We debuted to the world a killer frikkin' cool phono stage at CES 2001. It was called, aquatic naming theme continuing, The Steelhead®, as it is an "upstream" device and has a very clever MC variable load auto tranny that we designed and our very own Manley Magnetics department executed (which makes the MC stage so very clever).

Iron=transformer="steel" makes sense to me...

It has two Moving Coil inputs with selectable impedance load 25, 50, 100, 200 and 400 Ohms via Mr. Clever "Steelhead" transformer/autoformer. It also has variable and selectable Moving Magnet input impedances too 25, 50, 100, 200 Ohms and 47 kOhms. Very nifty is the selectable-dial-able-in-able-from-the-faceplate-able capacitive loading for all three of the MM & MC inputs 0 to 1100 picofarads in 10 picofarad steps. Very cool! Equalize baby! TEN picofarad steps! Wow! Now you can really dial this in for perfect cartridge matching with ZERO penalty. None of this switching detracts from the sound quality or adds any extra anything to the signal path. Rest assured.

It's got six tubes. 2 x 6922 plus 4 x 7044 or 5687. It's got a big honkin' volume control. It can drive an amplifier directly if you want, if you don't "do" digital. Hey and if you happen to have three turntables set up, we give you 2 x MC and 1 x MM selectable inputs! It's got variable and fixed volume outputs. And All-tube really low Z tube buffered outputs. Like inherently 20 Ohms plus the little 47 Ohm "OK drive those high capacitance audiophile cables why doncha" resistor, so it's real output impedance is only 67 Ohms. No wanky cathode follower (oh bor-ing) output here like the other guys. We got your real low impedance all-tube outputs right here! It will drive anything and everything. Long cables, no problem.

It's got selectable gain 50, 55, 60, 65dB on a switch that even auto-mutes as you change it so no nasty bangs. Gain switch markings are referred to from the input of the 1st active electronics at 1 kHz to the fixed output @ 10k load, regardless of whether source is MM or XFMR stepped-up MC. It is not really practical to include MC step-up gain on the front panel markings due to the variable SOURCE impedances of the MC cartridges and the variable LOADING that the input XFMR will have on any given cartridge. All of this total MC gain variability should be confined to about 3 to 12 dB of range though. XFMR step-up gain plateaus as the load Z on a given MC cartridge is optimised...producing no VOLTAGE gain but in fact a bit more POWER gain... All this means you should set a load Z which sounds best with your particular MC cartridge and adjust gain to suit your system's operating level. Whatever you like. You will not blow anything up.

(Bottom line: there is plenty of gain... enough to do justice to your fave lo-output MC cartridges). 

It's got a mute switch. It's got a "just turn it down while I cue up so I don't throw my woofer cones across the room but I still want the same volume I was listening at before I flipped the side" DIM switch. And what goes with DIM better than SUM which would be the MONO button... It has a killer hyper-regulated outboard power supply that plugs in on the huge-est connector you ever saw. And you can just hit the "standby" button to keep everybody off while you take a small holiday to Tahiti. A backlit "MANLEY STEELHEAD" illuminated badge reflects back to vinyl-days-of-yore while the millions of BLUE LEDs remind you that this is modern tube engineering design, baby!

The VARIABLE Outputs are controlled by the precision film dual NOBLE® volume control. They are SMOOTH action these days as the fashion went against the detented ones.

This is a tweak-o-holic tube-lover's dream....

Get a detailed circuitry tour of The Steelhead!


Product Update 5-2003

OK now the secret is out... there's a new Steelhead version shipping. Let's call it Steelhead Version 2. Version 2 has a LINE input as standard. This means you can drive your amplifiers directly from the Steelhead's Variable Outputs and select whether you are listening to the Steelhead phono stage or any LINE source (CD, SACD, Tape, Tuner, a whole 'nuther preamplifier's main line output, or better yet, use a Manley SKIPJACK to add up to 4 more LINE inputs into your Steelhead!) This feature turns the hifi world upside down. It is novel.

