Review: The Manley Stingray II Hexagonal Tube Amplifier – Sonic Mastery Unveiled

Review: The Manley Stingray II Hexagonal Tube Amplifier - Sonic Mastery Unveiled - Dive into audio brilliance with the Manley Stingray II amplifier.

Introduction: The Cult of Sonic Design

Step into audio brilliance with the Manley Stingray II, a distinctive masterpiece from the renowned Manley Laboratories. As an iconic symbol of cult status, the Stingray II transcends conventional audio design with its hexagonal allure, housing two mono power amplifiers and a preamplifier in a singular, visually arresting unit. This integrated amplifier not only stands as a testament to Manley’s legacy in pro audio but also redefines the sonic experience, fusing tube technology with an unconventional aesthetic that has made it an instant object of desire.

Manley Laboratories: Cult Craftsmanship: Delve into the sonic saga crafted by Manley Laboratories, a pioneering force in both professional and hi-fi audio realms. With an illustrious history in tube technology, Manley has successfully traversed the boundaries between studio excellence and consumer allure. The Stingray II emerges as a testament to this craftsmanship, pushing the boundaries of design and functionality. Led by a woman, the brand challenges industry norms and positions itself as a cult symbol, where each product becomes a coveted piece of audio art. Join us as we explore the unique blend of technology and artistry that defines the Manley Stingray II.


  • 3 x Stereo Line RCA Inputs
  • 1 x Stereo Line 1/8″ TRS mini-jack Input
  • TRIODE – UL Output Stage Mode Switching
  • TAPE LOOP (Insert) with Bypass switch
  • 1/4″ Headphone OUTPUT (mutes speakers and subwoofer output when deployed)
  • Logic controlled Volume and Balance functions
  • All-Vacuum Tube Lo-feedback Stereo Integrated Design
  • Output Tubes: 8 x EL84 Ships with Russian NOS EL84M (aka 6Pi14Pi-EB)
  • Driver Tubes: 2 x 12BH7EH (previously 6414) dual triodes
  • Input Tubes: 2 x 12AT7EH Ships with: 12AT7EH large plate Electro-Harmonix Russian
  • Maximum Output Power UL mode: 32 Watts x 2 channels 1.5% THD @ 1kHz into 5 Ohms
  • Maximum Output Power TRIODE mode: 18 Watts x 2 channels 1.5% THD @ 1kHz into 5 Ohms
  • Frequency Response: 15 Hz – 58 kHz, -1dB
  • Gain: 35 dB at max Volume
  • Input Sensitivity UL Full Power: 210 mV in = 32 watts out into 5 Ohms with volume control at maximum
  • Input Sensitivity Triode: 41mV in = 1W into 5 Ohms with volume control at 20dB gain setting
  • Input Sensitivity UL: 35mV in = 1W into 5 Ohms with volume control at 20dB gain setting
  • Crosstalk: -72dB
  • S/N Ratio: typically 72 dB A-WGT, 1W output, 20dB gain, Source Z = shorted input
  • THD+N Ratio: typically 64 db at 1W output, Bandwidth 22Hz-22kHz, Source = 1kHz Sine wave
  • Input Impedance: 12 kOhm nominal
  • Optimum Speaker Load: 5 Ohms
  • Speaker Terminal Output Impedance: 2.36 Ohms @ 20Hz, 2 Ohms @ 1kHz, 1.83 Ohms @ 20kHz
  • Damping Factor: 2.4
  • Headphone Jack Output Impedance: 53 Ohms

Technology & Concept: Tubes Redefined

In the heart of the Manley Stingray II lies a revolutionary marriage of technology and concept, redefining the essence of tube amplification. Deviating from the conventional large glass bulbs, this amplifier embraces EL84 tubes, a smaller yet powerful alternative. With four tubes per channel arranged in a push-pull circuit, the Stingray II offers flexibility through two operating modes: ultra-linear and triode. The former unleashes a robust 32 watts per channel, while the latter provides a captivating alternative with its warmer and smoother tonality. The preamplifier, working passively, utilizes relays for input switching and a resistor network for volume control, ensuring a signal path of utmost clarity. With a nod to customization, Manley places the setting of quiescent current in the hands of the owner, allowing for a personalized touch to the amplification process. This unique approach to tube technology elevates the Stingray II’s sonic capabilities and positions it as a trailblazer in audio amplification.

