Eastern Electric Minimax CD Player
Electric is an apt name for a company based in Hong Kong. This three year
old company receives the bulk of its revenue from US sales. Its distributors
are located in the US, Japan, Germany and Turkey. Its product line is
Line stage $799
US distributor, Morningstar Audio Imports, has a very liberal warranty.
The CD player will be replaced with a new one during the first year of
a two year parts and labor warranty.
did the Minimax get its name? According to the designer, Alex Yeung, "mini"
in size was combined with "maximum" in performance. The company's
sales philosophy is to make the most musical of components at a price
affordable to the consumer.
CD player uses a Phillips CD 12 transport. Its tube output stage accepts
6922 and its equivalents. A Burr Brown PCM 1732 is the D/A chip. Note,
this player does not oversample. Its word length and sampling rate are
24 bits and 96k, respectively. A Burr Brown OPA 2134 op amp is used for
low pass. A (hefty) torroidal transformer manufactured by the company
functions as a power supply. The output level is 2 volts. Power consumption
is 30 watts. S/N is 90DB. Dynamic Range is 93DB/100DB (HDCD). Dimensions
are 12 x 13 x 3 (inches).
This CD player
presented me with 3 challenges:1) 6 volt tube in output stage. 2) Electro
Harmonix (EH) 6922. 3) Tube output stage rather than gain stage. In my
opinion, it is more difficult to achieve a relaxed upper midrange and
lower treble response with a 6 volt tube than with a 12 volt tube. I have
personal experience with Electro Harmonix tubes. I own 3 pairs of 12 volt
EH tubes as well as a pair of 6FQ7 tubes. In all cases the treble response
is "unpleasant". Finally, in my experience, I have noticed greater
variation sonically from changing tubes in a gain stage than in a buffer
stage. Read on. I will provide some anecdotal evidence regarding the above
listening, the CD player was set in repeat mode for 3 weeks. The importer
recommends a break-in period of 300 hours. When I observed the size of
the torroidal transformer, I immediately replaced the stock 16 gauge line
cord with a generic shielded 14 gauge line cord in order to provide greater
current handling ability. Initially, I auditioned the CD player with the
EH tubes and the 14 gauge AC cord. Thereafter, I changed the tubes several
times. In the interests of brevity and efficiency, I will present listening
results highlighting specific strengths and weaknesses using a variety
of CDs. I will then offer more general comments concerning the affects
of changing tubes.
The first source,
"Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow", from PRIME CUTS, Sheffield CD
PC1, track 8, features Dave Grusin and Lee Ritenour. The cymbal sound
and bass response can reveal deficiencies in stereo system performance.
This is my primary source at CES. In this case the cymbal was somewhat
elevated in pitch--slightly harmonically bleached. Ron Carter's acoustic
bass lacked bass extension, weight and texture.
interpretation of Ravel's "Alborado del Gracioso", conducted
by Ernest Ansermet, London 414 046-2, was the second selection. Although
the clarinet solo was a bit forward, its timbral character was representative
of the sound of a clarinet. The second cymbal crash lacked weight and
was slightly elevated in pitch. An oboe solo was somewhat forward compared
to my reference CD player. However, as in the case of the clarinet, the
observed timbre made it easy to identify the instrument correctly.
AJA, MCA MCAD 37214, is one of my favorite jazz/pop recordings. I selected
"Deacon Blues", track 3, focusing on cymbal and tenor sax. The
cymbal at the beginning of the track sounded a bit elevated in pitch.
Donald Fagen's voice was a bit forward, but not aggressive or overly sibilant.
Pete Christlieb's tenor sax solo sounded more like an alto sax solo, as
I noticed an over- emphasis of upper harmonics.
