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For many people, the 681 is going to be overkill for their needs but it’s hard to argue with how much it does and how well it does it. 


  • Sound absolutely brilliant
  • Fabulous build
  • Comprehensive and user friendly specification


  • No Chromecast
  • App is good rather than truly great
  • Not cheap

Key Features

  • StreamingNetwork Audio Player and DAC with on demand streaming service access
  • TVHDMI ARC for TV integration
  • Multi-roomRoon Ready support


The Moon 681 is a network streaming preamp and DAC that is – if you can believe it – the most affordable such device in Moon’s North Collection that tops their range of audio components. 

The company has a different approach to some rivals about network audio and digital in general. It prefers to let its amplifiers be amplifiers and to make separate streamers that can access stored and on demand content and also act as a DAC for your other digital sources. The 681 takes this a stage further in that it is also a fully functioning preamp and adds an HDMI ARC port to simplify connecting your TV.  

Even allowing for this extensive connectivity, you can buy products that match the notional specification of the streamer for rather less than its asking price. Nevertheless, this is how Moon feels that the roles and responsibilities of a system should be divided up. Does the 681 do enough to justify being looked at for other systems too?


The 681 streamer is costs £12,000. As you might expect the dealers that stock such an item are specialists that have the expertise and facilities to demonstrate and support products of this nature. These are distributed reasonably evenly across the UK so, while you might not have an outlet for them on your local high street, neither should you have to make a holiday of it to get a listen. 

Simaudio is a Canadian company and handles its own sales in North America which means that the 681 has a dollar to pound parity on its pricing because there is an extra layer of (very professional) distribution in the UK. 

The company has distribution in Australia where the 681 can be purchased for AUD$20,000. Something that is worth noting with Moon’s approach to building digital front ends is that, if what the 681 does appeals to you, very few rivals have taken the same approach.    


  • All metal, two tone casework 
  • Full colour display
  • Bespoke remote 

As part of the North Collection, the 681 takes some longstanding Moon design features and evolves them into something that – even judged at the hefty asking price – looks and feels rather special. 

Every part of the casework is finished to a standard that suggests it will last pretty much indefinitely and the care and attention that has gone into how the 681 is bolted together can make some rivals feel a bit parochial by comparison. 

Moon 681 build quality
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Like other members of the North Collection, the 681 is only available in a combination of black and silver. This might not appeal to everyone, but it seems to sit happily with both all black and all silver components and look brilliant with other North Collection components. 

At the front you’ll find a large colour displays that show you what the 681 is up to. This shows album and artist info on the streamer as well as allowing for settings to be adjusted. I prefer the plain black background that makes album and artist information a little easier to read at a distance but equally I like that Moon gives you a choice in such things. 

Moon 681 remote control
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

As standard, the 681 comes with an example of the stunning BRM-1 remote control that gives feedback on what the unit is up to and offers a control experience that makes most rivals feel cheap. As someone who doesn’t always want to fire a phone or tablet up to control a streamer, I think it’s a brilliant addition. 


  • Bespoke digital decoding via FPGA based DAC 
  • UPnP Streaming with streaming service support and digital inputs. 
  • Digital preamp functionality 

As I’ve touched on, the 681 takes a distinctive and technically impressive approach to being a piece of source equipment. Essentially, it’s a streamer with digital inputs but that rather undersells the functionality on offer here. 

The 681 can handle PCM and DSD (and MQA for that matter) and does so via a bespoke DAC that Moon calls the MDE-1. As well as being able to access content stored on a local library (or indeed connected via USB), the 681 can access Qobuz, Tidal, High-Res Audio, Deezer and Spotify alongside AirPlay as well and it is also fully compatible with Roon. 

Moon 681 rear connections
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The chances are you’ll want to use the 681 with the dedicated MIND2 app though because as well as accessing your streaming content it allows access to the additional digital inputs. The 681 had a USB audio in, two optical, two coaxial and an AES input and an HDMI ARC connection. 

It has been a while since I used the MIND app and I think it’s improved a great deal since then. It’s stable, well laid out and pretty logical in use. I’m still a Roon fanboy which means I don’t love the queue-based arrangement of the dedicated app, but I could use MIND all the time and not become fed up with it. 

Moon 681 MIND interface
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Something that might also appeal to some users is that the 681 is a very capable preamp in its own right. It uses a technology Moon calls MHV (MOON Hybrid Volume) that employs combination of digital attenuation and analogue gain levels to allow for high-performance volume control with no effect on the signal regardless of output, meaning the 681 can be bolted straight to a power amp or active speakers if you only have digital sources (and, if you go further up the North Collection food chain, the larger models combine analogue inputs too). 

