I was one of the very fortunate folks to have the opportunity to sample the new Minimax phonostage. In addition, Bill O'Connnell sent along three vintage tubes to experiment with tube rolling. I don't know what his source is, but he always seems to have an ample selection of vintage used and NOS tubes.
Bill is a great resource for anyone seeking advice and recommendations for tubes. For those of us who are already familiar with Minimax components, they seem to be able to communicate the character of the tube with great transparency. I've used other components where tube rolling doesn't seem to yield any worthwhile effects.
That being said, I felt the stock tubes were excellent, and I initially wasn't going to experiment at all, but curiosity got the best of me. I'll discuss my impressions of the tubes in a bit, but my intention here was to provide a little more detail of my audition.
Personally, I've been getting a little tired of long winded reviews, even when they have been well written and informative. Plus I don't have the humor and whit that several of our AC members seem to dish up in their reviews. So here goes with something hopefully short and sweet.
The Minimax phonostage is magnificent. Excellent build quality. Very smooth operating volume control. Very adaptable, with MM, and high and low output MC. Very quiet. For all the technical details, visit Bill's website at www.morningstaraudio.com
. I'm using a high output moving coil Dynavector on my Rega Planar 25 with stock RB600 tonearm. My phonostage is an upgraded Lehman Black Cube. It's a good setup, but not outstanding. I'd speculate that the Mini could render even more dramatic differences with a higher rez phono playback system.
Until I inserted the Minimax, I thought the Black Cube sounded pretty good and represented good value. With good recordings, it exceeded anything I could get from my far higher quality digital playback components.
But now, the Minimax has spoiled all that. It has pretty much rendered my Black Cube unlistenable. It is better in every way. The music has so much more substance and palpability. It conveys the music with weight and authority. Highs are so clean and transparent, and the midrange is full bodied and sweet. It excells at everything, and has no weaknesses that I can hear. The only caution I would have is that it may be a bit full in the bass, but that could be more my system than the Minimax.
As for the tube rolling, Bill provided me with two 6x4's. A Haltron Blackglass CV493, which I didn't like at all. It sounded raw to me, and I let it break in for 24 hours before listening to it. The 1961 Tung-Sol was very nice. It seemed to enhance all the qualitities that were already evident with the stock 6x4. The same was true with and old RCA 5751 in the middle position. Bill really knows tubes!
All in all, I'd have to say the Eastern Electric Minimax Phonostage produced the most dramatic improvement over any component I've ever replaced in my system. If I were a magazine, I'd have to nominate the Minimax as Component of the Year.
Oh, I didn't realize that Carl had already posted his review. Well, I wholeheartedly agree with Carl!