Maor Appelbaum has sometimes been mistakenly typecast as a heavy rock specialist. It’s true that he has done work for such artists as Rob Halford, Yngwie Malmsteen, Sepultura, Dokken, and Fates Warning. But his credits cover virtually every musical genre, including global stars like Faith No More, Yes, Meat Loaf, Walter Trout, and William Shatner, along with an assortment of jazz and classical artists.
With his track record and client list, Appelbaum could use any equipment he wants, and his gear list is impressive. But for many tasks, nothing quite does the job like his two Manley Stereo Variable Mu limiter-compressors (Vari Mu), two Mini Massive EQs, and one Massive Passive EQ.
“I don’t use Manley gear because it’s the only thing I have, I use it when it provides the sound that’s right for the recording,” Appelbaum asserts. “In some cases I need a sound that I can’t get from anything else.
“For example, I did a prog rock album called The Prog Collective, and I used the Manley Variable Mu to clean things up. The Variable Mu can sound hi-fi-ish-not screaming in the uppers but more like a round sound. For mid-tempo stuff, especially, it makes the track sound very round and nice. It gives you a kind of creamy flavor. The processed track almost feels finished but not entirely so because if it were finished you wouldn’t have room to do anything else.”
Appelbaum has the mastering version of the Variable Mu, with Manley’s T-Bar mod all-tube front end and High Pass Side Chain mod. “I often compress in small amounts, maybe 2 dB or less, just to get the warmth of the device because it has a really nice tone,” he explains. “I get mixes that already have compression, so I compress just a bit. You’re not hearing any movement of the compression; there is some, you just don’t notice it.”
His two Mini Massives are go-to EQs for a lot of applications. As with the Variable Mu, sometimes a little bit is just enough. “I would call it a little additive EQ,” Appelbaum says. “I don’t go far with it, just a bit to add weight on the bottom or to add something on the top. For me, the Mini Massive is more about fast response for transients than the Massive Passive. When I need some high end but I don’t want to clean it up, or I need a bit more punchy low end without it being roundish, the Mini Massive is really good.”
When vocals are well recorded but need a bit of color, Appelbaum relies on the Massive Passive. “It’s not just that I need to boost at 1 kHz but I need 1 kHz that sounds creamier, more liquid,” he states. “For that, I use the Massive Passive to focus on a few frequencies that need more roundness.”
On one project, Appelbaum client asked him to make the vocals a bit warmer and more tube-ish. “A different EQ could have helped around 1 kHz,” he agrees, “but to get that tube-ish sound, I used two bands on the Massive Passive just to emphasize the vocal area. I sent it to the client, and their response was ‘perfect, that’s what it needed.’”
Topanga Canyon, CA - July 2016... Having earned fame as the cofounder and front man of '80s Australian pop band Men at Work ("Down Under," "Overkill," "Who Can it Be Now?"), singer/songwriter Colin Hay went on to craft a career as a solo artist, with twelve solo albums to date. Men at Work evolved out of an acoustic duo, and Hay's passion for recording great vocal and acoustic guitar sounds made him an obvious candidate for Manley's high-end preamplifiers and processors.
While getting great sounds is the primary reason he uses Manley products, ease of use is also important. "I put a studio together in the 1990s and became a bit of a gear addict," he relates. "I have engineers who work with me but I do a lot myself, and I taught myself how to engineer. So I have to feel comfortable with a piece of gear and not get frustrated figuring out how to plug things in and get good sounds."
With the VOXBOX, Hay finds he can get the sounds he wants with minimal stress. "A lot of the songs that I record in the studio end up being band songs but they're born from the acoustic guitar," Hay explains. "I get the tempo right, then record the acoustic guitar and vocal tracks. But I don't like to work with guide tracks; I try to always cut good-sounding tracks that I can use now or later. I know how I like to hear my voice, and the Manley VOXBOX® makes it easy to get the sound I want quickly, without help from an engineer. The VOXBOX works very well in just about any recording situation: vocals, bass guitar, electric guitar, keyboard, whatever."
The VOXBOX combines the legendary Manley Mono Mic Preamp; a low-ratio (3:1) compressor derived from the company's ELOP limiter; the Manley MID EQ, blown out as a full-range peak-dip-peak EQ; a de-esser; and an ELOP limiter. The multi-purpose channel strip also features a Direct Input and is especially prized for bass guitar sounds. "I use the VOXBOX primarily for vocals and bass guitar," Hay confirms. "It's my favorite piece of equipment for bass guitar; it sounds fantastic. It gives a very lovely tight, warm bass sound, and the bass sits in the mix extremely nicely, getting along well with the other instruments."
Hay also is a fan of Manley's Reference Gold Microphone. "I use Reference Gold mics more and more now," he asserts. "I really like the Gold for recording acoustic guitars, and it sounds beautiful on vocals. Of late I've been using the Gold mic into the VOXBOX, which is a fantastic combination."
As much as Hay relies on his VOXBOX and Reference Gold Mics-not to mention his Manley Variable Mu Limiter Compressor-none of these products began his passion for Manley gear. "The first Manley product I got was the Massive Passive EQ, which I still really like," he recalls. "It took awhile to get used to the Massive Passive because of its subtlety but that's a beautiful piece of equipment. I love it on a lot of things but especially on stereo drums. I get the drums to sound the way I want as individual instruments, then strap the Massive Passive across the stereo drum bus, and it's a beautiful thing. The key word is 'passive': You are not aware of the Massive Passive doing radical things but you notice when it's not there."
The best thing about Hay's Manley gear, though, is the feeling he gets when using it to produce his music. "Like a lot of people, I try to sculpt beautiful sounding audio for the sheer joy of it," he proclaims. "I appreciate Manley because they have a passion for creating recording equipment that helps make this possible."
Los Angeles CA - July 2016... Jake Sinclair is a busy man: The GRAMMY-nominated producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist recently produced new records for Sia, Weezer, and Fall Out Boy, while simultaneously crafting his side project, Alohaha. Staying busy is nothing new for Sinclair, though; the 31-year-old's long list of credits includes such luminaries as Taylor Swift, P!nk, Train, and 5 Seconds of Summer. Typical of today's producers, he runs his studio off a laptop in a room filled with instruments, a few preamps, and his prized Manley ELOP+ stereo electro-optical tube compressor/limiter-and not much else.
