Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Cairn Fog v2.0 as transport; Zanden Audio Model 5000 MkIII DAC; Ortho Spectrum AR-2000 filter/buffer on the DAC's analog outputs; Eastern Electric MiniMax CDP [on review]; Ensemble Dirondo & Dichrono HiDac [on review]; Accustic Arts Drive I
Preamp/Integrated: Bel Canto PRe2 GenII; Eastern Electric MiniMax [on loan]; Acoustic Reality eAR Pre2 [on review]; Antique Sound Lab MGHead DT/OTL 32 [on review]; Wyetech Labs Opal [on review]
Amp: AUDIOPAX Model 88; Bel Canto eVo 4 GenII; Eastern Electric MiniMax amplifier [on review]
Speakers: Avantgarde Acoustic DUO; nOrh SM 6.9, Gallo Acoustic Reference III
Cables: HMS Grand Finale; Analysis Plus Solo Oval and Oval 8; i2digital X-60 and Stereovox HDXV S/PDIF cables; Mapleshade Ebony active S/PDIF interconnect; Furutech Digi. Reference BNC-BNC digital cable; ma recordings BNC/BNC reference digital cable [on review]; Mapleshade Planar power cord with DC bias; Audio Magic Clairvoyant power cords; Crystal Cable Reference complete wire set of analog and digital interconnects, speaker cables and power cords; Z-Cable Reference Cyclone power cords on both powerline conditioner; 2 x Stealth Audio Cables Indra analogue &Varidig S/PDIF cable [on review]; Artistic Audio Vacuum Reference S/PDIF [on review]; Dynamic Design digital interconnects [on review]; Audience Au24 digital interconnect [on review]
Stands: Grand Prix Audio Monaco four-tier
Powerline conditioning: BPT BP-3.5 Signature; Walker Audio Velocitor for source components
Sundry accessories: GPA Formula Carbon/Kevlar shelf for tube amps; GPA Apex footers underneath stand and speakers; Walker Audio SST on all connections; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; WorldPower cryo'd Hubbell wall sockets; Musse Audio resonance dampers on DUO subs; Mapleshade 4" solid maple platform under BPT conditioner
Room size: 30' w x 18' d x 10' h [sloping ceiling] in long-wall setup in one half, with open adjoining living room for a total of ca.1000 squ.ft floor plan and significant 'active' cubic air volume of essentially the entire (small) house
Review component retail: $1,350

Neutrality. Does that mean clinical, sterile, cold and uninvolving? Does it mean unadulterated, pure and uncut? How you answer these questions will have a direct bearing on whether today's component, the Eastern Electric MiniMax amplifier, will ruffle or tickle your feathers. Music through it -- and especially with some inexpensive tube rolling -- becomes unapologetically gorgeous. If that means a few liver spots and wrinkles are air-brushed out of its centerfold rendition of your favorite tunes, so be it. That's one aspect to handle upfront. The second one is far less open to interpretative opinion. 8 watts of output power will only go so far. MiniMax is a specialty product. It's deliberately and only directed at a very confined target audience. It makes no bones about that. It knows what it is and what it isn't. It doesn't complain so don't you either. If you want to get maximum impact from this mini, mate it with rooms, listening levels and speaker sensitivities that aren't in excess of what it was designed to do. Now, where it diverges from the usual high-brow treatment of exclusivity is with sticker price - $1,350. In the esoteric realm of micro power tube amps, that equates to a set of replacement valves in other places. Here, it covers the whole enchilada Christmas-style - with green and red sauce.

If you're thinking spicy, good for you - because this diminutive pi-filtered, 5AR4/GZ34-rectified push-pull pentode package is rather loaded. No need to pay extra for chips, salsa, guacamole, a bit of global feedback and a frosty salt-rimmed margarita. Point-to-point wired in best handcrafter's fashion, the most uncommon element besides the terrific fit'n'finish (and not just for this league) is the 6BM8/ECL82 output tube which, on first glance, might be mistaken for an EL84/6BQ5. At $14.95/ea. for Hungarian Tungsrams or $10.95 for Russian Svetlanas, this is a very affordable little 9-pin output pentode. From Sylvania's Tech Manual page 138, we learn that the typical plate and screen voltages are 170 in the pentode section while the heater voltage is 6.3 and heater current 780Ma. The GZ34 rectifier employed by designer Alex Yeung lends itself to tube rolling as well. Mullards or Philips Microwatts are highly recommended choices. The former was stuck into my review loaner by US MiniMax distributor/co-owner Bill O'Connell of MorningStar Imports, the latter by former Kora distributor and furniture/watch designer/distributor Robert Lighton in NYC who owns a top-shelf Level-5 all Audio Note UK system as well as this little 'un. He promptly forwarded me his rectifier of choice if I promised -- on the health of my family jewels no less -- that I'd return it. You might say our gent had me firmly by the short'n'curlies on this one. Thanks for this unsolicited loaner offer, Robert! Meanwhile, O'Connell had dispatched a quad each of Philips and Radiotron ECL82s for experimentation.

The micro-banana fitted 3-tier tube cage is a nice removable feature while what's greeting you 'round back is just what you'd expect: 4/8/16-ohm tapped speaker terminals and a power inlet.

A surprise awaits those descending into the underbelly of this little beast to discover point-to-point handcrafted internals that are a far cry from MidFi techniques.

Clean, tidy and with quality parts, this animal gutted looks just as good on the inside as the outside. Frequency response is a claimed 15Hz - 30kHz, input sensitivity a highish 600mV (with 120kOhm input impedance) which means that even an attenuator-fitted CD player will easily drive this amplifier to full output. S/N ratio is on the low side with 83dB, one item that buyers of affordable tube amplifiers should expect. Superior noise floors in this genre cost a lot more money.

Time to take Minimus Maximus into the arena and let the barbarian hordes of my CD collection loose on it...