Aesthetics and Safety in Synergy: The Tube Cage Symphony: Beyond the technological marvels, the Manley Stingray II introduces a tube cage as both a safety feature and an aesthetic symphony. Exclusively manufactured for the Stingray II, this cage adds a touch of elegance while adhering to mandatory safety standards. The perforated grid design aligns with Manley’s commitment to style and ensures that users can enjoy the visual spectacle without compromising safety. The amplifier’s exterior, adorned with spike-reinforced feet, underscores the commitment to form and function. As the Stingray II invites audiophiles into a world where technology and design merge, it stands as a testament to Manley’s innovative prowess in audio amplification.

Visual Symphony & Safety Measures: The Aesthetic Ballet of Manley Stingray II

The Manley Stingray II isn’t merely an audio device; it’s a visual symphony orchestrated with meticulous attention to aesthetics and safety measures. The unique hexagonal design of the integrated amplifier is a masterstroke, seamlessly blending form and function. The amplifier’s exterior showcases a thoughtful fusion of elegance and safety, ensuring the necessary protective measures complement its visual allure. The exclusive tube cage is at the forefront of this symphony, a bespoke creation for the Stingray II. Crafted with a perforated grid design, this cage adds a touch of sophistication and adheres to mandatory safety standards, preventing accidental contact with the tubes. The visual ballet extends to the spike-reinforced feet, enhancing the amplifier’s visual appeal and serving a functional purpose, emphasizing the meticulous craftsmanship that defines Manley Laboratories.

Harmony in Spike Design: Form, Function, and Safety: The spike-reinforced feet of the Manley Stingray II encapsulates the philosophy of harmony between form, function, and safety. While these spikes add a touch of edgy elegance to the amplifier’s exterior, they serve a dual purpose in maintaining stability and preventing undesirable vibrations. The amplifier’s stance is elevated, ensuring optimal performance while minimizing potential impact on the surrounding audio environment. As users immerse themselves in the visual symphony of the Stingray II, the spike design becomes a subtle yet integral element, reflecting Manley’s commitment to aesthetics and functionality. In the ballet of safety and style, the Manley Stingray II takes center stage, setting a new standard for audio amplification’s visual and functional appeal.

Tube Amplification Dynamics: Unveiling Sonic Fluidity

Within the Manley Stingray II realm, tube amplification dynamics redefine the auditory experience, unveiling a sonic fluidity that transcends traditional boundaries. Departing from the standardized tonal delivery of solid-state amplifiers, the Stingray II harnesses the unique characteristics of tube technology to paint an engaging soundscape. The EL84 tubes, arranged in a push-pull circuit, infuse each note with an energetic zeal, allowing the amplifier to respond to low-frequency impulses with remarkable speed and precision swiftly. This dynamic prowess particularly lends itself to genres that thrive on rhythmic intricacies, such as jazz or acoustic performances.

Versatility in Operating Modes: Ultralinear vs. Triode Exploration: The Manley Stingray II introduces a versatile exploration of sonic possibilities through its operating modes: ultralinear and triode. The amplifier delivers a robust 32 watts per channel in ultra-linear mode, showcasing a full-bodied and powerful tonality. On the other hand, the triode mode offers a warmer and smoother alternative, embracing a velvety quality that adds subtle nuance to the overall sonic palette. This duality in operating modes enhances the amplifier’s adaptability, catering to audiophiles with diverse sonic preferences. The Stingray II’s tube amplification dynamics and operational versatility create an immersive listening experience that captivates the soul and elevates the appreciation of musical nuances.