Other features on Version 2:

  • LINE input comes after RIAA stage, but before the volume control and Variable output white follower buffer. New button on faceplate selects LINE input or built in RIAA stage. Version 2 has FIVE push buttons, not four. 
  • Clever new anti-RFI grounding options user selectable via dip switches on back for those in high Radio Frequency Interference zones. If you are picking up a local radio station through your system, try playing with these switches.
  • DIN MC2 connector has been scrapped. Now MC2 input is another pair of RCA's.
  • Additional pair of RCA's added for those bi-amping or driving amps and a subwoofer directly from the Variable Outputs. This second set of outputs is wired in parallel to the Variable Outputs. If you need them wired to the Direct Outputs, we can do that too upon request.
  • SMOOTH action volume control (not detented)
  • Badge illumination changed to nice looking white LEDs which will never burn out.
  • Output Muting relays changed to short outputs if power is turned off.
  • STANDBY button now called SLEEP
  • Audio (audible) circuitry remains the same as Version 1 and Version 1.5.
  • As of 11/2005 the PSU will have a BLUE LED instead of a RED one. Because you asked.



  • Vacuum tube complement: 6922 SOVTEK Russian x 2 (gain) plus JAN NOS GE 7044 or 5687 x 4 (output buffers)
  • Fuse type and ratings @ 117 VAC operation: 1.5 Amp 3AG slow-blow mains fuse 0.5 Amp 3AG slow-blow logic fuse
  • Fuse type and ratings @ 230 VAC operation: 0.75 Amp 3AG slow-blow mains fuse 0.25 Amp 3AG slow-blow logic fuse
  • Moving Magnet input impedance: 5-step user adjustable via fixed low-noise resistors. 25, 50, 100, 200 and 47000 Ohms.
  • Moving Coil input impedance: 5-step user adjustable via multi-tap autoformer: 25, 50, 100, 200 and 400 Ohms.
  • Input Termination Capacitance: Front Panel Selectable in 10 picofarad steps from 10 to 1100 pF (1.1nF) Residual input capacitance less than 40 pF.
  • Gain: 4-step user adjustable, 50, 55, 60 and 65 dB active gain at 1 kHz referred to the FIXED output jack into a 10 kOhm load. Additional gain available via the MC input's step-up autoformer. See Owner's Manual for discussion.
  • Deviation from RIAA curve: Less than +0.5 / -0.3 dB from 20 Hz to 20 kHz at any gain setting. Typically less than ±1 dB from 10 Hz to 100 kHz
  • Inter-channel differential phase: Less than 4 degrees from 20 Hz to 20 kHz at any gain setting. Typically less than 2 degrees.
  • Inter-channel differential gain: Less than ±0.5 dB from 20 Hz to 20 kHz at any gain setting.
  • Dynamic Range: 101 dB @ 1 kHz, 1% THD measured with 200 Ohm source, 47 kOhm input, @ 55dB Gain 97 dB @ 1 kHz, 0.1% THD
  • THD: 0.0042% at 1V output @1kHz 
  • Maximum LINE input level: +30.6dBu @ 1KHz for an output of +29.3dBu @ 0.07% THD 26.5Vrms @ 1KHz for an output of 22.8Vrms @ 0.07% THD
  • Maximum Output: +27dBm @ 1KHz with 3% THD into 100 kOhm load
  • FIXed Output impedance: 150 Ohms. Minimum suggested load greater than 1500 Ohms.
  • VARIable Output impedance: 75 Ohms. Minimum suggested load greater than 600 Ohms.

MM Noise (S+N+D) / (N+D)
200 Ohm source, 47 kOhm input,
A-weighted Referred to 2.54 mV, rms @ 1 kHz

Gain Setting 50dB = Fixed Output 86dB = Variable Output 108dB, 99dB, 86dB (9:00, 12:00, VC FULL)
Gain Setting 55dB = Fixed Output 84dB = Variable Output 108dB, 99dB, 85dB (9:00, 12:00, VC FULL)
Gain Setting 60dB = Fixed Output 80dB = Variable Output 108dB, 94dB, 80dB (9:00, 12:00, VC FULL)
Gain Setting 65dB = Fixed Output 75dB = Variable Output 108dB, 89dB, 75dB (9:00, 12:00, VC FULL)


