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Reviewer: Paul Candy
Source: Eastern Electric Minimax CD player, Pro-Ject RPM 5 turntable w/Ortofon Rondo Blue cartridge
Preamp/Integrated: Manley Labs Shrimp, Audio Zone AMP-1, Pro-Ject Tube Box phono stage, Euphya Alliance 270 integrated [in for review]
Amp: Manley Labs Mahi monoblocks
Speakers: Green Mountain Audio Callisto (on sand filled Skylan stands), REL Q108 Mk II subwoofer; The Hornshoppe Horn; Gemme Audio Concerti 108 [on review]
Cables: Acoustic Zen, Audience, Auditorium 23, DH Labs, JPS Labs
Power Cables: Audience, GutWire, Harmonic Technology, Wireworld
Stands: Premier three-tier, filled with sand
Powerline conditioning: BPT Pure Power Center w/Wattgate 381 outlets w/ Bybee Quantum Purifiers and ERS cloth, GutWire MaxCon
Sundry accessories: Grado SR-60 headphones, Pro-Ject Speed Box, Gingko Audio Cloud 11 platform, Skylan damping boards, Grand Prix Audio APEX footers, Isoclean fuses, Walker Audio SST contact enhancer, Nanotech Intron 8500 CD fluid, Audio Magic/Quantum Physics Noise Disruptors, Herbie's Way Excellent Turntable Mat, dedicated AC line with Wattgate 381 outlet, Echo Busters acoustic room treatments
Room size: 11' x 18' x 8', long wall setup, hardwood floors with large area rug
Review Component Retail: CND 1,199

Once I laid eyes upon the Audio Space Mini Galaxy 1, I knew there was no way I'd turn down reviewing it. How could anyone pass up quality time with this little gem? Hong Kong-based Audio Space is no here-today, gone-tomorrow Asian brand. These folks have been offering vacuum tube audio equipment for over 10 years and in the process, built a solid rep in the Far East for quality and reliability. Still, they are relatively unknown in North America and Europe. That should change. Audio Space has secured steady distribution in Canada and the US via Charisma Audio and Gini Systems respectively. With the continuing stories of Asian grey market shenanigans, I can understand many
Western readers' reluctance to sample yet another Chinese brand. Upon accepting this assignment, I dutifully snooped around the web and indeed, found a considerably cheaper knockoff of today's piece. When I broached the subject with Canadian distributor Bernard Li, he informed me that various Chinese audio manufacturers are currently pursuing legal action against this particular counterfeiter operation. I have no idea how successful they will be considering China's free-wheeling capitalist anarchy. But it is comforting to know that at least some Chinese firms are trying to deal with these issue.

The Mini-Galaxy 1 is a diminutive two-chassis integrated loaded with features including headphone output, outboard power supply, adjustable negative feedback and even a USB DAC. The Mini Galaxy 1 offers 12 watts of Ultralinear Class A/B push-pull power per channel and can also function as a standalone headphone amp. It has inputs for two sources and uses a separate power supply with a fairly substantial toroidal transformer. No plastic wall wart here. Tube complement consists of a pair of 12AX7s and four EL84s. No periodic check-up of power tubes with a multi meter is required with the auto biasing circuit. Internal wiring is point-to-point. The supplied tubes were of unknown origin but sported Audio Space logos. However, the EL84s looked and sounded identical to a set of JJs I had on hand. The tiny onboard DAC is built around a Burr Brown PCM 2702 44.1/48kHz chip which appears to be standard issue for most inexpensive USB DACs. The manual is well laid out, informative and written in decent English.
The front panel has a pair of sturdy metal knobs for volume and negative feedback control. The rear panel of the amp half contains gold-plated 5-way metal binding posts, the USB input, two sets of gold plated RCA inputs, headphone output, power umbilical connection and a small toggle for source selection. Power up is via the power supply’s front-mounted knob. A 450mm locking umbilical links the amp to the power supply which itself gets connected to the wall outlet via the rear-mounted IEC and included AC cable. Dimensions are 165mm x 125mm x 210mm for the main unit and 165mm x 65mm x 210mm for the power supply. Total weight for both modules is 6.5kg. Both were finished in an understated yet attractive two-tone cream/grey finish. Completing this eye-catching feature-rich package was a pair of extra fuses, a USB cable, cotton gloves and a lint-free dust cloth.

Build quality was excellent as with every Audio Space product I have thus seen and would probably embarrass not a few more expensive products. No loose solder balls or flimsy controls or aberrant behavior. Apart from the rear panel location of the source switch and headphone output, the Mini Galaxy was a joy to use. In fact, the rear switch was not a concern due to the small size of the amp. So you need to reach a few inches around to change sources. Big deal.

After sufficient warm up, the Mini Galaxy was fairly quiet electrically and mechanically. Up close there was a slight hum, audible from the amp itself as well as through speakers and headphones. It didn't interfere when listening to music but it was noticeable during silent passages and between tracks. I auditioned the Mini Galaxy first in my main system and then in my bedroom for a little late-night Internet radio via headphones and laptop. Connecting my IBM to the Mini Galaxy via the USB connection was dramatically superior to driving my headphones directly from the laptop. What was thin and lightweight became significantly fuller and richer sounding.

