Eastern Electric Minimax CDP

Category: Digital

(Also posted at AudioAsylum)

I bought this item after looking for an upgrade to my NAD 541i. I listen to Jazz primarily (also Rock) and so was interested in exploring tube CDPs. My Jazz interests are heavily weighted toward the 50-60s era.

I am a big fan of the value right now of the Chinese imports, so focused my attention there. I first auditioned a Xindak SACD2 (tube) CDP. This was an authorized US import version from the distributor. It was upgraded with NOS Western Electric 896A tubes. The unit sounded very good on Redbook CDPs, ok on SACDs. The build quality was good, but the reliability of the unit not so due to an infrequent skipping problem. If it hadn't skipped, I would have kept the Xindak and not looked elsewhere.

I came across the Minimax on 6moons were it got very good reviews

It also got a good review at:

I originally heard the Minimax 8 months ago at a local dealer where it was listed for $1400. Eastern Electric is now sold direct through Bill O'Connell, the US distributor. He is a delight to work with; the best I have had a chance to interface with. I spent a lot of time with Bill talking about my needs and different tube options and he sent along several pairs for me to try.

The unit arrived triple-packed!!! The build quality is superior and the sound, once I had dialed it in with the various tube alternatives was excellent. My focus was on maximizing the bass detail (I play electric bass so I key into that) while not creating too much high end that it ending up being distracting. I had midrange to spare already with the tube integrated amp.

The music selections I demoed included Kind of Blue (pre-1997 version), Norah Jones, Bill Evans Live at Village Vanguard, and Dark Side of the Moon 1st US version (Japanese Pressing).

Here are my limited thoughts on the tubes I tried:

NOS Amperex 6922 PQ Gold Pin US Version White Lettering: Most expensive and the clear winner. Clean, detailed across the spectrum, great soundstage and depth

Amperex Bugle Boy 6DJ8 Holland White lettering. 2nd choice. Much like the above, except I found the high end a tad overpowering and distracting at times

HP (Amperex) 6DJ8 A frames Holland: 3rd choice. Too much low midrange.

NOS Valvo PCC 88: 4th choice. Not enought bass detail. Sounded a little too harsh for me after even 30 hours. According to Bill, these take a while to break-in, but are a good value.

EH 6922: These were the stock tube and I never gave them a fair listen to evaluate.

In summary, I found the Minimax a very nice player and a keeper.

Product Weakness: Tube dependent, bass slam

Product Strengths: Tube dependent, build quality, soundstage, headphone output, smooth yet very detailed, option to try many tubes

Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: Cayin TA-30 Integrated Tube

Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): None

Sources (CDP/Turntable): Minimax CDP

Speakers: Soliloquy 5.0s and S10 Subwoofer

Cables/Interconnects: Analysis Plus 9 and 12 for speakers. Acoustic Zen Matrix I for ICs

Music Used (Genre/Selections): Jazz primarily

Room Size (LxWxH): 18 x 15 x 9; hardwood floor bedroom (bed, armoire, etc.)

Very nice evaluation of the tube rolling but I have one question. How do you rate the cdp on an overall basis compared to others you have tried of heard?
Build quality clearly favored the Minimax.

I never really heard either the Xindak or the Minimax with the stock tubes.

Sound wise, I felt that the Minimax and Xindak (with the best tubes inside) were very close, maybe the Minimax had a tad more detail and the Xindak a tad more soundstage, but I didn't have them both at the same time. I like the NAD 541i quite a bit and for the money (paid $300 new with warranty) was a no brainer at the time. Just found that the NAD had a slight tendancy to sound a little harsh on certain recordings (e.g., saxophone or distorted electric guitar).

Another thing to clearly check out is the repair network out there. The Xindak does not have a US distributor right now (per Bertram Audio). The gray market Chinese ones through www.nysound.com or ebay may be tough to service, time will tell. With the Minimax I felt that Bill O'Connell was a trustworthy gentlemen and that if worse came to pass, PartsConnexion could service it too.