HiFI+ Highly Commended 2021 - MoonrRiver Audio Model 404 (up to £10,000)


"It was shockingly good but also incredibly charming in its musical style. Tonally,its balance is about perfect. ”

Moonriver Audio is designed by George Polychronidis in Malmö, Sweden where he and a small band of dedicated individuals hand-build each and every amplifier. There are just two models in the range; the Model 404 and the improved Model 404 Reference. The Reference wasn’t released at the time of the review, but the standard Model 404 was more than impressive enough!

The product of three years of development, the 50W per channel integrated amplifier is built along very classic audio lines inside and out. The Model 404 uses separate power rails throughout, and is subdivided into a preamplifier stage made of discrete components with a high output power amp stage designed for wide bandwidth and low distortion. The Model 404 features optional phono stage and USB DAC modules too.

In our test, Chris Thomas liked the way the Moonriver Audio Model 404 looked and sounded. “The look of the 404 is, to me, somewhat retro with a notable absence of anything other than the essentials. There is nothing superfluous,” he said of its classic lines, adding that “I really like the way George has learned from his restoring and repairing days and made the 404 so accessible to service too, with a removable top and bottom that give excellent access to the main circuit board which utilises through-the-hole components for extra reliability. That’s good design work.”

But it’s the sound that most impressed Chris. “It just flew out of the traps with a confident musical message that just grew and grew. Even from cold it took very little time to get into its stride and after an hour or so I stopped thinking that it could ever sound out of its depth. It was shockingly good but also incredibly charming in its musical style. Tonally, its balance is about perfect,” he said, adding that, “It is both fast and slow as the need arises but the one thing that shines out is the feeling of musical textures that it brings into the room plus the way it allows the music to unfold time-wise without ever sounding rushed or stressed.” In short, he liked it!

The reviewer:Chris Thomas