Manger®: a journey to the origins of genuine High-End Audio.
by, 10-18-2011 at 06:43 AM (5304 Views)
“Audio as a hobby is dying, largely by its own hand. As far as the real world is concerned, High-End audio lost its credibility during the 1980s, when it flatly refused to submit to the kind of basic honesty controls (double-blind testing, for example) that had legitimized every other serious scientific endeavor since Pascal. [This refusal] is a source of endless derisive amusement among rational people and of perpetual embarrassment for me..”
[b]Gordon J Holt, founder
I have commented many times about this Gordon J Holt's statement. From a purely commercial point of view, the Hi-End Audio market may be fuller than ever just when having a look at its large offer (quantity) of products. From a technological point of view, and for many decades, I can see only many different, no, ...thousands of ! versions of the same themes: turntables, preamps, amplifiers, cables and... loudspeakers. Oh my God... it seems we are so used to see them that our brain only works to choose among the most beautiful one. Does anybody cares about how to really improve a High Fidelity SYSTEM ? Mostly, not. Only some of Hi-End manufacturers seems to have the know-how and so, they offer some technological truth... after making you spend a good lot of money in the journey, of course.
OK, let's go to the main subject here: my recent journey to a company that seems not to care about what most people appreciate (following the commercial stream is always more comfortable, right?) but about what the technology can offer for the perfect reproduction of our sound-sources (whatever they may be: analog or digital).
One of my best friends (sorry to keep his name in secret but he always prefer to hide himself behind the products and/or his work) told me that he was preparing a fast trip to Germany to visit a manufacturer who had developed for years one of the most accurate transducers in the world.
-“Another speaker manufacturer ?” I sadly asked,
-“Nop. Don´t expect so. I think I am going to meet, listen and talk to one of the most incredible manufacturers in the world: Manger.” he answered.
-“Sure...Where are they from this time? ...and what kind of loudspeaker are they making ?” I must recognize that I was just wishing that he would answer with a topic brand just to deny his invitation.
-“They are in Mellrichstadt. 170 kms away from Frankfurt. And, no, it is not the kind of regular “speaker”. In fact, it has never been that. It's a long journey... would you like to come with me ? I don't mind having an extra-driver and a second point of... hearing”.
The truth is that this guy has been professionally involved in the Hi-End Audio for a long time. As a very close friend of him, I have had the opportunity to follow his professional evolution since he started with his Quad as a simple amateur, his different jobs and positions in the business for almost 20 years, as well as the number of ultra-expensive gear he have had the chance to play with (Wilsons, Apogees, Sonus Fabers, Vienna Acoustics, Martin Logans, Tannoys, etc. )... until he resigned his position exahusted of, according to his words, a completely saturated market that, technologically, it has absolutely nothing new to offer since many years ago: just distracting users with a hypnotizing rainbow of colors, romantic tube amps & SS macho-chassis amplifiers and the typical equalization with cables to compensate the average accuracy of those brands. Now, after many years of hopeless, he was saying that he had found something really new. New for him ? Then I wanted to be part of the discovery !
I prefer to avoid the always funny anecdotes during the flight, driving some kilometers through those German highways. In the mean(long)time I mentally checked most of the German Hi-End Audio brands I knew. Germany... the eternal fiancée in the Hi-End market. Probably the most powerful economy in Europe that hardly seems to find its place in the worldwide audio Hi-End market. Well, there's an easy explanation for that: we all know (or just think?) that Germans listen to music in a different way, right ? Well, NO. It is just that: I'm afraid an easy excuse to release our minds. At the end, they already have Porsche, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen... Enough ! True Hi-End is related to US, UK, Italy and, if you push me, even Italy ! German Hi-End Audio is for Germans. Period. Period followed... I should say.
My “brother” had made an appointment with the owner of the company, Daniela Manger, daughter of Joseph Manger, creator of a new kind of “transducer” (“new” for us, I mean) at 10:00 AM at the hall of a very close hotel.