The ELOP+ is a completely re-engineered version of Manley's coveted early 1990s-vintage ELOP stereo electro-optical limiter. The ELOP+ uses the company's highest-performance tube line amplifier and White Follower output stage and relies on a high-voltage switching power supply designed specifically for Manley vacuum tube audio circuits. The "+" also adds a 3:1 compression ratio for greater versatility.
Sinclair wires his two-channel ELOP+ as two separate compressors. One side is the last piece in his vocal chain. The other? "I use the other channel for bass as a tracking compressor, and I go pretty squishy with it," he explains.
While he respects the old classic optical compressors, to Sinclair's ears, most of the newer models leave something to be desired-except the ELOP+. "I've tried all of the opto-style compressors," Sinclair affirms, "and the Manley is by far my favorite. It's every bit as good as the classic compressors. With a lot of newer opto compressors, as you get past 3 to 5 dB of compression, you start to lose some top end, and it suffocates the sound. But I can put the ELOP+ in Limit mode, keep the filter off, and get a good 5 to 7 dB of compression without losing any high-end tone."
That's especially important because Sinclair doesn't go easy on the compression. "I'm a really guilty overcompressor," he laughs. "It's part of the fun! It's an effect and it also changes the way singers perform. When they're singing, I apply the compression I intend to use in the final mix. I'd rather track it the way it's going to be because the singer can react to it, and you get a different performance."
To do that, it would seem, you need a compressor that can sound transparent. "Yeah," Sinclair agrees, "and you get that signature sound that we've heard on millions of records; the ELOP+ just nails it." The result, he says, is an airy vocal that sounds like it's supposed to. "EveAnna Manley described the ELOP+ as just a volume knob," he muses, "but it's more than that for me. There's some kind of tube-y glueness!"
Sinclair has reduced his use of tube devices in recent years but you'll never get his ELOP+ away from him. "Except for microphones, the ELOP+ is the only piece of tube equipment I still have," he admits. "Tube preamps aren't for me. But I will always have an ELOP+."
Producer/engineer Ross Hogarth’s three decade-plus career has careened across the musical map, from the dulcet tones of Shawn Colvin and Keb’ Mo’ to the lead-footed velocity of Motley Crue and Van Halen. But if there’s a common thread across this eclectic discography, it’s one of authenticity. Hogarth’s recordings never fail to bring out the quintessential spirit of his subjects.
From his early days as an engineer at studios like Rumbo Recorders and the Record Plant to his present day work for his own Hoax Productions, Hogarth’s recordings have relied on Manley gear. As he explains, his roots with the company are deep.
“Back when I worked with Jackson Browne, EveAnna and (then-husband) David would bring their gear down to Jackson’s Groove Masters Studios for us to check out,” Hogarth relates. “So I’ve got one of their original first-generation ELOP optical limiters, and it’s always been my go-to compressor for tracking, particularly for vocals. I’ve used it on everyone from John Fogerty to Melissa Ethridge to Ziggy Marley. For me, the ELOP has always been the benchmark for an optical compressor. It’s got that lush creaminess of a classic compressor, but with speed and clarity, and without being mushy.”
“The ELOP has always been my set-and-forget, go-to box for tracking, particularly for vocals,” Hogarth adds. “Once you imprint the ELOP on a vocal, you can do pretty much anything with that vocal later in the mix. It’s basically a vocal compressor that takes the Hippocratic Oath.”
In the 1990s, Hogarth would move to the Record Plant, and his relationship with Manley Labs would grow.
“While EveAnna and their engineering team were designing the Massive Passive, they brought me a lot of beta units to test,” he recounts. “I had a lot of input into the design details like frequency points and different curves, and I’m very proud to have been a part of that. Needless to say, the Massive Passive is also one of my favorite pieces of gear.”
Not surprisingly, Hogarth’s trusted ears also contributed to the evolution of the new ELOP+. “EveAnna came to me last year and said they wanted to redesign the ELOP - how could they make it even better? And we agreed, there are certain things you can change, but ultimately it needs to be like the original. There have been a few iterations of the ELOP over the years, but to my ears, my original first-generation ELOP still sounded the best. The new version had to have that original sound.”
As with the evolution of the Massive Passive, Hogarth provided feedback on several prototype units. “We spent a lot of time on it going back and forth, and every iteration they would bring me was a little bit closer. We even got into minute details like the frequency of the side-chain filter and the lights on the front panel. We finally achieved something where I can honestly say, you nailed it - it sounds great.”
“I’m really proud to have been a part of it, and I’m really proud that EveAnna and her engineering team cared enough to make this better than something I already thought was great. A lot of companies design something, have beta testers try it out, and the testers don’t want to insult anyone by saying it’s not up to their standards. That’s the beauty of being close friends and having known EveAnna this long - she knows I’m going to be ruthless and straight up with her. I’m not going to tell her it’s good until it’s really, really good.”
Even then, Hogarth admits, it took a while for him to fully commit. “When I finally said it’s good, you guys have done it, I got my ELOP+ and put itinto a rack with my old one. I tested it out for two months, tracking on one and then the other. And I can honestly say, the ELOP+ has replaced my go-to compressor of more than 20 years.”
April 27, 2016
Chino, CA - April 2016... From his early work with the likes of Frank Zappa, Poco, and Etta James to more recent projects with The Madden Brothers, Morrissey, and Spoon, multiple Grammy-winner Joe Chiccarelli is known for delivering exceptional quality and fresh, creative music. It's not surprising, then, that he uses Manley Reference Cardioid tube microphones not only for vocals-an application for which Manley tube mics are justly prized-but for drum overheads and other instruments, as well.
"I have a Manley Gold Reference tube mic and two Reference Cardioid tube mics," Chiccarelli relates. "The Reference Cardioid is my go-to mic for drum overheads. I've used them on drums in every session at Sunset Sound in the past three or four years. I used the Reference Cardioid on drums for Jason Mraz, Christina Perri, Alanis Morissette, Morrissey, Divine Fits, Young the Giant-pretty much anything I've done here. They are always my first choice for drums."
