Moonriver Audio 404 Reference
The Moonriver Audio 404 Reference is a the supercharged version of the Moonriver 404. Built like amplifiers used to be built, hand made in Sweden using traditional through-hole soldering – it can be easily maintained and serviced without the need to replace entire electronic board assemblies.
Moonriver products are designed and made in Sweden. Each unit is hand-assembled, a painstaking but precise procedure. Sophisticated research and efficient development followed by extensive listening tests leads to selection of the right components for a no-compromise audiophile sound.
The Moonriver Model 404 Reference version moves performance further, by improving on the already excellent design platform of the Standard 404 model. The form, controls, ergonomics and design are similar, but the major difference is found at the heart of the amplifier: the power supplies.
The Moonriver Audio 404 Reference can drive most speakers in the market to significant levels. WBT nextgenTM speaker terminals ensure the massive flow of current from the amplifier’s output stage, is able to drive even “difficult to drive” speakers. The 404 Reference chassis reduces unwanted resonant vibrations even further with absorbent materials, and better integral mechanical support. The Moonriver 404 Reference must be auditioned to fully savour its enhanced performance.
In terms of sustainability and reliability, Moonriver products are covered by a 3-year warranty and are designed to last for decades without any need of maintenance.
Design & Ergonomics
We had a very clear vision when conceiving the Model 404 Reference amplifier: Classic design with a modern touch; high-quality materials such as over-sized aluminum controls, solid walnut cheeks, sturdy chassis and an ergonomic user interface.
There are no ‘for show’ aesthetics here, no display with complicated serial menus and hidden functions, nor a single multi-function knob for ‘minimalistic’ purposes.
The heart of the Model 404 is pure and minimal, but the interface is user-oriented and easy to operate by anyone in seconds, with no need to resort to the user manual. Four knobs and three switches give direct access to any function.
Moonriver 404 Reference amplifier is modular like its brother; it can accommodate an MM or MM/MC phono stage and a USB asynchronous DAC. Fitting these modules is simple, and can take place at any time, on or after purchase. The USB DAC may also be upgraded with a newer version to meet future needs and technologies.
You may find this feature to be vanishingly scarce in audiophile products as a result of today’s ‘minimalist’ design mentality and the various myths accompanying it. However, balance control addresses a common problem: speakers that are positioned in asymmetry, in a non-balanced room environment. It therefore provides the simplest tweak towards achieving a proper soundstage.
Living rooms and house furniture are meant to serve everyday life and may not be positioned in an ideal listening spot, evenly distanced from each speaker to form an equilateral triangle. It is also not uncommon for one speaker to have to be placed nearer room boundaries than the other, having various frequencies boosted in a more or less predictable pattern. More often than not, balance control is incredibly useful as it drastically helps overcome volume level unevenness and in some cases, even reclaiming the stereo effect and the resulting focused sound stage.
It is to be expected, the way the balance control is implemented on the Moonriver 404 Reference amplifier – in parallel, will not degrade or affect the signal in any way that is determinable.
Discovering the layout
Model 404 Reference, like the standard model, incorporates no less than 5 separate power supplies, each featuring overload protection. The power amplifier specifically runs on a dual mono configuration, beginning from separate windings on the toroidal transformer.
WBT nextgenTM speaker terminals ensure the massive flow of current from the amplifier’s output stage, is able to drive even “difficult to drive” speakers.
Signal switches are implemented via relays, while volume attenuation is trusted on the legendary blue ALPS pot.
A soft start circuit based on a 30A relay ensures that even the on/off switch is thought out to work with virtually no burden or wear for decades.
The 404 Reference chassis reduces unwanted resonant vibrations even further with absorbent materials, and better integral mechanical support.
Components are carefully selected for both suitability and reliability. We make no use of surface-mount in analog circuits, despite the fact that through-hole production costs more, and requires advanced space management & layout strategies.
Each element utilised has to be of proven stability and sustained higher performance – proficient implementation provided, before making it into our analog paths.
As for the sound, we are not to say whether Model 404 Reference is virtually transparent or inherently forgiving. Voicing it to appreciate the playlist and respect the user at all times has been the sum of all of our effort; a sincere effort to achieve effortlessness.
- Inputs: 5 (line 1 and 4 optionally occupied by phono stage and USB DAC respectively, 1 x tape loop)
- Outputs: 2 x preamp out, 1 x rec out
- Max output power: 50 W / channel into 8 Ω
- Frequency response: 10 Hz to 50 kHz
- Total harmonic distortion: 0.05%
- Signal to noise ratio: 85 dB (line)
- Idle Consumption: 22 Watts
- Dimensions (mm): 430 (W) x 390 (D) x 135 (H)
- Weight: 13 kg