Separate names with a comma.
please ignore these initial notes to myself. i just received and some things come to mind. I didn't want to lose these thoughts.
my + or - 5 goes out the window because of tone controls
with EQ enabled, makes z7m2 sound world class; didn't notice lack of treble extension on z7m2 until I had access to more treble with Manley; probably capable of improving any headphone because of tone controls
normally do not like tone controls; I do not use EQ - probably cause they tend to hurt sound in other ways; I don't feel that way in this case
EQ capability along with feedback adjustment could drive me nuts with all of these adjustable variables? - so far i seem to be ok with minimal adjusting - at least for a given headphone
treble control doesn't make overall volume seem louder, but does increase treble just right in terms of frequency spectrum
feedback control - does something interesting - pulls mids forward and possibly thickens them a without changing overall tonal balance of midrange; neat; small tradeoff is the upper midbass also brought forward with mids; adjusting feedback does make overall sound louder
defeating tone controls - unit does nothing to hurt the music in its neutral state so can only improve with tone controls by customizing to my liking; only works because tone controls do not seem to hurt sound quality
bass - not as tight as some units? - not sure yet
good clarity, good dynamics, good separation, big sound?, well balanced sound and presentation across frequency thus far
will it have enough power and control over more demanding headphones? I shall see in the coming days
ergonomics - awful, disgraceful - headphone jack in back? somethings not intuitive but ok once you figure out, but location of headphone jacks will never be ideal; height of unit also makes for tight fit in my rack
unit not intuitive out of box - didn't read manual but did figure out after a little time, so not too bad
using in Push Pull mode only thus far
sound not dead quiet (some minor hiss is heard) unlike some other amps [mode dependent?], but noise not noticeable or detrimental while playing music
like having remote but size is too big for what it does
wish tone controls had indent at neutral
balance does have indent at neutral; balance control works even when EQ bypassed - which makes sense as it isn't an EQ thing
wood inlays seem a bit cheap to me; almost sticker-like, but I know it isn't; usually, I like wood
extremely impressed with sound thus far; not easy to impress me as i have experience with WA5LE, GS-X MK2, and Nimbus US4+, and Pass to name a few.
day 2 (2/27/19) - using final Audio D8000
the closer to your version of perfection your headphone is, the less value the flexible settings are. that said, very few headphones are perfect to one's taste. D8000 comes close for me, but even they benefited from the very slight addition of more treble. but when I pulled the D8000 from the Manley and placed in the considerably cheaper GS-X Mk2, i did not experience any diminished enjoyment, and the GS-X doesn't have a million controls to drive me nuts.
with D8000 I found myself playing with the feedback level and switching between impedance switch low and med settings ...I think that's what these are (as opposed to gain settings). anyway adjusting the impedance setting made me feel the need to adjust the feedback setting, and vice versa. ultimately, I think i prefer medium impedance even though D8000 is a relatively low impedance headphone. I found the GS-X to have a competitive, even slightly superior (bigger, more forward, clearer, thicker) midrange to the manley - but then again this is likely due to my feedback and impedance settings of the manley. but even getting them close sounding which I could do, I slightly preferred the GS-X sound I think. amazing, cause no adjustments needed on GS-X. But I stress, if headphone far from perfect this would be a different story. flexibility of manley would probably win out and I'm pretty sure with very careful tuning, I probably could get the Manley to pull even or maybe(???) win out against the GS-X/D8000 combo.
Side note - holy cow! The D8000 (once broken in) is incredible to my ears. the best headphone I possess - better than Susvara, Utopia (slightly), and a host of other headphones. D8000 sounds sensational out of GS-X MK2 and pretty darn good out of Manley too.