Gold Reference mics employ our exquisite large-diaphragm capsules, created exclusively for Manley Labs by legendary engineer David Josephson. Their all-tube circuitry is built around two 12AT7 triodes in cascade, forming an entire gain-block. Developed in 1990, the Gold Reference sounds much like many vintage European tube mics, such as the U47, sounded when new. The Reference Cardioid shares the same electronic attributes as the Gold Reference, but has a center-fixed, cardioid-only capsule with a thicker gauge, gold-sputtered diaphragm. Both are large-diaphragm condenser mics.
"I like large diaphragm mics," Chiccarelli explains, "and I particularly like Manley's tube mics because they're super open on the top end, so I get all that air and room ambience, depending on where I place them. In addition, they handle lots of SPL; I never have to worry about padding them or think about overload issues. No matter what the style of music or how intense the drumming is, they always get me through. I also use Reference Cardioids on piano for their openness and silky top end."
For vocals, Chiccarelli sometimes choses the Reference Cardioid and other times goes for the Gold. "I just worked with a band from The Netherlands, RoMi Cage, that sounded just fantastic on the Reference Cardioid, as well as the Gold," he recalls. "I used the Reference Gold for Christina Perri's voice, as well. Again, it's all that air, it's that ability to take dynamics that are subtle or huge and not overload."
Manley's Reference Gold mic, Chiccarelli, explains, "is very open and revealing and so precise. Sometimes you need a microphone that doesn't add color, especially when you have a singer that has a pure, gorgeous, open voice that needs to be captured without unnatural colors in the midrange. The Gold is the most transparent mic on the market. Nuance in the upper end is also important. A couple of years ago I did an album with singer Michele Pillar, and we tried a variety of mics on her voice. The Gold sounded the best for her, hands down; nothing came close, even the classic tube mics."
Another aspect of the Reference Gold that appeals to Chiccarelli is its hot output. "There's so much output from that microphone, sometimes I feel like I don't even need a mic preamp," he insists, "so it keeps the noise down."
Chiccarelli is as much a fan of Manley preamps and signal processors as he is of Manley mics. "Over the years, I've used just about everything," he notes. "I often use the Manley Massive Passive EQ, ELOP® stereo electro-optical limiter, and Variable Mu® limiter/compressor during mixdown. The Enhanced Pultec EQ is used all the time on vocal sessions-and for bass, as well. We used Manley gear on The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and many other projects at Blackbird Studios in Nashville."
Plainly, Chiccarelli is sold on the Manley sound. "I use Manley gear for both tracking and mixdown," he confirms. "Manley tube mics and processors are on pretty much every project. I really love their products-and their people! Their commitment to building gear with top quality tone is outstanding."
March 28, 2016
Chino, CA - March 2016... With more than four decades of engineering and production experience and a long list of noteworthy credits, Ed Stasium knows a thing or three about sound. Today, the former member of New York's legendary Power Station studio works at his Southern California home, relying on a DAW as his main production tool and Manley Dual Mono two-channel and FORCE four-channel tube preamplifiers as his analog front end.
"In this digital world, we have to get the best analog going into the box that we possibly can," Stasium insists. "The Manley Dual Mono and FORCE provide the maximum tubage getting into the box. I record a lot of drums here, and I am thankful for Manley tube preamps; without them, I wouldn't want to record drums straight into the DAW. With the FORCE and Dual Mono, the drums sound fabulous!"
A firm believer in getting the best possible analog sound before converting to digital, Stasium likes to record with natural ambience, like the 20-foot-high entryway to his home. From there, he relies on quality mics and Manley preamps, with minimal processing. "The Manley Dual Mono and FORCE are so clean, and the gain on them is so good, I can even use my 1937 RCA PB-90 velocity mic with them," he relates. "A lot of preamps I've used don't give you enough gain for that. When you put a vintage ribbon mic through the Manley, the sound is wide open. It sounds fantastic, so clean and quiet. I don't need to EQ; I don't need to do anything."
Although he doesn't talk much about his success, preferring to let the music speak for itself, Stasium's credits include records by the Ramones, Talking Heads, the Smithereens, Living Colour, Peter Wolf, Mick Jagger, Jeff Healey, Joan Jett, Marshall Crenshaw, and Motorhead. He recorded and mixed his first gold single, Gladys Knight & the Pips' "Midnight Train to Georgia," back in 1973, when he had been engineering professionally for only a year. He has been there and done that, and when he offers an opinion, it's wise to listen.
"I mix a lot of tracks that people have recorded in their homes, and too often the tracks sound really bad. But they don't have to be like that," he advises. "A Manley preamp makes a huge difference. Put a Manley FORCE up front, so you have four tube preamps. Then put just four mics on the drum kit: kick, snare, and a couple of overheads; that's all you need. Run those four mics through the FORCE for maximum tubage, and you'll get a great sound."
Clearly, Stasium is a Manley true believer. "The Manley FORCE and Dual Mono are so precise and true, I love them," he proclaims. "I can't live without them!"
February 24, 2016
Los Angeles, CA – February 2016… Veteran mastering engineer Pete Lyman of Infrasonic Mastering, an audio and vinyl mastering studio in Echo Park, is known for great ears, superb skills, love of cutting vinyl, and eclectic clientele. He has mastered projects for Rival Sons, Fall Out Boy, Weezer, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Panic! At the Disco, Sebadoh, and countless others. Recent projects included Sturgill Simpson's Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, which received a 2015 GRAMMY nomination for "Best Americana Album," Jason Isbell's Something More than Free, which garnered two 2016 Grammy Awards, and Chris Stapleton's Traveller, which was CMA's 2015 "Album of the Year" and earned a 2016 GRAMMY for Country Album of the Year.
Nowadays, virtually every project Lyman masters goes through his trusty Manley Stereo Variable Mu® Limiter Compressor. "I was looking for a compressor that gave me that little extra bit of 'glue' I needed on some mixes," he begins. "I had a compressor that I swore by, and it gave me a gluey, analog squeeze but it was never quite 'there' in my mind. I realized something was missing. I had heard about the Variable Mu but I hadn't worked with one, and I had a misconception of what it sounded like. I was a solid-state-path guy; I didn't want tubes in the path because I didn't think the sound would be transparent enough for mastering."
Fortunately, a friend and fellow motorcycle buff prevailed on him to give the Manley Variable Mu a try. This is unsurprising when you consider that the friend was Manley Labs president EveAnna Manley-and, says Lyman, her advice was excellent. "From the minute I used the Variable Mu, I realized that this was the compressor I've been missing. The Variable Mu does exactly what I want it to do. It sounds fantastic, and it's hard to beat the build quality. I love it; I'm a huge fan."