What is interesting is that runs in direct opposition to how many rivals view their high-end gear, where any additional functionality is seen as somehow bad. Moon feels that suffering for your art isn’t part of the process in 2024 and this product reflects that. It also means that the fairly minimalist spec of the matching 641 integrated amplifier makes more sense if you consider these units as a pair.  

Moon 681 inputs and operation
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Sound Quality 

  • High levels of detail

High end digital devices have their work cut out for them simply because modern affordable digital can be staggeringly good. If the expensive device sounds meaningfully different, it almost certainly means that something is being done differently and not necessarily better.

As a result, listening to the 681 isn’t about being immediately grabbed by what it does, partly because of that and partly because Moon have never really been about a shock and awe presentation.

Instead, when I sat listening to Fields by Junip, which has featured in my review listening ever since it released, I become aware that some of the fuzziness of the opening track In Every Direction is less overt. This is still a recording that is deliberately steeped in lo-fi charm, but the Moon is gently but firmly pulling more of the gorgeous music out of that fuzziness. 

Moon 681 and 641 performance
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

It’s never overt, let alone forced but the Moon 681 makes it a mission to extract everything out of a recording. It then ensures that the effect is still cohesive and even handed as if it’s using a floodlight to illuminate a dark scene rather than a torch.

Of course, if you give the Moon a truly high-quality recording, and they don’t come much better than Sturgill Simpson’s Cuttin Grass Vol I, available as a 24-bit/96kHz stream on Qobuz, the results are something that allows for a genuine suspension of disbelief. 

The relationship between the musicians, the sense of their movement with their instruments and the distinctive tone of each performer are effortlessly stitched into something greater than the sum of its parts. There is a huge amount of decoding hardware at work in the 681 and the thing it works hardest to do is ensure you never hear its input only the results.  

Moon 681 top down view
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Often, when describing equipment this revealing, the next part is to say that playing something less determinedly ‘audiophile’ on the Moon 681 is somewhere between less successful and actively unpleasant. The highest praise I can lavish on this streamer is that, even when I reached for Infra Red by Placebo (decent song, horrendous recording), the performance is still entirely listenable and actively enjoyable. 

In much the same way as the feature set is intended to make living with the Moons painless, so it is here. Nothing you’ve accrued over the years needs to sit on the shelf because it won’t play nice on your ultimate hi-fi. Likewise, while it sounds excellent via Qobuz, if the rest of your household only wants to use Spotify, the 681 is able to extract very surprising results from it. 

Of course, it’s only fair to point out that some equally clever decoding is available for less money than the 681 and this does need to be considered.  My resident Chord Electronics Hugo TT2 and Mscaler are able to keep the Moon honest in out-and-out performance and the TT2 is also a very capable preamp in its own right just as the 681 is. 

There’s absolutely no arguing that the 681 is nicer to use and live with though and the Moon remote sits in sharp contrast to the little plastic stick that Chord supplies with their devices. 

Moon 681 and 641 separates
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The last party piece that very little at the price can match is that HDMI ARC connection. Watching the visceral third episode of Masters of the Air via the 681 is spellbinding. The vastness of the battle space and the brutality of it is captured perfectly. 

Impacts and explosions have huge weight to them and the thunder of machine guns as they hammer away at the attacking fighters is immersive in a different way to watching this Atmos but immersive, nevertheless. Not too long ago, TV integration on high end gear simply didn’t happen, as if being able to do this would cheapen the experience. The 681 is an immaculately constructed riposte to that notion that show it up for the fallacy it is.

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Should you buy it?

Real world brilliance

The 681 offers truly astonishing performance and impeccable build quality and does so while offering functionality and convenience that most high-end gear simply doesn’t bother with. It is a pleasure to live with day-to-day while still delivering a spectacular listening experience when you have the time to spend with them.

How much?

While you can argue that the 681 is actually quite solid value in terms of what it does, there’s no escaping that £12,000 is, well… a lot. The law of diminishing returns never takes a day off and you can achieve a significant chunk of this performance for less money if you are minded doing so and don’t mind a less exquisite user experience.

Final Thoughts

The 681 represent what a high-end digital front end should be in 2024. It’s built like a tank, sounds astonishing and looks brilliant. It does this while being utterly painless to live with. If this is the future, the direction we should be heading in is North.

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Can I connect the Moon 681 to a TV?

There is an HDMI ARC input on the Moon 781, so you could connect this network streamer to a TV.

Full specs

Size (Dimensions)
Operating System
Release Date
Audio Formats
Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise

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