Versatility Across Genres: The Manley Stingray II’s Harmonic Canvas

The Manley Stingray II emerges as a true virtuoso in audio amplification, showcasing unparalleled versatility that transcends the confines of genre specificity. Its harmonic canvas is a vast expanse that accommodates the varied landscapes of musical expression with finesse. From the rhythmic complexities of jazz to the intricate layers of classical compositions, the Stingray II navigates effortlessly, preserving the authenticity of each genre. The amplifier’s ability to capture the soulful nuances of blues, the rhythmic pulsations of electronic beats, and the soaring crescendos of orchestral arrangements underscores its adaptability.

A Sonic Chameleon: Tailoring Soundscapes to Individual Tastes: In the hands of the listener, the Manley Stingray II transforms into a sonic chameleon, tailoring soundscapes to individual tastes and preferences. Whether one seeks the punchy basslines of rock, the ethereal melodies of ambient music, or the intricate details of acoustic performances, the Stingray II delivers a listening experience that resonates harmoniously across genres. This versatility positions the amplifier as an audio device and a conduit for musical exploration, inviting audiophiles to traverse diverse sonic landscapes and discover new dimensions within their favorite genres. The Manley Stingray II’s harmonious fusion of power and adaptability ensures it remains a stalwart companion for music enthusiasts exploring the expansive realm of musical genres.

Triode vs. Ultralinear: A Sonic Divergence

The Manley Stingray II, a sonic maestro in tube amplification, offers enthusiasts a captivating choice between two distinct operating modes: triode and ultra-linear. This divergence in sonic expression provides an enriching listening experience, allowing audiophiles to tailor the amplifier’s output to their unique preferences.

Triode Mode: Embracing Warmth and Nuance: The Stingray II embraces a sonic landscape in triode mode characterized by warmth and nuance. The output is imbued with a velvety quality, offering a more subdued yet intricately detailed rendition of musical compositions. This model is an invitation to those who appreciate a softer tonal palette, emphasizing subtle nuances and a more relaxed sonic ambiance. It’s ideal for listeners seeking a laid-back, cozy auditory experience reminiscent of a crackling vinyl record playing in a dimly lit room.

Ultralinear Mode: Robust Power and Full-Bodied Tonality: Conversely, ultra-linear mode unleashes the full prowess of the Stingray II, delivering a robust 32 watts per channel. The sonic output in this mode is characterized by a full-bodied tonality, where each note resonates with power and precision. This mode caters to those who crave an immersive, energetic listening experience, particularly well-suited for genres that thrive on dynamic range and impactful musicality. The ultra-linear mode transforms the Stingray II into a sonic powerhouse capable of commanding a commanding presence through the complexities of rock, jazz, and other genres.

The choice between triode and ultra-linear modes becomes a personalized journey for audiophiles, allowing them to curate their sonic experience based on the mood, genre, or specific nuances they wish to emphasize in their musical repertoire. The Manley Stingray II’s sonic divergence ensures a tailored listening adventure that aligns with each discerning listener’s unique tastes and preferences.

Usability and Functionality: Seamlessness in Sonic Command

The Manley Stingray II not only captivates with its sonic prowess but also stands as a paragon of usability and functionality, seamlessly blending technological sophistication with user-friendly design. Navigating the operational landscape of the amplifier is an intuitive experience, ensuring that both seasoned audiophiles and newcomers alike can harness its capabilities effortlessly.

Intuitive Control Panel and Remote Dominance: At the forefront of its user-centric design is the intuitive control panel, adorned with carefully positioned knobs and switches that beckon exploration. The tactile engagement with input selectors and volume controls imparts a sense of command over the sonic journey. Complementing this tactile mastery is the inclusion of a remote control that transcends mere convenience. With its backlit buttons, the substantial, metal-clad remote extends an invitation to orchestrate the Stingray II’s sonic tapestry from a distance, offering precision and comfort.

Seamless Integration with MusicCast: The Stingray II embraces modernity through its seamless integration with the MusicCast platform, enriching the user experience by providing access to an extensive array of streaming services. The MusicCast app becomes the virtuoso’s wand, allowing users to orchestrate the symphony of their favorite tracks with a few taps on their device. This fusion of classic tube amplification and contemporary streaming capabilities exemplifies the amplifier’s commitment to meeting the diverse needs of today’s audiophiles.