Lyman's work spans a variety of musical genres, and he uses the Variable Mu for all of them. "My discography is crazy," he laughs. "I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Colorado and listened to country music but I played bass in punk bands and loved metal. Although I still work on those types of records, ironically, these days I master a lot of Americana and country. My discography is diverse, and I like it that way. The Manley Variable Mu has made it onto pretty much every record I've mastered since I got it. It sounds as good on punk, metal, and rock as it does on Americana and country."
Much as a younger Lyman once forswore country music in favor of punk and metal, only to come full circle and work on all of those genres and more, the Variable Mu compressor has made him change his tune about only using solid-state processors. "Having a top-quality valve compressor, as well as solid-state stuff, is great," he proclaims. "In fact, now I have both the Variable Mu and a tube EQ in my chain."
When Lyman shops for a new tool for his mastering chain, he takes his time and makes sure he is getting exactly what he wants. He doesn't add another compressor just for variety, as a recording engineer might do. "If I am not using that tool at least 60 percent of the time, my money could be better spent elsewhere," he explains. "So when I went looking for a new compressor, I tried several high-end models, and I only bought one. As soon as I plugged in the Manley Variable Mu, I ditched the other compressors I was considering. I knew I had found the missing piece I had been looking for. The Variable Mu delivers a classic sound that we all know and love. It's worth every penny and more. I absolutely love it!"
February 1, 2016
Chino, CA — February 2016… The Manley FORCE has been awarded a 2016 Technical Excellence and Creativity Award, recognized for Technical Achievement in the category of Microphone Preamps.
Celebrating its 31st year, the TEC Awards are presented by the NAMM Foundation in celebration of finest in professional audio and sound reproduction. Chosen by a select panel of pro audio and music industry professionals, this year’s winners were announced Saturday, January 23 during the NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA.
The Manley FORCE is a four-channel high voltage vacuum tube microphone preamplifier incorporating proprietary hand-wound Manley Iron® mic input transformers and a 12AX7 vacuum tube amplifying stage. Each channel includes a high-impedance, ¼” instrument input as well as an XLR microphone input. As with all Manley gear, each unit is painstakingly hand-wired using silver solder and audiophile-grade components and hand-built in California.
“With the FORCE, we set out to build a mic preamp that would blow the doors off the price-to-value ratio, while retaining every single ounce of Manley quality, reliability, and integrity,” remarked Manley Labs President and co-founder EveAnna Manley. “This award is testament to our success, and to the hard work of everyone at Manley Labs. Every entry in this category is a worthy contender, and it’s an honor to be named the winners.”
Earlier the same day, in a separate ceremony, the Manley VOXBOX was awarded to the NAMM TECnology Hall of Fame. This year’s nominees also included the Neumann KM84 and Shure SM58 microphones, Auratone Sound Cubes, Eventide H3000 UltraHarmonizer, Lexicon PCM41, and Roland RE-201 Space Echo, and the Decibel.
Don Was, one of music’s most significant artists and executives, received the evening’s highest honor, the Les Paul award and performed live. Jeff “Skunk” Baxter along with Record Plant’s Chris Stone and the late Gary Kellgren became the newest inductees to the NAMM TEC Awards Hall of Fame.
For more information, visit www.tecawards.org.
January 22, 2016
Chino, CA — January 2016… Since its introduction in the early 1990s, the Manley ELOP optical limiter has been an essential tool in the arsenals of recording and mastering engineers everywhere, and the fabled all-tube limiter has graced the signal chain of countless recordings.
Nearly a quarter of a century later, the engineers at Manley Labs have created a new and improved ELOP — introducing the ELOP+, now with integrated stereo compressor. The ELOP+ has kept the same controls and functionality as the original ELOP, while adding the versatility of an on-board stereo compressor.
Advancements in technology have enabled Manley Labs to create a dramatically improved layout, giving the ELOP+ a new solid metal chassis and faceplate design. The output stage has been re-engineered to deliver an even more pristine signal path, and a new ultra-low impedance switched mode power supply is standard.
Manley Labs President and Co-Founder EveAnna Manley remarked, “the ELOP has always been a fantastic sounding limiter. With the ELOP+, we’ve truly stepped it up a notch, both in sonic quality and versatility. And what’s even better — thanks to our streamlined production and increased buying power, the cost of a new ELOP+ is lower than the original ELOP!”
The new ELOP+ will be available mid-January 2016, at a MSRP of $2500.
January 21, 2016
Chino, CA — January 2016…Manley Labs, a premier manufacturer of acclaimed professional audio tools, is proud to introduce the new Manley Nu Mu studio compressor. Created in the tradition of Manley’s legendary Variable Mu, the Nu Mu is designed to deliver Manley’s signature sonic quality while breaking new ground on both features and price.
The Manley Nu Mu is a hybrid compressor design that combines the front end tube topology of the T-Bar Variable Mu with a solid state side chain and output stage to deliver Manley’s big, full-bodied signature tube sound in a package that breaks new ground in performance and value. The Nu Mu is packed with features that set it apart from everything else in its class, starting with Manley’s acclaimed IRON® input transformers on balanced XLR connectors and including the same ultra-low impedance switched mode power supply used on the Manley CORE.
The Nu Mu incorporates an all-new feature called the HIP control, allowing it to apply compression at lower dynamic ranges, while leaving louder dynamics unaffected. The result is a higher overall level, without squashing the dynamics of the most exciting transients.
“Until now, this type of effect could only be accomplished using parallel compression, combining the compressed and uncompressed signals,” explains Manley Labs President and Co-Founder EveAnna Manley. “The Nu Mu’s HIP function achieves the same results, but with less effort and less hardware. It’s perfect for adding just a kiss of compression, but with that classic Manley sound.”
The Manley Nu Mu will be available mid-January 2016, at a MSRP of $2800.
January 18, 2016
Anaheim, CA — January 2016… Manley Labs, creators of highly acclaimed professional audio tools, is proud to announce the induction of their legendary VOXBOX into the NAMM TECnology Hall of Fame Class of 2016.
The VOXBOX joins such classics as the Neumann KM84 and Shure SM58 microphones, Auratone Sound Cubes, Eventide H3000 UltraHarmonizer, Lexicon PCM41, and Roland RE-201 Space Echo, all part of this year’s inductees.
The TECnology Hall of Fame was established in 2004 to honor and pay recognition to audio products and innovations that have made a significant contribution to the advancement of audio technology. Since 2015, the TEC Hall of Fame Awards have been presented by the NAMM Museum of Making Music, as part of the annual Technical Excellence and Creativity Awards. Inductees are selected by a panel of more than 50 recognized audio experts, including authors, educators, engineers, and other professionals. Products must be at least ten years old for consideration.
Introduced in 1998, the Manley VOXBOX combines Manley’s legendary all-tube preamp design with the smooth, effortless ELOP compressor, an extended Mid-Pultec-inspired EQ, and a second dynamic controller set up as a de-esser and ELOP limiter. The VOXBOX was designed from the onset to be the world’s premium high end channel strip.
“The VOXBOX endures decade after decade as the unrivalled ultimate vocal channel,” observes Manley Labs President and Co-Founder EveAnna Manley, “although bass players always tell me it’s the greatest bass preamplifier too. We’re intensely proud to see the VOXBOX be inducted into the TEC Hall of Fame, and I couldn’t be more honored for myself and everyone at Manley Labs.”
The TECnology Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will take place just before the 31st annual TEC Awards, at 4:00 PM on Saturday, January 23, 2016 in Room 202A at the Anaheim Convention Center.
January 3, 2016
Chino, CA — January 2016… Manley Labs, manufacturers of highly acclaimed professional audio tools, proudly announces the new Manley Headphone Amplifier. Designed in the finest Manley tradition and manufactured in Chino, California, the Manley Headphone Amplifier delivers a new standard of engineering that brings Manley’s legendary professional performance to the headphone listening experience.
Feature-rich and exquisitely designed, the Manley Headphone Amplifier is built for versatility, with twelve independent controls for maximum performance and flexibility. Each amplifier features proprietary hand-wound, air-gapped, dual-mode MANLEY IRON® output transformers, easily configured to drive headphone loads ranging from 12 to over 600 Ohms, and the output stage that can be switched on the fly between all-triode Push-Pull or Single-Ended topology.
Other exclusive features include a Variable Feedback switch, ultra-high Precision Stepped Relay ladder matrix volume control, fully symmetrical operation to drive balanced headphones via its XLR outputs, and a direct preamp out to feed an external power amp or powered monitor.
The Manley Headphone Amplifier features Manley’s singular, celebrated industrial design, creating a striking visual impact that matches its sonic appeal. Created by Manley VP of Engineering and Design, Zia Faruqi, it’s available in three head-turning color schemes for today’s tasteful audiophile — Champagne and White, Titanium and Bronze, or Copper and Black.
Manley Labs President and Co-Founder EveAnna Manley observes, “In recent years, we’ve noticed more and more audiophiles turning to personal headphones as a listening preference. For us, this is nothing new — our Cue Mixers have been a staple of professional recording studios for more than 20 years. And our Neo-Classic 300B Preamplifier has been a cult classic among audiophiles for just about as long. So it made perfect sense for us to take our expertise and employ it to a headphone amp that was worthy of the Manley name.”
The Manley Headphone Amplifier makes its debut at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 6-9, 2016. Visit Manley in the Venetian, Suite 29-310.
December 8, 2015
Woodland Hills, California—December 2015… With 12 Grammy Awards and more than 40 American and Latin Grammy nominations to his credit, Rafa Sardina obviously knows his stuff. The Los Angeles-based producer/mixer/engineer’s client list includes such luminaries as Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello & The Roots, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Placido Domingo, Celine Dion, Alejandro Sanz, Harry Connick, Jr., Luis Mighuel, D’Angelo, and on and on— the list seems endless. When you add his earlier engineering credits at Ocean Way and Record One Studios, the list is downright stunning. Though best known for working on pop, rock, and R&B, Sardina has recorded and mixed in almost every musical genre and every medium, including TV and major films.
You don’t work at Sardina’s level unless you have great ears, high standards, and uncompromising taste in audio equipment. Indeed, sonic quality is the biggest reason he loves Manley signal processors. “Some gear has a very specific sound but not always in a good way. It might have a use, of course, but you can’t put it on everything,” he explains. “But all my Manley processors sound great, regardless of how you use them, and they never compromise the frequencies. I use them on everything.” Reliability is another plus for Sardina. “I’ve never had issues with Manley products; they’re extremely well built,” he declares.
A fan of classic EQs, Sardina’s modern favorite is the Manley Massive Passive stereo, four-band EQ, which he describes as “like a Pultec on steroids.” “I use the Massive Passive for both tracking and mixing, and for every musical genre,” relates Sardina. “The Massive Passive is extremely versatile and allows me to be very surgical. I have a few of them, and I love to use them on stuff where I have to dig into specific frequencies to make something out of almost nothing because the original sound was not even close. And when recording orchestra, I always have a Massive Passive across my stereo bus.”
The Massive Passive is a favorite of many of Sardina’s colleagues as well. “I know a lot of engineers who use it for final mixing and scoring, and they have three Massive Passives so they can apply the same type of EQ to the full 5.1 mix,” he notes.
Sardina also makes extensive use of the Manley Variable Mu stereo limiter-compressor. “I love to use the Variable Mu for tracking bass,” he relates. “I also use it for mixing. And I always rely on it for background vocals. When we have very aggressive background vocals, I use the Variable Mu to bring the background vocals forward, and with the processing, they’re not as aggressive anymore so they sit well in the mix.”
Having used a lot of Manley gear over the years and loved it all, Sardina is eager to see what’s next. “I loved the older ELOP stereo electro-optical limiter,” he says. “I used it more as a limiter than as a compressor, especially for vocals. If Manley were to make a new product like that, I’d be all over it. I use their Gold microphones, too, and would love to try a new one.”
November 17, 2015
Los Angeles, CA — November 2015… Some engineers are known as specialists — highly focused on a particular musical genre, they’ve forged reputations as the go-to person for recording or mixing when it comes to rock, metal, hip-hop, or (insert style here). For engineer/producer Mark Needham, the answer is “all of the above.” The long-time studio pro’s discography reads like an essay in eclecticism, with credits ranging from Fleetwood Mac, Imagine Dragons, and John Hiatt to Pharoah Sanders, Taj Mahall, and Pink. Add in an extensive list of projects for film, TV, and commercials, and you’ve got a picture of a musical chameleon with an unstoppable work ethic.
