 I realized the Mani was he weak link in my chain. I’ve had the moon for 1 week now and it completely quieted noise floor. I can listen to my vinyl without the pop and clicks that are present in the Mani. Is it worth the extra $280? It is to me. Anyways, my question is how does it handle MC? I have Nagaoka MP200 (MM) and the sound is fantastic, but I wonder how the Moon will handle an MC like a Dynavector 20x? Will upgrade cart in the near future and I’m wondering to stay in the Nagaoka family (mp500) or move up to MC. Will the moon handle it? Thank you.
Paul Rigby9th October 2019 at 2:34 pm
Thanks for you kind words Humberto. In a word? Yes.
Joel24th November 2019 at 3:31 pm
Great review, Paul. I loved the ending. As always, well-done.
Paul Rigby25th November 2019 at 12:19 pm
Roger15th January 2020 at 2:58 pm
Like others i was thinking of trying the mani, however on your review i would try the Moon. But how do you think it compares to Musical Fidelity LX-LPS.
Paul Rigby15th January 2020 at 3:09 pm
The LX is a lower cost product, Roger and (via casual listening – I haven’t tested it formally) it does well in its lower price slot but the Moon (from such casual listening) appears more capable.
Behzad6th February 2020 at 11:31 pm
I have a Rega Planar 3 with Exact cart and using Rega MM MK3 fono , in near future I’m planning to go for Rega Ania MC . How do you compare Rega Aria Phonostage against moon 110 for my actual configuration and future one ?
Thanks in advanced
Paul Rigby7th February 2020 at 2:44 pm
Thanks for your kind words – I’d go for the Rega on a straight A-B but then the Rega is a lot more expensive.
Behzad9th February 2020 at 3:39 pm
Thanks for your prompt response, you are alright the price is double. I’ll go with the Moon as preamp and when I upgrade the turntable to something higher I’ll change to Aria.
Behzad9th February 2020 at 4:39 pm
How do you compare Rega Fono Mk3 MC against Moon ?
Thanks in advance
Paul Rigby9th February 2020 at 5:07 pm
It’s excellent and you won’t be disappointed if you did prefer to go for that. That said, I’d personally lean towards the Moon in ultimate sonics.
Kostas17th February 2020 at 1:03 am
I am very glad to find this excelent review of yours. Recently I discovered Moon and now I am in a crossroad in buying Rega Fono MM or this Moon.
I have Planar 3 with AT VM540ML connected to receiver (Cambridge Audio Topaz SR20). Ane dedicated preamp would be step up I think. AT sounds a bit bright and lacks midrange.
What you would suggest to buy? Fono MM or Moon?
Paul Rigby17th February 2020 at 10:10 am
H Kostas – if you are targeting issues with the cart, and it seems that you are in your note, then I would advise correcting that first. The phono amp won’t ‘fix’ that. I would get to a situation where you’re happy with your cart. Then a phono amp upgrade will bring out more from that cart.
Joel2nd April 2020 at 8:50 pm
Paul, have you heard a Lehmann Black Cube Statement? They both have MM/MC capability with adjustable gain and loading. It’s the same money as the Moon. Which do you prefer?
Paul Rigby3rd April 2020 at 10:01 am
Frustratingly, no. Not as a formal test at any rate. If I can trust casual listening, though (hence take my words with a slight pinch of salt), I’d stick with the Moon
Joel3rd April 2020 at 7:56 pm
Thanks, Paul. And would you also say the Moon is an upgrade to the phono stage on a Rega Brio?
Paul Rigby4th April 2020 at 1:36 pm
Any external model would be, Joel. The Moon? Absolutely.
Pieter16th April 2020 at 4:49 pm
Thanks for all your excellent reviews. I wonder if you could compare this Moon with the Arcam Rphono. Are there any noticeable differences soundwise? Which one do you prefer? And why?
Paul Rigby16th April 2020 at 5:28 pm
That Pieter – I’d go for the Moon which improves on the Arcam across all frequencies.
Pieter16th April 2020 at 5:52 pm
Thanks. Does the Moon also have the edge in 3D soundstaging?
Paul Rigby16th April 2020 at 5:53 pm
Yes, I’d say it’s a broad-based upgrade.
Neil2nd August 2020 at 7:47 pm
Really enjoy reading your reviews.
Can you advise on a Trilogy 906 phono stage compared to the new moon 110 v2 you reviewed here.
I’m using a project 5RPM turntable with an ortofon 2Mblack MM, spendor A1 speakers you recommended,
Paul Rigby3rd August 2020 at 8:53 am
Thanks Neil – the new Trilogy is a much pricier item and so is not really a fair comparison. That said, I haven’t done an A-B but, knowing the company’s products from the past, the 906 should be a good’un.