Wireless Charging Capabilities: A Technological Encore: A technological encore awaits with a wireless charging feature, elevating the Stingray II’s functionality beyond traditional amplifiers. The glass surface at the top doubles as a wireless charging pad, inviting users to refuel their smartphones and Qi-compatible devices seamlessly. This thoughtful addition aligns with modern lifestyles and positions the Stingray II as a multifaceted companion in the contemporary audiophile’s repertoire.

In essence, the usability and functionality of the Manley Stingray II unfold as a harmonious symphony, where every element is orchestrated to ensure that users not only wield sonic power with finesse but also revel in the sheer delight of an amplifier that seamlessly integrates into their musical lifestyle. The Stingray II transcends the realm of a mere audio device, evolving into a companion that responds to the user’s commands with grace and precision.

Connectivity Unveiled: Sonic Bridges to Versatility

The Manley Stingray II emerges as a connectivity maestro, weaving a tapestry of sonic bridges that seamlessly link diverse audio sources, providing users with a multifaceted and versatile amplification experience. At its core, the Stingray II epitomizes connectivity, bridging the analog and digital realms with finesse.

Diverse Input Options: A Gateway to Sonic Diversity: The Stingray II boasts many input options, embracing the analog heritage with RCA inputs alongside a 3.5mm jack socket, catering to a spectrum of audio sources. This inclusivity extends a warm invitation to traditionalists and modernists, ensuring that vinyl enthusiasts, smartphone users, and everyone in between can partake in Stingray II’s sonic voyage.

MusicCast Integration: Streaming Seamlessness: A hallmark of modernity, the integration of the MusicCast platform not only expands the Stingray II’s connectivity horizons but also transforms it into a hub of streaming convenience. The amplifier harmoniously collaborates with various streaming services, accessible and controllable through the MusicCast app. This synergy propels the Stingray II beyond the confines of a traditional amplifier, ushering in a new era of connected and wireless audio exploration.

Two-Way Sonic Conversations: MusicCast Interplay: The Stingray II receives sonic signals and actively engages in two-way conversations within the MusicCast ecosystem. Its unique ability to play CDs in the integrated CD player and share this musical conversation with other MusicCast speakers and devices underscores its commitment to a cohesive audio environment. The amplifier thus becomes a central narrator, sharing tales of melodies seamlessly across the connected MusicCast landscape.

Wireless Charging: Technological Harmony: In a surprising twist of technological innovation, the Stingray II introduces wireless charging as a functional and aesthetic addition. The glass surface atop the amplifier transforms into a wireless charging pad, allowing users to power up their smartphones and Qi-compatible devices effortlessly. This blend of modern convenience with classic amplification exemplifies Stingray II’s commitment to enhancing the user experience beyond sonic realms.

In essence, the connectivity and unique functions of the Manley Stingray II transcend the conventional, creating a sonic ecosystem where traditional and modern elements converge. This amplifier is not merely a conduit for sound; it is a dynamic hub, forging connections between diverse audio sources and seamlessly integrating them into a harmonious symphony of sonic exploration.

Sonic Odyssey: Sound Test and Quality Unveiled

Embarking on a sound test with the Manley Stingray II is akin to a captivating auditory journey, where every note and nuance unfolds with precision and vibrancy. With its unique blend of tube amplification dynamics, the amplifier promises an immersive sonic experience that transcends the boundaries of conventional audio.

Bass Resonance: A Powerful Undercurrent: The Stingray II introduces a commanding presence in the bass spectrum, where each low-frequency note resonates with authority and agility. The amplifier’s inclination towards a deep, rich bass creates an impactful and engaging foundation. Whether it’s the thump of a bass drum or the resonant tones of electric bass, the Stingray II brings forth a visceral and dynamic low-end performance that adds a layer of richness to various musical genres.

Midrange Magic: Dynamics and Resolution: Navigating through the midrange, the Stingray II showcases a mastery of dynamics and resolution. Instruments and vocals find a distinct space to breathe, with a clarity that unveils the subtlest details of the musical tapestry. The midrange emerges as a realm of expressive prowess, capturing the essence of instruments and vocals with a finesse that elevates the overall sonic presentation.

