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MANLEY Absolute Headphone Amplifier – The Makings of a Legend

MANLEY Absolute Headphone Amplifier

Again within the late nineteen eighties I ran a small boutique by appointment solely excessive finish HiFi store, and at the moment our preamplifier of selection was the MANLEY (their first and solely product on the time if my reminiscence serves appropriately), which we thought-about to be the best audio product on the planet. Not lengthy after that, MANLEY moved into professional audio which they shortly took by storm and has remained their main focus ever since. Once I met Zia Faruqi at T.H.E. Present Newport 2016 demonstrating the unique samples of the MANLEY Absolute Headphone Amplifier I knew this was a product I needed to assessment. Not solely was it aesthetically distinctive and delightful, it provided distinctive options not seen earlier than in Private Audio, and distinctive efficiency that was obvious even at a crowded HiFi present.

If I’ve this appropriately, Zia Faruqi was David Manley’s first worker on the first Vacuum Tube Logic firm in England within the 1980’s. The Absolute Headphone Amplifier was Zia’s mind youngster and he’s answerable for the Design Idea, Industrial Design and acted as Challenge Supervisor all through the complete improvement course of going as far as to personally accompany the product to a plethora of Private Audio Expos.

MANLEY Absolute Headphone Amplifier

The MANLEY Absolute Headphone Amplifier:

The MANLEY Absolute Headphone Amplifier boasts of fifteen unbiased operational controls “every of which was exhaustively developed for handy adjustability and aural selection.” Two selectable stereo RCA jack pairs of their very own design, Teflon® insulated and gold plated, obtain the enter alerts. The quantity is managed on the facia by a entrance thumb wheel or by the included RF distant management using a precision stepped relay ladder matrix attenuator in half dB steps, with the Mute change located subsequent to the quantity management wheel. Vertically mounted simply in entrance of the tubes you will see that Baxandall Bass and Treble equalizers that may be utterly bypassed by way of a separate button, and a Stability Management which has a sign swing of as much as 144 dB (Within the middle detent place the stability management is totally faraway from the circuit).

Along with the EQ bypass change there’s a button for mono, supply, output (¼” TRS Headphone Jack, a Four-pin XLR Balanced Stereo Output in your high-end balanced headphones, and a set of stereo RCA outputs to make use of the Absolute Headphone Amplifier as a line-level preamplifier in an present hifi system) and a button that cycles the transformers by means of three ranges of output masses (Low 12-50 Ohm, Mid 50-200 Ohm, Excessive 200-600 Ohms).

There’s additionally a selectable Bypass Through Mode that sends RCA Enter 1 on to the RCA Outputs, when in STANDBY mode, in addition to a consumer adjustable Headphone Overload Safety System which lets you preset a most output degree.

Which brings me to the 2 most fascinating and distinctive options; the primary being the power to modify on-the-fly between all-triode Push-Pull to Single-Ended topology. Primarily, in Push-Pull mode the Harmonic Distortion is considerably decrease, energy output is bigger and noise flooring ought to be decrease, whereas Single-Ended utterly alters the harmonic construction from odd-order to even-order which is extra musical.

The opposite is my favourite function the Variable Suggestions management which lets you management the quantity of general destructive suggestions utilized to the amplifier from 0dB, or no International Damaging Suggestions, to 10dB of Unfavorable Suggestions.

“Unfavorable Suggestions in electronics is when a small portion of the output sign is re-introduced again to the enter sign to offer a extra secure and useful corrective outcome. This management could be very helpful when figuring out how “tight” you need your amplifier to sound. For instance, a easy feminine vocal with minimal percussion can sound extra intimate with little or no suggestions, however a sophisticated symphony orchestra passage might sound higher positioned with extra suggestions. Making use of totally different quantities of unfavorable suggestions also can have an effect on the slew fee and obvious “velocity” of the sonic character. Different points for which to pay attention embrace placement, ahead or relaxed, darker vs shimmering, or punchy vs mellow.”

On to technical options; the Absolute Headphone Amplifier options customized hand-wound air-gapped dual-mode MANLEY IRON® output transformers, designed and manufactured on the Manley Labs manufacturing unit in California. It additionally incorporates their very own progressive purpose-designed-for-audio Excessive Voltage switched-mode energy provide. “All super-low impedance DC rails are absolutely regulated and worlds quieter than any linear provide we’ve ever encountered.”

