Rega DAC vs. EE Minimax vs. Centrance vs. W4S 2

This is a summary of results comparing the Rega DAC against the W4S 2, Centrance Dacmini, and the Eastern Electric Minimax (First version).

The Rega has been running a signal since last Saturday, so according to some reports it may be about 150 hours from sounding it's best. The comparison to the W4S was done with a fully broken in Rega from Signature Sound. Powercord is a Pangea AC-14 (nothing fancy). The main sources were a Oppo DV981 and Macbook pro. System is Merlin TSM-MXr on Skylan stands, Manley Stingray II, MJ Acoustics 150 MK2 sub, Cardas wires.

Vs. Centrance DACmini
First of all...this thing is cool! It's perfect for a headphone system and it's form-factor matches the MACmini. Fed by the Oppo it provided fantastic midrange and smooth highs, but bass was less defined and a bit muddy. There seemed to be just a bit more glare from the DACmini as well, but it had a deeper soundstage than the Rega. The Rega had bass well handled and the soundstage was quite wide, especially on live recordings where it did a great job of capturing the scope of the venue. The owner of the DACmini and I agreed that that it had the Rega beat by a small margin in soundstage, but the Rega was the winner with better bass detail and less glare. Any change of cables or speaker or amp could probably swing the results differently.

Vs. Eastern Electric Minimax
I was excited to hear this unit since it's gotten a ton of good reviews., my system did not agree with it. Here was (I assume) a good example of poor synergy. The Minimax sounded overly thick in the midrange (less so with the tube switched out) and this quality made it difficult to focus on it's clearly sweet high end. We tried it with some cheaper AQ cables, but this issue did not go away. My friend says it's quite stunning in his system and I don't doubt it, but in my system it was "thick" much like the modified Jolida 100a CDP I once owned.

Vs. W4S DAC 2
This unit was well burned in and it went up against the Demo Rega I auditioned in my system. The W4S 2 had a Signal powercord while the Rega had it's stock cord. I reviewed the Rega DAC in the review section and I have since concluded that the Rega's "less is more" design approach led to it's superior performance with Redbook CDs. It won mainly based on soundstage where it provided a deeper effect, while the W4S 2 floated a image well, but it was less dimensional. The W4S 2 seemed to extract a bit more detail, but also sounded too bright on some tracks. Once again we concluded that they were both doing a fine job and a change of associated gear could skew results differently. The W4S is certainly more versatile.

After listening to these units in my system and playing with some very pricey CDP's in recent months I've concluded that DAC's and CDP's offer the smallest upgrade range. Good DACs and CDP's are very close in performance so be suspicious when someone says one unit blows away another. As others have pointed out we get into some seriously expensive "diminishing returns" with this gear. I feel that the Rega (and I truly love the Centrance as well) offers great performance in the mid priced DAC arena. It bested the Audio Aero prima I tried and has better soundstage that several other units around the 5K mark. How it performs in a given system will be mostly a measure of the synergy with your other components and nothing definitive should be assumed by reading these findings or any other!


This is interesting to me. I had the Centrance Dacmini and will have the EE Minimax DAC Plus in a day or so. I liked the Centrance DACmini for its clarity which was special. In my system I wanted more weight (or fullness) to the sound, so I returned it. I believe in many systems the Centrance would be very good.
You don't mention which filter setting you were using on the Rega; I find that they make a considerable difference. I have ended up using either 3 or 5. Also which were you using as a transport? I have a Pangea adapter so I can use standard PCs and have found they also make a difference; I was using a Oyaide GPX but it was so heavy I switched to a Shunyata Venom 3 with good results. Also Synergistic Research MIGs under the transport [Meridian 200] and DAC were very worthwhile. I am using a Clearer Audio silver digital cable with WBT Nextgen silver RCAs; have never found 2 digital ICs that sound alike.
I've been burning in the Pangea AC-14, which has given the Rega DAC more detail at the cost of some glare. The glare is minimal and only present on a few recordings. The Pangea needs more burn in time before I can fully evaluate it. The only other cable I have on hand is a signal cable.

On the Rega DAC I have been using filter 4 most of the time and it was set to 4 during the comparisons. I have not really worked with the filter settings much. What have you found and what is your system?


I previously owned the EE and can concur it was 'full' sounding, although very engaging, with lots of detail.

DAC's I've found are very cable sensitive (power and interconnects).
I certainly don't want to get into a huge debate over cables, and I have no experience with Pangea (although I'm a aware it's relatively inexpensive). While it might seem insane, I was using Cardas Neutral Ref interconnects on the dac to amp, and Cardas Golden power cord. I actually upgraded to the Acoustic Zen Silver Ref II interconnects and it made a huge difference - really opened things up and gave a much more refined presentation. All bought used of course.

