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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

ImageManley Labs, out of Chino, CA, is one of my favorite high-end audio companies. I had the pleasure of reviewing the wonderful 300B Preamplifier, and the very cool MAHI® monoblock power amplifiers. To say I greatly enjoyed my time with both those products would be an understatement. Manley's world view is that hifi should be fun at all costs, not some super-serious hobby where hours can be spent debating the choice of AC power cords. The Manley world view also declares that Tubes Rule. I agree with that, and I will add that tubes are one way to make hifi fun. It is clearly more interactive to fiddle with valves, as they are called in Europe.

Needless to say I was very excited at the prospect of reviewing additional Manley products. Well, imagine my joy at being assigned the mighty SNAPPER® 100W monoblock amplifiers. The Snappers use four 6CA7 tubes per side along with a 7044 driver tube, and a 12AX7 input tube. The amps are finished in Manley's classic purple grey finish. The workmanship is exceptional, with remarkable attention to detail.  They are quite hefty, weighing in at at over 30 lbs each. The Snapper monoblocks retail for $4,250 per pair.

Front View
The Snappers come with both XLR and RCA inputs, selectable via a toggle switch. The amps, like the Mahis I reviewed last year are optimized for a 5 ohm speaker load. They also feature four spiked columns for support, easy to access tube biasing points, and very good quality WBT binding posts. Everything about these amplifiers exudes classic Americana, with superb workmanship, and rugged coolness.

Set Up:

Set up was as straightforward as can be. I installed the power, driver, and input tubes, and biased up the power tubes to 300 mV. By the way, Manley supplies a very cool multi meter and bias tool with the unit, certainly a nice touch, and is fitting with Manley's customer oriented approach. I used the Snappers in several rooms with Harbeth Compact 7ES and Thiel CS24 speakers, Belles solid state and Audio Research tube preamps, and the Bryston BCD-1 CD player.  I used Shunyata Venom power cords, along with QED speaker cables and Transparent interconnects.

The first thing I noted was how quiet the Snappers were; amazingly so. The Mahis I had in house last year exhibited a bit more tube noise, but you literally had to put your ears to the speakers to hear it; but boy, did I love the sound of those amps. The Snappers straight away were huge sounding, evenly balanced, and possessed some of the most liquid mids I had ever heard. Manley's very knowledgeable sales rep suggested an 80 hour burn in before critical listening, and I did take his advice. After 80 hours the amps sounded even better, with sweeter highs, excellent mid band resolution, and the best, most articulate bass I have heard from a tube amplifier, bar none.

As this is the third Manley component I have evaluated, I do see some consistencies that one could call the Manley house sound. First, everything sounds so life like and large. Not large as in an artificially bloated image, but large as in fleshed out and breathing. Like the real thing. The Manley 300B preamp was my first experience with this wide screen, properly scaled perspective. It made me realize that my reference equipment miniaturized images to some extent, although this dawned on me only by comparison.
Side Tubes

The second aspect of the Manley sound, which is somewhat tied into scale, is the width of soundstage. All the Manley components I have had in house spread the soundstage as wide as the room will go - and again, in a natural and unforced way. One component that comes to mind that performed similarly is the Lamm LL2.1 Deluxe preamp I reviewed last year. The Manley gear has so much flesh and blood on its bones, it can be addicting. At least I found it to be.

The third aspect of the Manley "thing", so to speak, is texture and shape. What I mean by this is that I was able to visualize and instrument based on its attack and decay through the Snappers. I could imagine the shape and size of a ride cymbal and where it was being struck, I could imagine acoustic guitar strings resonating when strummed furiously, and I could imagine a singer emoting in front me as if in a live performance.  I say take it if you can find it. Much hifi gear, even pricey stuff, renders playback like an autopsy of a recording.  Count me out.  The Snappers could lean more in the opposite direction. Plenty of soul, but they also are a clear window in the recording details, just not in boring way. Not on your life. This is soul and brains.


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