Manley Labs Chinook Phono Preamp
Beautiful build quality. Audiophile componentry. Handcrafted in the USA.Angling for an affordable yet world-class vacuum tube phono stage? The hunt is over! The spawn of the Manley Steelhead - one of the world's greatest phono preamplifiers - Stereophile Class A Recommended Component and The Absolute Sound's Preamp of the Year, has arrived. The Chinook epitomizes the sound of the Steelhead. Designed for the music lover, not the switch tweaker.
Like the Steelhead, each channel employs the two triode sections of a 6922 for amplifying duties with highly accurate passive RIAA equalization networks. In the Chinook, the signal is then directly coupled to another 6922 dual triode serving as the output driver in a White Follower configuration. This output stage circuit is our favorite because of its super-low output impedance and beefy current-driving capabilities. It can drive long cable lengths and difficult loads, tube or solid-state. Bring it on. No wimpy cathode followers here!
Setting up the Chinook couldn't be easier. There are two internal settings for optimal gain: 45dB for Moving-Magnet cartridges and 60dB for Moving-Coil cartridges. Set it and forget it! The back panel contains DIP switches for adjusting the input resistive and capacitance loading values. 31 possible options between 26 and 800 Ohms plus 47k Ohms and 7 capacitive loading choices between 50 pF and 350 pF provide flexibility to match any cartridge and fine tune the tone. Audiophile-grade and time-proven componentry is used throughout, embodying Manley's dedication to seductive sonics, combined with the reliability that professionals around the world depend on. At just about a quarter of the price of our revered Steelhead preamplifier, the Chinook's focus is on elegance of design, careful execution, efficient construction, and appreciable quality.
Designed and built in California, the Chinook exemplifies Manley's commitment to our local community and to a simple, clean, and quiet signal path. The Chinook demonstrates the supreme linearity of vacuum tubes while providing the flexibility needed to embrace any turntable setup. Everything from the most exotic 180 gram audiophile pressing to 25 cent thrift-store classics will be reproduced accurately and musically.
Don't let this one get away! Hook a Chinook!
Ratings & Reviews
Absolutely fantastic phono stage. Dead quite and very dynamic. Coming from a Musical Surrounding Phenomenom II. Great upgrade. As usual ND is fantastic.
Another phenomenal piece of gear from Manley. Anyone familiar with their studio gear knows it's all top-of-the-heap. The same can be said of their hi-if offerings. EveAnna and crew don't seem to consider too many compromises when it comes to sound and build quality. Well, to be fair, some people have mentioned the lack of aesthetic appeal. Personally, I like the no-nonsense, industrial feel of their gear. It's... uh, manly. As for sound quality, I replaced a Jolida JD9 that had been acting as the MC phono stage for my McIntosh MA2275 integrated. I had no complaints about the JD9 and have enjoyed it for over two years without a hitch. However, since swapping out for the Manley, I immediately noticed a dramatically lower noise floor that, in turn, has freed up an exponential increase in detail, soundstage and far easier tracking. Some albums that simply sounded cluttered on the Jolida sound beautiful, spacious and cleaner on the Manley. I believe the reduction in gain is probably the main contributor to the reduced noise. The adjustable gain setting for an MC cart on the Jolida is switchable between 75db or 80db. The Manley offers only one setting for MC - 60db. I'm using a very precise and gorgeous sounding Ortofon Cadenza Blue .5mv cart. 60db of gain seems much, much better suited to this cart. .5mv is an above average output for a high end MC cart. I've also A/B'ed my .3mv Dynavector 20x2 that benefitted similarly from the Manley's cleaned up presentation so, it's not all attributable to gain. Certainly, the high quality power supply, toroidal transformer and the no-compromise approach to parts spec contributes greatly to the dead quiet background that has made everything else so much better. Knowing Manley's reputation in the recording world, I'm probably biased in my belief that while there are other high quality offerings, there are not better quality offerings. This is likely the phono stage that I hand down to my kids. As of now, I simply do not suffer from phono-stage-envy as I believe I have the best you can buy in this range.
I've been very impressed with the Manley Chinook. It works very well with the Lyra Delos I purchased from you, on my VPI Classic. The sound is very good, with quiet backgrounds and stable imaging. At one year, the unit developed a transformer hum. I contacted Manley, who told me that it was likely due to a bad diode. I shipped it to them, and they returned the warranted repair very, very quickly. Besides that one issue, the unit has been rock solid. I believe the unit is a great value for the money and I would certainly recommend it. I rate it 4 and 1/2 stars.
Hey Patrick, I didn’t have much energy today since I’ve been working 70 hour weeks for months and honestly, waited for quite a long time before even bothering to try and hook the Chinook back into my system. I just got done and I’m about halfway into my second record and I have to say a couple things. HOLY EXPLATIVE BATMAN. This fixed ALL of my problems. I’ve been trying to unwittingly compensate for the sound issues I’ve been having for months, tweaking speakers up and down, left and right, trying different cables and working things all over, changing loading settings for the cartridge, you name it, I’ve been there and tweaked it. Who knew it was such a simple fix to just send the phono stage into Manely and have it repaired? I’m SO very glad that you were there to help me along in the process and I am INSANELY happy with the results. It sounds just like when I first listened to the whole setup with “Brad” when I fell in love with the gear the first time. This phono stage is again SILENT with no issues, no channel imbalances and absolutely ZERO loading issues with my Delos. It’s like Christmas all over again for me. Thank you very much for your help and thank you for dealing with Manley and getting the warranty sorted out. Yet again you’ve proven that nothing beats Needle Doctor and your supreme customer service. Signed another happy lifetime NeedleDoctor customer, Brad Zabilla
I am running this with a clearaudio concept tt with the mc cart. Sounds just fantastic. Beautiful wide soundstage. I have only one regret. I should have bought this originally when I set up the system. What an upgrade! It’s like having a new system.
Excellent Phono Preamp! Buy it!
Over the past year, I've been evaluating phono preamps. With the help of NeedleDoctor, I tried several, and finally landed on the ProJect PhonoBox RS. It's very nice, quiet, and sounds great. But, something was still not quite there. At Ken's recommendation, I took the plunge for the Chinook.
All I can say is wow! I knew that the phono preamp is an important part of the chain... but I never realized how much difference it can make. When I put this in the system, I was shocked! The sound is much more lifelike, the stage is wide and deep, and it's just so musical! It runs very quiet, and, when the music starts, it just jumps out of the darkness and sounds spectacular.
While at first I focused on the budget, I now realize I wasted a lot of time looking at "good" preamps, when I should have just made the move to "great". Finally, the desire to get a little better is gone, and Chinook is here to stay.
Buy this Chinook from NeedleDoctor! You won't be disappointed!