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


In the Manley's I heard all the things that we have come to expect of these wondrous single ended creaturesa--Sheer musicality, great micro-dynamics, delicacy, presence, 3-D sculpting of performers, and all the other well-known SE traits. Such SE wonderment ordinarily comes with a loss in overarching musical dynamics, audible punch, and typically, an AWOL bottom end.  The very top end often suffers as well. SE amps are usually all about the glorious mids, while the rest of the musical bits all too often get overlooked.

This single minded behavior has prompted many a person to go in search of specialized drivers and or speakers (e.g., Lowther) to get the musical most from their SE amplifiers. But none of this was the SE case with the Manley Neo-Classic SE/PP 300B's, and certainly not with the Impulse Ta'us speakers in the loop.

The bass, while not as tight fisted as when using much bigger amps, especially solid state designs, nonetheless punched a hole though the floor and most likely sprinkled a little plaster dust on my hapless high-rise downstairs neighbor's head. The high end also took wing as fast and as effortlessly as a flock of startled starlings. The mids were simply delicious, although there are some SE amps out there that can do them a little better. A couple of other SE designs also offer somewhat better soundstages, as well as may offer better tonal purity and microdynamics.

However, all of these other SE amps do so at the expense of providing you the complete top to bottom musical experience. With the Manley's in SE mode you get the whole musical package, which is saying one hell of a lot. The Manley's SE operation may well be unique in this yes, you can have it all regard.

Some recordings in particular drove home the musical point. As most audiophiles know, Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs is back in business, which is cause for much rejoicing. One of the newly reincarnated Mobile Fidelity recordings features Leonard Slatkin conducting the St. Louis Symphony in a rousing edition of Prokofiev's musical score from the film "Ivan The Terrible". This film, made in Stalinist Russia by Sergei Eisenstein, was done in two parts, in 1941 and 1945, respectively. A third part was also originally planned. The first part was not shown until 1946, and the second part, sadly for both Prokofiev and Eisenstein, was not shown until after their deaths. (Stalin was so displeased with Part 2 that he ordered it scrapped, the third part was never made, and a broken spirited Eisentsein never made another film. Fortunately, Part 2 survived Stalin's maniacal wrath.)

Mobile Fidelity has meticulously reproduced Slatkin's 1979 rendition on this SACD, which is also two-channel. With the Manley's roaring in full SE battle cry, Prokofiev's score stirs up deep feelings of defend the motherland at any cost patriotism. Had the Nazis heard this played before they invaded, they would have known that there would be no stopping the sacrificial tsunami of Russians that ultimately swept their country clean of warring Germans.

Featuring both a large chorus and orchestra, this recording was rendered by the Manley's as a massive, full-bodied flesh and bone experience. There was no sense of a SE amp diminished orchestra, or anything else that suggested that only 11 watts was bringing this great performance to animated musical life. I sincerely doubt if any other SE amp could replicate this massive orchestral experience as well or so convincingly.

At the other end of the musical size scale is a no less stirring performance done by just a handful of people. This is the recording of "Miles Davis With John Coltrane: The Legendary (1960) Stockholm Concert", and also featuring Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb. (Import, Giants of Jazz (Italian), catalog #53014, ASIN B000001BR7; rare and tough to find, but available from Amazon.) In this album we have an extraordinary quintet for whom the musical sun, moon and stars were perfectly aligned.

Branford Marsalis said that hearing Coltrane on this recording was "one of the worst nights in my life. Trane was massive, intense. I wanted to quit." Hearing this extraordinary session in which Coltrane spreads his musical wings and tells the world he is now ready to go it alone without Davis makes your hair stand on end, as did Branford's follicles, apparently. 


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