Manley Labs Neo-Classic 300B Line Preamp
Neo-Classic 300B Line PreampOur most esoteric product is THE 300B PREAMPLlFIER. This is the first and only preamp to feature these classic tubes. We had been designing the 300B into small power amps for many years and have always had great respect for the smooth natural sound of this tube. However, a single 300B provides truly appropriate power and voltage swing for headphones and makes a remarkable line driver. Here is where the impedances are not too low and the power requirements are not too high: ideal for this kind of tube in a single-ended configuration. This was the genesis of a new preamp.
We combine the historic 300B with another classic, the large octal based 6SL7GT, for the input stage- all triodes running in pure Class A operation. To complement this 'retro' feel, we implemented vacuum tube rectification and regulation in the power supply along with plenty of capacity. We also developed an additional (and innovative) ripple rejection circuit to filter out power supply noise making this an incredibly low-noise preamplifier- especially critical for headphone users.
Complementing this lovely and rich sounding line-driver is the ALPS audiophile volume control, gold plated RCA connectors, high purity silver wire, mil-spec printed circuit boards with extra thick copper and plating, and custom designed output transformers which we wind right here in our own magnetics department. It all adds up...
Ratings & Reviews
Once the unit was in place and the tubes inserted (nice touch to have numbered orange dots on the tubes and the appropriate sockets so no mistakes could be made) along with the well written and humorous user manual, I was ready to fire it up. This is my first piece of Manley gear and besides being well built there is just something about the look of this unit maybe retro or classic yet elegant – can’t quite put my finger on it. I had to place it on the top of one my equipment racks as this unit generates some serious heat, but then again why would one want to hide all those beautiful glowing tubes? Associated equipment a pair of Quicksilver Horn Mono Blocks and a pair of Klipsch La Scala II, yes I know horn loaded speakers so all the audiophiles can dismiss this review since I obviously have no ears. I believe some of the controversy of horn speakers involves equipment pairing and the type of music one listens too but that’s a story for another day. Digital is an Oppo, turntables Project Xtension 10 and a VPI Aries 3. This unit replaced a BAT VK3si that I have had for years and I do consider it a very good preamp. I was concerned about noise, but this turned out to be unfounded as the Manley was dead quiet. I principally listen to vinyl but usually warm things up with some CD’s. I found with the Manley that I was actually enjoying the CD’s for a change the Manley was bringing the best out of that format. With vinyl the first thing that struck me was the soundstage being very deep, huge filling the room. The different instruments were clearly placed and detailed. There was a new found clarity a very natural direct presentation. I found the hi frequencies to be soft with a gorgeous mid-range and nice controlled tight bass. Overall I have found myself listening to more and more music with no fatigue truly a wonderful sounding piece of equipment. I am still running the stock tubes and in direct mode, but I do have some replacements waiting to roll into place at some point.