MC Noise (S+N+D) / (N+D)
100 Ohm source, 100 Ohm input,
A-weighted Referred to 0.5 mV, rms @ 1 kHz and rated Input Z

Gain Setting 50dB = Fixed Output 84dB = Variable Output 108dB, 98dB, 85dB (9:00, 12:00, VC FULL)
Gain Setting 55dB = Fixed Output 80dB = Variable Output 108dB, 95dB, 81dB (9:00, 12:00, VC FULL)
Gain Setting 60dB = Fixed Output 75dB = Variable Output 108dB, 90dB, 76dB (9:00, 12:00, VC FULL)
Gain Setting 65dB = Fixed Output 70dB = Variable Output 108dB, 85dB, 71dB (9:00, 12:00, VC FULL)


Specifications subject to change because they just might.



Pinout for the DIN MC2 input on Version 1 and 1.5 ONLY (Version 2 changed to RCA connectors)

The pinout of the DIN on the Steelhead Version 1 and 1.5 was not in the manual! Shoot. 
The pinout reads 1,4,2,5,3 if you are looking from the rear face from left to right (clockwise)

  • Pin 1: red left high +
  • Pin 2: ground
  • Pin 3: white right high +
  • Pin 4: green left low -
  • Pin 5: blue right low -

Power consumption: 100 watts

Outboard Power Supply: is factory set for 100V, 120V or 220-240VAC operation for original destination country's mains voltage.

Operating Mains Voltage: 120 to 240VAC operation changeable with power transformer re-wiring via internal switch and fuse value change. 100VAC operation changeover achieved via rewiring of power transformer PCB.

Mains Voltage Frequency: 50~ 60Hz

Unit weight: Steelhead: 15 lbs. - PSU: 18 lbs.

Chassis dimensions: Steelhead: 19 wide x 3.5 tall x 15.5 deep - PSU: 13.5 wide x 4.5 tall x 11.375 deep


Minimum mounting allocation footprint including all projecting parts and controls:

Steelhead: 19 wide x 4.125 tall x 18 deep - (allow an additional 6 inches depth for PSU umbilical cord projecting out in the center) - PSU: 13.5 wide x 4.625 tall x 12.5 deep - (allow an additional 6 inches depth for PSU umbilical cord projecting out in the left)

Rear view of Version 2 Steelhead showing cable spread measurements:

  • Your phono input cables need to be able to spread 9" apart.
  • Your LINE input RCA cables need to be able to spread 12.250" apart.
  • Your Output cables need to be able to spread 15" apart.
  • The chassis itself is 17" wide. The faceplate is 19" wide.

Here is a picture of the Steelhead Power Supply. You can hide it somewhere out of the way.As of November 2005 the PSU has a BLUE LED instead of a RED one. Because you asked.


Note: The fancy power cord shown here was for photography only and is not the standard IEC power cord that comes with the unit. A nondescript power cord selected for the appropriate country the unit is shipped to comes with the Steelhead and every Manley product that plugs into the wall. We expect that most audiophiles throw away our "plain-jane" power cord and replace it with an overpriced audiophile mains cable. The gray captive umbilical cord that connects the power supply to the audio chassis is not shown in the picture above. You cannot replace that part anyway as it is married to the power supply. Only the mains IEC cable is upgradable and replaceable by the user.



FAQ #1: The Steelhead is unbalanced. Why can't I have balanced outputs?

Yes the Steelhead is entirely a single-ended design. The circuitry uses single-ended topology. In order to be able to provide balanced outputs we would have to convert the signal to balanced using something like some IC's or transformers. Both these options would add more "stuff" to the signal and be certainly audible detracting from the pure sound the Steelhead provides. If you are driving a balanced preamp or balanced amplifier with the Steelhead, check to see if you also have unbalanced inputs, change your cables and go with that. You might be pleasantly surprised that they too added extra audible "stuff" in order to provide balanced inputs and the RCAs that don't have that extra "stuff" in the signal path actually sound better. (Depends on a given unit's specific design.) Or use some RCA to XLR adaptors. Most balanced gear has no problem being driven single ended but check with the manufacturer if they are going to want the negative pin 3 of the XLR grounded or floating. Transformer-coupled XLR jacks always can be driven single-ended by running HOT into Pin 2 and grounding pin 3 to pin 1. Some IC coupled XLR inputs will want pin 3 floating, others will require it to be grounded when running single-ended into it. Check with the manufacturer of your gear to see how to hook it up single-ended.

