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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
27" iMac with 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 16GB 1.333MHz RAM, 2TB hard disc, 256GB SSD drive, ADM Radeon HD 6970M with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, PureMusic 1.86 in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM and AIFF files up to 24/192; Audirvana, April Music Eximus DP1, Esoteric/APL Hifi UX1/NWO-M w. battery-powered Audiophilleo 2
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright LS-100 with Synergy Hifi tubes, Esoteric C-03, Bent Audio Tap-X, Trafomatic SM-101Dn [on loan]
: First Watt SIT1
Speakers: Aries Cerat Gladius, Boenicke Aud
io B10, Voxativ Ampeggio
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Audio Event,
KingRex uCraft USB cable with Bakoon BPS-02 custom battery power supply
Artesania Esoteric double-wide 3-tier with TT glass shelf, Rajasthani solid hardwood
console for amps
Powerline conditioning: 1 x GigaWatt PF2, 1 x Furutech RTP-6
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review Component Retail: €13.200/pr.

The star of Bethlehem. Was it Nibiru? A small spacecraft? Who really knows. Ditto for the star of Manger. A fêted speaker designer with his very own proprietary driver told me that he didn't fully comprehend how this flat widebander capable of 80 to 40.000Hz worked. Sure he could recapitulate published explanations like school kids memorize the E=mc² formula. Yet like such kids he couldn't regenerate the formula from scratch to truly explain it. With the daughter of the driver's inventor—an accredited engineer in her own right—visiting to deliver her active MSMs1 Manger Studio Monitor together with Klangwerk's Markus Thomann (designer of this speaker's enclosure, Manger's Swiss representative, early OEM user of the driver and owner of the review pair from his Zürich show room), might I learn more? Or would it be fiercely guarded tech particularly because the original driver patents have expired like Oscar Heil's?

Depending on frequency, bending-wave widebanders like the German Physik Walsh-based DDD, the Naim BMR and the Goebel operate with one diaphragm but different modes. These span the gamut from Small/Thiele resonant parameters, pistonic operation, bending wave operation and modal break-up. What happens in the transition zones? By strategic changes in their diaphragm's thickness, more conventional dynamic widebanders like the Jordan mechanically decouple their dust-cap lookalike so it articulates like a tweeter. High frequencies originate just in the middle, lower frequencies involve the entire surface. How about the Manger?

The teenage kids in The Good Wife TV series wondered about their philandering political father and his hooker. Did that involve a three-way or a threesome? With the dual voice-coil Manger, are we dealing with a twosome which instead of an electrical filter involves a clever mechanical segregation? Since it's sans suspension—no rubber surround, no spider—how does it manage ±3.5mm of excursion for boffo power handling when a Lowther with suspension only manages ±1mm? And is a notch filter which adds gain still a notch filter? At 1.600Hz, the Manger's geometry suffers some small inter-diaphragm phase cancellation. This requires a minor narrow-band active compensatory boost of analog equalization.

Shelly Katz's Podium Sound bending-wave panel was a dipole. The Linæum and Audio Consulting Rubanoide bending-wave drivers were/are bipoles. The DDD is an omni. In the only sense that it's traditional, the Manger is a monopole. While it's flat like an NXT bending-wave driver, its variable-thickness unevenly texturized plastic diaphragm is soft and pliable. It's not stiff like the modal membranes of NXT, Podium Sound, Goebel and German Physik.

Even amongst bending-wave drivers the Manger thus is different. It marches to its own German drummers. The first was inventor Josef W. Manger. He wrote the initial patent in 1969 and developed his driver from first woofer with 7Hz free-air resonance to then inefficient 76dB widebander. This he used as unassisted full-ranger for many years until the usual modern demands for louder and lower bass enforced capitulation. Like Rethm's Jacob George would do for the Lowther many years later, he eventually acknowledged the need for augmentation with a conventional dynamic woofer.

The current drummer is daughter Daniela. Under her aegis and the latter-day availability of more powerful Neodymium magnets —this driver runs 15 to achieve a 1.32 Tesla field strength in its 0.95mm air gap—the MSW* now clocks a far more benign 91dB. That figure is obviously assisted by low-ish moving mass. Think 19cm diaphragm with a big 7cm but only 0.4g voice coil to boost power handling.

* MSW = Manger Schall Wandler or Manger acoustic transformer. Hence the website URL manger-msw.

At €800 retail each this driver is not a hairy but expensive critter. That partially explains why even exotic and exclusive speakers in constant search of exotic and exclusive drivers have given it short shrift (Silbatone's €50.000 Aporia at left is a rare exception). At the time of writing, Daniela said that no current commercial speaker used her MSW. Since one is always judged by the company one keeps—personal repute rises and falls with OEM successes or failures to get the very best from the Manger unit—that could be advantageous. As bona fide engineer she approaches acoustic design from a measurement rather than voicing angle. Hence the mandatory active concept. Only a fixed match of amplification to drive unit guarantees optimum—predictable repeatable—results. Only active filters prior to amps and drivers make for top precision without phase shift. Only sealed alignments support optimal group delay. Ported alignments ring on principle. So the s1 is self-powered with German-built class A/B "monolithic MOS amps with DMOS unity-gain output stages". They feed 180 watts to the Manger, 250 watts to the glassfiber/polyester 20cm woofer with 3.8cm voice coil. The s1 also sports active filters - 12dB electrical on the Manger, 24dB electrical on the <300Hz woofer with LF compensation. And the s1 uses irregularly shaped sealed sub cavities for its two drivers. Because the active concept is heavily inspired by the pro market, there's an XLR instead of RCA input plus various rear-panel adjustments. More on those anon.

Because the speaker is meant for the living room as well as recording studio, it's deliberately compact (21.4cm shallow, 139.9cm tall, 27cm wide). It's timelessly attractive without popular concessions to audiophile bling and excess. And it's available standard in all RAL colors with a semi-matte finish as well as texturized Nextel. For an expected surcharge with longer lead times, there's also high-gloss lacquer and even fine wood veneers. As a small firm with five full-time employees, Manger commits to going the extra mile to satisfy special customer requirements.

Let's take quick stock of certain implications. With a perfectionist single-diaphragm tweeter/midrange driver matured over decades and capable of 80Hz—we still get to more of its special virtues—Manger suffers the where-to-go-from-here syndrome like Devialet. In their active speaker model, the only variables to consider are bass extension and loudness potential. How many paralleled woofers, how big of a single. For cosmetic reasons there might have to be a floorstander and monitor. Voilà, MSM c1 and s1. The Manger itself is constant. Its diameter predetermines width. Electromechanical and acoustical properties predetermine the ideal box volume behind it. Another constant. The active concept allows for a certain amount of equalization on the woofer. There's no rationale for multiple models if a single one goes sufficiently low and loud for 99% of all potential users. At 30Hz and 106dB before its opto-coupled limiters kick in, the s1 is and does. Another constant. Yawn?

In an industry where novelty and short product cycles play hookers and Johns, constancy and short catalogues do equate to yawn. That's one challenge. Given a weird high-end market whose shoppers don't see the wisdom in active drive with tailor-made amps, another is the demand for passive models. By necessity those can't be as good as their active peers. Here marketing and business demands clash with an engineer's focus on excellence. In short, this catalogue will never be deep nor feature novelties above the waist where the MSW lives. So no short-lived fashion here. That's the small print as I read it. Back on the Manger now.