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Eastern Electric MiniMax Tube CD Player Review

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Eastern Electric Mini Max Tube CD Player

I know my system very well. The components and elements such as cables and stand have not changed in some time. The CD player situ has (until now) been like a rotating door.

I do design work for a living, and as part of my hobby, I had been doing web design work for audio companies in barter for gear. That’s allowed me to try quite a few CD players, even ones I would never pay so much for… could not afford to. Let’s see, the list is long: Rega Planet, Classe CDP 10, Arcam CD-73 and FMJ 23, Creek CD 53 and the Crème-de-la-Creme Sim Audio Moon Eclipse. I will say that the Sim Audio was truly remarkable, it was the only CD player of the bunch that sounded as I imagined the artist intended, with no additives, and lots of reality.

The Eastern Electric MiniMax, on the other hand, brings out the emotion in the music. Maybe it’s the tube outputs and the tube sound that I’m so attracted to. Don’t get me wrong, as with everything else in analyzing a CD player’s sound, the differences are very subtle, but not with emotion… either you feel it or you don’t. And I felt a greater emotional connection and understanding when listening to my CD’s through the MiniMax than with any other CD player I have had.

The Sim Audio was very “real” in that it painted a very true-to-life picture in front of me: I remember being able to tell the height differences between a male and female singer (Bill Callahan and Sarabeth Tucek doing Smog’s “Truth Serum” from the “Supper” album), but that didn’t make me “feel” the emotion that these singers were trying to relay. Of all the CD players that have paid me a visit, the only house guest I invited to move in was the Eastern Electric MiniMax. And I paid for it with my own cash… meaning I didn’t do web work to get it. (Of course I sold other stuff to fund the purchase, but who’s counting.)

With the MiniMax, I heard more emotion on a Rachael Yamagata CD when it first played on this player than ever before. The 1st song, “Collide” off of her EP, took-on a whole new meaning because of the way the CD player captured the emotion of the music and the delivery of the singing. Due to this, I understood much better the story she was telling through her song.

I could make this a comparison review; but I won’t, because I truly believe we are all after a sound that pleases us. Even if we say “it’s all about sounding as close to the live event as possible”; that’s because that is the sound we prefer. I personally prefer a specific sound, one that’s comforting, emotional, rhythmic, spacious, rich (but not thick).

Furthermore, I have almost given up on aesthetics when it comes to audio equipment. I really love some stuff out there, like the 47 Labs or the Densen gear, but I really have not found truly sophisticated looking audio equipment that either I can afford or that has a sound I prefer. Out of all those CD players I have entertained (not all entertained me), I’d say I liked the aesthetics of the Rega Planet best. As for the Eastern Electric MiniMax, I really do like its physical product design.

This little CD player is actually only 12” wide, and it’s very well made with good finish and attention to detail. I can get my phono preamp and iPod dock on the same shelf on my equipment stand. Not all audio gear has to be 17” wide! I actually prefer odd sizes and the smaller the better. Of course my Rogue gear is big and wide, but it sounds oh so fine I’ll live with the physical design.

As a designer, however, I am not thrilled with the graphics on the player: too busy, not elegant, not subtle, too much type. The quality of the remote is nice, being metal and slim, although the usability of the remote leaves much to be desired as the buttons are just arranged in a grid and all the same size so you must read to enact a function (versus just feel) One huge indication for me that I really enjoy this CD player is that it has shifted the ratio of vinyl-to-CD that I play. With all the other CD players I have had (except for maybe the Sim), the vinyl-to-CD payback ratio (this should be a standard metric in audio equipment evaluations, don’t you think?) was on average 75% vinyl to 25% CD. With the MiniMax, the ratio is about 50/50. To me it sounds the closest to my vinyl setup as any CD player I have had.

In summary, the Eastern Electric MiniMax CD player delivers the sound I am after, but most importantly it delivers more “emotion” than any other CD player I have auditioned. I like its smaller form factor and the build quality is high. It stays and the others have all gone (and my ears wander no longer).

Associated Equipment:

Front End
Rega P25 turntable with Dynavector 10×5 cartridge

Amplification
Gram Amp II phono preamplifier
Rogue Audio Stereo 90 amplifier
Rogue Audio 99 Magnum preamplifier

Speakers
Meadowlark Audio Kestrel II loudspeakers

Cabling
Van den Hul interconnects
Straightwire speaker cable
Shunyata power cables

Accessories
Finite Element Pagode equipment stand

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