FAQ #2: The MM circuitry by-passes the auto-transformers?

Yes it does. MM comes in AFTER the autoformers.

FAQ #3 Why are there three ground connectors? Does the user have to connect the bridged one or not?

There are two ground points available (circuit ground and chassis ground) and there is a 3rd big gold chassis ground connector there for flexibility. In my system I do leave the chassis ground hooked up to the circuit ground (I do keep the link hooked up between the little green and black binding posts). And that link should normally be left connected. But sometimes, in some systems, for troubleshooting system humming it is handy to be able to isolate different ground points and play around with things. 

The BIG gold binding post is another CHASSIS ground. It certainly is convenient having another free chassis ground access for grounding my tonearm, motor housing, and spindle, for example.

Experiment and play around. There is no right or wrong to how lowest noise levels get achieved except whatever configuration gets the hum and buzzes level in your system down the most is what is right.

I have a TNT HR-X at home and had to run a ground from the TT spindle to a screw on the top of the motor housing to quiet a buzz. The other ground goes from the TT arm-ground to The Steelhead's big gold ground post. In addition I also had to run a ground link from my WAVE preamp to the Steelhead.

I found the best grounding path for my whole system by experimenting first with the mains 3-prong grounds using cheater plugs to kill off system hum, then I used clip leads (or bare wire) to touch between different elements in my system to find out who wanted to be grounded to whom and kill out the buzzes.

Every system is different. Every room is different. Every piece of gear in your system can influence system noise levels, so always explore grounding options whenever you add anything into your system, yes, even changing cables...

Keep playing with those grounds, especially the 3rd pin mains grounds (earth). Usually your system will only want ONE piece of gear grounded into the wall or else you'll have ground loops.

Simplify the system to test. Unplug everything and try just one TT/arm, Steelhead, to amps. Check your hum level. Then add more gear in, listen to hum each time. Experiment with additional ground wires between chassis and CD player. Only make one change at a time and you will find the quietest solution for your system.

FAQ #3a The Steelhead is humming! I am going to measure the ripple on the PSU caps. 

Hi John,

I doubt it is a PSU ripple issue but you are welcome to look at things and here are the schematics to assist you.

Again, every time I run into these things it is usually a system problem. I can't tell you how many times after I have changed something, I have dragged in gear from my house to the factory only to be shown it works perfectly and I have a system grounding or radiation issue. I have learned.... and I have seen many things in my nearly 20 years dealing with THIS tube gear.

This is exactly what I would do and what I do when I am going through a system:

When looking for these things you have to start with the simplest system you can create. When I am looking for system ground hum, first I unplug everything. All mains cables from walls, ALL interconnect ICs from all gear. Note that gear that is "turned off" might just be sleeping. UNPLUG the AC mains from the wall to assure that it is really out of the system.

Start from fresh. Start from scratch. Do not presume that a Steelhead will behave the same way your last phono stage did with regards to induction and ground currents.

Clear the head and work methodically.

Plug in one amplifier and one speaker. No input (or shorted input). Assure it is hum-free. Just that.

Check the other amp and speaker in isolation. Quiet? Good.

Add ONLY the ICs to the Steelhead. Do not turn on the Steelhead. Do not plug the PSU into the wall yet. Do not have any inputs or TT grounds connected. Just the chassis of the Steelhead connected to ICs to amps. Listen to each amp. Still Quiet? Good. Now plug the Steelhead PSU into the wall. Listen for hum. Any change? Look at mains grounds situation. Try one amp grounded and everyone else floating. The other amp. Just the Steelhead grounded. Float everyone. Try it all.

Turn on Mr. Steelhead. Any change? Line input hums? Variable outs? Fixed outs? MC in? MC2 in? MM in? Hums changes with Gain changes? Hums differently with open input vs. dummy loaded input or shorted input? Step by step try each and every thing and listen. Now add ONE cartridge input and a TT ground. Listen to the effect of the ground. Listen to one channel only? Still humming? Maybe not? Add the other cartridge input IC to Steelhead. Try another set of ICs? Get a bare wire and touch Steelhead chassis to different points on TT. Pick up the Steelhead unit and physically move it around. Any change?

