The Eva Minuet’ is a British constructed built-in valve amp with onboard phono-stage and prices £3250. Janine Elliot takes it for a whirl.
My favorite valve amp is my modified Leak Stereo 20, an amplifier courting from 1958 however which nonetheless beats many designs from the 21st century and may fetch properly over a thousand kilos within the second-hand market. There are a number of causes for this in my humble opinion; a fantastic and easy design, trusted valves, and shorter point-to-point contacts somewhat than a PCB. To be despatched a brand new amplifier on the block from Geoff Kremer, proprietor and creator of EVA Ltd (English Valve Amplifiers) that’s based mostly on a modified model of the Stereo 20 was an thrilling alternative for me, although it will have some stiff competitors from Harold Leak if it was ever to get my signal of approval.
Geoff Kremer will probably be recognized to many for his wonderful repairs to amplifiers and reel to reel tape recorders, together with my very own (and mine-Ed), one thing he has been doing since 1968. His information of valve and transistor designs is second to none, having hitherto produced the gorgeous wanting Proteus built-in amplifier. His favorite amplifier can also be the Stereo 20, although he understands its failings. He brazenly admits that Minuet’ is predicated on the Leak and that he has a fantastic love for valve designs because of the truth that the sound they make, together with distortion, is extra akin to the best way our ears hear than are transistors or digits;
“Very merely, valves have a personality and sound extra suited to our analogue ears, they don’t seem to be as arduous and brittle sounding as solid-state amplifiers. Loads of listeners may say that valves sound ‘hotter’ and that is perhaps misconstrued as ‘woolly’ or ill-defined, removed from it. A correctly designed and constructed valve amplifier might be simply as quick and correct as any solid-state amplifier certainly, many good valve amps are significantly quicker than their solid-state equal”
The temporary for Minuet’ (he likes to name it Minuet’ relatively than with an ‘a’ or ‘the’ previous it, displaying he units excessive regard to this design) was to create a easy however very top quality built-in that would tackle the easiest on the market, able to holding its personal with the easiest HiFi amplifiers available on the market. To create it he didn’t use a lot of calculus however moderately his personal ears utilizing DBE (design by ear). Certainly, even the phono-stage was created by listening to a lot of music and altering the values of elements, relatively than making an attempt to emulate the RIAA curve. He sells Minuet’ instantly moderately than by means of dealerships with a purpose to hold the retail worth decrease. At £3250 this can be a aggressive worth.
The place the Leak Stereo 20 was one in every of Harold’s well-known “level one” collection of elements so named as a result of astonishingly (at the moment) that they had lower than level one % of distortion, Geoff has labored to provide Minuet’ no less than the identical specification. Certainly, he set himself 4 main issues in designing it;
- very low distortion under zero.1% at 10W.
- A large bandwidth with specific consideration to the low-frequency finish.
- A quick response; Geoff states that a good valve amp may be quicker than a solid-state design.
- It have to be unconditionally secure in all circumstances. Consequently, Minuet’ will ship 12WRMS and from 6-60,000Hz inside 1dB.
The place the Stereo 20 was designed to be retrofitted in a field or cupboard until you have been completely happy to see the valves and transformers (certainly I truly assume it’s a lovely wanting amp within the nude), Minuet’ has been positioned in a minimalist curved metal case with the facility provide in a separate field which means the unit is visually not so excessive plus technically minimising hum and noise. The output transformers are largely based mostly on the Leak design. It has been designed to optimise efficiency. The place the Leak had the selection of four, eight and 16ohm speaker impedance changeable by way of a movable hyperlink, Minuet’ may be adjusted by soldered hyperlinks internally. This might sound inconvenient, however Geoff says it ensures that all the transformer windings are used all the time, in contrast to many amplifiers that used faucets which leaves some windings unconnected and thus inefficient. The assessment pattern was set at 8Ω for my Wilson Benesch and Graham Audio loudspeakers. To connect loudspeakers the sockets on the rear are recessed 4mm pink and black, although I wanted they have been multiway sockets like I fitted to my Leak in order that I might connect spades in addition to bananas. The HT system is smoothed by three very excessive worth smoothing capacitors, which not solely ensures stability however supplies sufficient power for these actually low frequencies within the music. The cupboard is handcrafted utilizing painted metal with bonded stainless-steel perforated grille. Some might not just like the design of the cupboard, however he has stored prices to a minimal to maintain the general worth very aggressive, in contrast to his lovely wanting Proteus which had a really costly cupboard.
