It has been a nice quiet weekend to enjoy some great audio toys provided by Audiocircle vendors and friends. I would like to thank Nathan Loyer at Eighth Nerve for allowing me to compare the Eastern Electric Minimax CDP and the new Naim CD5i this weekend.
Here are my system components and tweaks used for this audition:
Jolida 502B tube integrated with Special Edition mods from Response Audio
Response Audio Emberglow ICs
Dave Ellis 1801B speakers placed 9 feet apart, near field
Audience Conductor speaker cable from Eighth Nerve
MGD & Eighth Nerve room treatment.
Other tweaks: All components plugged into a PS Audio Juice Bar using a Cryoed Absolute Power Cord sitting atop Cardas Myrtlewood blocks sitting atop a spiked platform plugged into a cryoed Wattgate outlet. Cardas myrtlewood blocks placed under the amp and cdps.
First let me comment on the Response Audio Jolida 502 Special Edition tube integrated. If you already don’t know, Bill Baker does some great tube amp upgrades besides providing some of the best service in the audio community. Go to Response Audio’s website for SE upgrade details. Recently, I upgraded all of the tubes starting with SED KT88s for power fronted by Sylvania 6201 gold pins 12AT7 and 1961 Sylvania 12AX7. The sound significantly improved to my ears. Bass and treble extension improved with the magic that only tubes can provide in the midrange. For those of you considering the Jolida 302 with Ellis 1801s, I suggest you reconsider using the 502b instead. The 502 really lets the 1801s shine in the bass and treble areas with the tubes I am currently using. Great dynamics, clarity. and balance. Smooth and clean! The background is very quiet. The bass is much cleaner than I would have expected. Since I regularly listen to all types of music, I believe the 502 opens up the treble and bass regions for rock and symphonic music. I also believe those 10 extra watts provided by the 502 over the 302 are significant as Scott Faller found in his TNT reviews of both of these amps. Bill Baker’s mods are the icing on cake for those of you considering integrated tube amps.
Now, let’s move on to the Eastern Electric MM CDP and Naim CD5i provided by Nathan Loyer of Eighth Nerve. He is another one of Audiocircle’s great vendors and a gentleman. He has been busy recently cooking up some great new sound enhancements to improve you room and systems. Give him a call for details.
I won’t try to repeat what others have said sonically about both of these great CDPs, because I can echo what has already been noted in an earlier review of these players in another thread. First up, is the EEMM CDP. This was auditioned with the stock Sovtek 6922 tubes and power cord. EE’s, Bill O’Connell has told me that the Sovteks are being replaced with the Electro Harmonic 6922s currently being shipped, but many tube rollers have also found sonic improvement with other NOS tubes. For those of you who have not seen this player, its small footprint (12.25” wide by 12.5” deep) matches the other EE components with a silver faceplate and blue power indicator light. Very attractive and great WAF appeal! If it detects a specially recorded HDCD, it has a green indicator light which appears. To the right side of the front panel, you can control all CD functions using five nice feeling bottoms. Oh yes. the EE has a high quality silver metal remote which some may like or hate. This remote has small black buttons that control all of the functions except powering up the CDP.
The black Naim CD5i is a heavier (built like a tank) cdp with some new features for us Yanks. Gone are the standard DIN connectors replaced by RCAs for standard USA connection. The power toggle switch is also located on the back next to the IEC powercord connection. The front panel is nice in clean with a very handy manual drawer which is so easy to open and reload. I wish more CDP makers would use this approach as it is a great time saver. Also, the CD is clamped in the drawer using a small magnetic puck. On the right side of the front panel are four controlling bottoms for power, next, stop, and play. I really enjoyed the feel and use of ease of these simple and effective controls and had no need to use the remote. The Naim remote is not as fancy as the EEs; it is a typical plastic remote with all the features you want. Nathan says he found the stock power cord has sounded very good with this player, so I used it for my review
As others have said the EE has the warmth of tubes that the Naim doesn't. I like playing rock albums loudly and used Santana’s Shaman album in its entirety to audition both cdps. I found the Naim was fatiguing after listening to this entire album while the EE’s warmth allowed me to listen and enjoy for longer periods at louder levels. In my system, both players exhibited a very wide soundstage that wraps completely around me with excellent dynamics and prat. Yes, the Naim does excel in toe tapping. Both players give you a slightly forward presentation. I first auditioned both players without Cardas myrtlewood woodblocks and found the bass weaker and less focused on the EE. After placing the myrtlewood under the EE, the bass significantly improved to surpass the Naim’s bass in overall clarity. The Naim did not seem to react to any tweaks that I attempted. I agree that the EE is smoother than the Naim, but the Naim has a darker background and has better inner resolution. The Naim always sounds louder which may be a result of a better power supply which all Naim components seem to possess. Both players worked very well with the Jolida 502/Ellis 1801b combo; I could live with either player. I really liked the Naim at lower listening levels where it digs more information out of the recording than the EE player; however, the Naim fatigue factor allows me to listen to the EE for much longer periods of time.
Thanks again to Nathan and Eighth Nerve for providing me an excellent sonic weekend.