Without 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.
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: