"How much does this little integrated stereo amp cost?" I asked. $3000 was the reply.
"$3000 and it sounds this good?" I was incredulous. I've heard systems that cost $150,000 or more sounding medicore compared to the sound of the Manley Stingray II driving the new high-efficiency Gershman Sonogram loudspeakers (no literature available in the room).
The Stingray II integrated outputs just 40Wpc in ultralinear mode, or 20Wpc in triode mode. No, it's not going to shake your floor or knock your grandma out of her bed. But paired with a speaker as musical as the Gershman, and powered by a Rega CD player, this little system wired with Gershman cabling output some of the warmest, most satisfying sound I heard on the first day of the show.
Although I'm not familiar with the sound of the original Stingray, I'm told that the II has a beefed up power supply, and now uses the same caps as in the Mahi. The changes reportedly deliver more punch and low end. The amp is also fully remote controllable, and has individual gain adjustments for each input.
There's also a second model, the Stingray iTube ($3400, to be reviewed in the March issue of Stereophile). It sports a handy little iPod dock, but is otherwise the same. When I first entered the room, I heard the Stingray iTube playing Ella via a WAV file stored on an iPod. Not good. I expect that the bright, unbewitching, rendition of Ella voice I heard was due to the iPod's built-in DAC. If ever I needed a rationalization for Wadia's iPod docking station, which bypasses the iPod's built-in DAC, all I needed to do was hear this demo. I'm so glad I stayed long enough to dispense with the iPod and hear music played through the Rega driving the Stingray. What a difference.