CES 2016 Highlight:The Manley Headphone Amp is Loaded with Cool Features
Full disclosure: I current have four t-shirts and three beer coozies I've gotten for free at the Manley Labs room at shows over the years. Also, I think EveAnna rocks. Partly because she's a motorcyclist and world traveler; partly because her "EveAnna Manley and the History of Manley Labs" is both hysterical and riveting; quite a bit because every time I've been exposed to her gear it proves lust worthy; and absolutely because she's finally decided to build something specifically for the headphone enthusiasts: The Manley Headphone Amp. WOOT!!!
Expected to come in at the $3000 mark, The Manley Headphone Amp is far more than even I expected from this terrific firm. After shooting my little video, EveAnna turned me over to Zia Faruqi, VP of Engineering & Design for a full tour of the amps features...and, man-o-man is it packed with features.
We'll work our way toward the back as we start from the very front of the unit, which has a thumbwheel volume control that actuates stepped relay resistor ladder for precise channel matching at all levels. Flanking the volume control to either side are push buttons for mute (right) and to switch the amplifier between single-ended and push-pull topologies (left).
Just rearward of the front panel is a row of five push buttons to (from left to right): control output impedance by selecting one of three output transformer taps for 12-50, 50-200, and 200-600 Ohm headphones; select output routing to a 1/4" headphone jack, 4-pin XLR balanced headphone jack, or a pair of RCA outputs for use as a pre-amplifier; select between the two single-ended RCA inputs; select stereo or mono modes; and engage or bypass the tone controls.
Behind the buttons are a row of four control knobs for (left to right): continuously variable global feedback from beween 0 and 10dB; bass tone control; treble tone control; and balance control.
The tubes used are two 12AT7A for the driver stage, and four 6AQ5 Triode Strapped output tubes. Output transformers are designed and built by Maney in their Chino, California offices. The rear panel hosts space for all the ins and outs. The look of the amp as a whole is inspired by the shape of a headalbeit a somewhat alien looking head. The eyes are handles that allow easy transport of the amp from room to room; the rear-most part of the amp has a curved shape to mimic the top of the head and to allow it to act as stand for your headphones.
If this seems like an awful lots of control for a headphone amp...well, it is. Does it worry me that a company's first headphone amp has a lot of bells and whistlesand unusual ones, at that? No, not a bit, just take a look at some of the complex pro recording studio gear Manly makes and you'll get quite comfortable with the idea that these folks are intensely knob knowledgable.
More in-depth information is available on the product page. Expected availability is sometime mid-year. You can bet your sweet bippy I'll be bugging EveAnna for a listen as soon as possible. In the mean time, we'll have to be satisfied with her enthusiastic description of The Manley Headphone Amp in the video.