There are 4 RCA line inputs plus phono enter for cartridges with an output between 2.5-5mV, and RCA “tape out” sockets. Choice and off/on change are by way of the left knob with quantity altered from the best. Internally, elements are set to make sure minimal interplay between them. Meaning in addition to point-to-point wiring warmth delicate elements akin to electrolytic capacitors are evaded excessive temperatures. The horizontally mounted EL84 output valves, which run very popular, have their very own remoted and cooled areas on the edges while the phono stage is positioned within the centre away from the warmth, excessive voltages and alerts. Even the enter sockets, enter selector, quantity management and related wiring is contained inside a double-walled rear panel that isolates them the remainder of the amplifier.
The place the Leak had a complete of three ECC83’s for the enter stage and two EL84s output valves per channel plus GZ34 rectifier, the Minuet has an ECC83 enter coupled to an ECC82 feeding a pair of EL84 pentode valves operating in Class A/B push-pull mode. The phono-stage part consists of two ECC83’s per channel. All valves provided are from Brimer. The similarity in design is clear to the elder however what was necessary was whether or not it sounded the identical and even higher. The place the Leak was sometimes 50s in seems to be, the Minuet’ jogged my memory of 1950’s area age with its black gloss curvy facia. It comes as commonplace in black gloss, although a selection of colors like silver, pink or blue would go down higher I feel, and certainly colors aside from black can be found from Geoff, although not a brushed metal end. The mains unit is much less radical and extra useful than engaging. When switched on Minuet’ actually comes alive with the 2 giant machined stainless-steel knobs which have an Acrylic collar beginning to glow purple when in standby after which blue when switched on. That black facia was all however forgotten now. Even the mains unit glows inexperienced. That blue glowing knob could be dimmed, when you so want, by way of a 2-position change on the rear.
The unit wants solely fifteen or so minutes to actually begin to sound good. Earlier than utilizing the inbuilt phono-stage I related my trusty and acquainted Manley Steelhead. Berlioz Symphony Fantastique (Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Claudio Abbado) has dynamism in addition to constraints, a Fantastique work, filled with highs and lows and Minuet’ labored properly to carry out the deepest lows and tops. The bass finish was notably good, and higher than the Leak, dare I say. Trumpets and trombones shone via the string part environment in a method that was tidier than the Leak might do. Devices carried out in a genteel trend in a big soundstage predominantly behind the audio system. This was a extremely musical efficiency. If you’d like bells and whistles look elsewhere, regardless of there being a percussion part containing bell plates and bass chimes. This amp is practical and never over excitable, it needs to inform the reality and never exaggerate the details. It’s valve via and thru and noticeably quicker than my very own Leak regardless of my very own modifications. The place the Leak rolls off at each ends, the Minuet’ had a superb bass and higher prime. It was additionally extraordinarily quiet in operation. Solely the facility provide makes its very mild hum however that may be positioned properly away from ears.
Subsequent to play was my newly reconditioned (by Geoff) Sony TC-766 high-speed half-track machine. For this, I selected two excellently recorded Hemiolia recordings. First to be laced up was “Might This Be Love” (Davide Pannozzo Trio – ‘A portrait of Jimi Hendrix Reel 1’), a superbly engineered mixture of guitar, bass and drums. Percussion, notably cymbals, have been tight and really practical and the deliberately distorted guitar was as you’d anticipate it to sound for those who had the guitar amplifier in entrance of you. It sounded so human I truly loved the distortion, one thing I don’t often do!
Turning to clarinet and acoustic guitar with “Aria de Operetta” (Gabrielle Mirabassi (Clarinet) and Roberto Taufic (guitar) – ‘Ao Amigo Guinga’) the shut mic’ing of the clarinet was notably clear and real looking with the excellently recorded guitar filling in to make the duo work solidly and humanly.
Time to attempt the inbuilt phono-stage. It was fairly apparent that Geoff and his trusty helpers have spent a lot time listening to get the absolute best sound for the ECC83 based mostly phono-stage. Firstly, a brand new album for me provided by Vertere on their very own new document label, the band Caezar and 12” EP ‘The Prayer’. Aspect two “The Presence of Love” suffered from the shortage of presence from the bass guitar and the subsequent monitor “Time” lacked chew from the drum machine. Although properly recorded the album shouldn’t be probably the most thrilling Listening; the music lacks creativeness with very predictable key modulations. Turning shortly to Pink Floyd the velocity and readability have been instantly obvious. Vocals have been crisp and instrumental element included depth of soundstage and channel separation was wonderful on this iconic LP. It solely lacked the thrill that I’ve come to anticipate from this album listening on top-end separates, however for an inbuilt phono-stage this is a wonderful design. That lowered pleasure was notable on the lowest frequencies, for instance; the “explosion” in monitor Three simply wasn’t fairly as thrilling as I do know it may be. Certainly, while this phono preamp works nicely with greater output and better impedance inputs specifically MM and in addition high-output MCs (the specification suggests 2.5mV and 50kΩ load), it will be nice to have provision for decrease load impedance to permit higher flexibility of use. That greater load impedance can even change the frequency sample of sure cartridges; for instance, my 100Ω shifting coil Audio Technica AT33Sa had a extra subdued bass-end than my MM Ortofon VMS20E, 2M Purple and Stanton 681 EEE which have been ideally suited to a 47kΩ loading. Having a 100Ω/50,000Ω change on the rear may, subsequently, be an concept for these greater output MCs. However, the phono-stage gave a really reasonable heat and alluring sound and Geoff’s EQ setting labored nicely.
