Manger s1 active loudspeaker

My first exposure to Manger Audio loudspeakers, which are based on the "bending-wave" technology invented years ago by the company, was to the Manger p2, their passive flagship speaker, at the 2019 AXPONA. I heard it again a month or so later at High End Munich. I was impressed both times, especially by its transient and spatial performance.

I don't remember what music I heard at AXPONA, but in Munich, I asked to hear Duke Ellington's Jazz Party in Stereo, which (despite being first released in mono, as Duke Ellington Jazz Party) is one of the more profoundly stereo issues of its era. The album features no fewer than nine percussionists, not including drummer Sam Woodyard. Producer Irving Townsend, who wrote the liner notes, called it "the most exciting album of jazz I've ever heard." In Munich, the Manger p2s presented it in all its ping-pongy glory. Percussive sounds exploded out of empty space all over the soundstage, like little shrapnel charges going off, front to back, high and low, way out to the sides.

I was impressed enough that I decided to ask for a sample for review. Precisely why or how I don't recall, but I received a pair of s1's instead of the newer p2's. The s1 ($24,995/pair) is an active speaker: The "Manger Sound Transducer," which handles the highs and mids, is supplemented by a woofer; both drivers are powered by built-in class-AB amplification.

This was not long after I took over as Stereophile's editor and, as it turned out, my intention to review the s1 was ambitious. I turned it over to Herb Reichert—and then we decided it would be more interesting for Herb to review the passive version of this speaker, the Manger p1. That way, he could audition it with several amplifiers, as he likes to do in his loudspeaker reviews. Herb's enthusiastic review of the p1, which costs $14,995/pair, was published in the December 2019 issue.

Meanwhile, the s1's sat in their boxes. I wasn't eager to return them, because I wanted to listen to them first and perhaps write a follow-up. (Mofi, the importer, was happy to have them stay here for a while.) I finally found time to take a listen.

820manger.exploded

Bending the wave
Manger's research on bending-wave drivers was started long ago by Josef W. Manger, the father of current CEO Daniela Manger: A key patent is from 1968. The principle behind a bending-wave driver is simple: The more rigid a membrane is, the higher the resonant frequency, so Manger's driver membranes are rigid in the center and get more flexible as you move toward the outside edge. Because the effective radiating surface is always small compared to the wavelength, the Manger driver is, in principle, a near-ideal point source.

While the principle is straightforward, getting it to work as well as today's Mangers do took 40 years of research and careful manufacturing. Daniela Manger told Herb that the membrane is "a three-layer sandwich, two very thin outer foils and in between there is a plastic with special properties. The recipe was developed by my father, and we manufacture the plastics in our own factory." Specified tolerances are eight microns (0.008mm). The magnet structure is also complex, said to consist of 15 neodymium magnets delivering 1.32 tesla into an air gap just 0.95mm wide. Another challenge is damping the vibrating membrane. Part of the solution is the star-shaped damper one sees on the bending-wave driver's outside edge; there is also damping material near the center.

I already wrote that the Manger driver behaves more like a point source than other drivers do; at least as important is that their output is coincident not only in space but in time: The driver is naturally time-aligned over its whole frequency range. Manger claims "perfect impulse behavior," and JA's measurement revealed that this driver's behavior was close to transient perfection (see fig.1; the bending-wave drive unit's step response is shown between 3.5ms and 4.2ms).

820manfig1

Fig.1 Manger P1, step response on bending-wave driver axis at 50" (5ms time window, 30kHz bandwidth).

Bending my ear
I've been intending to add a new element to my loudspeaker auditioning, and this follow-up review seemed like a good opportunity. Following a tradition started by Floyd Toole, researchers at Harman do comparative blind testing on loudspeakers auditioning just one loudspeaker at a time—not a stereo pair. Sure, this misses the spatial aspects, but some claim that they can predict spatial performance from what they hear from a single speaker. Listening to a single loudspeaker also simplifies the experience and makes it easier to hear aspects of the sound that could be obscured by spatial effects.

820manger.bac

I unboxed one loudspeaker and set it up in the middle of my listening room. The s1 is an impressive object, beautifully made. It's not large, but it gives off vibes of solidity and massiveness. There's something automotive about it; it's probably the smooth, thick, solid, matte-painted cabinet and those heatsink fins on the back.

