Reviewer: Paul Candy
Source: Rotel RCD-971 CD player, modified with IEC jack instead of captive AC cord, HIT Audio/Cayin CD-22 CD player [in for review]; Pro-ject 1Xpression turntable with Speed Box and AT-95E cartridge [in for review]
Preamp/Integrated: Bryston B60 integrated; Audio Zone AMP-1; Underwood Hifi Level 2 Mambo [in for review]; Antique Sound Labs AQ-1003DT [in for review]; Pro-ject Tube Box phono preamp [in for review]
Amp: n/a
Speakers: Meadowlark Kestrel 2; Reference 3A Dulcet [in for review]
Cables: DH Labs Q10 loudspeaker cables, DH Labs Revelation and Air Matrix interconnects, DH Labs D-75 Digital cable, DH Labs Power Plus power cords; GutWire Power Clef SE and C Clef AC cables [in for review]; Audience Maestro interconnects & loudspeaker cables and Power Chord AC cables [in for review]
Stands: Premier three-tier, filled with sand.
Powerline conditioning: Blue Circle BC86 MkII Power Line Pillow; GutWire MaxCon AC line conditioner [in for review]
Sundry accessories: Caig Pro-Gold contact enhancer; Caig R5 Power Booster; Walker Audio Vivid CD treatment; Audience Auric Illuminator; GutWire Notepads; AudioPrism Isobearings; Vibrapods; dedicated AC line with Hubbell outlets; homebrew acoustic treatments.
Room size: 13' x17'x 8', long-wall setup
Review Component Retail:

Get your motor running,
Head out on the highway,
Lookin' for adventure,
In whatever comes our way

Yeah, darlin', gonna make it happen,
Take the world in a love embrace,
Fire all of your guns at once and
Explode into space
I like smoke and lightning,
Heavy metal thunder,
Racin' with the wind,
And the feeling that I'm under

Yeah, darlin', gonna make it happen,
Take the world in a love embrace,
Fire all of your guns at once and
Explode into space
Like a true nature's child,
We were born, born to be wild,
We can climb so high,
I never want to die,
Born to be wild
Born to be wild...

When I first unpacked the Stingray and set it up on my rack, the above Steppenwolf tune immediately popped into my cranium. I had visions of tooling down a highway on a Harley, alongside Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in search of the "Real America" and flipping the bird to the Man. Even my wife remarked that the Stingray looked like something Harley Davidson would design. Indeed, there is definitely something about this amp that proudly proclaims Made in America. I mean, look at it. Can you see the British or the French designing an amp like this? No way. The Italians? Get real. The Russians? I think not. The Japanese? Oy gevalt. As for my compadres up here in the Great White North, the Stingray is far too demonstrative and visually in-yer-face for our normally laid-back navel-gazing sensibilities. All kidding aside, the Stingray has a very unique American vibe to it that deserves a design award for its physical appearance alone.

When I informed EveAnna Manley (aka the Vanimal) of my wife's comments via email, she chuckled (I could hear her laugh through my modem). I'm sure she would vehemently deny any allegations of covert efforts to instill her personality in a product. But after spending considerable time reading through Manley's website, it's hard to believe there isn't just a wee grain of truth to that. Because the Stingray's sonics, to my ears, sound exactly like what I would expect from such a gregarious outgoing personality.

Okay, time to clear the bong smoke and get down to business with yet another participant in my ongoing survey of the affordable integrated amplifier. The Stingray is a 50-watt low negative feedback, push/pull design (just like my wife) based on a pair of Manley's highly regarded monoblocks placed in the same chassis plus a passive preamp. The Stinger's unusual shape is the result of "careful research of optimal component placement for the purity and symmetry of the signal path layout". The origin of the fishy nomenclature is now the stuff of audio legend. When scribbling the design on a napkin for Stereophile founder J. Gordon Holt at a past CES show, he remarked that it looked like a Stingray (the fish, not the car). Hence another footnote was added to the annals of memorable audiophilia.

The input stage for each channel consists of a 12AT7 dual triode followed by a 6414 dual-triode phase splitter. Each 6414 drives a quartet of EL84s in ultralinear push-pull mode. Loudspeakers with impedances from 3 to 10 ohms can be handled with nary a hiccup. If you so desire, you can order up a Stingray hardwired in 25-watts triode at no extra charge. For an additional $250, a switchable version can toggle between ultralinear or triode on the fly. My review sample was the standard ultralinear model. On each of the rear side panels, provision for four line inputs are provided via Manley's proprietary RCA connections. If you are still spinning the black stuff, an outboard phono preamp will be required. Source selection is somewhat unusual - there are dual-mono silver-contact switches for each channel. The two knobs on the front are premium Noble balance and volume controls. The IEC inlet is at the rear next to the mains switch. Loudspeaker connections are high-quality binding posts directly behind Manley's in-house wound output transformers. The binding posts are plastic-shrouded and carefully designed to avoid shorting out the amp by accident-prone reviewers such as yours truly.

Bias adjustment of each tube was mere child's play - the trim pots and test points are conveniently situated on top of the chassis. The ground point is right at the tail of the silk-screened stingray logo. As my 10-year old son would say, "Sweet"! I tried this myself with a multi-meter and must say that if biasing tubes has kept you away from glowing glass amplifiers, trust me: It's a cakewalk.

The packaging protecting the enroute Stinger was the best I've seen to date. Instead of each tube packed into its own little box, the tubes are shipped fully installed but protected by a cleverly shaped block of Styrofoam packaging. The manual too is stellar and sports excellent instructions plus great tips on how to maximize playback including helpful suggestions on a subject neglected by many audiophiles - room acoustics.

The chassis is treated with a black wrinkle powder coat and the faceplate features brushed aluminum in blue-grey anodizing (also called pewter grey). The two outrigger support cones are finished in the same manner. All in all, this is a seriously attractive amplifier with absolutely outstanding build quality. What's more, in the 3+ months I've had the Stingray, I observed no operational problems whatsoever and all controls worked flawlessly.

The Stingray delivered a big, open, well lit-up and defined soundstage with a good sense of space and ambiance and little in the way of homogenization unless driven too hard. Better yet, this diminutive customer from Cali boogied like circa 1963 James Brown. The Stinger grabbed a hold of my Kestrels and never let go. If looking for a large dose of thermionic romance, you won't find it here as music playback was vibrant, exciting and alive with truckloads of drive and punch, not at all what I expected from 50 watts of push-pull tube amplification. In fact, the manner in which the Stingray controlled my Kestrels suggested the firm hand usually associated

with solid state power. The bass and lower midrange was certainly not flabby or overly euphonic as with some tube amplifiers I've heard. Vocals were clear, intelligible and projected into my room with a solid three-dimensional presence suggesting that the all-important midrange was spot on. These characteristics were evident, be it the massed groups of singers and instruments in Montiverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine [Harmonia Mundi HMC 901247.48] or the breathy, tropically lush vocals of Bebel Gilberto [Six Degrees 1026].