Here's something nice - in addition to being able to thicken a midrange, if you have a headphone that you want to thin out, you can do that with the midrange and maybe even coax a little extra clarity out by doing this, but you may also be creating a slightly more recessed midrange in the process because thinning out the sound in the midrange is done with the feedback control (and to a degree by playing with impedance setting). I have found greater feedback = both more forward and thicker and less feedback (I think) equates to thinner, clearer, and more recessed - but again, without really changing tonal balance ...intriguing,
tell me, why put power switch in back of unit? It isn't like there is a standby button on the front either. And power button doesn't have firm feel to me. you press and it turns unit on, but it doesn't stay depressed - kind of mushy feeling.
tone controls don't just boost. bass and treble control (only tone controls there are) can also attenuate (tone down). in away, the feedback acts as a tone control, but as i said, it doesn't really adjust tone of midrange in my opinion, but because of what it does with emphasizing or de-emphasizing midrange, it sort of acts as one because low, mid, and upper frequencies are all relative.
thoroughly enjoyed listening to the Manley this evening. kept in push pull the whole time.
tomorrow - I think I will listen to Utopia
3/1/19 - listened to the Utopia
some interesting observations
I like the utopia without much adjustment, but if i had two areas I think would beneft from adjustment it would be a slight bit more bass (or fuller bass?) and a touch less upper midrange. The Manley tone controls seemed to have less efect on the Utopia than other headphones i tried. The knobs had to be turned much more to get what was a subtle change in sound. But, there was enough travel of the bass knob to increase bass to a pleasing level. Again, I boosted ever so slightly, but actually rrequired fair amount of turn of the knob to get the subtle effect.
the treble tone control didn't seem to do too much and maybe this has to do with the fact that it didn't really allow me to reduce the upper midrange frequencies I was interested in attenuating - well maybe a bit, but I didn't feel I was able to tame the upper mids without taking to much off the top. Again, the effect was subtle even when turning the knob a fair bit, but the effect is audible if you turn the knob enough, I don't mean to apply otherwise.
The impedance adjustment also had less of an effect. In the other headphones it almost added a since of bloom, but not so in the Utopia. It did make the mids more forward (I guess) and the overall sound louder, but not really thicker.
I also tried the other mode (single ended instead of push pull). There was quite a bit of noise with the Utopia, especially at medium and high impedance settings, but even on the low impedance setting there was more hiss than I would care for I switched back to Push Pull.
the utopia, in my mind benefited least of the headphones i tried. In part this may be because the Utopia is already close to my ideal but also because the frequencies that I would want to adjust just didn't mesh as well with the tonal controls. There is only, bass and treble, which I guess by default does enable you to change the balance of the midrange, but I almost feel that the Manley would benefit from having a bass, lower midrange, upper midrange, and treble control, instead of the two controls. But keep in mind, for the previous headphones, the tonal adjustments were fine and did just right.
The Utopia sounds good with the Manley, but overall, I have not felt the same synergy that i have felt with the Sony and Final Audio. I will revisit the Utopia another day as sometimes these feelings could be influenced by my mood on a given day.
Next up (tomorrow) will be the Susvara,
3/2/19 - Susvara and Manley Absolute
once again, tone controls had less effect, maybe due to the lack of sensitivity of the headphone. But I also found that I did not feel like tone controls were necessary. I find the Susvara to be slightly mid-centric and to be a little anemic in its bass, but with the Manley, the bass seemed stronger (even without EQ), though I would still describe the sound as a little laid back and soft - not a manley thing, but a susvara thing, Powerwise, the Manley had the ability to drive the Susvara but I had the volume up considerably so not much headroom, but the manley didn't feel like it was straining. I don't find the Susvara particularly engaging and Manley didn't change that, but I did tend to play with controls the least with the headphone. I just put it on and let it go. I think the Manley created one of the better sounds I've heard from the Susvara, Also, I preferred the impedance setting on low. While the mid/high impedance setting provides more volume, I feel the midrange on the Susvara was a bit too forward. I think it tends that way anyway, but the low impedance setting backed the midrange emphasis down so it seemed more in line and natural with the other frequencies.
