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Manley Neo-Classic SE/PP 300B Review, Cont.

The Ta'us is most definitely in the ruthlessly revealing category.  It brooks no partner nonsense and will most certainly inform you of its unhappiness with anything less than capable component moves. But with the right hookup, the Ta'us will positively sing with multi-octave delight, as it did with the Neo-Classic SE/PP 300B in the system. As a front end to the Manley's, I used Sunfire's two channel "Classic Vacuum Tube Preamplifier Control Center", which ranks among the very finest preamps, and is also a steal at its $1,499 price ($1,849 with phono stage). The Manley's and the Sunfire were linked together using the oh-my-god top of the line Nordost Valhalla interconnects.

The Ta'us speakers, which can be tri-wired for each of its three drivers, sprouted a custom made tri-wire configuration using Nordost SPM speaker cables, which are extraordinarily good, that were connected to the Manley's via the very convenient (and very sturdy) WBT 5 way binding posts located at the top rear of each monoblock. Source components used were a variety of CD players, CD transports, and DACs that I had on hand over the extended reviewing period.

Hooking the Manley's into you system is just the start, though, because from there you get to twiddle with all kinds of knobs, switches and settings on the amps. For example, there is a speaker impedance switch on the top rear that can be set at either 4-8 ohms or 12-20 ohms. (The master on/off power switch is located on the rear of each amp.) A front panel toggle switch selects either push-pull or single ended mode. You also get an adjustable feedback dial to play with, which, along the bias adjustment controls are located on the amps' front porch.

The PP and SE modes, as well as the feedback settings can be changed on the fly while the amps are playing, so you get real-time feedback on your choices. However, when switching between SE and PP mode there was a rather loud thump, which occurred even when putting the amps into mute mode first. After some experimentation, I found that the number 3 setting on the variable feedback dial generally worked the best (there are ten settings available, from 0 to 10 dB). I also set the impedance switch for a 4-8 ohm load for the Ta'us speakers.

Conventional wisdom has it that the PP mode should serve up more control and punch than SE mode, while the latter ought to be more musically ineffable. Shockingly, the Manley's in SE operation lost only the smallest amount of bass control and dynamics to PP mode. But in return, SE playback gained a new musical dimension such that any perceived PP loss was more than outweighed by the listening gains. The remarkable SE performance put on by the Manley's caught me completely flat footed.

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21st, The VXM Network, http://www.vxm.com

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