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Manger S1: a high-end active from Munich High-End 2015

  • munich_high_end_2015_logoWithout a team of journalists it’s impossible for a publication to cover an entire audio show, least of all Munich High-End. It’s built like a 4-day city of hi-fi and one would need thrice the time to visit even half the total number exhibitors. The skilled commentator knows what to cover (and on what to pass). Bringing focus, a theme helps steer the solo player away from haphazard wanderings.

    A day one encounter with Canton’s powered monitors arriving on the back Srajan Ebaen’s first taste of a Kii moment set my M.O.C. theme for 2015: active loudspeakers. A push into higher dollar active territory meant a visit to Daniela Manger was all but mandatory. That Ms. Manger has family connections with Australia eases introductions.

    Manger’s S1 floorstander is only the company’s second active loudspeaker since the 1980s. In the Reagan/Thatcher era the German company’s first active was aimed squarely at the pro audio – a market segment untroubled by transducers and amplifiers loaded into the same enclosure.

    Traditional audiophile thinking has yet to catch up. Many live to gamble over and again in the lottery of amplifier matching and cable connections. Such was (is!) the widespread audiophile irrational distrust of actives that Manger wouldn’t produce another active for almost thirty years.

    Daniela Manger at Munich High-End 2015.

    Ongoing demands for a floorstanding version of the preceding C1 active monitor from the pro audio camp are reportedly what brought the S1 into being.

    Made in Germany, The S1’s 19cm 9-point star-shaped driver solicits the first round of tech talk. That’s the Manger driver – aka Manger Schall Wandler (MSW) or Manger acoustic transformer – and it’s different with a capital D. Originally designed by Josef Manger (Daniela’s father), it relies not on the pistonic action of a common or garden dynamic driver.

    Pushing a stationary dynamic cone inward creates potential energy until it returns to its zero position. The MSW isn’t reflexive. With no tension returning it to ‘neutral’, it stores no energy and – so the theory goes – permits more precise control of the driver’s surface.


    Manger refers to the MSW as bending wave driver: a membrane whose varying thickness takes care of frequencies from 80Hz to 45kHz. Similar to a stone breaking the surface of a still lake, think of the MSW as a surface that ripples when electrically excited. The star shape minimizes reflections returning from the driver boundary (shore).

    The MSW doesn’t work alone. To ensure more audible shove below the waist an analogue active filter board sees a traditional dynamic driver taking over at 340Hz. The S1 is reportedly comfortable playing down to 30Hz.

    The S1’s cabinet is all sealed – no reflex ports present. An 8 litre chamber plays host to the MSW whilst 20 litres backs up the bass driver, each of which enjoy independent Class A/B amplification. Manger says high bandwidth is essential for the MSW’s amp: 250w. The bass unit sees a high current flow of 180w.


    Input out back is all analogue via balance XLR. Also on the rear panel sit custom filter settings for: 1) high frequency; 2) 3kHz, where the highest perception of human speech lives: 3) 3 x 3db steps for bass attenuation – one each for floor, rear wall and side wall proximity. Filtering takes place prior to amplification.

    The Manger S1 don’t come cheap as chips. At hi-fi’s high end they throw down a gauntlet to the traditional thinking that speakers should be passive and driven by outboard amplifiers. How much green is required for separates to surpass the performance of active loudspeakers from a manufacturer of considerable audiophile pedigree? That’s the €15000 question. Just don’t write them off because they downsize box count and flexibility. That, friends, is a goal kicked in the name of simplicity.

    Further information: Manger Audio


    Munich High-End 2015 coverage sponsored by LH Labs:


    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


        • I LOVE them! A pair of those would look the dog’s proverbials in your minimalist loft pad.

    1. I wonder whether having the amplifier built into the speakers presents any issues from a vibration perspective? Normally the goal is to isolate audio components from vibrations.

      I would be interested in an outboard approach to active amplification. Perhaps something like the innards of the Devialet Phantom with digital crossovers and 4 or 6 channels of amplification. It wouldn’t solve the speaker cable issue, but there could be a ‘mono’ version which could be placed close to the speaker.

      The challenge is getting existing speaker manufacturers on board with allowing easy change from passive to active. Linn have done a reasonable job in this area with an internal connector change. Epos’ new speakers have the ability to remove the rear baffle passive components and replace with an active module.

      If enough of the major speaker manufacturers got on board with allowing a simple bypass of the passive crossover, e.g. Monitor Audio, B&W, KEF, and Dynaudio, it might pave the way for more active amplification/digital crossovers.

      I can’t help but think that people will still want to try different forms of amplification, e.g. class D vs FETs vs BJTs vs valves. And also different DAC approaches, e.g. NOS vs Stream, etc. So some flexibility would be good.

      • But isn’t the main point of going active that amplifier choice is taken out of the user’s hands? This is where some audiophile mental adjustment needs to take place – that the shoots and ladders of component swapping, if necessary at all, must take place further up the chain. Perhaps this would afford deluxe power cords and digital cables greater attention?

        • Interesting, I’ve always considered the benefit of going active to reduce the load on the amplifier by removing the passive crossover components, which from my understanding effectively reduce the damping factor of the amplifier.

          In terms of removing speaker cables, there still is effectively some cables inside the speaker and you could theoretically place a mono power amp at the base of a passive speaker with very short cables.

          I’m not sure whether there are any EMI advantages of keeping the audio components some distance from the speakers themselves.

          The next major advantage of a digital crossover would be more flexible (accurate?) crossover curves.

          But I don’t really have any experience with active speakers so I’m purely theorising.

          Convenience is one benefit, but I kind of like the experimental side of audio and I wonder if that’s part of the enjoyment too? (for some)

          • That’s right: the pick n mix nature of home audio components is often what appeals most.

    Canton AM5: an entry-level active from Munich High-End 2015

    KIH #22 – More time delay with Kii Audio