You've got a really nice system. It could definitely benefit from better cables on the DAC. Just my POV.
After spending considerable money on the Merlin and Stingray combo I must admit to getting a bit cheap on the wire ends! I went the cheaper Cardas stuff (still cost over a grand) and have not decided on a pricey power cord yet. I'll need to audition a few to decide if the differences add up for me. As for the Rega DAC, Rich at Signature Sound feels the stock Rega Cord is actually not bad at all. The Pangea was a cheap experiment, but I will try some other stuff. As for interconnects...I will buy better ones after I'm done setting up the new Macmini in the system.

"Good DACs and CDP's are very close in performance so be suspicious when someone says one unit blows away another." So true. Thanks for taking the time to write this informative overview of your experience with all of these DACs.
"The Minimax sounded overly thick in the midrange"

Just curious about that comment Rob. Do you mean that instrument lines were not clearly delineated? I have never heard the original but I can say that this is not evident with the Plus. I concur that the upper frequency extension and air is there with the Plus as well. There is a bit of a downside to this though, on some closely miked recordings I do note some glare, more so with the Seimens silver plate which seems to highlight this more than the other tubes but on the good recordings it can be quite stunning.

I have my friend coming over tomorrow with his W4S. We are going to switch out with each other for a couple of days as well as doing some brief AB comparisons tomorrow. Thank you for taking the time to give us your impressions of these DACs in your system, nice review. I do agree that the differences in these DACs are system and taste dependent more than anything else.

The sense of "thickness" was quite subtle. It was mainly effecting vocals and rendering them less real sounding to our ears, a sort of tubby quality. As I mentioned before I heard this same issue with my previous system which was based on Magnepan 1.6 with a Rogue Metis Preamp and Odyssey Stratos amp. Adding a Jolida CDP produced a slight bloat to the upper midrange that I did not care for.

Again, I want to stress that this was fairly subtle and the owner of the EE does not hear it on his system. He also owns a ARC Dac costing much more than these units and prefers the EE & W4S DAC 2 over it. As I always say...synergy is just about everything; the system, the room and the whole mess has to work together correctly with each link doing it's job.

Thanks for your review and I agree with your findings on the Centrance except for the glare you heard with it. Might it be something else in the equation? I only ask because I've experienced none in my system.

Clarity is its strong suit but the bass does lack some heft yet it makes up for it in detail, definition, pitch and tone. It would be nice to see a statement product, of sorts, with a robust power supply. There's definitely something about it that makes me want to just listen and stop analyzing.

Thanks, again, for the comparo.

All the best,
I really like the Centrance and the glare that I spoke of was only evident a couple of times. A swap of cables or more burn in (it only had about 100 hours on it) might easily eliminate the issue. The Rega also had some glare, especially with the inexpensive Pangea power cord, but it's now mostly gone. The Centrance is right in there with the Rega, besting it in soundstage depth and as you point out it's clarity...for us resolution...was outstanding, perhaps a bit clinical compared to the Rega, but truly a matter of taste. The Rega won for us because it seemed to just be doing everything really well right down to the lowest frequencies. Reading the comments of other owners you'll see that some equate it's sound with a turntable. I wouldn't go that far, but it's certainly is an "impression" I agree with, if not in absolute terms.
If I snuck into your house and swapped out the Rega for the Centrance I'd lay odds you'd never hear a difference. That's how close they are. If I had a good set of headphones I'd probably buy the Centrance over the Rega without a second thought.

There is a "rumor" that Rega will now release a transport/CDP in the same size as the Rega DAC to match. Adding that to the Rega DAC will eclipse the Saturn player and I expect some small improvements overall. Which of course should remind us that I fed all of the DACs with an Oppo DVD player, which might be considered by some to be a weak link at the very least.


Thanks for the 'clarity' in your response. I, too, had some brightness that vanished after break in but I forget just how long it took (maybe 200 hours or so).

As for the Oppo's might being the weak link, I think you may be onto something there. There was a time when I used my Oppo DV-983H as a transport and determined that it was holding things back a bit. It made sense to use it as a jack-of-all-trades (CDs & DVDs) but moving on validated any concerns I had about its limits.

As much as my interested has been piqued by your mentioning of Rega's upcoming model, I'm still going to hold out to see what music servers are out there that aren't too dear in price. I say this as I heard the Centrance on the digital outs of a top of the line Ayon CDP and it lost none of its body and extension but just got a bit clearer, allowing more of that clarity and resolution, which really surprised me. Maybe tubes are the way to go when partnering with the Centrance.

