Manley Stereo Variable Mu Compressor - Mastering Version with T-Bar Mod Option
Mastering tube compressor/limiter with high-pass filter option and T-Bar mod option
Newer Variable Mu units use 5670 tubes instead of the 6386. By now the availability of the original USA GE 6386 is poor, and what Manley does have are not usable due to noise, microphonics, bad side-to-side match, etc.
So does the 5670 sound different? Well, up to about 6 db of limiting it's about the same. After that point, the 5670 version tends to sound more "squashed" than the original 6386 version. Some like it better, some don't - depends on what you're trying to do.
To mitigate these issues, the Variable Mu is available here with the T-Bar Mod. This uses a pair of 6BA6 pentodes wired as single triodes to replace each dual triode 5670 (or 6386). The 6BA6 T-Bar Mod is the preferred system to use in the Manley Variable Mu for reasons of ability to perfectly match each phase-halve section and each stereo set, ability to select for lo-noise and lo-microphonic sets for a low cost, and because the action of the 6BA6's so closely resemble the smooth 6386 limiting curve.
The Manley Stereo Variable Mu - Mastering Version incorporates detented and logable steps built with 1% metal film resistors on sealed gold-contact Grayhill switches. The Mastering Version of the Variable Mu Limiter Compressor uses expensive Greyhill rotary switches with gold contacts where conductive plastic pots were used. The steps are determined with a large number of 1% precision metal film 1/2 watt resistors. The best conductive plastic pots only have 10% or 20% tolerance. The ten fold improvement in precision helps a great deal in left-right matching. There is a subtle audible improvement with stepped switches as well. Audiophile HI-FI often uses that technique to wring the last drop of performance out of a preamplifier.
The INPUT LEVEL is a five position switch with a generic optimum setting of “0” in the 12:00 position. Each step in either direction is 2 dB. For reference, Unity Gain is "0".
The OUTPUT Attenuators are in half dB steps. Reference Unity is -11.5 or fully counter-clockwise. You might think of these as "gain makeup". They are marked technically, in that “0” or fully clockwise has zero attenuation in the circuit. The tube circuit actually has 15.5 dB of gain. The Input attenuator at "0" removes 4 dB and the Output attenuator removes the last 11.5 producing "unity". With a little compression the "gain make-up" available with the Output Attenuator is very handy.
The Threshold is in half dB steps calibrated to LIMIT mode. In Compress the steps are approximately 1/4 dB. There are 24 steps so LIMIT gets a 12 dB range and Compress has a 6 dB range of adjustment. In some cases it is common to use the Input Attenuator to find a good starting point. Some Mastering engineers find using the combination of Input, Output and Threshold to achieve a little different "drive". Another good reason for stepped gains.
The Attack Time has been slightly extended in both directions compared to a regular Variable Mu and divided into 11 steps. The Recovery 5 position switch is exactly the same as a regular Variable Mu.
The switches specifically are like this:
- Input: -4 to +4 in 2 dB steps
- Output: -11 to 0 in 1/2 dB steps (24 detents)
- Threshold: -11 to +1 in 1/2 dB steps LIMIT(24 detents) and 24 x 1/4 dB steps in COMPRESS
- Attack: 11 positions CW (fast) 15mS, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90mS (slow) CCW
- Release: 5 positions CW (fast) 200mS, 400mS, 600mS, 4S, 8 Seconds (slow) CCW
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