Manger Audio p1 Loudspeaker
- by Neil Gader
- Jan 24th, 2018
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.
In the past I’ve described a loudspeaker’s voicing as imparting either a bottom-up or a top-down tonal signature. The Manger p1 was quite rightly a midrange-outward signature that neither suggested a rising or etchy treble nor an overly enthusiastic bass. That said, while detail abounds throughout the spectrum, the treble region will strike some listeners as just a bit shaded overall—an impression that occurred to me when listening to Joni’s backup harmonies during James Taylor’s “Long Ago and Far Away” on Mud Slide Slim.
The fairy dust really starts to fly when it comes to midrange finesse and soundstaging with genuine acoustic music. In this context the Manger was a classical music-goers dream. For example, the massed vocals of the men’s chorale and women’s chorus during Rutter’s “All Things Bright and Beautiful” were spectacular, as was the individuation of the singers. Overall, for symphonic music, where the tonal and timbral rules of the road are well established, the Manger garners some serious kudos.
With micro-dynamics and transients, the p1’s speed and low-level resolution leave little in the way of sonic fingerprints. Instruments such as acoustic guitar and mandolin are conveyed with both the sting of the steel strings beneath the flat-pick and the underlying resonance rolling off the soundboard. The same holds true for presto piano excursions. In my view, larger dynamic swings on orchestral crescendos are not as open as they are on a comparably scaled conventional loudspeaker. Fair enough, the p1 is a two-way, but it still sounds a bit restrained when it comes to weighty impacts.
Imaging is crystal clear, focused but not overly etched. This is not the highly directed sound of a coaxial, but rather a smooth continuous transmission of sound. The p1 doesn’t have the exacting pinpoint imaging of the ME1 from TAD, but it does scale images like a much larger speaker, offering vertical cues that other compacts often miss. I found the Manger’s very expansive stage and vocal images, more often than not, more authentic and less speaker-like.
Bass response is very good—warmish, defined, and capable of carrying the performance into the forty-cycle range. During the Copland Fanfare, the acoustic-suspension “sound” that I’m partial to was on vivid display with the p1’s excellent grip and pitch control (and absence of port-generated artifacts). However, as the Manger driver hands off the lower frequencies to its woofer, the air from a timpani or bass drum is a bit more of a challenge, dynamically and texturally and tactilely. The midbass doesn’t quite match the speed and the sheer transparency of the responsive Manger transducer in the midrange proper. During Appalachian Journey, for example, there was a little dip of intensity in the power range that reduced acoustic bass rumblings and softened midbass transient response. Prospective owners should note that given the sealed-box design, the p1 does thrive on power to tap its bass capabilities and get the woofer moving. I’m imagining that the active version likely has more control and slam in the low end.
The charms of the Manger crept up on me almost subconsciously. I found myself giving the p1 priority over other speakers I had in the listening queue. Like the Fleetwood Mac hit that urges you to “Go Your Own Way,” so, too, does the Manger p1. Rather than seeking to become the center of attention like so many high-fliers in this industry, the p1 defies high-end orthodoxy by standing back and putting the emphasis squarely where it should be—on the music. It opened a window onto the live event like few other floorstanders in its segment. In sum, I would urge every upstanding music lover to make a date to have a serious listen to the marvelously involving Manger. There’s really nothing else quite like it.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Two-way, acoustic-suspension floorstander
Drivers: Manger Sound Transducer, 8″ woofer
Frequency response: 40Hz–40kHz
Impedance: 4 ohms
Dimensions: 10.6″ x 44.8″ x 8.4″
Weight: 62 lbs.
Price: $11,500–$14,500, depending on finish options
ELITE AUDIO SYSTEMS, INC.
966 Minnesota Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
By Neil Gader
My love of music largely predates my enthusiasm for audio. I grew up Los Angeles in a house where music was constantly playing on the stereo (Altecs, if you’re interested). It ranged from my mom listening to hit Broadway musicals to my sister’s early Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Beatles, and Stones LPs, and dad’s constant companions, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. With the British Invasion, I immediately picked up a guitar and took piano lessons and have been playing ever since. Following graduation from UCLA I became a writing member of the Lehman Engel’s BMI Musical Theater Workshops in New York–working in advertising to pay the bills. I’ve co-written bunches of songs, some published, some recorded. In 1995 I co-produced an award-winning short fiction movie that did well on the international film-festival circuit. I was introduced to Harry Pearson in the early 70s by a mutual friend. At that time Harry was still working full-time for Long Island’s Newsday even as he was writing Issue 1 of TAS during his off hours. We struck up a decades-long friendship that ultimately turned into a writing gig that has proved both stimulating and rewarding. In terms of music reproduction, I find myself listening more than ever for the “little” things. Low-level resolving power, dynamic gradients, shadings, timbral color and contrasts. Listening to a lot of vocals and solo piano has always helped me recalibrate and nail down what I’m hearing. Tonal neutrality and presence are important to me but small deviations are not disqualifying. But I am quite sensitive to treble over-reach, and find dry, hyper-detailed systems intriguing but inauthentic compared with the concert-going experience. For me, true musicality conveys the cozy warmth of a room with a fireplace not the icy cold of an igloo. Currently I split my time between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Studio City, California with my wife Judi Dickerson, an acting, voice, and dialect coach, along with border collies Ivy and Alfie.More articles from this editor
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