Another note - I'm not fond of the timber from Susvara on well recorded piano - just doesn't sound as lifelike to me on Susvara - too much bloom and a little less clarity. Incidentally, if you are saying to yourself that this doesn't sound like Susvara, I agree. The Susvara had no warmth, no bloom, was crystal clear, had good separation and possibly was more treble-centric - but lately, I feel that has changed - perhaps with burn-in. The Manley did not help this but did not hurt it either, I think the Manley can be (depending on settings) pretty neutral as an amp. I don't really hear shortcomings of the amp, though it jives better with some headphones than with others at least in terms of satisfyingly altering sound through tonal controls. Actually, I can say that I did prefer the Susvara EQ'd for more treble - created snappier clearer snare drums and better separation. But I turned the knob all the way up for the subtle, but noticeable change. That said, I am a purist and was still liking the overall sound without EQ, so not sure long-term I would choose to boost the treble for the Susvara. Yet, I did like it that way better.
Something I failed to mention to this point - not that it matters, but I used 4-pin XLR with Susvara; to this point, I had been using 1/4" connector for the other headphones into the Manley.
Another thing - the volume control adjustment results in a loud clicking - physical manifestation, not electrical. This is intentional, but i did want to mention it. doesn't bother me, though I do wonder why they chose to do that.
Well here is something interesting - On one song I had the Manely maxed on volume (with low impedance mode). The Manley kept lowering its volume on its own. Why??? not sure. but it kept doing it, at least on that one particular song. is it some kind of protection built in? I wonder. I would have liked the volume maxed. i suppose you can say that the Manley did run out of steam with the Susvara on some recordings cause i couldn't make it as loud as I wanted (when using low impedance) - which I was probably shooting for 85db as my goal - loud but not excessive in my book - only a factor if recording recorded at slightly lower volume. BTW, no distortion even at max volume.
A word on soundstage - seems natural and reasonable, but not particularly large. I cannot stress how much I HATE headphone jack in back - it keeps me from ddoing comparisons between headphones or amps, but I must say - this has been another enjoyable night with the amp. It really does sound very good with the Susvara. I especially like the Susvara's tonal balance and presentation (very mildly forward with low impedance setting).
general comment - as in not headphone specific - turning bass up on Manley may cause it to sound more wooley
back to a Susvara-specific comment...
EQ'd treble was preferable on Susvara as it created a more open sound in addition to added clarity and snap. But I was hoping it might encourage me to listen at lower volumes. it did not. Unfortunately, I find the Susvara encourages me to listen at louder volumes, mainly because it is required in order to sound like certain other headphones would at substantially lower volumes. this is a Hifiman thing, and not a negative of the amp. at all. It probably has to do with the tonal balance of the Hifiman.
Manley-specific comment - the tone controls on the Manley operate in a way that keeps the sound natural and cohesive.
3/2/2019 - more extensive listening; used D8000; Utopia, Senn HD800S, and Alara
First, I did comparison between GS-X and Manley (no EQ).
They sound very similar tonally and otherwise. If there are differences they are very small, but I would say I maybe slightly preferred the vocals of the Manley and thought the GS-X may have had slightly more upper midrange - but overall clarity, soundstage, and tonal balance was very close. Impressed that Manley doesn't really have tube disadvantage to me, with one exception. The Manley does have more background hiss.
Using Senn I was very surprised. I never felt in past the HD800S could compare to Utopia but I feel that the HD800 really scaled up competitively with the Utopia. I had the Utopia plugged into the GS-X and the HD800 plugged into the Manley. Single ended was more quiet with HD800 than push pull and though the HD800 is high impedance, I preferred lower impedance or middle impedance setting which had less hiss than high impedance. Oddly, on some headphones I felt push pull was quieter nbut SE was definitely quieter on the HD800.
The Alara was more interesting still. Changing impedance had zero effect. Literally, it was as though I wasn't pressing the button. So the effect of these settings is dependent upon the headphone in use. Therefore, I cannot make declarative statements about the settings being better, quieter, or more forward or less forward ,or thicker or thinner.
This must be some "being John Malkovich" type of stuff hehe great notes, as i also need to finish up my review its been a hectic month i hope to get it out soon !!!
