Manger s1 active loudspeaker Page 2

Going with the flow, I put on the digital version of the recent Charlie Parker Savoy 10" LP Collection (16/44.1 FLAC, streamed from Qobuz; Art Dudley wrote about the LPs, Craft Recordings CR00010, for Revinylization #5). It sounded like this recording sounds—vintage to be sure but with rich, textured, immediate, impactful horns playing directly into the microphone, bass and drums set farther back, and piano somewhere in the middle sounding clear and articulate, not at all recessed.

Next, I turned to Nathan Milstein's 1954/1956 recording of the Bach Partitas for Solo Violin (EMI Classics 7243 5 66870 2 8). Again, it sounded like this—familiar, superb, slightly dated—recording sounds. But here I noticed something new: When Milstein is playing faster passages, he pulls his violin a little farther away from the microphone, presumably to avoid bumping the mike. I don't know whether to credit this insight to the Manger's resolution or to listening to a mono recording with just one channel.

I put on "A Day in the Life" (first mono mix) from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Super Deluxe Edition) (24/96 FLAC, digital-only release, UMG, no catalog number). Just lovely. This is a different work in mono, but it's just as good as it is in stereo.

As I was typing, Roon Radio moved on to other tracks—first, Cat Stevens's "Wild World," from Tea for the Tillerman (24/192 FLAC streamed from Qobuz, UMG, no catalog number), then the Doors' "Love Me Two Times" from Strange Days (24/96 FLAC streamed from Qobuz). I was now hearing a single channel (I had hooked up the left channel, I believe) of a stereo recording; it sounded thin and edgy. It was time to unbox the other s1 and start listening in stereo.


After lunch, I unboxed the second speaker and set the pair up in a configuration I thought likely to work well, slightly toed-in, about 9' apart, my chair about 8' from the speaker plane.

I adjusted the second sample's switches to match those of the first and put on the Allemande from the Milstein recording of Partita No.2. I closed my eyes and listened, comparing it in my mind to what I'd heard in mono not long before; I wanted to hear whether the stereo "phantom" image from this mono recording was less solid or convincing than it had been with a single speaker. It wasn't, although the violin emerged from empty space some 18" behind where the single speaker had stood. Nothing was lost.

My intention, ever since I'd pulled the s1's out of storage, had been to put on Ellington's Jazz Party in Stereo, which I'd heard through the Manger p2s at the Munich show. There, we'd listened to a high-quality stream, from Qobuz I think, but I'm not sure. Now I pulled out my best vinyl copy (Columbia CS 8127). Townsend describes that first track this way: "from left to right you are listening to a vibraphone, a xylophone, another vibraphone, another xylophone, a glockenspiel, and a marimba, surrounded on one side by the full Ellington band and on the other by an assortment of kettle drums, bongos, a tambourine, and a triangle." Now add a trumpet section containing Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Nance, Clark Terry, and Cat Anderson. Yes, of course you should buy it if you don't already have it (footnote 1).

There was a hardness to the sound that made me realize I'd been overly aggressive in turning up the treble control on pink noise. I took it back down to flat. I also heard, in contrast to the mono Bach recording, a slight lack of center-fill. I backed my chair up about 18" and the problem was solved. I kept the 3dB bass boost. I liked that.

By the time I was finished moving stuff around, the album's second track was on: "Red Garter," the first movement of what Ellington called his Toot Suite. Johnny Hodges's solo, just right of center, sounded fleshy and fat, as did, seconds later, Britt Woodman's trombone from the left. Later, I noticed the lovely percussive attack of Ellington's piano as he soloed in the first couple of octaves above middle C. I don't think I ever noticed that percussiveness before on this record, which I listen to often.

I had a blast listening to this great music through these speakers. The controls on the back provide a lot of flexibility in placement and sonic preference—an argument in favor of buying the active version if you're considering a Manger purchase.

I'd sum up the Manger sound like this: fast, pure, more articulate than smooth. The bass is present—all there—but don't expect to bathe in it. The s1 leans more toward exciting than toward comfortable, but not excessively so. I loved the percussive sound of Ellington's piano, with more leading edge than I'm used to, but natural—and how all the various 'phones (xylophone, vibraphone, etceteraphone) rang out in space. I expected percussion instruments to sound good on these speakers, and they did. If there was a surprise, it was the corporeal images and fleshy textures.

Not all recordings sounded good because the s1's are not, at least as I set them up, particularly forgiving. On "The Man's Too Strong," from Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms (FLAC rip from Warner 9 25264-2), I heard a metallic sheen I wasn't expecting—but should have been. That track should be all wood and leather—no metal.

Indeed, it should be—too bad it wasn't recorded that way. I still recall the thrill of hearing that pristine, ultraquiet recording for the first time. I was in my early 20s, and I already owned the LP. I had just bought a CD player, and this was the first CD I ever bought. I thought I'd never heard anything so fine—like crystal. Precisely what I was hearing from the Mangers. The Mangers were telling the truth.

Mainly, though, summing over all the listening I did, the music sounded much as I'm accustomed to hearing it via other very good speaker/amplifier combinations. The adjustability of the active Manger—as opposed to the passive version Herb auditioned and John Atkinson measured—provides the reassurance that any room-specific tonal balance issues can be addressed, improving the odds that they'll work well in your listening room. The Manger s1 active loudspeaker is a precision instrument and a ton of fun.

Footnote 1: Used copies are available at noncrazy prices, and there's a very good reissue from Analog Productions, mastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analog tape and plated and pressed at QRP. There's also a double-LP 45rpm package from ORG that I haven't heard.
Manger Audio
US distributor: Mofi Distribution
1811 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.
Chicago, IL 60660

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

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.

a.wayne's picture

@JA ,

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

Jim Austin's picture

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


Jim Austin, Editor

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.

georgehifi's picture

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


Jim Austin, Editor

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

Timbo in Oz's picture

That's why QUAD provide a slope-control.