I've always been impressed with the recording techniques of the Opus 3 label. Therefore, my third selection was "Sweet Georgia Brown", from the CD TEST CD #4, Opus 3 CD 9200. The vibraphone was a bit forward, with realistic vibrato. When drumsticks struck the side of the snare drum, the differentiation between the materials, i.e., wood and metal, was readily discernable. In addition, if one listens carefully, one can enumerate the number of "taps". Following an organ solo, a cymbal is loudly struck. Here again, the pitch sounded elevated and the acoustic bass sounded vague, not as fleshed out as previously experienced.
selection, "Gaite Parisienne", by Jacques Offenbach, conducted
by Arthur Fiedler, JVC XRCD 0224 is an excellent rendering of a symphony
orchestra. Dynamics were not lacking but not exaggerated. Fifty seconds
into the music, there is a brief pause. Thereafter, one could recognize
musicians turning pages of sheet music. Following the pause, there were
several short wood block and triangle solos. The wood block was positioned
behind the triangle and behind the right speaker but not as deep into
the orchestra as noticed when using my reference CD player. In addition,
the spacing between triangle and wood block was somewhat less than produced
by my reference CD player. Moreover, the sound of the triangle was a bit
underarticulated, giving a "sharper" presentation.
My last selection, "I Can See Clearly Now", from DON'T SMOKE IN BED, Alert 228102, features Holly Cole. Holly Cole's voice is close-miked. Sibilance is noticeable. Its presence is a bit more than I hear from my reference player but no so intrusive to detract from the enjoyment of the music. However, the acoustic bass solo is a bit understated, with a slight loss of bass extension and weight. If I were to summarize my findings so far, the following would represent the results of my listening sessions: The CD player is quiet, clean, grainless, usually presenting credible resolution from the midrange on up. Orchestral passages are dynamic and sound stage width is not noticeably deficient. There is some degree of forwardness and depth is somewhat foreshortened. There are spectral imbalances, notably an absence of bass and lower midrange energy and a slight over emphasis in the upper midrange and lower treble region, creating an impression that pitch is higher than it should be, especially for cymbals and clarinets. I had received from the importer an Amperex 6922 and GE grey glass 6DJ8. I also borrowed a pair of RCA 6FW8 from a friend.
Since I own
an 11 gauge line cord, I decided to add that to the mix. Introducing the
11 gauge line cord increased bass articulation, weight and extension.
One noticed greater resolution without any change in upper midrange and
lower treble energy. Spacing between instruments and depth increased and
the spectral imbalance was reduced, although the elevation in pitch remained,
but to a lesser extent.
tubes produced "small" but audible improvements especially with
respect to spectral balance, as well as enhancing depth and further reducing
the sense of forwardness. With the Amperex tubes, the perceived forwardness
disappeared. The Amperex tubes were most effective ameliorating the faults
of this CD player and the RCA tubes least successful, while the GE tubes
were a close second. However, regardless of the "improvements",
bass was slightly lacking and the elevation in pitch while significantly
lessened, was still audible.
CD player was auditioned varying two factors, namely, tube type and gauge
of line cord. There were five combinations, as shown below:
1 14 EH 6922
of the line cord produced the most noticeable difference with respect
to depth and spectral balance. The tube type also affected changes in
depth and spectral balance but to a lesser extent. However the Amperex
tube eliminated a problem which none of the other "treatments"
could do, namely removing forwardness. In spite of the aforementioned
improvements, there remained a slight but noticeable over emphasis in
the upper midrange and lower treble and slight but noticeable absence
of bass information. The word "slight" needs to be considered
in the context of one's hearing and perception. You, the listener, will
have to decide to what degree you perceive a timbral inaccuracy. Does
the spectral imbalance, to whatever degree, interfere with the enjoyment
of music? There are two issues to consider--the (perceived) magnitude
of inaccuracy and the threshold for interference with enjoyment. Serious
listeners can differ as to their perceptions of spectral imbalances as
well as to when an imbalance is objectionable. Consequently, it is difficult
to predict what effect a reviewer's "slightly" audible will
have upon another person. As previously mentioned, I was often aware of
excessive upper midrange and lower treble energy and/or absence of bass.
If the recording was relatively "balanced", I was able to enjoy
the music; otherwise, I did not.
The Eastern Electric MiniMax CD Player
Price: $900 USD
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