Howdy Buffer and thank you for all of your insightful comments. Allow me to answer a few direct questions you had:
The form is definitely following function on this one and due to the artistic sculptural presentation, the signal flow went the way that it did and thus the choices of having all of the inputs and outputs on the rear panel was where the signal switching needed to be and also due to the small face of the unit, there just would be no space for a jack. Or a jack and a 4-pin XLR... or a pair of RCA preamp outputs! So one consideration is because there are 3 outputs, they best be grouped together for an efficient layout (less hand wiring = less cost). And yeah if we put the 1/4" on the front, sure as eggs someone would be needing the big ol XLR output instead. Also another thing is it is envisioned that the user would have this unit on his computer desk or on a table next to them so we figured everyone would be able to address the back. So this is all why the I/Os are all on the back.
Also on the back, the power switch. Probably more an aesthetic choice to have it there and the logo and small LED power indicator on the front, but once you know where it is, it should never be a mission to address it. And note, it is a high quality metal momentary switch. It is not a mechanically latching switch. You just push it to turn the unit on or off or push and hold it to invoke the BYPASS mode (hey don't forget to read your Manley Absolute Headphone Amplifier Owner's Manual!)
Because in the manual, on page 5, you will learn about the Headphone Protection Mode. You can adjust its threshold of the protection circuit on the knob located next to the 1/4" output jack. You were triggering this with that one louder song, so make sure you have that pot turned up higher than where it is set now.
And as for the clicking noises when you turn the volume wheel, while the audio signal is silent and click-less due to the clever programming of the timing of how the relays are fired, the relays do make a physical noise that you can hear in the room (not through your headphones) click-click-click as they fire away. The sonic superiority of a relay attenuation ladder and absolute accuracy of the left and right tracking (compared to a conventional volume potentiometer) is damn well worth the relay clickety-clacks!
You guys will be blown away with just how good this amp is. Have faith in EveAnna Manley and her crew and you’ll soon think $4500 is a steal.
As usual, TTVJ is a great dealer and I appreciate his willingness to send out his personal equipment as loaners. He asks for nothing in return except for a review on his loaner thread. With that, here is my review on the Manley Absolute. You may have seen my stream-of-consciousness notes earlier in the thread. I have refined some of my thoughts for this review and i have also taken into account some of Manley Lab's comments that followed my initial thoughts.
I'd like to start off by saying the Manley is a terrific sounding amplifier. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. I also had some audiophile buddies listen and they too were impressed. In fact one of them thought it was as good or better than any of the other amps I own. I happen to fall into the camp that believes if a headphone amplifier is reasonably good and operating properly, there is a maximum of plus or minus 5% variance in the sound. But with the Manley, you are able to make significant adjustments that can really improve the sound of many headphones to your liking. I'm not just referring to tone controls. There is also a feedback control and an impedance setting. In testing several headphones, I found that these controls had a varied impact. For example, the impedance control was completely irrelevant to the Alara ribbon headphone, but on most others, the impedance made a significant difference. And I should add that sometimes I preferred a 'non-optimal' match to the headphone. Also, the better the headphone (in terms of your preference for tonal balance) the less value the tone controls will be. That's not a Manley issue, but just says if you like your headphone as is, you don't need the tone controls and they won't be a feature you will feel a need to use.. With the Manley you can bypass the tone controls. I like that very much. BTW, my friend who thought the Manley was one of the best headphone amps he has heard is a purist and refused to use the tone controls. He reached the same conclusion I did - the Manley doesn't need tone controls to sound outstanding. In general I am not a fan of equalization. I feel that often EQs can hinder ultimate sound quality. But the tone controls on the Manley are implemented very well. Now for some headphones, they seem to have a subtle effect and you have to turn them quite a lot to get significant change to the sound, on other headphones, a slight change can yield the desired effect. On most of the headphones I used, i did find that I could generally improve on the sound of the headphone using the tone controls. But there were some headphones where the tone controls didn't alter the frequencies I would have liked to change. Ideally, it would have been great to implement atone controls for bass, midbass, lower midrange, midrange, upper midrange, and treble. The Manley has a bass, and treble adjustment only. Of course, by changing those two you can basically control the midrange. And I'm sure implementing the additional tone controls would add cost and potentially compromise quality (not sure). But like I said, the tone controls were helpful in most cases. I would, however, like an indentation to mark the neutral setting on the controls - but maybe that's not actually possible because as I said, they reacted differently to different headphones. In my prior thread I mentioned a variety of headphones I used with the amp. As my focus is on the amp and not headphones, I will not go into detail about the sound of each headphone on the Manley. What I will say is that with every headphone I found the Manley complementary. I think the Susvara sounded as good as I had heard it, though I am still not a huge fan of the Susvara. The Utopia sounded good on the Manley, but I personally didn't think it sounded special. But again, the Manley is a fairly neutral amp (if set to be) and I like the Utopia as is so I wasn't looking for magical change. The Final Audio D8000 sounded excellent and benefited from a small increase in the treble. But I really loved it without any tonal adjustment. As an aside, I'm a huge fan of the D8000. Of all the headphones I tried, I really felt the Senn HD800S benefited dramatically from the Manley - no tone controls either. In the past I never felt the HD800S competed with the Utopia, but I feel it really scaled well with the Manley and was very competitive to the Utopia.
