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Manley Reference Silver

Large‑diaphragm Capacitor Microphone By Sam Inglis
Published October 2022

Manley Reference Silver

This classy valve mic adds a little Manley magic to the C‑37 formula...

One of the longest‑established ‘boutique’ manufacturers in the business, Manley are perhaps best known for their outboard hardware. They take inspiration from vintage designs, and tend to favour valve circuits, but they don’t make clones or copies of older equipment. Original Manley products such as the Massive Passive equaliser and Variable Mu compressor have become bona fide classics, and for good reason.

A similar philosophy is apparent in Manley’s Reference range of microphones. Capsule manufacturing is a highly skilled and specialised art which is not currently part of Manley’s own operation, so they source capsules from third‑party suppliers; but although these capsules are based on classic designs from the likes of Neumann and AKG, the Reference microphones employ them in original configurations. Like Manley’s outboard, all are valve‑based.

Silver Service

Manley’s Reference Cardioid microphone boasts a Neumann‑style centre‑terminated capsule, while the Reference Gold uses a US‑made capsule based on the revered AKG ‘brass ring’ CK12. The Reference Silver is the latest addition to the line‑up, and employs a copy of the C3 capsule that was originally developed for the Sony C‑37 back in the ’50s. The same capsule is used in Mojave’s MA‑37, which I reviewed back in January this year; but whereas that mic is explicitly intended as an homage to the C‑37A, the Reference Silver is its own animal.

Manley have not sought to replicate the diminutive form factor of the C‑37, nor its distinctive grille pattern. Instead, the Silver uses the same body and grille as the other Reference models, and consequently, it’s a large and imposing mic with a very open headbasket. It also has a different and unusual circuit topology. Though it’s described as a “tube mic”, the Reference Silver is actually a hybrid design, which uses a FET as a constant current source in conjunction with a 6870 valve. This arrangement was chosen for its low noise and distortion — and also, presumably, for its headroom. One of the good qualities of the Sony‑style capsule is that it can handle immense sound pressure levels without folding, and Manley’s electronics are evidently able to keep up: the specifications quote a maximum SPL of 150dB, even though there’s no pad switch.

The Silver Reference ships with a Manley Power switch‑mode power supply designed by Bruno Putzeys and Nand Eeckhout.The Silver Reference ships with a Manley Power switch‑mode power supply designed by Bruno Putzeys and Nand Eeckhout.All of Manley’s Reference‑series mics and some of their outboard modules have recently been revised to use a new power supply, designed by Bruno Putzeys and Nand Eeckhout. This is a switch‑mode rather than linear design and can accept any 50 or 60 Hz AC input from 90 to 250 V without the user needing to change any settings. It’s also super‑efficient, drawing just 8 Watts, and Manley say that the design completely eliminates mains‑frequency ripple. A neat feature is the red power light, which illuminates brightly when the PSU is switched on, and glows more dimly when connected but switched off.

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