Recent CD/LP acquisitions which have seen plenty of air time over the course of this review included a wildly quirky yet utterly captivating 1971 live BBC performance of Mahler's Ninth conducted by the late avantgarde composer/conductor Bruno Maderna [BBC Legends 4179-2]; a delightful Replacements retrospective [Rhino 70013]; Dylan's surprisingly good Modern Cool [Columbia 87606]; and Rudy Van Gelder's remaster of Eric Dolphy's smokin' classic Out There [Prestige 8101].

Sonically, the Galaxy exhibited most of the characteristic signature of every EL 84 amp I've heard to date: quick, incisive slightly lean bass, sparkling grain-free highs and a smooth detailed midrange without any trace of bloat or excessive warmth. How it differed from my EL84-equipped Manley Mahi monoblocks was in areas such as weight and frequency extension. More on that anon.

As for the Galaxy's music-recreating abilities, don't let the puny size fool you. This little hottie had no trouble filling my room with music. If you auditioned this amp blindfolded, you'd undoubtedly guess you were listening to a bigger amp. The Galaxy was rhythmically alive and -- providing I used the appropriate speakers -- thoroughly competent and convincing. Rendering of spatial cues and instrumental timbre was better than expected. Music was not projected forward of the speakers but more along their plane, with a decent rendering of depth.

Tonal balance was open and neutral; that is, not too rich or warm nor overly cool or analytical. The amp's presentation was crisp - detailed with enough immediacy and coherence to maintain my attention.

Bass performance was more about quickness and timbre than weight or power. After all, this is a quite small amp with limited power reserves. Don't expect to play AC/DC at 100dB levels unless of course you own very sensitive speakers like Ed Schilling's Fostex 126E-equipped Horns or Gemme's now discontinued Concerti 108, both of which played to extremely high levels with the wee Audio Space. In fact and in many respects, I preferred the Audio Space over my Manley separates when driving the aforementioned single-driver speakers. While not as weighty and ballsy as the Californians, the smaller amp was a tad smoother in the treble. I suspect the 4" Fostex drivers are a little peaky up high, hence my preference for the Audio Space which conversely sounded slightly rolled off and reticent on my highly revealing Green Mountain Audio Callistos. I suspect their 4-ohm impedance additionally presented the Galaxy with a somewhat difficult load.

I heard more low-level resolution from the Manley trio which was also quicker, more incisive and with tighter, fuller yet more controlled bass. There was also greater body, bloom and
rendering of space. At nearly four times the price and with substantially more robust power supplies, this came as no surprise but was still heart-warming. More money doesn't always buy better sound after all.

The adjustable negative feedback control -- like that of the Manley Mahi I reviewed a few moons ago -- simply gave me greater influence on the sonic presentation of each recording. Think of it as a presence adjuster that pushes back or pulls forward the entire sound picture. Dial up more feedback and everything shifts back several rows with each detent. Subjective volume decreases as well of course. Therefore, turn up the wick as you increase feedback and down while reducing it. This feature proved ideal in taming overly hot or excessively in-yer-face recordings - as well as injecting a little zing into reticent or distant-sounding ones. Overall and regardless of speakers used, I preferred the normal or middle setting. It offered the best of both worlds. There is no right or wrong position. It depends on the material you play, your partnering equipment and preference.

The Mini Galaxy 1 got most of the important aspects I look for in a component right and while there were caveats in terms of weight, extension and self noise, it never failed to entertain. As a bedroom system with headphones or easy speaker loads, the Galaxy would be an ideal choice.

My only issue with the Mini Galaxy is price in relation to its line mates. For $400 more, Audio Space's larger AS-3i integrated offers more than twice the output power, triode switching, an additional input and the convenience of front-mounted source selection and headphone output. Mind you, it doesn't have a DAC but I suspect most users would already own a standalone CDP or transport/DAC combo. I admit that $1200 Canadian for a testicularly challenged -- albeit attractive and full-featured entry-level tube integrated -- seems a tad high but I doubt Audio Space had the budding budget punter in mind with the Galaxy. I suspect the Mini's target are folks looking for a small, portable yet high-quality second system. Perhaps then, the asking price doesn't seem out of place. While there are other entry-level tube integrateds like the Dareds and Fatmans that sell for under $1000, none that I'm aware of share the Mini Galaxy's build quality or flexibility.

As with any low-rated amp of limited power reserves, proper speaker selection is critical. I'd stick to small two-ways or single-driver designs with sensitivity ratings over 90dB and at least an 8-ohm impedance. I don't think anyone in their right mind would attempt to drive a pair of B&W 801s with this little amp.

The Audio Space Mini Galaxy 1 is an attractive, well-built, charming little music maker that would be ideal for a second system in the bedroom, office or cottage. It sounds good and looks even better. Even the missus will approve.
Manufacturer's website
Canadian importer's website
US importer's website