Lastly, sub another Steelhead PSU. Then head unit? 

Two Steelheads will not both be defectively humming. There is little chance of that....

Please try these things. Step by step and be methodical... let me know.


Hi EveAnna and Mike,

My profound thanks to you both for the outstanding support and interest that you have shown in the problem I encountered with hum in my audio system. In the end the culprit turned out to be the mains filter that I was using, although quite why I am not sure - possibly it degraded the supply waveform and got into the low noise stages that way. Be that as it may, removing it and plugging straight into my mains supply cleared the hum totally.

For the record, I never thought that the Steelhead would produce any hum at all, I merely thought that my particular unit had developed a problem, such as a faulty voltage regulator or some such.

The mains filter in question is one that was given to me by a friend who was improving his system. It is of unspecified manufacture, and now resides in my scrap bin.

Unfortunately it has wasted a lot of time for each of us, and for this I must apologise. The exercise has however assured me that I could not have bought a better product, that was better supported anywhere in the world, and I congratulate you on your fine achievements. 

With best wishes and, grateful thanks 

John Bonnard.

FAQ #4: Why did you decide to have a DIN input for the second MC on the older Steelhead's? Are there any other differences between the two MC inputs? I see they are both RCA jacks on the Version 2 Steelheads.

There are no differences between the DIN and the RCA MC's except I love to see the negative side of a cartridge lead NOT carried along the shield of an RCA! The DIN connector offered a tasty way to avoid that, but since NOBODY took advantage of that feature, in the Version 2 units we scrapped the DIN and just provides a second set of MC RCA's since that's what everybody wanted.

FAQ#5: What are those two little boards between the tubes board and the front panel?

They hold the RIAA EQ circuitry which is calibrated and adjusted for nearly perfect matching.

FAQ#6: I heard from a dealer that the Steelhead's loading switching adds all kinds of crap to the circuit and I should buy this other preamp that doesn't have all the switching. Is that true?

That is total BULLSHIT and stupid rumour mongering put out there by the dealer trying to sell you the other thing he has in stock instead. The switching is all done on sealed gold contact Grayhill switches, located right where the switching is being done. We use those long shafts from the faceplate back to where the loading is done so the signal isn't traveling for long distances on the PCB. It is passive switching of taps on the autoformer for the MC loading, resistors for the MM impedance loading, and capacitors for the capacitive loading. The inherent total input capacitance in the Steelhead, including its internal wiring is less than a paltry 40 picofarads, much less than your interconnects probably are, not that most wire manufacturers could actually tell you what the capacitance per foot of their wire actually is.

We chose the internal hookup wire that we use inside the Steelhead after receiving many samples of quite a few high end cables and measuring them. We chose the one with the least capacitance per foot that we could find, 8pF per foot if memory serves me right. That is LOW. You wouldn't believe how high some audiophile cables go. No wonder they sound "euphoric"...

Read the Owner's Manual where this topic is discussed in greater detail. And just listen to these preamps yourself to make the right decision over believing everything or anything some salesman might tell you. Uhm, and especially when the salesman is not even a Manley dealer! Duh!

FAQ #7 Why did you decide to have the "sum" switch active only on the variable output? I feel it works MUCH better than a normal "mono" switch on a preamp...

There is a good answer for this: the signal between the RIAA and the first white follower FIXED output is direct coupled and does NOT have a DC blocking capacitor in the way. There is many volts of DC there and so you cannot do the mono of the audio there. The DC gets blocked off by the MutiCaps to go into the volume control and then into the second white follower for the Variable output. It is at the DC-free point near the volume control that we can and do perform the SUM function. 

FAQ #8 What's the deal with the new LINE input? Do I also need another preamp? 

On the Version 2 Steelheads, which is what ships now, there is a LINE input. So yes, you can run 2 channels of SACD, CD, TUNER, TAPE, audio output from your TV, or whatever line source into it. That's 2 channels meaning one source LEFT and RIGHT. 