So back to amps.. I own the GS-X MK2, the Nimbus US4+, and the Woo Audio WA5LE. I primarily compared the Manley to the GS-X Mk2. I said earlier, I generally think that the sound in amps when operating properly is fairly close. I would say this held true. The Manley (with tone controls defeated) and the GS-X Mk2 sounded very close. If I were forced to identify a difference, I might say the Manley did vocals slightly better and the GS-X may have had slightly more upper midrange. But I'm not sure I could tell the difference in their sound when the units are perfectly matched in a blind test. I think my hearing is pretty good, but maybe I'm less sensitive to differences in amps for whatever reason than other people may be. But I can say the Manley is clear, crisp, punchy, well balanced and is neutral, natural, and fairly transparent, and does nothing to hurt the sound. So the control adjustments (impedance, feedback and tone, as well as PP and SE) will give it a distinct advantage over other high-end amplifiers for the simple reason that it gives folks a means to adjust the sound to their liking. I think soundstage, separation, and imaging are also quite good on the unit. the upper midrange may have given the GS-X a slight edge in separation, but I cannot even be sure about that, to be honest. There are a couple of areas where I do think the Manley can be outperformed. MY friend thought it sounded a little soft. I didn't really get that, nor did my other friend. But the Manley is a tube amp and is not as quiet as the solid state GS-X MK2. With some headphones, there was no hiss, but with some there was. The GS-X also offers more power for less sensitive headphones. But again, I'd point out that the Susvara sounded great witht he Manley and it's about as insensitive a headphone as you will get. My friend also liked his HE6 with the Manley. Still, I did have it go into protection mode? with some headphones and that limited the max volume. Usually that wasn't an issue, but sometimes it was. You can read Manley's comment above with regard to that feature.
Push-Pull vs Single-Ended: I generally found my self using PP, but it depended upon the headphone. And in fact, sometimes I found one mode had more noise (hiss) than the other but it wasn't consistent. It depended on the headphone. I've mentioned hiss a couple of times but don't want to give the wrong impression. This was not generally noticeable. When music is playing it is less apparent and I did hear it during some quiet passages, but usually hiss wasn't audible even in quiet passages. And you must accept the fact that the Manley is a tube amp. Tube amps are not generally as quiet as solid state. But they offer other advantages. My friend felt the Manley offered very good depth, better than most solid state amps he has heard. Not sure I picked up on that, but it did make an impression on him. Of course, he wasn't doing an A/B to other amps at the time, just enjoying the Manley by itself.