Treble Brilliance: Lively Airiness: In the realm of treble, the Stingray II paints a vivid sonic landscape, infusing each high-frequency element with brilliance and airiness. The amplifier’s ability to create tonal colors and shine adds a layer of sophistication to the music, striking a balance between vibrancy and smoothness. The treble, while lively, avoids any sharpness, contributing to a nuanced and enjoyable listening experience.

Resolution and Integration: Detailed Harmony: The Stingray II’s approach to resolution is marked by a characteristic organic quality. While offering intricate detailing, the amplifier integrates these details seamlessly into the broader musical context. This ensures that every sonic element, from a piano note’s mechanics to a string’s resonance, contributes cohesively to the overall musicality. The result is a detailed yet harmonious sonic presentation that captivates the listener.

Spatial Dynamics: Realistic Distance: Spatial representation in the Stingray II balances stability and dynamics. The amplifier maintains a realistic distance from the musical stage, allowing instruments and vocals to breathe naturally. This spatial coherence is particularly evident as the complexity of a musical piece increases, showcasing the Stingray II’s ability to adapt dynamically to varying sonic landscapes.

In essence, the sound quality of the Manley Stingray II is a testament to the amplifier’s commitment to sonic excellence. From the powerful resonance of the bass to the expressive midrange and the brilliant treble, each sonic element finds its place in a meticulously crafted sonic canvas. The result is a sound test that unfolds as a mesmerizing journey through the diverse landscapes of music, guided by the nuanced and captivating performance of the Stingray II.

Conclusion: A Sonic Maestro in Hexagonal Attire

In the symphony of audio amplification, the Manley Stingray II emerges as a true maestro, conducting a mesmerizing performance that defies conventional boundaries. Its hexagonal design, a visual symphony, houses a sonic prowess that captivates with commanding bass, dynamic midrange, and brilliant treble. The Stingray II’s unique approach to tube amplification dynamics elevates the listening experience, creating a harmonious blend of power and finesse.

As the curtain falls on the sonic odyssey with the Manley Stingray II, it leaves an indelible impression as a cult amplifier that transcends the realms of audio reproduction. The amplifier’s versatility across genres and its distinctive tube amplification dynamics position it as a sonic companion for audiophiles seeking an immersive and engaging musical journey. The Stingray II, with its triumphant blend of technology, design, and sonic excellence, stands as an amplifier and a testament to the artistry of audio reproduction. For those seeking sound and an enchanting sonic journey, the Stingray II beckons with its hexagonal allure and musical mastery.

Reasons to Embrace the Stingray II:

  1. Sonic Brilliance: The Manley Stingray II is a sonic virtuoso, offering a captivating audio experience with its dynamic bass, expressive midrange, and brilliant treble. The Stingray II is a beacon of sonic excellence for audiophiles who crave an immersive and engaging musical journey.
  2. Versatility Across Genres: Whether you revel in the intricate melodies of classical music, the rhythmic beats of jazz, or the pulsating energy of rock, the Stingray II adapts seamlessly to diverse musical genres. Its versatility ensures a rewarding listening experience across various musical preferences.
  3. Unique Tube Amplification Dynamics: The Stingray II redefines the charm of tube amplification, infusing warmth, and richness into the audio landscape. It strikes a harmonious balance between power and finesse, creating an authentic and engaging soundstage that resonates with audiophiles seeking a distinctive sonic signature.

Considerations Before Purchase:

  1. Hexagonal Design: While the hexagonal design of the Stingray II adds a unique visual flair, it may not align with everyone’s aesthetic preferences. Buyers should assess whether the unconventional design complements their existing audio setup and personal taste.
  2. Price Point: The Stingray II’s cult status and sonic prowess come at a premium price. Potential buyers should weigh the investment against their budget and consider whether the features and sonic performance justify the cost in comparison to other amplifiers in the market.
  3. Space Considerations: The Stingray II’s hexagonal form factor may pose challenges in placement, especially in spaces where a more traditional rectangular design is preferred. Buyers should ensure that the amplifier’s dimensions align with their available space and aesthetic preferences.