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Manley Neo-Classic SE/PP 300B Monoblock Amplifier Review Print E-mail
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Article Index
Manley Neo-Classic SE/PP 300B Monoblock Amplifier Review
Listening Continued and Conclusion
Interview with Chris Dauray of Manley Labs

ImageIn the past year I have become a big fan of gear produced by Manley Labs, out of Chino, CA. I have reviewed the Neo-Classic 300B Preamplifier, the MAHI® EL84-based monoblocks, and the Snapper® 6CA7-based monoblock amplifiers. Each component was off the charts impressive in sound quality, build detail, value, and overall user experience. Prior to first hand experience, I had only heard about Manley's reputation of building great components, excellent customer service and support, and overall buyer satisfaction. It all turned out to be true. I also have become a big believer in Manley's no-nonsense, light hearted attitude, evident in their manuals and on their website.

I now have the opportunity to evaluate the Neo-Classic SE/PP 300B tubed monoblock amplifiers, rated at 11W per channel in Single Ended mode and 24W per channel in Push-Pull mode. It has been a very long time since I have heard a 300B based amplifier, and I have not yet had one in my home. The amps arrived packed in Manley's typical bulletproof packaging, with their usual fun but comprehensive user manual. The 300B's retail for $7,200 per pair.

Manley first began using the 300B tube in some of their monoblocks in 1995, but the 300B tube has a long history. It looks like a large light bulb and has a sweet orange glow when in use. The 300B was first introduced in 1937; initial use was to help amplify telephone signals. The 300B found its way into audiophile amplifiers and was known for low noise and high reliability. They have also been known to last many thousands of hours with proper use.

Manley front plate

The 300B enjoyed a renaissance in the late 90's, after a rough patch in the 80's, with the popularity of Single Ended Triode (SET) amplifiers. SET amps were known for their low power, transparency, and immediacy. 300B SET amplifiers became especially popular in Japan and Europe, where listening rooms tend to be smaller and power less of an issue.

The Manley Neo-Classic SE/PP 300B comes with a tube compliment consisting of 2 Russian sourced Electro Harmonix 300B's, one 6SL7 input, one 6SN7 driver, and two 5U4 rectifier tubes. There is one set of RCA inputs on each amp, and nice German made WBT speaker binding posts. These 300B amps look very cool when all the tubes are installed - an added bonus.

Set Up and Listening:

Setting up the Neo-Classic 300B's was a snap. They weigh around 41 lbs each and are quite deep, almost two feet, so you will need either a rack with fairly sizable shelves, or some floor space. I chose the carpeted floor. The 300B's, like the other Manley amps I reviewed, are outfitted with spiked columns for support, and they are finished in the famous Manley purple-grey finish. I used a variety of partnering equipment, including a solid state McIntosh integrated (preamp section), my Audio Research tubed SP16 preamp, Transparent and Audience speaker cables, and the Audience 2 + 2 monitors I reviewed. At the tail end of the review period I also used my Harbeth C73ES.

Manely Front dials

Manley designed the 300B's to be very user-friendly and also to be as versatile as possible. There is a speaker impedance matching toggle switch on the back of the chassis. One setting allows for speakers with impedance ratings of 4 Ohms to 12 Ohms and the other setting is for speakers with impedance ratings of 12 Ohms to 20 Ohms.  Manley also allows for selecting Single Ended or Push-Pull settings "on the fly". In Single Ended mode both 300B tubes are used in parallel, resulting in a minimal amount of circuitry in the signal path, but the result is a lower power output. In Push-Pull mode, according to Manley, "each tube works in opposite phase to the other and relies on the output transformer to make the polarities work together. This has advantages in efficiency and in the distortion and noise cancellation properties of a balanced circuit. "

There is also a selector knob that lets you dial in the desired amount of feedback in 1 dB steps, from 1 to 10. Manley says increasing the feedback reduces distortion and provides a flatter frequency response, but also results in less gain. Manley suggest experimenting, as much depends on your room, your speaker, and your personal tastes. More on that later.


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