So would I buy a Manley amplifier? Maybe. It's certainly worthy of consideration. But Manley themselves states that it was intended to be a desktop amplifier. The ergonomics do not lend themselves well to my rack setup. I like to switch headphones frequently. I prefer a more conventional box. The unit is attractive and I understand Manley's comment about optimizing the design necessitating certain choices about where to locate things. For me, it's an issue. For others it will not be. Also, same thing with the power button. I prefer it, or at least the standby to be on the front of the unit. These are significant to me. I do, however, really like the remote. I do not understand its size for what it does, but I certainly like having the remote. Of course, if you treat it as a desktop amp and it's that close by, not sure why a remote would be important. But since I did use it in my rack, I certainly welcome the remote. Incidentally, when you adjust volume there is a clicking sound. My Nimbus ha a digital volume and also has a sound occasionally when adjusting volume. The clicking sound does not bother me on the Manley because you do not hear it as static through the headphone like you do on some other amps. But you definitely hear it while you are adjusting the volume. One other thought. I could see how so much flexibility to tweak the sound could drive someone nuts. When I switched to the GS-X which has almost no adjustment except for gain, my enjoyment did not really diminish. To the Manley's credit though, I typically felt that once I got to know the headphone on the Manley, I could make suitable adjustments pretty quickly and then just leave it in place for a given headphone. Perhaps that's a credit to how well Manley has designed and implemented the various adjustments.
If I did not own so many other amps I could definitely see me purchasing a Manley. I might wind up doing so anyway. It is a terrific amp. I do miss having the opportunity to hear it. But at the same time, with other amps in my stable and other priorities (like the need for a DAC and other headphones I desire) , I haven't felt the need to rush out and buy the unit and it's been gone for about a week. If the ergonomics do not bother you, I can highly recommend this amplifier. It's that good and the equal of any of my other amps sonically speaking.. With the capability to adjustment the sound, the flexibility is there to give it the edge over most amps. Heck, I am a fan of the Sony Z7M2 (didn't like first version), but with the Manley, i felt I could turn the Z7M2 into a flagship-competitive unit by boosting the treble. Truly remarkable when you think about it.
You may have noticed that I made comments in my previous post about how you could accomplish specific changes in sound by varying impedance or feedback. For example, I commented that you could bring the midrange forward without changing tonal balance and I thought this was unique, For many headphones I do believe it is true. But I decided to omit those comments from my review because I came to realize such declarative statements would not always hold true. It really depends on the interaction between the Manley and the particular headphone. Also, I commented that increasing the bass may have made for a slightly less tight bass. But I couldn't say that definitively either. What I am trying to say is that the Manley is an all-around excellent amp, but how much you value the adjustments may depend on your taste and your specific headphones,
Here is what I can say unequivocally. This was the first Manley I have had the pleasure of hearing. I walked away very impressed. Even if I do not wind up purchasing the Absolute, I would be very interested in Manley's other products now. The Absolute has given me enormous respect for a brand I previously knew very little about. Well done, Manley!
Very nice impressions you wrote, thanks! Where I live Manley isn't particularly known, but several people I know and trust who listened to its products were thoroughly impressed. Design is great, build quality looks solid and Manley in general has good reputation.
Nice read! what do you like about the D8000 that makes it better for your ears compared to the Susvara?.
The Susvara sounds very high-end audiophile, but the D8000 sounds live and it matches other headphones in their 'audiophile' capabilities. I listen to all types of genres, but on rock the D8000 makes the Susvara sound anemic. The D8000 is one of the most musical and engaging headphones I have experienced while I consider the Susvara to be less engaging. I used to have a problem with the D8000 midbass being a little too emphasized but that settled down and for me, the tonal balance is near perfection. The resolution is also remarkable. The Susvara may have the edge in clarity, it certainly use to, but in direct comparison I feel the D8000 rivals the Susvara in clarity and the D8000 has a very very slight warmth that makes the music full bodied, yet there is a crispness (not bright though) that is satisfying. Overall, the sound might be classified a some what rounded, but n a natural way. To me, the D8000 is pretty darn neutral sounding too. The D8000 also has a wide soundstage in my opinion, though not quite like the Susvara's. While I do not generally like warm sound, the D8000 is thinner and brighter than the Meze Emyrean (to my ears) and has the kick of the Meze in the bass, and the midrange that is not quite as forward as the Meze, but pretty natural to me. Sorry. You didn't ask about Meze and this is a Manley Absolute thread. So let me say something I didn't mention specifically in my review. I said the Manley made the Susvara sound as good as I had heard it, but I did not say what I liked so much. I find my Susvara to lack in bass slightly, and the Manley, without doing anything unnatural, seemed to add a little of the bass I was missing. And by add, I mean more fully exposed the Susvara's capability. In general, I do not think the Manley had more bass than the GS-X MK2, but for some reason it did a better job on the Susvara.