Mark Mother15th August 2020 at 8:43 am
I have a rega p3 with a sumiko Olympia cartridge…I play this through my Naim muso via a graham slee 1 phono…..would the moon be a worthwhile upgrade?
Paul Rigby16th August 2020 at 12:18 pm
Hi Mark – I would say a cautious “yes”, because I haven’t done a strict A-B comparison. Only a casual listen of the ‘1’. So take this reply with a certain pinch of salt.
Mark Mothersole18th August 2020 at 5:29 pm
I have a Naim muso with a rega planar 3, sumiko Olympia cartridge and graham slee 1 phono amp…do you think the moon 110 lp may be a bit of a waste compared to the rega fono or similar priced phono stage?
Paul Rigby19th August 2020 at 10:41 am
I see your point but no, I think it will help Mark.
Mark19th August 2020 at 2:58 pm
Many thanks for your quick reply….moon it is…
Vaughn Tonkin1st September 2020 at 6:57 am
I sold a Moon V1 on ebay 18 mnth ago and I happened to see it listed by the buyer I sold it to. I found it no better than Project Phono Box, I went back to my $100 TEC TC-778
Paul Rigby1st September 2020 at 10:32 am
Never tested the V1 so can’t really comment on that one. I do know that the V2 is something special, though.
Neil8th November 2020 at 9:41 am
Hi Paul can you test the moon 110V2 with the Graham slee Era gold v please as a comparison.
Paul Rigby9th November 2020 at 11:24 am
I have neglected Mr Slee – I must give him a ring.
Yannis8th November 2020 at 11:38 am
Good morning from Greece and thank you for the interesting and detailed reviews. By the way I feel that text reviews are more helpful, but I guess I am just getting older…
Currently my setup is Rega Brio, Rega Planar 3/Elys 2 and Schiit Mani. I have some hum problems with the Mani, but I would like an upgrade (more of a disease I guess). So, given budget restrictions (up to € 400 or I will get divorced!) should I invent on MM only, on MM/MC, or wait to increase budget? Are there any options at this price range that would be an upgrade (and not just a change) compared to Mani? Options I’ve identified (through internet) include Rega Fono MM mk3, Graham Slee Gram Amp 2 SE, Rothwell Simplex, but also Arcam rPhono and Lehmann Black Cube Statement.
I know that it is not possible for you to actually review all the above devices, but any input would be useful. Sorry for bombing you with so many questions. Be safe and well
Paul Rigby9th November 2020 at 11:26 am
Hi Yannis – which is why I try to keep a flow of both text and video, to offer that choice. For the current set up, the Moon is ideal and recommended and will be there when/if you upgrade your Rega and cart.
Yannis9th November 2020 at 3:04 pm
Thanks for the quick reply. Regarding the Moon I have to wait a little, to increase the available budget to about 550 € plus shipping (Moon is not available in Greece as far as I know). Not necessarily a big step but these are strange days
Gary Jones12th November 2020 at 7:04 pm
I have had the Shiit mani for just over a year now…with goldring 1042 and nagaoka mp200. I’m looking to make an upgrade for under 1k. The moon has caught my attention, as has the ifi phono 2, both of which you’ve reviewed. The Rega aria is still within my budget. Which shoukd I go for please….?
Another question…I notice that between tracks, my woofers are pulsing in and out quite slowly when the volume is high on some pressings. I’ve heard of rumble filters…do any of these phono stages filter that out?
Paul Rigby13th November 2020 at 10:02 am
I’d go for the Moon. A great performer.
I would caution against rumble filters because they will filter out elements of music as well as sonic issues. The best bet is to get to the root of any sonic issue and correct that rather than apply an striking plaster over the problem.
Gary Jones16th November 2020 at 12:03 pm
Thanks Paul. Before I had chance to see your reply I was offered a fantastic deal on the Rega aria mk3 current model so I’ve got that. I’m shocked at how much I have been missing with the budget phonostage. The aria is sounding so ‘real’ if that makes sense. I don’t have the audiophile vocabulary (audiocabulary 😂) to describe it any better. It’s just sounds beautiful and 3 dimensional in a way I hadn’t expected. Thanks for your review of the moon though…it got me thinking about the importance of the phonostage. In addition…no need for a rumble filter…the woofers have stopped pulsing!
Paul Rigby16th November 2020 at 12:57 pm
Good stuff – glad you found a deal on the Aria, Gary.
Neil Quarmby14th November 2020 at 3:40 pm
Which would give a better sound to my system, the moon phono stage or graham slee era gold v ?