The evaluation pattern I acquired was fitted with Ruby 12AX7WBC enter tubes and RCA 6AQ5A vacuum tubes within the output

The strong billet chassis for the Manley Absolute Headphone Amplifier is accessible in three shade choices: Black, Copper, and Silver, and have hand-rubbed walnut-burl veneer accents for the headphone head-band and ear pad relaxation areas.

MANLEY Absolute Headphone Amplifier

The Listening:

For sources I started with the Schiit Modi three (evaluate upcoming), later switching within the Questyle Audio CMA400i, the Questyle Audio CAS192D ultimately settling into the Questyle Audio SHB2 Tremendous Supply and completed off with my Audible Illusions phono stage and a turntable. As to headphones I used the MrSpeakers ETHER2, the MrSpeakers ETHER C Flows and the Audeze LCD3 headphones.

I’ll begin with, you get out of the Manley Absolute Headphone Amplifier precisely what you set into it, which is excessive reward for an amplifier, and weird for headphone amplifiers, particularly tube headphone amplifiers as a result of many Private Audio designers appear to be underneath the delusion that the amplifier ought to by some means “enhance” the sound of the sign fed into it, this often means rolling off the highs or including bass or midrange, or including delay to create extra “air”, or messing with the part to create a extra three dimensional picture and soundstage, or dynamic vary enlargement, or a myriad of different tips to idiot individuals into believing an amplifier sounds higher, to not point out fundamentals like TIMD which makes the amplifier sound crisper, and gives the look of added element (properly there’s added element, the Transient InterModulation Distortion itself, however that’s not music), when the truth is any change within the sign is just degradation and distortion.

After a little bit of experimentation, I discovered that operating single ended with the Unfavorable Suggestions set to its absolutely on place (the default place) most match my tastes and produced the best musicality. Listening to Artur Pizarro & Vita Panomariovaite piano duo efficiency of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade Op 35Andantino quasi allegretto” (Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov Piano Duos – 24/48 kHz) by means of the ETHER C Flows was a magical expertise with the piano reproduced full and pure in a big recital corridor with wonderful dynamics, timbre, velocity and soundstage.

Dusty Springfield’s voice was palpable and intimate via the ETHER2s for “The Look of Love” (On line casino Royale – 24/192 kHz) bracketed on a Jazz Membership stage by the upright bass, drums, piano and guitar. The saxophone, brass and strings have been heat and alluring with none of the standard harshness related to these devices.

The LCD3s let me discover the Absolute Headphone Amplifier’s means to deal with greater impedance masses, and the on the fly impedance change made it fast and straightforward work to vary headphones. “Sister Seagull” from BeBop Deluxe’s Stay within the Air Age (16/44.1) was reproduced lifelike and energetic with a 10th row on the Discussion board soundstage.

Anytime I’ve a Class A Triode amplifier to audition, I’m virtually compelled to run vinyl, and the MANLEY didn’t disappoint. Nicky Hopkins’ No Extra Modifications was a real pleasure to play although the Absolute Headphone Amplifier regardless which headphones I used. The upper decision of the ETHER2 was placed on show for “The Woman Sleeps” bringing out the a number of piano tracks and the sweetness of the guitar leads.

MANLEY Absolute Headphone Amplifier

The Come Away:

The MANLEY Absolute Headphone Amplifier is every thing I anticipated once I first noticed it and once I requested for a evaluate pattern, it’s the whole lot you’d anticipate from a world class uncommon air properly revered audiophile tube amp producer. It does what an audiophile amplifier is meant to do, which is amplify the sound and nothing else, whereas introducing as little noise and distortion as attainable. To say it’s musical is to barely scratch the floor, and probably irrelevant, the dynamics, sound stage, timbre and part coherency are all prime notch.

As anticipated from a real audiophile piece, it calls for a prime finish supply and is ready to reproduce each nuance fed into it, and likewise it’ll pull out the top of what your headphone can obtain, nevertheless it won’t change the essential character of these headphones.

The switchable single-ended or push-pull topology and the variable destructive suggestions management give actual perception into these applied sciences and why they exist (it must be identified that damaging suggestions in a tube amp, and adverse suggestions in a strong state amp are utterly totally different animals, unfavorable suggestions in a strong state amp can produce excessive ranges of TIMD which isn’t a think about tube amps).

I discovered the MANLEY Absolute Headphone Amplifier to be lovely, versatile (you’d be arduous pressed to discover a headphone that it doesn’t work properly with) and implausible sounding. To place it merely, the MANLEY Absolute Headphone Amplifier is proof of why those that dabble within the excessive excessive finish of the audiophile world lean in the direction of tube amps.

