Moonriver 404 Reference

AUD $7,995.00

Reference Integrated Stereo Amplifier

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The Moonriver Model 404 Reference integrated amplifier is the result of an intensive 3-year research project, the aim being to achieve incredible performance regardless of price range. From the moment of its release, it has been winning the respect of experienced audiophiles around the world. Despite the fact that Moonriver is a small boutique specialist manufacturer in Sweden with a small marketing budget, by the force of its exceptional sound quality alone, the 404 Reference has become an absolute reference at its price range and represents amazing value for money. It is designed from the ground up to place quality over quantity, meaning the designers only focussed on the essential functionality and ensured that it delivered beyond expectations.

The Model 404 Reference incorporates no less than five 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. The 404 standard uses a total of 57000uf capacitance. The 404 Reference lifts the capacitance to a spectacular 107000uf of which 21000 of them are reserved for the preamp only. This enormous increment expands the driving behaviour; the dynamic character; digs out more detail; low level information; a deeper and more articulate soundstage; space between instruments is vast, while the bass has greater authority and is more confident than ever before.

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. Components are carefully selected for both suitability and reliability. Importantly, no surface mount circuits are used in the analog circuits, despite the fact that through-hole technology costs more and requires advanced space management & layout strategies. WBT nextgen™ speaker terminals ensure the massive flow of current from the amplifier’s output stage, is able to drive even “difficult to drive” speakers. In addition, the 404 Reference chassis reduces unwanted resonant vibrations even further with absorbent materials and better integral mechanical support.

The Moonriver 404 Reference amplifier is modular by nature; 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.

The amplifier has a balance control, rare in today’s minimalist design environment. This is for situations where speakers may be positioned in asymmetry in a non-balanced room environment. It thus provides the simplest tweak towards achieving a proper sound stage. Living rooms and house furniture are meant to serve everyday life and may not be provisioned with 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 would come in handy in that it drastically helps overcoming volume level unevenness and in some cases, even reclaiming stereo effect and the resulting focused sound stage. As expected, the way balance control is implemented on the Moonriver 404 Reference amplifier, in parallel, will not degrade or affect the signal in any way determinable.

The 404 Reference also has the rare feature of a Tape Monitor Loop which gives you the option of monitoring the difference between recorded and source material in real time. It also, and most importantly, gives you the option to insert to the system a digital or analog room correction processor, a buffer, a noise reduction system or any other line device available to improve the sound of connected sources.

Another feature which has disappeared from modern amplifier design is the Stereo/Mono switch. If you have an interest in vintage records that contain some of the best performances ever recorded between the 30’s and 80’s, you will find that many of these were recorded in mono (some being 78 RPM direct-cut gems). This switch gives you the chance to enjoy recording art milestones with respect to how they were initially intended to please; in genuine mono, 2-channel, doing away with artificial phase discrepancies induced by mandatory stereo mode.

From a design and ergonic perspective, the Model 404 Reference is a classic old-school design with a modern touch. High quality materials such as massive aluminium knobs and solid walnut cheeks complement the sturdy enclosure and intuitive user interface. There are no “shaved” aesthetics here, no display with complicated serial menus and hidden functions, nor a single multi-function knob for “minimalistic” purposes. The heart of Model 404 Reference 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.

All of these features point to a very different design ethos and this is further expressed with the incredible sound quality that the Model 404 Reference delivers. It extracts hidden elements and textures from within any audio format, plays all music genres exceptionally and extracts the faintest musical nuances of which tone integrity is composed. The music sounds natural and effortless. Every aspect of its voicing and tuning is serving musical enjoyment. It delivers fast transients, rich harmonic textures and a realistic sense of the recorded space, easily allowing emotional engagement. The 404 Standard raised the bar sonically and redefined what is possible at this price point. The 404 Reference takes this successful formula and improves it further, in many ways representing an even bigger price-performance bargain!

From its rare feature set to its organic sound, this is an amplifier that was designed by a team of talented music enthusiasts specifically for music appreciators. They made an amplifier for themselves and then shared it with the world. Moonriver Audio is a rare company in this modern high-end audio landscape. It has captured our heart so much that it has become the only amplifier we recommend at this price range and we use it ourselves. The 404 Reference is a revelation, proof that you can have retro-cool looks, rare feature set and stunning sonics in one box. Did you think you have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to enjoy a proper high-end sound? Think again. Crazy good!


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Applause Award StereonetRecommended RC2021 Components Stereophile Class A Award

Product Specifications

Type Integrated anolifier
Country of Origin Sweden
Inputs 5 (line 1 and 4 optionally occupied by phono stage and USB DAC respectively, 1 x tape loop)
Outputs 2x preamp out, 1x rec out
Max Output Power 50W per channel into 8Ω
Frequency Response 10Hz – 50kHz
Total Harmonic Distortion 0.05%
Signal to Noise Ratio 85dB (line)
Idle Consumption 22 Watts
Dimensions 430mm (W) x 390mm (D) x 135mm (H)
Weight 13kg

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