All the best,

i have the esatern electric dac and i use the ps audio perfect wave transport, via coax.

i find no glare or imbalance in frequency response.

i also do not hear any problems in the midrange.

i use a mojo audio power cord with the dac.

the dac is seneitive to all of the variables one would expect, including, tube, digital cable, interconnect cable, power cords, transport and preamp.

consider all of the above when issuing a finding about the relative merits of one dac over another.

i use a brimar 12au7 from the 40's or 50's. it has yellow lettering.
Hi, MrTennis...

As I said, nothing definitive should be derived from my review. This is what I heard with my system. I've heard plenty of great gear sound less than great in certain systems and the owner of the EE has no issues at all with it in his system.
My system is fairly transparent, but that hardly means it will match well with every component on the market. There is also a subject of taste here as well. And I'll say it again....most of the time we could hardly tell the difference between these DACs. My system resolves quite well and my friends system (based on ARC and Vandy 5A's) is also excellent. Now that he has the EE back he initially reported that he heard none of what we heard on the Merlins. But last night we spoke again and he added that the EE does sound "fuller" in the midbass than his W4S 2. It's not a complaint. It's a quality. I just didn't care for it.

Robbob and Nonoise,

Paul Darwin from Rega stated that the CD player you're discussing will be the next Apollo. It'll be in the chassis they used for the DAC and Brio R. I think it's coming out sooner than later, but Rega isn't the quickest company with this stuff. I'm not sure if it'll be upgraded or it'll just get stuffed into the new box. They'll probably have to change something, and I'd doubt they'd decrease the performance.

The Mira 3 and Saturn will also be updated/upgraded, but will be a full width/sized chassis.

This info was posted on Pink Fish Media from Paul himself.
"But last night we spoke again and he added that the EE does sound "fuller" in the midbass than his W4S 2."

Now this I find quite interesting Rob. I have been listening to my friends W4S and in comparison to my Minimax Plus I would say it is quite the opposite. The Minimax by contrast seems lighter with less weight, a difference between the original and the Plus maybe? The tube used in the Minimax can really alter the presentation, actually quite dramatically. He didn't care for the presentation of the Minimax with the Seimens tube which I figured might be the case so gave him a Mullard which offers a fuller sound in the upper bass/midrange. He is using ARC gear with Montana Speakers which tilt towards an upper bass emphasis which he prefers. In any case the Plus can really be tailored to a particular system and taste with the proper tube choice. One thing is clearly evident to me is that the W4S is fuller in the upper/mid bass in both our systems which I DO find to my liking in my system with Merlins and the Berning ZH270. He hasn't heard the Mullard yet but even with the added fullness it will add, I doubt it will match the W4S in that area. As always there are tradeoffs and no clear winner, both have their virtues.

I can't disagree with anything you've written! As I said, any component could easily change the presentation. Then there's always the chance that you may prefer how the EE sounds on my Merlins and find the Rega too lean.

Looks like the New Rega Apollo R should be available quite soon!

I'll be ordering one to partner with the Rega DAC. Glad I waited on the transport.

Opamp rolling the Minimax dac, takes it to another listening experience.
I think you should listen to it when modded/upgraded. :)

The one you had the chance to try was modded?
I listened to the EE Minimax in the owner's system along with the Centrance. While the EE is a fine DAC we both liked the Centrance better. There has been no tube rolling and in fact we felt it sounded best with the tube switched out.
The Centrance is an amazing DAC if midrange excellence is your goal. The W4S Dac 2 continues to sound just a bit too bright, but it also extracts detail and that's part of the price on some recordings. After hearing the EE in two systems it would probably be my last choice in the group. Perhaps tube rolling would alter that.
My Rega continues it's long break-in process and is now also partnered with a new Mac Mini running headless with a Ipad controller. When I get my hands on the new Rega Apollo R CDP/Transport I'll be very interested to see how it all stacks up.

hi robob:

are you referring to the inexpensive centramce dac sold by audiogon ?

regarding dacs and transports, the arguments for separtates, are in part analagous to the advantages for separates in other components.