You can even run another preamplifier's outputs into it. So when you hit that LINE button, you are selecting either the phono stage output in the Steelhead (same as FIXED OUT) or whatever is plugged into the LINE input. From there it goes to volume control and then a high current low impedance vacuum tube White Follower output, the VARIABLE OUTS. That Steelhead driving amps direct is the total killer setup.

The VARIABLE OUTPUT is the common thing here. The Variable Output consists of the Noble®volume control and great sounding tube White Follower high current low impedance output stage. I think this output stage sounds awesome. It's my fave. We use this same stage in a lot of our products. No whimpy plain-jane high output impedance cathode follower. This is a White Follower we're talking about!

The LINE button is selecting whether you are listening to the phono section of the Steelhead or your LINE input to drive the volume control and White Follower Variable output. I don't let anything get in between this Variable Output and my amplifiers. (Except the cables...)

You would only need another line preamp if you *need* more gain. With most digital DAC/CD/SACD players' outputs being 2V and up, and with all the gain available in the Steelhead, unless you have very insensitive amplifiers driving very insensitive speakers, you have more than enough gain already to drive most amplifiers to full power, so the last thing you need is more gain. What you really need is attenuation, which is what a volume control is. See? It's a novel concept that I am surprised no one else has copped onto yet.

Soooooooooooooo....... if you don't need more gain, and you just need more LINE inputs, get a Manley SKIPJACK to add more LINE inputs into your Steelhead!

FAQ#8a Can you please expand upon this LINE input subject and the GAIN issue? My [other] preamp is "louder" that this cool Steelhead setup you described above.

OK. You asked for it:

Discussion of the LINE input and LEVELS in general:

Note: If your XLR's out of your CD/DVD/SACD player are balanced, they could be 6dB more level than the unbalanced RCA outputs. This is the nature of balanced vs. unbalanced. This would "sound just a little less than twice as loud". Right there.

Then of course your line preamplifier you are feeding from your CD/DVD/SACD XLR's has "X" amount of gain. "Unity Gain" on that piece could be anywhere on the volume control, depending on the design of that piece.

The Steelhead's UNbalanced LINE input goes into the Volume Control and then it goes through the White Follower Output Buffer and then it goes out by the RCA UNbalanced Variable Outputs. The White Follower has about -0.9 dB (-5%) of gain. Thus with volume full up/open there will be a -0.9 dB reduction in gain of the signal. 0dB of Gain would be "Unity Gain". -0.9 dB reduction is very very close to Unity Gain, in fact most people would not be able to hear a -0.9 dB of gain difference, so for all intents and purposes, just call "Unity Gain" for the LINE input on the Steelhead to be with the volume control fully open all the way. The Steelhead will not ever amplify the voltage of the LINE signal feeding it. The Volume control will only attenuate the signal as you turn it down from full up.

Please read FAQ#6414 on our FAQ page concerning volume controls and how you should not be concerned about where the pointer is sitting. Go read that FAQ#6414 on our FAQ page and then come back and continue here....

So of course the 6dB louder balanced XLR send feeding your "gain-y" other line preamp will "be louder" in comparison to the Steelhead.

There are several factors about whether you have enough gain in your whole system to be able to use the outputs from the Steelhead directly into your amps:

Output level of cartridge? (affects phono only) 
Gain setting on Steelhead 50, 55, 60, or 65dB? (affects phono only) 
MC or MM and what loading with what cartridge? 
Output level of CD/DVD/SACD player? 
Balanced or UNbalanced? 
Where do you have the Steelhead volume control? 
Input sensitivity of amplifiers? 
Efficiency of loudspeakers? 
Room size? 
Expected listening volume? 
Various levels recorded to the record/CD/DVD/SACD you are listening to? 
Various amounts of limiting and/or compression applied during mastering to the record/CD/DVD/SACD you are listening to?

There are also some other factors, but we'll just stick with these ones for now.