Needham’s passion for the creative process is reflected in his Los Angeles studio, The Ballroom, where a tantalizing mix of vintage and bleeding-edge gear reflects his appreciation for the finest in audio tools. And prominent in his collection are several pieces of gear from Chino, California’s own Manley Labs.
“I’ve been using Manley gear since the company first started,” Needham observes. “I have a few Variable MUs, a couple of EQs, some preamps — I probably have most of the stuff they make.”
He cites his long relationship with Manley gear as an integral part of his sonic signature. “I started using Manley gear in the ‘90s, and it became part of my sound, especially in mixing and tracking.” he offers. “I cover a pretty wide range of stuff, from Chris Isaac to EDM, and I love the way that tube sound enhances it all.”
Sonic qualities are just one aspect of Needham’s choice of Manley gear. “I was drawn to their gear because it went well with my own ethos,” he explains. “Manley was a company with very high standards and they put a lot of time and thought in the products they were making. I try to put a lot of thought into the work that I do, and I gravitate toward people and companies that are like-minded.”
Needham recently got his hands on the new Manley Reference mics, and says they do not disappoint. “I’ve got two of the Reference mics and two of the Reference Gold mics,” he says. “They sound amazing. I do a lot of artist development work, and I’m producing a band called the Newsboys right now. The music is a combination of Rock and EDM — very dense arrangements, sometimes more than 150 tracks. I find the Manley Reference mic is one of the few that can cut through these very dense tracks.”
“I’ve used the Reference mics on a number of different sources, and it always sounds great,” he continues. “I’ve recorded acoustic guitars with the Reference Gold mics, and I’ve had great results with them on the 1901 Steinway I’ve been tracking. I’m about to use them to record a children’s choir in a very large church, and I’ve no doubt they will sound amazing.”
October 27, 2015
Chino, California - October 2015... Known for his hard-hitting, hit-radio-friendly tracks, Richard Chycki has engineered albums for Rush, Aerosmith, Skillet, Mick Jagger, and many more. Chycki recently teamed up with Dream Theater to engineer their thirteenth (!) album. Tracking began in February 2015, and by the time the band was ready to record vocals, Chycki had acquired a new favorite tool: the Manley Labs FORCE® four-channel microphone preamp.
The FORCE employs the same exquisite tube preamplifiers found in the award-winning Manley CORE® channel strip. Housed in a beautiful chassis, the FORCE is handcrafted, with smooth, silky rotary potentiometers; gold-plated XLR connectors; Manley IRON® Mic input transformers; and 1/4-inch direct inputs. Its power supply, also introduced in the CORE, boasts an innovative design custom developed for Manley Labs' high-voltage tube preamps. That high voltage results in high headroom-one reason Chycki was so excited about the FORCE.
"EveAnna Manley told me she had a new high-voltage tube preamp under development that was going to be pretty special, and it sounded like just what I was looking for," Chycki recalls. "Dream Theater's James LeBrie is a very dynamic vocalist, exceptionally sensitive, and with incredible power. He can break glass too! With all that power, he distorts 99 percent of mics and preamps, but the FORCE has phenomenal headroom, and it sounds spectacular on his voice. We've finally found a preamp that can keep up with him. I record James with a Blue Blueberry mic, and with that and the FORCE, his voice sounds forward, present, and clean. The producer liked the vocal sound so much he made a point of asking how I did it-a high compliment."
In Chycki's opinion, Dream Theater is an acid test for a preamp. "All of the players in Dream Theater are extremely dynamic, so if there is a weak link in the audio chain, it's going to be exposed quickly. The FORCE handles everything I've thrown at it with ease and elegance. And it's simple to operate. The seven-segment LED metering appeared unusual at first glance but I have three racks of gear, and with these meters I find it easy to keep an eye on what the FORCE is doing."
And, observes Chycki, "It's doing its job 110 percent. The band members say that this is the best that LeBrie has ever been captured-and they're all audio fanatics, so you can take that seriously. I can put the FORCE on anything, and it sounds really good: quiet, dynamic, and open."
What's next in the sessions? "After we finish the vocals, we'll do guitars and keyboard overdubs with the FORCE," Chycki replies. "I'm sure I'm going to be exceptionally pleased with the results."
September 21, 2015
Nashville, TN - September 2015... No matter what musical genres you favor, you've enjoyed F. Reid Shippen's mixes. Over the past 15 years, Shippen has mixed 10 Grammy Award-winning projects with luminaries as varied as Kenny Chesney, Jewel, Matthew West, Keith Urban, Jonny Lang, Ingrid Michaelson, and the London Symphony Orchestra. Regardless of the genre, he relies on his Manley Massive Passive two-channel, four-band passive equalizer.
"The Massive Passive is capable of doing a wide range of stuff, from things that are really subtle to some pretty hardcore music," Shippen explains. "As a mix EQ, it's everything that you want and nothing that you don't. It has stellar high and low pass filters, it's incredibily musical, and it's got a great top end that never gets harsh. You have tons of control, but if you don't need all that, it's simply a great all-around shaping tool."
Recently Shippen mixed a major Disney project with the London Symphony Orchestra, recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London. As always, he relied on his Manley Massive Passive. "It was perfect," he recalls. "Instead of trying to EQ individual instruments and sections, I ran the whole orchestra through it and shaped the entire tonality. It worked like a charm."
The Massive Passive does create one issue, however. "My current second engineer is a long-time mastering engineer, and I have to fight him for my Massive Passive," laughs Shippen. "He wants it all the time, and so do I!"
Shippen appreciates the way Manley has balanced art and science in the Massive Passive. "It's a perfect combination between modern convenience and the great, classic, sweet EQs that I love, like the Pultecs," he states. "It's probably - no, almost definitely the best analog EQ in existence."
September 2, 2015
Los Angeles, CA - August 2015... If they gave an annual award for Busiest Engineer/Producer, Niko Bolas would certainly have a shelf full of them. With a discography spanning nearly four decades, Bolas has had fingers on faders for an immense and eclectically diverse range of music, including seminal recordings like Neil Young's This Note's for You, Warren Zevon's Sentimental Hygiene, KISS' Creatures, and Melissa Ethridge's powerful debut, as well as works by Sting, Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz, CSN&Y, Keith Richards, and countless others. He's also co-founder of virtual reality innovators Fakespace Music, and former CEO of Internet radio pioneers Sonicbox.