Very interesting, thank you for the response. The D8000 had that out of your head wide soundstage that the Susvara has? That's really the only thing that would keep me from getting the D8000 over the Susvara. I listened to them "Susvara" on the GSX-mini and it was amazing off that little amp. Never heard it on the GSX-MK2. I only heard the Utopia on the GSX and that was bad@ss.
Great review... Thanks...
Btw you didn't mentioned the comparison with US4+...the SS amp of 2019.
I beg to differ. I used to have the D8000s and the biggest gripe I have about them is the midbass hump. Some users might like it for the extra warmth it injects into the music but I'm not a big fan of that. I tried a bunch of different amps with it while I still had them, namely the GSX MkII, RNHP, NFB1AMP and Precision 3S, and to my ears it doesn't scale very well. It does retrieve a ton of details but overall my HE6 has it beat in both bass speed and quantity. The thing about higher end hifimans is that you can 'cheat' with speaker amps due to their low sensitivity, but for D8000 that's a no-go as it hisses like mad on any speaker amps.
Regardless, its still a really well engineered planar. More suitable for traditional headphone amps than speaker amps.
I don't wish to derail the thread so I will say the following about the D8000 and be happy to jump to the Final Audio thread for more discussion. I had the same feeling you did regarding the midbass hump. But the midbass hump absolutely disappeared after many hours, and in fact, it concerned me that it almost dropped off too much. The D8000 actually began moving towards the Susvara's sound signature a bit ...though the D8000 retained the powerful dynamic sound I do not get from the Susvara. And yes, it still has more midbass than Susvara, which I considered slightly shy of neutral on my unit (and I am not a bass-head). Could there be variations in the units? I certainly would not be surprised.
To answer PeteSTRADAMUS:-
Just a note - I updated my original response to you, literally as you were probably quoting me in response to my post.
I feel the D8000 has a pretty wide sound stage, but no, it does not have the 'out of head' soundstage of the Susvara.
Also, I believe I saw somewhere that the Utopia was voiced with the GS-X MK2, although I assume Focal used a wide variety of amps. Whenever comparing the Utopia to other headphones, I felt the Utopia was more neutral, natural. and balanced. In comparing to the D8000, I actually feel the D8000 makes the utopia sound unnatural, specifically in the upper midrange and maybe timber.
And because this is the Manley thread and someone mentioned the Nimbus US4+...
The Nimbus admittedly left a negative impression on me for several reasons. There is static when turning the volume. The remote did not work, once it arrived. But, I received a replacement that is more quiet (they updated chips I believe to quiet the relays?), The remote works with the new unit. I've always maintained the sound of the Nimbus is excellent. Again, not that dissimilar to the GS-X. Possibly a touch warmer? On direct comparison, the Absolute had a slight bit more background noise, but the overall sound of the Manley was on par with Nimbus. I didn't do a lot of direct comparison, but my impression was that the Manley was every bit as good, with the added option of tone controls which the Nimbus does not have. It's a little bit hard to say for sure what neutral is on the Manley because unlike EQ settings, the feedback adjustment, while it effects the sound, does not have a 'neutral' setting. You adjust to what sounds best for you. In terms of overall enjoyment, I enjoyed the Manley every bit as much as the Nimbus. My friend thought the Manley had more depth. I don't know for sure. He actually also felt the Manley to be brighter. I don't think Manley is a warm tubey sound, per se, unless you adjust it to have that profile. It is clear, punchy (not excessively, but pleasantly so), tight, and neutral, overall. It competes well with solid state amps.
Shipped off to rhester19 via FedEx with signature confirmation.
You should be getting a email from Todd with the tracking number soon.
I'll post an in-depth review later on, but a quick summery is that the tone of the amplifier is absolutely fantastic & what I would call neutral.
It gives a much needed heft to the music & vocals without sounding overtly warm or polite in comparisons to a lot of tube & solid states amps I've heard. I used these mainly with the Sennheiser HD800 & it was one f the best head amps I used with it.