Mrs. Manger is not running the company only because of being her father's daughter: she is a true Ph. D. Engineer. Good start: most of Hi-End loudspeaker manufacturers don´t have a degree in anything related to acoustics, sound, electricity, mechanics, etc. I have known of dentists, otolaryngologists, or... mostly, simply amateurs. Few real professionals in the field but who cares? People will eat whatever you put on the dish: they are hungry. Again, aesthetics (furniture?), matter. For Hi-Technology and precision, please, go to the bottom, second door on the right.
10:00 AM. Here we are. German precision: here she is. There we go.
This was the planning: we would listen for a (long)while the new floor-standing model (MSMs1) and I would be allowed to join to the professional meeting with her (a kind of 'ForYourEarsOnly' matter), then a lunch (short break), meeting again and visit to the facilities. We were only asked one thing: no comments about their technology and, as much as possible, no images/pics of the manufacturing-room: the place where all Manger transducers are, still, handcrafted manufactured, tested and then, installed.
I'll go directly to the system without entering in too many details: a Mac, a German DAC, a German Preamp connected through XLR directly to the minimalistic (monolithic?) pair of MSMs1.
My tracks ? Some typical audiophile & not-so audiophile recordings:
The Lover of Beirut / Spagna Contrapunto / Chan-chan / In your hands / Blue Moon revisited / Hotel California / In my Father's House / Maria-Maria / Girl from Ipanema / SuperBass Theme / Yulunga / + many, many classical music with full orchestra at its best (Wagner, Mahler, and some Beethoven's string quartets).
Plus, a very interesting Demo-CD that Manger offers: “Musik wie von einem anderen Stern”. There is also a double Lp version with some excellent professional reviews as well as CD got from end-users.
Don´t want to bother you with the typical audiophile verbiage: “sweet/velvet medium & treble frequencies”, “tight bass”, “holographic soundstage”, etc. Nor even with all the technical details that surrounds this unique product: you can visit Manger website for very deep technical information until you get enough... there is much to read about it. I am only a disappointed ex-audiophile. But, again, somehow I find it hard not to expose some of his masterful technical details.
The new MSMs1 is what the recording is. No mercy, here. Period.
Oh, well, for years... didn't we pray on our knees for a system that, finally, could reveal all what is inside the recording ? So, here you have it. From now you'll 'only' need the best source you can afford: turntable, cartridge, phono-preamp, preamp, interconnect cables, DAC,... you still have a lot of things to take care of, dear music-lover.
Don't worry about the rest: the new MSMs1 will show what you have behind of it. For good or for bad. A kind of ultra-high precision stereo-microscope equipped with the best Zeiss lenses ? Absolutely !
Have you ever tried to close your eyes while seating down in a concert ? Surprising, isn't it ? No Hi-Fi, no Hi-End... everything is so natural. Same here... but only when the recording/mixing/mastering process has been properly applied.
But there is more. Much more. In fact, there is a lot behind this unique 'transducer'... So, after the audio-test, I joined the meeting now with religious obedience... We needed explanations. We were hungry for information.
And the explanations began... As Mr. Manger once said: “You have to swim against the stream if you really want to reach the source”. Sound-source, I clarify. Describing what the Manger transducer is would take many pages. Frankly writing, I can nothing but recommend you to visit their website and read carefully all the technical explanations about its principle, how it works, and how hard it's been to reach the grade of highest perfection we can now enjoy. What I can tell you is, if there is an almost perfect transducer in the world, nowadays, this is Manger's. It has taken more than 30 years to get such accuracy and we are lucky to be able to listen our recordings through it. For example...
...Should I mention this transducer (I resist myself to simply call it, merely, “speaker”) is capable of reproducing from down 80 Hz up to almost 40.000 Hz ? So, those SACDs, DVDAudio, HiDef music files, etc. are in luck : all of you are welcome !