dacs can have a tube, whereas most cd players don't. also some transports are servers and avoid the errors accompanied with spinning a disc.
Having heard the DAC-2 in 6+ rigs, I scratch my head when I read that someone found it bright. Something else must be amiss in the room or rig. For example, the source they're comparing it to was warm or lush, the speakers, associated gear or cables are on the bright side, or the room is highly reflective.
I couldn't agree with you more Face although I've only heard the W4S in three systems. I would NEVER consider the word bright in describing this DAC, at least in the context of digital playback. Now when compared to analog they all sound bright in comparison, at least at this price point. relation to the Rega, Centrance and EE, I should modify the observation as the W4S being brighter. The unit was the brightest of the units I heard. My merlin/Manley system is quite good at extracting detail, but I would not ever call it bright on it's own.
The W4S also had the most detail and I have always maintained that detail will exact a penalty on certain recordings. That said, I think the W4S sounds very good. I do believe I've read comments from people who found it bright in their system, but this cannot be applied to ALL systems.
As I tweak and adjust the Rega and get more out of it, everyone should keep in mind that I had no chance to tweak or adjust the other units, so my review of them is quite limited. Owners of these units should sit back and enjoy! Perhaps a carefully adjusted and cable matched EE would best my Rega. Why worry about it....too much good music is waiting!

From your observations Rob I have to conclude that there is a significant difference between the original EE and the Plus. Unfortunately I can't comment on the relative brightness you perceive concerning the W4S compared to the original EE and the Rega but only to the Plus, the OPPO 95, which uses the same Saber ESS 9018 chip and my NOS MHDT Havana. I get why some might prefer NOS over these highly resolving 32 bit DAC's, less extension in the upper frequencies which is on some recordings a double edged sword. The Havana is never offensive and always musically involving with a natural richness but the price is less detail. Interestingly enough I find the W4S has more fullness and tonal density than either the Plus or Oppo 95 in the midrange and more akin to the Havana in this area. What is most stunning with this DAC is the presentation of horn instruments which have the appropriate weight and tone I hear with real horns with subtle detail intact. The Plus doesn't quite get this to the same degree, lighter in comparison but in the upper midrange on up highlights the sense of space in the recording with the natural decay of instruments. Now the W4S and Oppo do this as extremely well too, the Sabre chip I suppose but the upper frequency air and sweetness that you note in the original EE is missing to a degree or two with the DAC 2 and OPPO, obvious tradeoffs. I would say overall that the Plus is more resolving and airier than either of the other two and I'm not too sure I could give up that upper frequency extension and sense of space along with the wonderful sweetness and delicacy, especially on the great recordings but it is a struggle deciding, let me tell you!

Now the differences I hear, actually both myself and my friend in both our systems is consistent, that is the intrinsic characteristics of all these DACs and the OPPO. So my wonder concerning your observations of the W4S being bright. I've heard it described as "cool" in the upper frequencies but bright, maybe compared with the Rega and Centrance and I would concede the Havana which is less resolving at the frequency extremes, certainly not the Plus or Oppo. I find any perceived brightness more related to the recording than the DAC's themselves, just my experience.

Further info on these observations is in order. I am using a JPS digital power cord, Illuminati and Stereovox digital coaxial cable, Stereovox 600 SEI cabling throughout and Stereovox Studio speaker cables. All DACs placed on Stillpoints.
In my review of the EE DAC Plus I point out that that new unit is FAR superior in every respect to the first model. A comparison to the EE Minimax DAC (first version) is not useful in determining the sound of the Plus; the differential sonically is so extreme as to nearly make the first version a completely different DAC by a different manufacturer.
In my review of the EE DAC Plus I point out that that new unit is FAR superior in every respect to the first model. A comparison to the EE Minimax DAC (first version) is not useful in determining the sound of the Plus; the differential sonically is so extreme as to nearly make the first version a completely different DAC by a different manufacturer.
11-20-11: Douglas_schroeder
Your comments above about the Plus are literally music to my ears (pun intended), since I just received the new DAC day before yesterday. Your review of the Plus must not be posted online yet????
Foster 9, Yes, the review has been posted to for several weeks now. It is in a more abbreviated format I call an Audio Blast. It should still be accessible from the center column of articles once you click to enter the site.
Douglas, can you post a link to the review of the Eastern Electric Minimax DAC Plus review?

The Audio Blast review I've read only speaks of opamp rolling the original Eastern Electric Minimax DAC.

I do not see any mention in "Audio Blast" where you refer to the new "Eastern Electric Minimax DAC Plus."
Foster 9, I have tried to post a link a couple times in the past but those posts have been removed. I assume that if I posted the link it would quickly disappear.