Worth: $Four,500 USD


Amplifier Topology:
Triode Vacuum Tube Output Stage, Switchable Topology Single-Ended or Push-Pull

Vacuum Tubes:
2 x 12AX7 (ECC83), Four x 6AQ5A (EL90)

2 x RCA (Enter 1 & Preamp Output = Move-Through when amplifier is in Standby or Off)

Enter Impedance:
50 kOhms (Move-Through= 300 kOhms)

Most Enter Degree:
7.7 VAC RMS (+20 dBu)
(Circumstances: XLR output, PP mode, 16 ohm load, VOLUME max, EQ out, 1kHz sine wave)

Load 16 ohm: 12 dB (Min FB), three dB (Max FB)
Load 62 ohm: 17 dB (Min FB), eight dB (Max FB)
Load 200 ohm: 22 dB (Min FB), 13 dB (Max FB)
(Circumstances: XLR output, PP mode, VOLUME Max, EQ out, 1kHz sine wave)

Enter Sensitivity:
600 mV AC RMS for an output of 100 mW
1.9 VAC RMS for an output of 1W
(Circumstances: XLR output, PP mode, FB 12:00 o’clock, 16 ohm load, 1kHz sine wave, VOLUME max, EQ out)

Quantity Management:
– Precision Stepped Relay Attenuator Zero.5dB per step
– 63dB complete attenuation – Quantity setting to minimal = MUTE

Outputs (transformer coupled):
1 pair RCA- Unbalanced (Preamp Output)
1 x TRS ¼” JACK – Unbalanced
1 x Four PIN XLR- Balanced

XLR-pin outs – (Left Channel Pin 1= Sign (+), Pin 2= Sign (-), Proper Channel Pin three= Sign (+), Pin Four= Sign (-))

Output Impedance:
Switchable: Low 12-50 Ohm, Mid 50-200 Ohm, Excessive 200-600 Ohms

Most Output Energy = 1W into 12 Ohms BW 22Hz-22kHz

Variable Suggestions Management (FB):
MAX 10dB
(Circumstances: BAL output, PP mode, 16 ohm load, VOLUME max, EQ out)

Sign to Noise Ratio:
83 dB (1kHz sine wave, 100mW output, BW 22Hz-22kHz)
(Circumstances: BAL output, PP mode, FB 12:00 o’clock, 16 ohm load, VOLUME max, EQ out)

Noise Flooring:
-80 dBu BW 22Hz-22kHz
-85 dBu  A-Weighted
(Circumstances: BAL output, PP mode, FB 12:00 o’clock, 16 ohm load, VOLUME MAX, EQ out)

Channel Crosstalk:
-71 dB (1kHz sine wave, 100mW output, BW 22Hz-22kHz) Left Channel
-72 dB (1kHz sine wave, 100mW output, BW 22Hz-22kHz) Proper Channel
(Circumstances: BAL output, PP mode, FB 12:00 o’clock, 16 ohm load, EQ out)

Stability Management Channel attenuation:
Left Channel= 72dB (1kHz sine wave, 100mW output, BW 22Hz-22kHz)
Proper Channel= 72dB (1kHz tone, 100mW output, BW 22Hz-22kHz)
(Circumstances: BAL output, PP mode, FB Min, 16 ohm load, EQ out)

Frequency Response:
Push-Pull= Flat 10Hz – 20 kHz (-1dB @ 40 kHz)
Single-Ended= 20Hz – 20 kHz (-Zero.5dB @ 10Hz, -1dB @ 50 kHz)
(Circumstances: BAL output, 100mW output, FB @ 12:00 o’clock, 16 ohm load, EQ out)

Push-Pull= Zero.16% THD+N (BW 20Hz-22kHz)
Single-Ended= 1.Zero% THD+N (BW 20Hz-22kHz)
(Circumstances: BAL output, PP mode, 1 kHz sine, 100mW output, FB @ 12:00 o’clock, 16 ohm load, EQ out)

Provided with Remora RF distant management

Smooth Begin, 30 second mute-controlled power-up sequence

Working Mains Voltage: 90-250 VAC, 50-60Hz, common works worldwide

Unit Dimensions: 11.5 x 5.5 x eight.2” (LxWxH)

Unit Weight: 12 lbs

Delivery Weight = 13.5 lbs

Packing Carton Dimensions: 17 x 11 x 15”

Energy consumption STANDBY mode = Zero.5W, Max Energy = 80W

Warmth Rise above ambient temperature at rear panel: 25ºC or 44ºF

Warmth Rise above ambient temperature at aspect panels: 15ºC or 26ºF