Once everything was set, I tapped the Manger transducer gently, starting in the middle and moving toward the outside. The change in frequency was easy to hear; what was more interesting to me, though, is that while the diaphragm seemed well-damped in the middle, where the highest frequencies arise, and also toward the outside, which is responsible for the lower frequencies, partway out—those middle frequencies—there was little if any damping. I don't know what this means, but it's interesting.

Once I had the speaker set up, I did what anyone else would do under such circumstances: I played pink noise.

820manger.front

No frequency bands stood out, but the balance seemed midrange-focused, with highs and lows less prominent than I'm used to. The bass extended low—I have no doubt that it extends to 30Hz as claimed—but below about 50Hz, the levels drop significantly. That's when I noticed the "Room Acoustics Correction" control, which allows the 50–80Hz range to be boosted by 3dB or the same frequency range to be lowered in level. The manual recommends a neutral setting for free-space placement, but I turned it up by the full 3dB and liked what I heard. I also found the high frequencies a bit polite-sounding compared to what I'm used to; fortunately, the s1 also has a "High-Frequency Trim" control, which allows frequencies above about 10kHz to be adjusted up or down by as much as 2dB. I turned it all the way up, which to me, with pink noise, sounded more even.

Listening to a single speaker was as much a test of a new (to me) methodology as it was a test of the s1. When I turned from noise to music, I recognized a limitation: None of the preamplifiers I have in-house have a mono switch. I limited myself to mono recordings: a fine solution except that most of the mono recordings I own are older and bandwidth-limited. Most but not all.

COMPANY INFO
Manger Audio
US distributor: Mofi Distribution
1811 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.
Chicago, IL 60660
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Stereo8610's picture

Are they gone?
I value most of all the measurements from JA. No measurements, no Stereophile subscription. I have a curious illness. I read only numbers and plots and some call me objectivist.
But maybe measurements are just not published yet?
Curiously, the glorious previous DAC had no measurements neither.

John Atkinson's picture
Stereo8610 wrote:
Are they gone? . . . But maybe measurements are just not published yet?

Acoustically, the s1's measured performance will be similar to that of the passive p1, which is linked in the text.

Stereo8610 wrote:
Curiously, the glorious previous DAC had no measurements neither.

My measurements of the two Denafrips D/A processors will be published in the November issue of Stereophile,

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Stereo8610's picture

Fantastic!
I am relieved and I can breath again. Therefore I’ll wait to see them to decide if these products are worth a review reading.
Thanks.

a.wayne's picture

@JA ,

John is stereophile going to drop their measurement category and join the ranks of the opinionated also rans?
Regards

Jim Austin's picture

>>John is stereophile going to drop their measurement category and join the ranks of the opinionated also rans?

No.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

TNtransplant's picture

So are all future loudspeaker reviews mandated to start off with single speaker pink noise impressions?

Thanks, did a great job sharing your listening impressions and perceived strengths/possible shortcomings. Revealing that it might be "too" revealing with less than well recorded source material. That's why I've been listening for past 30+ years to a well regarded brand that probably leans "comfortable" rather than "analytical."

BTW Jim: really like the picture of "your" listening room, must now be making big bucks as editor to be situated in a spacious penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park! But kinda curious how you listen to music through loudspeakers without any apparent cables for amplification/power or source components?

And do you really want MF to know you leave your vinyl just lying on the rug??

Looks like the wine bottle has the "sweet spot"...

DH's picture

If you have Roon, you can set up a "Procedual EQ" setting for mono listening. Turns stereo input to mono output. You can click it on and off as needed.

https://community.roonlabs.com/t/can-you-set-roon-to-playback-in-mono/17507/11

georgehifi's picture

>>John is stereophile going to drop their measurement category and join the ranks of the opinionated also rans?

No.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

TGFT, it's the only thing that keeps the frothing "subjective reviewers" and manufactures honest, if measurements go then it becomes just subjective poetic audiophile dribble like other mags/sites.
I'd like to see a review and measurements on these >$160 snake oil "directional" AC mains fuses done, to weed these voodooists out of the industry.

Cheers George

tonykaz's picture

Jazz Shepherd, today, elevates to greatness. ( of course in 'my' opinion )

I'm not at all a Jazz person but since you reported your interest in all things Jazz I started researching this important Cultural & musical area.

I'm learning from the YouTube 'The Jazz Shepherd' lectures. I consider this person brilliant.

Thanks for leading down this facinating path.

Tony in Venice

X