Men, Women, and…Vacuum Tubes
The following is an interview with EveAnna Manley given to Class A magazine in Moscow, Russia. This interview has been translated from the Russian article from the June, 1998 issue of Class A magazine.
Class A (hereafter C.A.) EveAnna! I hope you won't mind to make another interview for our magazine. I have already spoken with all the rest of High End makers on this show, so your part will be kind of dessert. A whole year passed since we've been talking last time in Sofitel. What kind of things happened during that period at Manley Labs?
EveAnna Manley (hereafter E.M.): Well, things were going as usual, no big changes. David keeps wandering around the world since he left the factory couple of years ago, I'm doing business alone. We make both professional and home equipment. With regards to latter there is a new Manley amplifier I've brought with me to this show. It's the "Stingray".
C.A.: Was this project conceived especially for Moscow High End Show, or it was just a coincidence you released it just before the show started?
E.M.: Surely it was planned to be a Moscow debut: we couldn't make it to finish Stingray before Las-Vegas show (laughs).
C.A.: And what is very special about this little amplifier?
E.M.: First of all, its unusual appearance. It's got the six-sided chassis, and I believe that it was very nice idea not only for design, but also for optimal internal layout. As to circuitry, it's all the same traditional Manley schematics, proved for years, short signal paths, thick conductors, right grounding, etc. Initially it was made in ultralinear mode, but Misha (Kucherenko) forced me to rewire it into triode mode. We actually have also just developed brand new output transformers and a new input stage just to throw a little twist at the traditional. To tell you a truth, I like very much how Stingray sounds on this show. I was asked many times to make a good sounding miniature tubed integrated, and although I intended to use 5881 tubes, distributors convinced me EL84 is the better choice for what they want. I now agree.
C.A.: What else You plan to start manufacturing in nearest future?
E.M.: I have an idea to create a combination of a high quality D/A converter and multi-featured preamplifier. I have no doubts that many audiophiles will take it with enthusiasm.
C.A.: Obviously the D/A converter part will be using UltraAnalog chips?
E.M.: Yes. It's been my preference since I tried this company's production for the first time. By the way it was UltraAnalog A/D converter chip developed for professional equipment. I believe that no any other company but UltraAnalog succeeded in achieving resolution this high. The digital filter will be Pasific Microsonics, not only for HDCD, actually more because it's really the best digital filter in the world by now.
C.A.: I heard that the current situation on the High End market all around the world is not very good. How would You comment such a rumors?
E.M.: I'm afraid it's truth. Many American companies are facing a real bad times, some of them even shut down. An East Asia crisis created all this.
C.A.: You say, even High End could suffer of crisis?!
E.M.: Off course. A main market of many American companies was based on East Asia. That's why when a number of local High End manufacturers started rising and their cheap production flooded the market, American production sales decreased vastly. Only those who were working mostly for American market are doing well. As to Manley, we are completely safe because our income in a large degree is based on professional studio equipment. But the East Asia crisis is not the only reason of High End industry confusion which is taking place in the whole world nowadays. If ten years ago you could count tube equipment manufacturers around the world by the fingers on your two hands, now there are many hundreds of them. The competition is fierce. Besides, American dealer system is very far from being any good.
A qualified dealer is not very often seen in the High End stores. Most of the dealers are hardly making ends meet, they suspend the payments to manufacturers, let alone giving sufficient promotion for the new products. And the customers are looking embarrassed too: the fashion changes quickly, the only thing which remains the same is hysterical passion of changing something in one's home audio system, no matter if it makes the sound better or worse. What really matters is the fact of change itself. Who cares for music now! Everyone only listens to the SOUNDS of music. So many customers got lost in myriads of High End companies and models, while dealers are quite unable to give them a qualified advice how to build a good audio system or what is to be changed in it to make it better. Many dealers only try so hard to milk as much money from the customer as they can. That's why they promote various silly tricks, forcing the client to lay down another bunch of bank notes. Remember, a couple of years ago audiophile people would think you are a complete idiot if only your preamplifier did not have a balanced input! Doesn't that sounds ridiculous taking in account the fact that having an already good sounding system it's painstakingly hard to improve it further, and balanced input does not have anything to do with a real quality of sound! In many cases it just adds another device in the signal path.
There are no universal remedies in High End world, what works good in one system might be disaster for another. All this makes High End enthusiasts embarrassed, some of them ended up with having purchased a tubed amplifier from East Asia unknown company just because it's cheaper than a really good one made by American company with good name and great experience. They say: "These dealers in the stores bullshit me. They can't prove their production sounds better. I'd rather save my money than let the bastards make money on me!" This is a result of what mediocre dealers can do even having a good product to sell. They can not give a good product appropriate exposure it deserves.
C.A.: So You have the same well known problem with dealers in America. And the same old law of real life works - the mediocrity survives, although if we take it logically, in the world of fare competition bad dealers should go and good ones stay. Why does not it happen this simple way?
E.M.: I wish I knew! In any case those companies are right which rely on dealing with distributors instead of dealers. Again, if we compare home and professional equipment manufacturing, the latter differs pretty much: our clients in this case are professional musicians and sound engineers, they are buying not a toy, but an instrument they make their living with. That's why dealers in this area care much more about their product and pay more attention to their customers without trying to fool them.
C.A.: Do you think one could find the way to cure the current situation in High End Audio industry you pictured?
E.M.: I think, there must be such a way, and audiophile press should play first role in a process of recreation a good name of High End Audio. Actually, it's a duty of the press because the press is sometimes responsible for making false sensations around so many useless tricks and provoking a vicious passion of ongoing and never-ending changes in home system components when really, we all need to get back to the real issue here: the music.
C.A.: Thank you very much for your sincerity. Good luck and see you at the next show with more Manley products.