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Manley Neo-Classic SE/PP 300B Review

Francis Vale

It's not often I have a major complaint with a high-end audio product. But with the Manley Neo-Classic SE/PP 300B tube amplifiers I must go on record. The problem? You can't listen to them as a background audio system! Turn them on, and you are compelled to stop whatever you are doing, wherever you are doing it, and go in and sit down and focus all your attention on the music. 

In an age of juggling incessant family demands, wildly deleting incoming spam, fending off annoying cell phone calls, frantically responding to innumerable pages, struggling with 7x24 workloads, and all the rest of the things that comprise 21st century living, the inability to have the stunningly beautiful Manley's just purring away in the background mix is an enormous drain on your personal productivity. Hence, this reviewer's dilemma of what to make of these singular amplifiers.

The square jawed Hollywood retro look of the big Manley Neo-Classic SE/PP 300B tube monoblock amplifiers is also more proof positive that these handcrafted wonders hark back to another period, one in which people valued indulging and improving their aesthetic senses, as opposed to anaesthetizing them for lack of free personal time.

There is but one solution, of course, and that is to surrender to their siren call and just say fuck it to everything that's clamoring for your 21st century multi-tasked time and attention.

 

A shimmering glass forest of tubes inhabits each musical brass and chrome monoblock oasis, including two 300B's (output), one 6SN7 (driver), one 6SL7 (input), and two 5U4's  (rectifier). Electro-Harmonix Russian 300B tubes are shipped as standard. The design, which dates back to 2001, offers a choice of operating modes. The amps, which weigh in at 4l lbs (each), can be run in single ended mode that will pump 11 watts through your wires. Or you can opt for push-pull mode, which ups the ante to 24 watts. In SE mode, the Manley amps are rated with a frequency response of 15 Hz - 15 KHz +/- 0.5 dB  (measured at 5 watts), while in push pull operation, the specs are 10 Hz - 20 KHz +/- 0.5 dB. 

These specs, plus the others listed for these Manley amps will not cause much concern down at Huge-Amps-R-Us, who will most certainly sneer at them and question your man-ley hood. But just go ahead and tell them what every experienced music lover knows; it's the first big mother watt that counts. Big W size is for the insecure, or for those with speakers so lazy and inefficient that they can't get it up with anything less than a wire throbbing 400 watts. And if you have to dim your neighborhood streetlights just to get your musical groove on, then everyone already knows about your problems.

The almost two-foot long, 8.5" wide and 9" high Manley monoblocks are all about high sophistication and intense musical refinement. But amazingly enough, even in SE mode, they can kick out the jams. Speaker choice obviously has a lot to do with how well these low wattage amps perform, and any speaker with less than 90db sensitivity is going to suffer from unrequited musical love. In my case, I used the great, but now sadly out of business Impulse Ta'us speakers, which were made in England. A horn loaded design with a solid bottom end down to 40 Hz and 94db sensitivity, the floor standing Ta'us is probably just the kind of speaker EveAnna Manley has in mind for her Neo-Classic SE/PP 300B customers.

 

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