Turning to classics and certainly one of my favourites Saint Saëns Symphony No3 in C Minor op 79 (Jane Parker Smith Organ, London Philharmonic Orchestra – Serge Baudo). This nice work with iconic piano and organ runs was initially composed for the London Philharmonic Society in 1886. This work simply lacked decisiveness, although the music was clear and there was good area and depth of soundstage. While this can be a 2-movement work there are quite a few definitive sections. Within the ‘Finale’ on the finish of the second motion is the well-known melody part beginning with two very poignant organ chords main into the gorgeous theme together with rippling piano arpeggios. The quiet piano undergirding the string tune was superbly positioned displaying the valve phono-stage working properly to differentiate all elements of the music. This was a fantastic efficiency from Minuet’ particularly for an in-built phono stage, and unquestionably higher than the phono-stage that accompanied the Stereo 20 within the type of the Varislope pre-amp from the 1950s! Solely the lengthy notes within the lowest octave of the organ foot pedal “B – G – C” showing close to the top was not as clear as I hoped it might be.
‘On the Third Day’ is my favorite ELO album and “New World Rising” my favorite monitor with wonderful definition of the musical devices within the soundstage, notably the analogue synth, percussion, voice, piano and strings. Minuet’ gave a really clear and thrilling rendition of this monitor displaying that the phono-stage and the amplifier each work in concord. ELO music is complicated in orchestration and a few amplifiers could make the music sound confused. Not on this case.
Lastly, I listened to the superb Jethro Tull ‘Reside’ album, giving me one other probability to take heed to classical devices mixed with these extra widespread to rock. Ian Anderson’s flute was thrilling as was the vocals, a lot of this resulting from his jovial eccentric nature as to the enjoying. Element and velocity have been there notably within the mids and highs (glockenspiel and drums, marimba, mandolin, synthesiser, and so on), however once more that bass simply wanted somewhat little bit of Ian’s eccentricity to get me excited.
This can be a extremely competitively priced built-in amplifier based mostly on a modified Leak Stereo 20. Sound sensible this was a really musical performer with an prolonged bass finish on all line-inputs and a very good prime finish and a tighter and quicker sound than Harold’s amp. Music was simply definable and pure in all varieties of music. It was good to see EL84s and ECC83s making music once more. If you need one of many valve greatest amplifiers of the 50’s, and certainly of all time, however that’s now even higher, then this might be your perfect associate.
Construct High quality: Nicely-built design together with properly engineered inside.
Sound High quality: Wonderful element from lows to highs, with the bass-end of line inputs very particular. Bass might be a bit of extra ahead within the phono-stage.
Worth for Cash: £3250 is a really eager worth for a hand-built marvel.
Execs: Very musical efficiency. Very low distortion. Wonderful protection of frequencies with nice velocity.
Cons: Some might not just like the curved structure of the cupboard. Phono-stage lowest octave lacks chew.
Assessment Gear: Pre-Audio turntable/AT33sa cartridge/Manley Steelhead Phono-stage, Technics SL-02/ Ortofon VMS20E/2M RED, Stanton 681 EEE, Krell KPS20i CD, Ferrograph Logic7 and Sony TC-766-2 15ips/½ monitor Reel to reel recorders.
Energy consumption 108W
Weight 14kgm incl exterior energy provide
Sign sockets RCA gold plated
Speaker sockets normal 4mm
Speaker loading 6-10 ohms (four to 16 may be chosen internally)
THD zero.03% 1W; zero.06% 5W; zero.08% at 10W
S/N ratio higher than 86dB
Phono-stage 2.5mV drive into 50kOhm for 15W
Frequency response at 1W Three-40,000Hz ±1dB (Three-60,000Hz at -1.5dB)