The mystique of the full-range single-transducer loudspeaker remains a powerful force among audiophiles. And yes, this point-source ideal is attractive for all kinds of reasons—the matchless coherence and the impeccable imaging that follows, just to name a couple. But as in the pursuit of any holy grail, the reality is fraught with pitfalls, which is why most conventional loudspeakers remain multi-driver affairs. However, from its inception in the 1970s Manger Audio of Germany has cut its own uniquely successful path in the specialized area of wide-spectrum-transducer design, and continues to do so as the p1 floorstander reviewed here demonstrates.
In general, most contemporary transducers fall into two basic categories. The most familiar are the pistonic, cone-diaphragm types, with separate drivers assigned to cover specific frequency bands, all installed on the baffle of a box enclosure. And then there are the less common flat-panel designs, planar-magnetic or electrostatic—usually enclosure-less, mostly dipolar or bipolar, presenting a large surface area to the room but as thin as a framed dressing curtain. Both rely on a combination of excursion and surface area for radiating output and bandwidth. Of course, there are a huge number of variations and hybrids within each class, but you get my drift.
Uniquely positioned is the Manger Sound Transducer, the brainchild of Josef W. Manger. Manger began seeking a single-driver solution to remedy the colorations and phase anomalies of complex multiple dynamic driver systems—and especially the transient errors that his research had revealed were caused by the large pistonic or “spring action” inherent in conventional cone drivers in multiway systems. Using the “bending wave principle” as his guide, Manger developed and began manufacturing his version of the wide-bandwidth, low-mass, flat-disc diaphragm that became the Manger Sound Transducer. Perhaps the best description of Manger’s bending-wave concept is Dick Olsher’s exposition in The Absolute Sound’s Illustrated History of High-End Audio, Volume One: Loudspeakers. Olsher stated that the multi-layer disc diaphragm is by design “flexible enough to bend under the force of the voice coil. [Thus] as the disc is driven by the voice coil, its radiating area decreases with increasing frequency. The result is excellent dispersion and phase coherence.” That’s a conclusion repeatedly confirmed during the auditioning; the p1 didn’t lock my head in a single fixed position. Even when I was seated a good bit off-axis, the p1 provided a satisfactory experience. Also notable, according to Daniela Manger, current CEO, an engineer and daughter to Josef Manger, is the Manger driver’s astonishingly quick rise time of 13 microseconds. The Manger white paper adds that the transducer essentially mirrors the behavior of the basilar membrane in the human ear, producing acoustic signals accurate in tone and timing. Over the ensuing decades the design has been further developed and improved, but the basic philosophy that launched the Manger is essentially the same today.
The current Manger lineup includes both active and passive models in stand-mounted and floorstanding varieties. The subject of this review, the p1, is Manger’s passive two-way floorstander in an acoustic-suspension enclosure. The tower is beautifully constructed and pristinely finished. The box is made from laminates of MDF of varying widths. The front baffle is a hefty 1.5" thick. Internally, there’s an angled intermediate shelf joined by various damping materials. Bracing is robust with added cross-bracing in the woofer section.
Today’s 8" Manger driver uses dual 70mm voice coils powered by large neodymium magnets (up to fifteen of them), and has a rated sensitivity of 89dB. The exact formulation of the multi-layer diaphragm remains proprietary. In spite of its wide bandwidth, said to extend down to 80Hz, the Manger driver doesn’t quite operate alone. In theory it could, but it would be unmanageably large and inefficient in order to generate true full-range sound plus high output. Still, the current model comes commendably close to full range. For the bass, the p1 is joined by an 8" carbon-fiber/paper-sandwich cone woofer with a 42mm voice coil. Manger confirms that at very low frequencies conventional drivers make a good match and easily achieve the SPLs consonant with a speaker of this type. The crossover slope is second-order at a 360Hz hinge point, which indicates that the Manger driver and woofer are both contributing discernable output into the upper-bass/lower-mid octaves. The crossover is physically separated in an extra chamber in the bottom of the enclosure. Most of the Manger lineup is available in a wide variety of veneers and custom finishes for the home and pro installations. Dual WBT NextGen binding posts add to the superb build-quality. All Manger products are manufactured in Germany.
My initial sonic impression made me feel a little like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. It was if I’d departed the land of the conventional pistonic driver and touched down within a different sonic paradigm. Actually, this was similar to the way I experienced my first Magnepan or Quad—an unearthly sense of ease and speed and lack of distortion. The p1 made vocals come alive with an intimacy and immediacy that were almost eerie. In tonal balance and signature, the p1 presented a neutral weighting with warmish, saturated overtones. Temperamentally, the p1’s character was not geared to knock fillings loose or propel images forward like a studio control monitor. It had a firm dynamic center but it was less about making Maximus-like gestures (“Are you not entertained?”), offering instead music naturalism without artifice and hype. After just a few tracks of Nojima Plays Liszt [Reference Recordings], I quickly began to appreciate how effortlessly it manifested its unique single-voice quality and how many speakers struggle to meet the same challenge. Especially through the mids and top octaves the p1 projected a unified sonic output with a specificity and transparency that were devoid of perceivable interdriver cancellations, or of the material colorations that can localize midrange cones and dome tweeters in multi-driver designs. Even the popular concentric/coaxial driver (in reality, two cones managed by a crossover) rarely has the octave-to-octave coherence and seamlessness of the Manger.
Without the normally distracting multi-driver discontinuities, the timbre of orchestral instruments remains true and realistic. Whether a violin or trumpet is playing towards the bottom of its range or reaching for its uppermost notes, these difficult transitions are handled seamlessly. A cappella singer Laurel Masse’s voice (on Feather & Bone) will rise and fall in pitch but her complex inflections and carefully modulated dynamics remain of one piece.