Minute’s 45 amplifier comes from SAC Thailand, a small boutique audio manufacturer based in Thailand, famous for making world-class output transformers and transformer based volume controls. The Minute 45 is a custom build amp based on the Minute 300B (with the 300B tubes), so you’re not going to find it listed in SAC’s website. If you wish to, SAC can build you an amplifier that will accommodate both the 45 and the 300B tube (you only have to flick a switch to choose the tube to use), but according to them, best sound is achieved when you dedicate the design solely to one tube type, so this build is strictly a 45 tube amplifier.
Along with the standard 1/4″ TRS out, the Minute also comes with 4-pin XLRs for the AKG K1000 and speaker taps at the back with a power rating of 1.5Watts at 16 Ohms. On the front panel you have toggle switches to select gain level (Lo/Hi) and Impedance range (Lo/Hi). With the massive transformers, the amplifier and power supply are very heavy, each unit weighing roughly as heavy as the Woo Audio WA5 amplifier though having a smaller footprint. The build quality is super fine and definitely on the same rank as high end brands like Cary or Manley.
I think standard review statements like “it has a tubey sound” should be banned once and for all. The reason is that there is no such thing as the standard tubey sound. Comparing the Minute 45 to the Woo Audio WA5 (300B based) side by side reveals that the two doesn’t sound anything remotely similar. The Minute is very mellow, mid-centric, analog, very slow-paced, and absolutely romantic sounding. The WA5 on the other hand is clear, dynamic, and fast sounding.
Aside from the 300B (WA5) vs 45 (Minute) tube differences, the two amps actually use the same GZ34 based rectifiers and 6SN7 input tubes. However, the extreme contrast between the sound signature of the two amplifiers may be more than just the 300B/45 tube. It may be due to the character of the Silk output transformers used in the Minute, the choice of components in the amplifiers, or even the design of the amplifiers. But the one thing we can deduce from this comparison is that there is no such thing as the standard “tubey sound”. The WA5 and the Minute 45 are absolutely opposites when it comes to their sound.
I found that the difference in sound signature, the dynamic Woo versus the mellow Minute, the clean black background Woo versus the analog grainy Minute ultimately determines which amp would be best for someone looking for a high end tube amp. For instance, let’s talk about vocals. Often people ask me “Which amplifier is the best for vocals?” I found that the dynamic sounding Woo is the better choice for listening to Bocelli, Belafonte, and Diana Krall as it conveys the energy of the singer better. On the other hand, for singers like Norah Jones, Corrine Bailey Rae, or Tracy Chapman, the Minute 45 is the more fitting amp as mellow presentation fits very well the character of the vocals. It had the warmth and the silky smooth mellow voice, just the right character for these singers.
Another situation is when you want to play some Jazz music. The Woo has a clear dynamic sound with a very wide soundstage. Zero grain, a pitch black background, and each instruments having a very distinct spot in the soundscape. On the other hand, the Minute is about ambiance, the feel on the venue where the recording was taken, and the sound of the air combined with the grain in the master tape. It’s an absolutely different presentation here. Remember that romantic analog sound from the tube radio (if you ever listened to one)? That’s what the Minute is all about. Some people may prefer the black background soundscape of the Woo, but the Minute has the better depth, layering, and ambiance. In the case of Jazz music, I think either amps would work very well so it boils down to personal preference. The Woo for a clear dynamic voice, and the Minute for a warm and analog sound.
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