Manley Steelhead RC

Written by on 06/04/2012 in Timeless Classics - No comments

Last year the Manley Steelhead phono preamplifier celebrated its tenth anniversary. Is eleven years in the making enough to deem this beast classic status? Debatable I guess, it is after all still in production! Celebrating more than a decade as one of the world’s very best phono preamps however, certainly qualify it as a classic of its own time.

And what a classic it is! The latest Steelhead boasts remote control and a line level input. That’s right, a dedicated phono preamp with remote volume and the ability to run a CD or DAC into its lovely vacuum tube signal paths post RIAA. Flexible is not the word. There is a lot more here where this came from.

Apart from the near infinite amount of adjustability for gain, capacitance and load on the front panel, there are inputs for three cartridges on separately selectable inputs. It also offers fixed and variable outputs on two parallel sets of RCA sockets. With Steelhead there really is no need for a line level preamp other than the most extreme setups where more gain or a more suitable source impedance is required.

This feature alone makes the latest Manley Steelhead the bargain of the century because it becomes a superb preamp for vinyl lovers who also happen to want the use of an additional source. Two flies, one slap. Game On.

I cannot live without my Steelhead. It’s incredibly clean selectable gain allows for spectacular tweaking and tailoring of sound perspectives from just about any cartridge on the planet. My preferred trick is running a medium output MC cartridge into the MM input at 60-65dB gain and running the load wide open at 47kOhm. Soundstage perspective grows to stratospheric proportions as palpable images project way beyond speaker boundaries with stage depth seemingly pulled from another dimension.

In my book, this is the Steelhead’s magic wand. It simply excels at digging out information within vinyl grooves others don’t even know exists. Until you’ve heard your favorite cartridge on the Manley with its infinite adjustability, you are more than likely missing out on a great deal of its potential.

If you perhaps thought hi-res digital was getting it on lately, you only need to come hear what Mr. Steelhead does for vinyl to know how far off the best digital still is!

We have new stock of both Steelhead RC and Chinook available locally. Please inquire for a price in ZAR.

About the Author

Audio Engineer, Critic & Retailer twenty-seven years in the making.

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