With a reputation for crisp, keenly defined mixes and powerful, commanding vocals, Bolas is a stickler for the right microphone and the right signal path. He recently got his hands on a Reference Cardioid Mic and CORE Channel Strip from Manley Labs, and has made it clear, he's not letting go.
"A buddy of mine was working next door at Capitol on the TV show Glee, and using a Manley cardioid that EveAnna had lent them," he recounts. "When they were finished with it, they brought it over to me. I was working on a record for Richie Sambora and Orianthi, and I set it up next to one of Capitol's classic U47s. After a few minutes I called EveAnna and told her she couldn't have it back. I was buying it."
Bolas points to the Manley Reference Cardioid as the right choice for almost anything. "I'm using it on everything - vocals, acoustic guitars, amp cabs - it's just got a really nice midrange presence that doesn't hurt. I'm all about not using EQ if I don't have to - the closer I can get from mic to recording, the better. You get a really great mic, you put it in the right place, you're done." He has since used the mic on projects ranging from recording a 90-piece orchestra for Neil Young's Storytone to Demi Lovato's vocals on "Let Me Go" for the soundtrack of Frozen.
Though he works mainly out of his own Surf Shack mix room in the Capitol Studios building, Bolas cites the Manley CORE as his channel strip of choice for remote tracking, including vocals for an upcoming release by LeeAnn Rimes "I bought the CORE because it sounds great," he observes. "I can bring it with me if someone wants to finish a vocal at their house, or wherever. I set it up, plug in a mic, and I've got everything I need."
July 27, 2015
Nashville, TN - July 2015... With multiple awards and more than ninety-seven million albums sold, producer Michael Wagener's trademark sound is indelibly etched into the DNA of classic hard rock and metal. His long list of credits reads like a Who's Who of metal recordings from the 1980s through present day - from Ozzy Osborne, Mötley Crüe, Metallica, and Dokken to Skid Row, W.A.S.P., Poison, Great White, Megadeth, and more. And one of the key elements behind nearly all of Wagener's powerfully heavy mixes is Manley Labs' Massive Passive EQ.
Wagener eschews adding EQ to individual instruments while recording, preferring to get the sounds he's after during the tracking phase. "I generally record flat, without EQ," he explains, "so I only add EQ once during the final mixdown. And the Massive Passive is a big part of that final mix."
While many audio pros call on the Massive Passive as a tracking tool, Wagener swears by the high-end EQ as an intrinsic part of his final mix. "I use the Massive Passive on what I call my master chain," says Wagener. "It's on every single song I do - it's the final EQ on my final stereo mix. I love the way it sounds."
Not surprisingly, Wagener credits his mastering engineer with turning him on to Manley gear. "He had a Massive Passive and was using it on pretty much everything I would give him," he recalls. "It was obviously a part of my sound, and I finally figured it would be a good piece to integrate into my final mixes. I've had it about 18 years now, and I use it all the time."
"The Massive Passive gives me what I call my hi fi sound," Wagener concludes. "It tightens everything up, and helps everything sit nicely in the mix. It gives the mix a certain openness and gives it a really nice sheen. I have other EQs, but the Massive Passive is really my go-to mixdown EQ."
July 21, 2015
There are a number of elements that go into creating a professional and polished final mix, but one of the true essentials is the last thing that the mix sees: the stereo buss compressor. So what makes Manley’s Variable Mu stand out among the many stereo buss compressors out there? Three words: tubes, punch, and glue.
Manley’s Variable Mu is an all-tube stereo limiter/compressor that utilizes the re-biasing of vacuum tubes to achieve compression in the same manner as the renowned Fairchild 670. This distinctive system of compressionputs this unit in a class of its own sonically, which is perhaps why it’s found in countless mixing and mastering studios around the world.
Manley offers a number of modifications and versions of the Vari-Mu, and the unit I own is the Mastering Version. It comes stock with detented knobs and a high-pass side-chain filter, both features that I couldn’t live without. The rotary knobs are beneficial for a number of reasons: they are slightly higher fidelity, they allow you to match settings accurately on each side for stereo material, and they give you the ability to precisely recall settings with ease. The high-pass side-chain filter allows frequencies below 100Hz to pass through the compressor unprocessed, so that the bass isn’t driving the compression on the whole mix; this translates to punchier mixes.
A key element to consider when utilizing a stereo buss compressor is that the mix will change when the compressor is engaged. I always mix with the compressor in the signal chain so that I’m hearing and balancing what will is become the final mix. This is one of the main reasons that it’s advantageous to utilize a stereo buss compressor in your signal chain while mixing, rather than holding off for the mastering stage.
I strongly believe in the value of investing in one’s personal studio, as you only get out what you put into it, and in time, those investments will pay off. There are certainly more affordable stereo buss compressors available, many of which are great in their own ways, but I have to say that the Manley Variable Mu Mastering Version Stereo Limiter/Compressor is truly top-of-the-line, and has proven well beyond its worth in investment.
I hope this entry helps you understand the importance of stereo buss compression in the mixing process and how the Manley Vari-Mu is an extraordinary tool for creating more professional and polished final mixes. If you want to learn more about the Manley Variable Mu Limiter/Compressor, please visit Manley’s website at http://www.manley.com/mslc.php
Have any questions or comments? Feel free to leave them below.
Until next time,
July 1, 2015
Chino, CA – July 2015… Manley Labs, a leading manufacturer of high-quality, hand-built, professional audio products, announces the debut of its completely redesigned website. Featuring a contemporary look and feel, with large, beautiful graphics, the new home page invites you to dive in deeper. When you do, you'll find extensive product information, dealer contact information, news and events, and a variety of videos.
A streamlined menu structure makes it easy to navigate the new site and quickly find what you want. The Support section includes a completely rewritten FAQ with lots of useful information.
A highlight of the site is the new factory tour, a fun and highly informative video tour with company president EveAnna Manley. Not only do you learn a lot about the company, its fearless leader, and its facility in sunny Southern California, you learn a bit about tubes and how Manley chooses and uses them. It's a must-see.