For the different selections, Push Pull gives a more cleaner, detailed & analytical sound, while SET modes gives a more thicker, wetter & romantic sound. I was flip-flopping back & forth on which I liked more.
At first I was more in favor of Push Pull, but at the end I think SET mode won me over.
For the Feedback options, I preffered feedback on all combinations, either in the neutral position or all the way to the right at the max +10db. Extra feedback gives more detail & a more forward sound.
Sorry about the delay in posting the review, I was very busy the entire week & wanted to go over my notes.
A basic summery would be the tone of the Manley Absolute is excellent. I felt of all the tube amps I tested & owned, this was the closest to being neutral. It has the energy of a solid state amp, without the thinness or brightness associated with it. All while retaining the fullness, openness & layering of a good tube amp.
The transients are fast & kick hard, more than any tube amp I've heard. While still sounding fuller than any solid state amp. I didn't have a Hifiman HE-6 or a Abyss-1266 to test it with, but it powered the HD800 & Meze Empyrean easily at around the 50-75% mark on the volume switch with the low impedance setting.
Some of the description of the features are a small knob at the back of the amp, turning clockwise enables a protection mode that lowers the dB so your sensitive headphones won't blow if you accidentally have the volume up to high. I had this turned off for most of my testing.
Push Pull - This makes the sound signature more cleaner, refined & detailed sounding.
SET - This makes the sound fuller, warmer & generally more tube sounding & pleasing, but does increase the noise floor.
Feedback - Positive feedback (know set all the way to the left ) makes the sound much more laid back & warm & lowers the noise floor. While no feedback (knob set all the way to the right) makes the music much more forward & detailed with some very small increase in noise floor.
Tone Control - This controls the bass & treble when the EQ button is pressed, I admittedly did not use this much, as I felt the tone of the amp itself was so good.
Impedance modes - With low there is no noise with Push Pull & basically no noise with SET. With medium, volume increases & it adds a little bit of weight to the sound, this sounded pretty good with the Push Pull mode. With high, volume increases even more & there is even more fuller sound, but noise increases as well. High mode did not sound good with SET engaged. I usually had the impedance at low or medium with Push Pull mode & always low with SET mode.
The difference between push pull & single ended triode mode was interesting, as I spent most of my time testing between them. With push pull, I felt I go the cleanest sound, with the details being more refined & not adding too much of a tube sound, while still sounding wider, more open & spacious & not having a sterile & cold sound like solid state amps would. I initially like this mode more than the SET.
When I switch over to SET, there is a much pleasing weight that is added to the music & vocals. This is definitely a more characteristic signature of a tube amp, but the extra heft it gives does not come at the expense of making it sound muddy, slow or having the transients sounded blunted. Quite the opposite actually. I felt it kicked harder & the detail was at the same speed. One downside is the noise floor, as you can hear it when switching from push pull to SET & maybe the smaller details aren't as well separated as in push pull.
In the end I think SET mode won me over, even though I felt there was a need for both modes on an almost song by song basis.
As for the Feedback knob, I definitely felt the need for decreasing the negative feedback as a good thing. Lessening the feedback increases the detail & forwardness of the songs. It can be a bit too much at max on some songs, as I felt it can start to sound a little too bright. I felt overall the negative/no feedback was a positive when used. The downside is a slight added noise floor, but this is negligible with push pull mode. While it can be a bit too much with SET mode, especially it you turn the knob clockwise to the max 10.
For some hotter recordings, I did turn the feedback on, but turning it all the way to the left made the sound way too laid back, distant & warm. More of the typical negative sound people associate tubes with.
I was surprised how this amp sounded. The speed & transients that were comparable to a good solid state, but the meatiness, authority & weight of a well made tube amp. It had the typical tube sound of have a spacious open sound that you can't get from solid state amps, but sounded neutral & not too warm.
I feel everyone sound be able to test out negative feedback & feedback, as well as push pull & SET as they can drastically change the sound to your liking to a big degree. As far as I know, no other amplifier has this.