If the following is going on:

LOW Output level of cartridge for example 0.2mV (affects phono only) 
50dB Gain setting on Steelhead (affects phono only) 
Resistive Overloading cartridge going into MM input (throwing away volts right there by mis-match). (affects phono only) 
LOW Output level of CD/DVD/SACD player for example 2V DFS
UNBALANCED (by nature of the Steelhead) 
10 o' clock on the Steelhead volume control (because you have a fear of going past 11). 
LOW Input sensitivity of amplifiers for example 3V
LOW Efficiency of loudspeakers for example 84dB
BIG Room size for example 25 x 30 x 14
POUNDING Expected listening volume for example 120dB
LOW levels recorded to the record/CD/DVD/SACD you are listening to
NOT A LOT of limiting and/or compression applied during mastering to the record/CD/DVD/SACD you are listening to.

Then it might be possible you need more gain in the system, like a line preamp following the Steelhead with 15 to 20 dB of gain. Or you might just get by with the Steelhead running his volume control at 3 to 5 o'clock and not worry about blowing anything up because you read that FAQ#6414. That is, if the final listening level is loud enough for you. All this can be calculated, but I'm not going to do bunches of math for you right now.

If the following is going on:

DECENT Output level of cartridge for example 0.7mV (affects phono only) 
65dB Gain setting on Steelhead (affects phono only) 
Resistive Overloading cartridge going into MM input (throwing away volts right there by mis-match). (affects phono only) 
UNBALANCED (by nature of the Steelhead) 
3 o' clock on the Steelhead volume control (because you have no more fear about where the volume control sits because now you have read FAQ#6414). 
HIGH Output level of CD/DVD/SACD player for example 6V DFS
HIGH Input sensitivity of amplifiers for example 0.775V
HIGH Efficiency of loudspeakers for example 100dB >br?TINY Room size for example 10 x 12
LOW Expected listening volume for example 85dB
HOT levels recorded to the record/CD/DVD/SACD
A TON of limiting and/or compression applied during mastering to the record/CD/DVD/SACD

Then, without running all the calculations, I would bet your volume control would be barely cracked open, like at 9 o'clock, under that scenario, and your ears would be bleeding.

So now that I have explained all this to you, it will be up to you to understand your system gain properties and see if you will have enough gain to not have to use your LINE preamp between the Steelhead and the amps.

Another option of course, if you only need more gain for your CD/DVD/SACD player but you are OK with the phono levels when you are running the Steelhead straight into your amps, is you can run your SACD player into your "other" line preamplifier, and then run the output of that into the Steelhead's LINE input. Try it.

Again, you will not blow anything up. Please feel free to try different things and see what works for you. And remember, if you change any one of those 12 factors I outlined for you, then everything changes....

FAQ #9 How do I know which version Steelhead I have? 

Version 1 was the first version. It has FOUR pushbuttons on the front: MUTE, DIM, SUM, STANDBY. 

Version 1.5 has the LINE input mod. This was done by stealing the DIM relays and reallocating them to select LINE or RIAA. It has FOUR pushbuttons on the front: MUTE, LINE, SUM, STANDBY.

Version 2 has the LINE input built in as standard with DIM function retained. It has FIVE pushbuttons on the front: MUTE, LINE, DIM, SUM, SLEEP. 

FAQ #9a Can I update my Version 1 or 1.5 to Version 2?

We can modify your Version 1 Steelhead to Version 1.5 for $500 USD. We cannot mod your Version 1 or 1.5 Steelhead to Version 2. Different boards, different chassis to accommodate the new switches and stuff. If you need this update, please click here to email us about it.

Below: Version 1.5 Steelhead (4 buttons with line input instead of DIM)


Below: Version 1 Steelhead (4 buttons with DIM button but no line input)

24K Gold Plated Version no longer available by special order. So don't ask. Ain't gonna happen! We are done with the gold thing. 


FAQ#10 How do I hook up the Steelhead?

Start with this simple drawing. I drew it out especially for a rock star. Click to enlarge.


FAQ#10a I need more LINE inputs. How do I do that?

Get a Manley SKIPJACK!

FAQ#10b Can I use a Manley SKIPJACK to work as a TAPE LOOP so I can record my vinyls and CDs?

Yes you can. Check out the drawing on the Manley SKIPJACK page!

There are no differences between the two Variable Output RCA jacks. They are both hooked up to the same point. Having two sets of jacks lets you bi-amp or drive two systems without having to use those cheapo "Y" adaptors. 