"We put a lot of thought and work into this new website, and it shows," says Manley. "The site is loaded with content, and we're adding more. Now our customers can find the information they want quickly and easily, and they can get a sense of who we are as a company."
Please visit the new website at www.manley.com.
June 1, 2015
Chino, CA - June 2015... Manley Labs, a leading manufacturer of high-quality hand-built professional audio products, has announced the engagement of six new rep firms to handle the company's unprecedented growth.
Manley welcomes TechRep Marketing as the company's representatives for Michigan, the Ohio Valley, and the Southeastern US. The New York, Northeast, and Washington, DC areas are now covered by Duncan Sales. On Track Products now represents Manley in the Chicago area, as well asWisconsin, Minnesota, and the Dakotas. JMSMarketing now covers Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska. The Western States, including California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, and Hawaii, are now covered by LVX Marketing, and Goldsmith Sales is the new Manley rep for the Pacific Northwest.
"With the exceptional growth of Manley Labs in the last year, it has become increasingly important for us to have the highest caliber of representation available within the professional audio industry, and for our customers to have access to the gear they need," observes Rick McClendon, Manley Labs VP of Sales and Marketing. "With these new changes, we're confident that our products are represented by some of the most knowledgeable pros available, anywhere."
"Manley Labs is one of the undisputed leaders in audio and recording technology, and their gear has been a part of so many amazing recordings," adds John Hernandez of LVX Marketing. "We're thrilled to be able to offer legendary Manley quality to our clients and customers."
For more information on TechRep, visit techrepmarketing.com, call 877-836-TECH, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For On Track Products, visit ontrackproducts.com, or email Danny Kent, email@example.com. For Duncan Sales, email Bob Duncan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Info on Goldsmith Sales can be found at goldsmithsales.com, or email Mike Smith at email@example.com. For more on JMS Marketing, visit them at jmsmarketing.com or email Joe Martin, firstname.lastname@example.org. And email John Hernandez of LVX Marketing at email@example.com.
April 30, 2015
Chino, CA – April 2015… If you've seen such movies as Ruby Sparks and The Mechanic or TV shows like Once Upon a Time, Beauty and the Beast, and Crash, you've enjoyed Jason LaRocca's music recording and score mixing mastery. You also enjoyed the sound of his Manley Variable MU® Stereo Limiter Compressor.
"I use the Variable MU all the time on all the TV shows, films, and records I work on," enthuses LaRocca. "It just sounds great. I have the Mastering version with the High-Pass Side Chain mod and T-Bar mod. Most people use it for mixing and mastering, and I do that, too, but I use it even more to compress instruments on the way in during tracking."
Committing to processing during tracking seems like an old-school approach. Today, it's more common to track dry and process later. "True, it is old school," responds LaRocca, "But I know what I want to hear, and the Variable MU is such a musical sounding box that I don't need to wait. If you know what you're going for, you can go ahead and compress on the way in. In fact, after compressing with the Variable MU, the tracks are recorded so well that they feel done before I mix in my DAW. They sound great. And when I do mix, I use the Variable MU on the 2-track."
The Mastering Version of the Variable MU Limiter Compressor incorporates detented steps and expensive Greyhill rotary switches with gold contacts. The steps are determined with a large number of 1% precision metal film resistors. The ten-fold improvement in precision helps a great deal in left-right matching. There is a subtle audible improvement with stepped switches, as well.
The High Pass Side Chain mod comes stock on all regular and mastering Variable MU Limiter Compressors. It adds two switches to the front panel, one for each channel, so that when engaged, the side chain will not respond to frequencies lower than 100 Hz. (Other frequencies can be custom ordered.) This mod can be used on music with heavy bass lines or bass-heavy mixes where you don't want the bass driving the whole action of the compressor.
The T-Bar mod uses a pair of 6BA6 pentode tubes, wired as single triodes, to replace the obsolete 6386 tubes in earlier Variable MU units or to convert later 5670-based units to have the smoother limiting characteristics of the original 6386.
LaRocca says that few pieces of gear these days really make a difference. "Plug-ins are really good now, and few things are worth spending a lot of money on," he insists. "But the Manley Variable MU is always useful, and I always like what it does. It holds the mix together. In sound tracks and when recording orchestras, there isn't a lot of room for color; you're trying to capture the music in its purest state. But the Variable MU lets me add a bit of color in a musical way."
What else is on LaRocca's short list of gear that makes a difference? "The Manley Massive Passive is next on my list. I want several of them."
May 28, 2015
Southern California, September 2014... Recording tracks remotely has long since ceased to be a novelty, with the old studio quip about someone "phoning in their part" now a commonplace reality. In today's connected digital world, the importance of a great sounding front end recording chain has become more important than ever before. Manley Labs' CORE has been created for just that purpose.
Recently, a stellar group of musicians came together remotely to illustrate that point. Documented on video, drummer Kenny Aronoff (John Mellencamp, Elton John, Bob Seeger) lays down a rock-solid groove at his own Uncommon Studios in North Hollywood, Ca, recording his snare through the new Manley CORE channel strip. The drums are part of a new track, "I've Been Waiting All My Life," composed by bassist/producer James Lomenzo (Megadeth, White Lion).
Guitarist Devon Pangle (Asking Alexandra, John Fogerty) tracks his Les Paul through another CORE at Wood Works Studio in nearby Burbank, with Lomenzo recording his bass through the CORE at his own Monster House Productions Reck Room in Hollywood. Singer Chas West (Bonham, Tribe of Gypsies, Foreigner) cuts a smoking vocal track at Lomenzo's other Monster House Productions studio in Studio City, also via the Manley CORE.
The CORE is an innovative channel strip that combines Manley's Greatest Hits with fresh technology. Beginning with the same highly acclaimed Class A Preamp circuitry found in the Manley VOXBOX®, Dual Mono, and Mono Microphone Preamplifiers, the CORE integrates Manley's unique compression, limiting, and equalization circuitries into a powerful integrated package that delivers Manley's inimitable sonic signature, at a surprisingly reasonable price.
Designed for today's musicians, the CORE's intuitive yet feature-rich front panel allows you to concentrate on your creativity and performance without being submerged in a sea of knobs and switches. No matter what the source, no matter where you record, the CORE makes it easier than ever to cut a great sounding track.