...Because of that, it means that it can manage an ultra wide-band range of frequencies without the typical crossover point around 1000-2000 Hz (precisely where the human ear is more sensitive). Besides, due to the fact that this model (as well as its reference studio-monitor smaller brother, the MSMc1) is purely active, you don´t have to play the role of a real electronic-engineer searching for the best food/amplification for the transducer and its woofer: it has already professionally matched with 2 dedicated mono-power amplifiers located externally at the back: the Manger transducer, plus, the dedicated (almost sub)woofer have what they deserve. Think also about the amount of money (and wasted time) you save: no need to care about any loudspeaker cable. 4 power-amplifiers connected directly to the transducers and woofers with no intermediaries. Oh, God, ...what a bless !
Just connect an XLR cable from your preamp (or DAC), switch it on and you'll become into the mastering engineer. So easy...
I'm afraid that, again, that terrible die-hard audiophile inside of my friend is re-born again. We need to stop our hear-beats for a while. Lunch time comes to our almost heart-attack's rescue: a short-break. These Germans never rest: 1 hour for a short-lunch while we were delighted sharing anecdotes and discussing about the Professional and Hi-End worlds... and back to their facilities again. Because Manger MSMs1 is not a dedicated Hi-End product but a mandatory professional tool: you really have to check Manger website to see what Joseph Manger thinks about what should be the role of a perfect transducer. You can also be surprised how, against all technical prejudices, even from some of the most eminent scientists, they had to recognize that it is the right one. After reading it you will understand the incredibly task it does... turning all the running AC energy in another form (bending waves) with the minimum of waste of energy: the problem of conventional drivers is the energy stored in the diaphragm by mass and spring, which ALWAYS causes time delays.
As I told you, there was even 'more': Time has come to enter into the 'Holy-Grail' room. But you won´t see a line of robots untiringly soldering pieces without time to answer any question. Either you won´t see a line of 100 employees steadily working like soldiers. But what you can see there is love and pure passion for a perfect handcrafted product. And there you can know many things like the fact that most of the machines there have also been designed by Joseph Manger himself (he is 81 y.o., still up and now working on a new microphone design).
Excuse me, did I mention he has received the Diesel Medal for his revolutionary 'transducer' ?
...that he also designed some of the exclusive materials that are necessary to handcraft it ?
Well, sorry, so many things... Oh, yes, I also forgot to say that a few very well specialized small group of women are carefully mounting each part. But I guess that then, I should let you know the large number of hours that it takes to finish only 1 (pc) Manger transducer. As well as the number of patents that this astonishing instrument has on it.
I should add that the MSMc1 (the reference active-monitor model) has a dedicated stand: fixed (customized) or... gas suspension (!). Your choice. You have also the passive models versions, specially dedicated to those who want to enjoy their own power-amps (no matter, tubes or solid-state... read this).
After this long visit, an expression comes into my mind: passion & care for the highest accuracy in sound reproduction. Something that I haven't noticed so clearly on some manufacturers facilities I have had the chance to visit.
During the last year I have always been asking my friend why he left the business, commenting about all those new tweeter+woofer+beautiful cabinets that year after year appear on (and disappear from) the market. And his answer has always been the same: “Always same dogs, just with different collars” i.e.: hundreds of different manufacturers using same scheme (tweeter+woofer) adding his 'personal touch' based only on an old passive crossover plus a beautiful cabinet for a hungry group of amateurs who, mostly, only appreciate the aesthetics. Once they are tired of them and their sound, they put them aside to buy another similar one.
I can only thank Mrs. Manger for interrupting her daily hard work and for her infinite patience answering all our questions, as well as her love for perfectionism.
I guess it's the best a father can transmit to his daughter and she has clearly accepted and followed the family tradition.
What a gift for the connoisseurs ! But, how many of us could know about the existence of such 'jewel' ? Unfortunately, this is not a product for any wallet. Somehow, it uses to happen: surely everybody knows about Rolex... then, only a few know about Breguet or Vacheron Constantin. Same with the Manger transducer.
I can assure you that real audio handcrafted perfection exists and I have been lucky enough to listen to it. My friend has regained some of his lost faith in Hi-End audio technology.
At the end, and as Mrs. Manger's leitmotiv says:
“Precision, in sound, is just a matter of time”.