FAQ#11a You ship the Version 2 Steelheads wired with 2 x Variable Outputs and 1 x Fixed outs. I need to have 2 x Fixed outs. How do I do this?

There are 3 sets of stereo outputs on the Steelheads. 1 x FIXED outs which come after the first white follower output buffer but before the volume control. Then there are 2 sets of variable outs which are the same thing; coming off the volume control and second white follower buffer.

So the signal flow goes:

phono stage-->Fixed output-->volume control-->Vari Out x2
                      |                     | 
                  mute         Line In-DIM-SUM

I recommend to use the 2 sets of Variable outputs to drive your two systems. If you are driving additional preamps, just set the Steelhead's V/C up pretty high or even all the way up. Yes, you are going through the V/C and an additional White Follower, so you would have to see if you can "hear" this or not really...

You *can* rewire one of the Variable Outs to be another Fixed out if you wish. If you open up your Steelhead, you can easily see the jumper arrangement on the back boards, right behind those output jacks. You would need to remove the clear signal jumper and the buss wire ground wire going from the Variable out on top to the middle jack and instead bring up those two connections from the lower Fixed jack to the middle jack instead to reallocate what the middle jack is getting fed with, the Fixed or the Variable Out. If you can solder, or have a friend who does, you can do this. It is a very simple 5 minute job.

FAQ#12 The FIXED OUTPUTS are not working. I can't hear my CD player that I have plugged into the LINE input through them. Are the FIXED OUTPUTS broken?

The FIXED OUTPUTS only play the Steelhead's phono stage. The LINE INPUTS only work with the VARIABLE OUTPUTS. 

FAQ#13 Can I use those 6N1P russian "super" tubes instead of the 6922?

No. There is not enough amperage available in the heater regulator for those tubes and we can't use the 2A regulator cuz the protection circuitry in it latches up. Also, it may change the operating point and require a re-cal. Stick with 7308, E88CC, 6922 or 6DJ8 types please. That's what we designed the unit around.

FAQ#13a Can I replace the 6922's in the Steelhead for NOS Mullard ECC189/6ES8?

No.You can use 7308, E88CC, 6922 or 6DJ8 types. Or just trust us that we selected super quiet 6922's for you when we shipped the unit.

FAQ#13b Can I replace the 6922's in the Steelhead for NOS Mullard E288CC?

I'd advise against a field swap-out using the E288CC. Better to use 7308 or the other types mentioned below.

There are some electrical conflicts which can produce problems if a swap is done in the field:

E288CC heater current is rated at 475 mA, which may overrun the heater power supply channel(s) especially when the system is turned on from stone cold or the power supply is operating off of a 50 Hz power line. Note that the 6922 - 7308 - 6DJ8 - ECC88 - E88CC filament current is rated at 300 - 365 mA. The higher the heater current draw becomes, the more important the line voltage be at the target voltage of 117 - 120 VAC. Too high and the voltage regulator may overheat and fall back into self-protection. Too low and the deeper ripple-voltage troughs at the filter cap may drop below regulator's minimum required input causing hum to leak through the regulator and appear in the audio output.

E288CC's mu is 25 versus 33 for all other types. This may "detune" the RIAA network response slightly due to change in effective plate resistance and force re-alignment of the gain trims so the system gain matches the designations on the front panel's GAIN rotary switch. The E288CC MAY be able to be set up for satisfactory use if fitted at the factory and then aligned. By satisfactory, I mean that the finished system meets or exceeds tight specifications after gain and eq alignment.

In short, the E288CC is more trouble then it's worth and the only one of the six types in the group where a few key specs depart notably from the rest of the bunch. The lower mu is not too important in radio front-end applications (compensated by higher Gm and lower plate resistance); it is more important for this audio application. Happily, mu does not change much if at all over a wide range of operating conditions, nor over the life of the tube.

The 7044 is used in the White Follower output stage, and honestly there's really no difference between the NOS GE 7044 and NOS 5687 in this specific circuit. The gain is less than 1, (0.9 actually) and rolling tubes here has minimal effect on the sound, if any.


FAQ #33 1/3: Would you trust a guy who looked like this to align your turntable?

You bet I would! 

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