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Manley Labs Snapper Monoblock Amplifiers Review Print E-mail
Wednesday, 25 August 2010
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Manley Labs Snapper Monoblock Amplifiers Review

Before rocking out, during the several weeks I spent with the Snappers, I was in the mood to exploit the textural side of the Manley sound. I played a bunch of Tim Buckley discs. Blue Afternoon features vibes, acoustic guitar, jazzy Les Paul fills, and of course Buckley's god like voice on such devastating cuts as "Blue Melody", "I Must Have Been Blind", and "The River". I literally felt surrounded by the musicians. I often lean towards 1960's minimalist recordings that emphasize performances rather than studio trickery or cut and paste approaches. The Snappers bring you there with these types of albums. More examples include some exotic pop from guitarist Gabor Szabo, recorded in the late sixties, where I could have sworn the guitar amplifier was in one corner of the room, and the drummer in the door. Spooky,.

I recently caught Sting on PBS performing with trumpeter Chris Botti. He did several songs from his Ten Summoner’s Tales album, and this prompted me to pull it out of the cabinet and give it a spin. It is definitely one of his strongest collections. And with the Snappers, time seem to fly, as before I knew it the disc was on the last track. Sting's clever arrangements, distinctive vocals, and clean production really shined through. There was a natural snap to the snare drum, solid weight to the bass lines, and lots of overall ambiance, although mostly studio-created.

Top Tubes

I also played a ton of music off of my Squeezebox, through a CIA VDA-2 DAC. I have gigs of live soundboard concert recordings. I grooved to a lot of live Grateful Dead, U2, Rolling Stones, and much more. I felt like I was at the mixing board. Listening sessions like these, are what allows Manley to proclaim Tubes Rule, because in many instances, they just do. One thing I should note is that the Snappers did not produce nearly as much heat as I expected. They were not doubling as space heaters, like a few other tube, -  and even solid state - amps I have had.

In all of my time with the Snappers, the bias did not drift at all on any of the output tubes. Always a good sign of good engineering and careful tube selection. Also, I really did  not do any audiophile fiddling, with fancy after- market support cones or devices, or expensive power cords.  The reasonably priced Shunyata’s did the trick. I might also note that tube rolling is our prerogative. Manley provides information about this on their website, and they will gladly take your call if you have any questions. I should add the manual is very enjoyable to read, with tons of information, advice, and interesting notes.


The raging debate  that never seems to end in high performance audio is that of value. That may be because there are so many over priced products in our hobby, and disproportionately so when compared to other specialty hobbies. Manley is one of those companies that generally never enters that conversation. From my experience, they provide extreme value considering they make hand- assembled audio products in Chino, (not China), offer excellent warranties, customer advice, service, and most importantly, their gear sounds terrific.

The Snapper mono block amps, at $4,250 per pair, are an easy recommendation. What you get is real 100 watts per channel, great bass control, superb mids, and great, clean highs, with low noise, in a rugged retro cool chassis. And a word on power, another point of endless debate among audiophiles. Some get hung up in ratings ignore common sense.  I would say that for one not to have more than enough juice using the Snappers, you would have to have either an absolutely huge room, extremely current-hungry speakers, or you are very unrealistic in your listening levels.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. If you are in the market for a tube amp, can accommodate mono blocks, and want hassle- free, great sound, arrange an audition at a local dealer. Why you would pass up this great- sounding amplifier for something far more expensive made in Europe or Japan, is beyond me. You will pay more for less, and then it’s "good luck" with support if you should need it. Yes, I strongly believe that American specialty manufacturing should be supported.  Not simply for the sake of it, but  because they beat the competition. Manley Labs is also a dominant player in  the high- end pro audio market, and has been in a leader in that industry for decades providing excellent value and performance. Their hifi gear offers the same, and then some.

Entire side view


Input Impedance RCA: 475 Kohm
Input Impedance XLR: 15 Kohm
Input Sensitivity RCA: 750mV input = 110W output
Input Sensitivity XLR @ 15Kohms: 1.5 V input = 110W output
Input Sensitivity XLR @ 600ohms: 2.4 V input = 110W output (w/600ohm source)
Maximum Output Power into 5 ohms: 110 Watts (1.5% THD @ 1kHz)
Maximum Output Power into 8 ohms: 100 Watts (1.5% THD @ 1kHz)
Signal to Noise Ratio Ref. 1W: Typically 90 dB A-WGT 20-20K
Dynamic Range: 98dB
Recommended Speaker Load: Optimized for 5 ohms
Actual Output Impedance: 1.5 ohms
Power Consumption (idle): 170 Watts (1.4A @120VAC)
Power Consumption (at Full Power 110W): 336 Watts (2.8A @120VAC)
Input Vacuum Tube: 1 x 12AX7 Russian with 6CA7 output tubes; use 12AT7EH large plate Electro-Harmonix Russian with EL34 types
Driver Vacuum Tube: 1 x 7044 or 5687 GE JAN NOS
Output Vacuum Tubes: 4 x 6CA7 (or EL34 equivalent)
Dimensions: 15" deep x 13" wide x 8.75" tall
Shipping weight each: 45 pounds
Price: $4,250 per pair

Manley Laboratories, Inc.
13880 Magnolia Ave.
Chino, CA 91710 USA
(909) 627-4256

Reviewers Associated Equipment System 1:
  • CD Player: Naim CD5 XS with Flatcap 2X,
  • Preamp: Audio Research SP16, Marantz SC-11S1
  • Amplifier: Audio Research VS55
  • Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3, THIEL CS2.4
  • Cables: DH Labs, RS Cables, Kimber/QED/Acoustic Zen (AC)/Transparent (AC)/Element Cable, Shunyata, Pangea
  • Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Sound Anchors stands, Timbernation platform, CablePro Noisetrapper

Reviewers Associated Equipment 2:

  • CD Player: Marantz 5003, Bryston BCD-1
  • Music Server: Squeezebox 3
  • DAC:CIA VDA-2 with XPS
  • Tape Deck: Revox A77, HHB CD Recorder
  • Preamp: Belles Soloist 3
  • Amplifier: Revox A722, Belles Soloist 5
  • Speaker: Spendor S5e
  • Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant/Shunyata(AC)/PS Audio(AC), Pangea Audio, RS Cables, Element Cables.

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