16/2 Line Input - Rackmount Tube Mixer
Manley has redefined the mixer by introducing a user-definable unit that sounds great. It is simple yet versatile enough to cover a wide variety of tabletop or rackmount applications. The unique design lets you tailor the mixer exactly to your needs by choosing one of six configurations. The basic unit from which all other permutations are derived is the Line Version; it simply has 16 line inputs that feed a stereo bus. If your needs call for mic pre-amps, you can choose the Mic Version, which contains 16 mic pre-amps and a few other extras we'll get into later as we zoom in on the details. The 8+8 version splits itself into eight mic pre-amps and eight line inputs and, as I'll attest to later, is perfect for live recording. The Bus Version adds the ability to send the post-pan signals to two stereo busses and also lets you send the aux amp to two mono busses. The Special Line Version is a mic/line hybrid that adds polarity reversal to the line inputs (polarity reverse is only standard on mic inputs) and is switchable between +4dBu and -10dBv input. The L/C/R Version replaces the pan pot with a three-deck pot so you can use the mixer for simple surround applications. Lastly, there is a 32x8 version that lets you send the post pan signal to a total of four stereo busses. Of course, this completely changes the front and back panels to represent the additional inputs and outputs.
The mixer has the distinctive look and feel that Manley fans have grown to love. From the military-grade knobs, switches and connectors to the oversized, lighted VU meters and hefty quarter-inch front aluminum panel, the mixer looks like it's ready for serious business. Designer ‘Hutch’ Hutchison has borrowed some ideas from their existing product line and added some nice new touches. For instance, the input stage is the same low-noise instrumentation amp that's used in their custom mastering console, and the summing amplifiers are similar to the make-up gain amps used in the Massive Passive. Other nice touches include the slick locking toggles used for the on/off and phantom power switches. These prevent accidental AC power up/down or phantom power up situations, which could be hazardous to speakers not to mention ribbon mics. They’ve also used some very cool looking and sturdy micro toggles, which are used to switch the relays for polarity reversal (no IC's here!) and the insert I/O function.
The inside of the mixer is just as impressive, using gold contact Grayhill rotary pots for the monitor switching and mic pre-amp gain, Tocos toggle switches, Bournes series 91 conductive plastic GT series pots and Siemens and Magnecraft relays. As the title alludes to, the mixer uses a tube stage at the stereo output utilizing two 12AT7WA and two 6414 tubes. This adds a very nice touch to anything you send to the stereo bus, making it perfect for those who want to add a touch of warmth to their mostly-digital signal path. The noise and distortion figures from channel input to channel output are an incredible THD+N of 0.0002 percent (-90dB) at unity gain (+4dBu). The channel input to mix output figures are not as good, but hey, a little tube distortion and noise is what imparts that much-needed love touch to a cold digital world. These figures are THD+N 0.05 percent (-65dBu) at unity gain (+0dBu).
Because you can have the mixer custom built to your specific needs, it's best to describe the 16x2 in modular form. From top to bottom a single mic pre-amp channel consists of a pan knob, a micro insert I/O toggle switch and LED, and a microphone gain knob, which is detented from zero to 60 in 5dB increments. Under that there is a micro polarity toggle switch and LED, the mix gain knob and the channel solo and mute buttons. The line input channel from top to bottom features a pan knob, an aux output gain control, the channel volume control and solo and mute buttons.