I had the pleasure of auditioning the newest of the Eastern Electric lineup, the EE Minimax phono preamp. I have been enamored with most of EE's electronics and I had asked for some previews of the new Phonostage and Integrated when they arrived... I'd hoped they would arrive a little sooner but so far the wait has been well worth it. I have only heard the phono preamp, the M520 integrated is on the way, though.
Overall, the EEMMPP (Eastern Electric Minimax Phono Preamp
) has about the same footprint as the Minimax linestage preamplifier. It has the same overall look and feel as well.... Heavy and well-built. It has a 'play/mute' switch on the front which is handy when dropping the needle... On the back there are high impedance/low output MC inputs, low impendance/low output MC inputs, and a high output MM input.
I used the MM input since I'm using a high output MC Dynavector 10x5 mounted to an RM9 arm on a Pro-ject RM4 table.
When I first got this phonostage, I thought it sounded pretty good, better than most I've heard but I didn't really listen critically... I let it burn in for a while.. just left the power on and played a few records from time to time. One weekend I had a friend over and we decided to do some critical listening. It was a jaw-dropping, truly inspiring experience... I loved every note that poured out of my vinyl rig. It has never sounded so good. In fact, I don't think I've EVER heard vinyl sound so good. I was simply in awe. My friend and I played 20+ albums that weekend (not always in their entirety) because it was simply the most addictive and engaging sound we'd experienced in a long time.
There was far more information on my records than I'd ever known before... The highs and lows were so extended I couldn't believe it. I compared the vinyl rig to my Audio PC and the vinyl bested it. Wow. That's tough to do since the PC sounds near perfect to me. (It's near-analog in presentation and non-fatiguing.)
Imaging was more focused and instrument separation was not only more apparent but perfectly placed on the stage. It was incredible to experience all this.
That was the last time I really got to critically listen to this phonostage. I got really busy with work and some stuff around the house and couldn't dedicate a second listening session with it. Claud (a fellow NC AC member) asked if he could borrow it for a weekend. He liked it so much he decided to buy it from Bill within the same weekend. So, I no longer have it... and it is missed. However, I'm glad Claud will get to use it more than I did... I just haven't had any time to listen to anything lately.
Well, that's my short review. Bottom line is if you're looking for a phono preamp in the 1,k to 10,k range, you owe it to yourself to at least demo this preamp. Yes, I said 10,k. It's that good. I would think you could experiment with tubes to fine tune the sound but I did all my listening with the stock tubes and probably wouldn't mess with them... but a real vinyl junkie probably would...
Thanks again to Bill for the demo and my hat's off to Alex Yeung for an incredibly good value in hifi.