Like the trilogy but think it would be wasted on my system.
Will I further improve my system if I replace the Chord Rumours 2 speaker cable with SIGNATURE??
PRoject RPM5 WITH NEW Ortofon 2m Black
Paul Rigby15th November 2020 at 4:18 pm
I think I’ve already addressed the Slee phono thing before via your earlier question and ‘yes’ on the Signature.
Jake Murphy27th November 2020 at 1:36 pm
Thanks for all your highly informative reviews. Very much appreciated. I am considering this, the Moon 110LP V2 and the MoFi UltraPhono. Moving in a different direction, I am also considering a Rothwell Head-amp or one of their Step-up transformers. Which way do you think I should jump?
Thanks again, for all you do.
Paul Rigby30th November 2020 at 3:19 pm
I have yet to review MoFi’s hardware – despite my requests…and they agreeing to send…and nothing turning up…and me asking again…[repeat] But I do hear good things about them. I do know the Moon offers tremendous value for money. It punches way over its weight.
Jake Murphy2nd December 2020 at 2:23 pm
Many thanks. Much appreciated.
Simon Henstock25th March 2021 at 11:21 am
I’m considering this phono stage as a partner for my NAD C558 with the stock OM10 cartridge. One of the things I’ve noticed about records is how far the volume dial on the amplifier has to go up compared to CDs (a CD rarely has to go above 9 o’clock while a record often has to go up to 11 for an immersive sound). Will the gain settings on this phono stage help with that?
I’m also thinking about cartridge upgrades for the NAD. Is there any particular reason why you recommend the Goldring E3 over the more common Ortofon 2Ms? Are the 2Ms unsuitable for this TT or is the Goldring just the better tool for the job?
Also, would the OM20 be a worthwhile upgrade to the OM10? It’s slightly more expensive than the E3 but has the benefit of being a quick stylus swap rather than a full cartridge replacement.
Paul Rigby30th March 2021 at 4:38 pm
Hi Simon – maybe, maybe not. Sometimes the high volume you hear may be down to more high-frequency noise from the CD player or the mastering of the CD itself or one of many other reasons.
The E3 is sonically superior to the 2M Red, although the Red is an excellent cart. If you choose the latter you won’t be disappointed.
Sure and OM20 would be fine too. I’d still go for the E3 but the OM20 is certainly an option if you feel more comfortable with that choice.
Dan6th May 2021 at 3:08 pm
I saw your video “BEGINNER’S GUIDE – PHONO AMPLIFIERS FOR ALL”. Despite your explanations, I cannot understand the difference between phono amplifier and phono preamplifier. I take the example of the Moon 110LP V2. You say it’s an phono amplifier. However, it is very often referred to as a phono preamplifier.
1 / What is the real difference between a phono amplifier and a phono preamplifier?
2 / Where do you plug the phono amplifier Into an integrated amplifier ? On phono input ? elsewhere ?
Thanks again for your excellent work.
Paul Rigby10th May 2021 at 9:37 am
Hi Dan – there is no difference, that was my point. We’re talking semantics. I think the term ‘phono preamplifier’ is confusing and you’re making my point for me on that score 🙂
To connect a phono amplifier, plug it into any inputs on the rear of your integrated amplifier (not the built-in Phono sockets, if the amplifier has those, though).
And thanks for your kind comments.
Dave Barlow17th February 2022 at 11:17 am
Hi Paul, your videos and reviews are excellent, I thoroughly enjoy them. I am considering a phono amp but unsure of the benefits with my set up. I have a Technics SLBD20B TT with an AT85EP P mount cartridge and a Yamaha RN803D and currently using the phono amp on the Yamaha. Would I get any benefits with a separate phono amp and if so what would these be and what would be the level of phono amp to look at? Many thanks!
Paul Rigby18th February 2022 at 1:39 pm
You’ve got the right idea, Dave but, if you’re looking at upgrades, I would encourage you to jiggle the order of your purchases. I’d upgrade your turntable first, then get an external phono amp.
Dave Barlow18th February 2022 at 1:46 pm
Thank you Paul. I was thinking that maybe should be an option first.
Dave Barlow20th February 2022 at 7:16 pm
Hi Paul, I was considering the Pro-ject Debut Evo based on your excellent review. What would be your suggestion in terms of a Phono amp which would do justice to this TT? For example should I be looking to spend the same again as the TT or would a lower cost example suffice? I note that Pro-ject do some Phono amplifiers. Many thanks!
Paul Rigby21st February 2022 at 4:29 pm
Hi Dave – sure, the Moon would work well with the EVO. I wouldn’t be afraid of spending out on a phono amp. It’s an essential component that would partner well.