To find the article go to Dagogo's website, click on the picture of the D'Agostino amps and Wilson speakers or click on "Enter Site Now". You will then be on the main page with reviews/articles in the center column. Scroll down; my article on the EE Minimax DAC Plus is currently the 14th from the top.
Doug, I read your excellent review of the plus. Having recently heard the newest version of the Linn Akurate streamer and being hugely impressed, any chance you could comment on this comparison? I realize there is a big difference in price so a comparison might not be fair but since I am looking for a new DAC, I find the EE minimax plus intriguing.
Jc4659, thanks for the kind words; I have not heard the Linn streamer so I cannot help with an assessment.
Doug, regarding cabling I'd likely be running coaxial from the CD player to the minimax plus but optical is another option. You mention the importance of auditioning as many cables as possible. In your experience and in the context of your system, which cables performed best (digital and analogue)? You can shoot me an email if you prefer not to list in the thread.
Jc4659, I prefer not to use optical as I have found it consistently to perform more poorly than coaxial. I believe you would have that observation confirmed by a fair number of enthusiasts. There may be some exotic applications where optical would surpass, but at the more affordable level I have not heard it do so.

The two cables I currently use most often are WireWorld and Clarity Cable. I use Clarity Cable's Organic Digital between the transport and the EE Minimax DAC Plus.

I see you have LessLoss, which I believe Ed Momkus of Dagogo is using. He enjoyed them, but I do not know what he's compared them to.
I had already ordered my MiniMax Plus before i read the Douglas Schroeder review posted to I said to myself this guy is over the top with his praise,I was wrong I believed my Magnepan 3.7's where the best buy in hi end I was wrong it is the Minimax plus.
Aolprodj - Can you provide more info on what you are hearing from the MiniMax Plus?
In a few weeks I'll have the chance to listen and compare the Minimax plus to the Rega and W4S 2. It'll need to break in for a while though.

Meanwhile....The Rega continues to break in and improve....the closest I've heard a DAC sound to analogue..

Happy Turkey day!

First is impact and bass it gives my Magenepan MG 3.7 more midrange dimensionality,transparency and resolution of detail.Transients speed and dynamic range.mind you this has been only about fifty hours of break in.Virtue Audio interconnects and Usb cable with the standard power cord.
HAS any one heard the new Dac Magic Plus? Twin Wolfson WM8740 24bit DACs used in dual differential configuration
New Anagram Technologies ATF2™ 24-bit/384kHz audio up-sampling / jitter reduction
Optional Digital Preamp mode allowing connection directly to power amp or active speakers
24-bit/96kHz driverless USB Audio 1.0
24-bit/192kHz USB Audio 2.0 with ASIO or kernel streaming modes.
USB class 2 driver for Win
Asynchronous USB transfer
Selectable digital filters - linear phase, minimum phase and steep
Balanced XLR audio output and RCA phono output
Two 24 bit digital inputs (with optical or coaxial for each)
External input for optional BT100 Bluetooth receiver - allows audio to be streamed and up-sampled from any paired Bluetooth device
the rega does not have a tube, and the centrance does not have a tube in its circuit as well.

the advantage of a dac using a tube is the ability to alter its sound by replacing the tube.

i also own the ps aaudio power wave dac, but it is not my favorite dac. i believe a tube is an integral part of a dac.
MrTennis, It's true that some DACS have tubes and others do not, but this means little if the overall synergy is not there. The owner of the Minimax prefers it without the tube. And I also seem to recall a great review of the unit also finding it more transparent without the tube. Changing the tube makes changes, but I prefer a component that focuses on one thing...the tube or SS design. In this respect the Rega seems like a more focused component to me and the benefits audible.
Now my friend who owns the Minimax just got the plus version and it's burning in. On the weekend we'll give it a serious listen. So far he's very impressed with it, but still says the midrange of the Centrance is the winner so far. On the other hand he says the Plus has amazing HF qualities right out of the box. These are all good DACs and there is no way to predict that one will be universally better than the next. I don't doubt that some systems do better with the W4S 2 and I don't doubt folks who prefer the sound of a Oppo 95 to some of these DACs. Tastes and system matching decide in the end, but I don't seek components that require my constant customizing to get them right. I own a Manley Stingray II tube amp. I experimented with tubes and ended up back with stock. It seems the designers know a thing or two afterall. BTW, I had pretty poor luck with tube based CD players. I found them all weaker than SS players. On the other hand I'm a 100% convert to tube amps now. I'm also a fan of systems using SS amps paired with tube preamps. But tube source components have not won me over so far. Maybe the Minimax Plus will change that, but this Rega (and the Centrance) are fairly impressive across the board. In the end I have trouble believing that many people would be unhappy with taking any of them home. Of course people want a "winner" or a "best in class" but I don't think it exists at this level because of the wide array of systems out there.