Monstrous Tube Power from Chino

Made in Chino

These Manley reference tube monoblocks are a real warehouse treasure

Manley AmpsSave $6,000 on the last pair at this price.
Manufactured down the road from us.

Last week, you met DAVE, Chord DAVE, in the first of a series of Saturday specials focusing on lust-worthy higher-end products that we have in stock.

This week, let's go from cutting-edge digital to heritage yet modernized vacuum tube audio. Presenting our last open-stock pair of the Manley Neo-Classic 250 reference monoblocks made down the road from us in Chino, CA.

Early last year, a group of us visited Manley Laboratories and were shown around the factory by its president, EveAnna Manley. As we wrote back then, "Tube audio fans like to imagine their products are built not by robots and circuit board printers but by people... humans hunched over benches, soldering irons in hand. Rejoice, Manley customer; this is exactly how your product is made."

Manley Iron

The output transformer of a tube amp has a huge effect on the sound, especially the linearity and bandwidth. Getting the perfect output transformer is an obscure art, and once designed, it's even harder to find a factory to wind exactly what you need.

This is why Manley winds the Neo-Classic output transformers in-house, allowing them complete control over this complex and expensive component. When EveAnna hefts a finished transformer off the workbench, the forest of taps coming out of it, each with a tiny label, drives home how much work goes into this part that's often overlooked or underestimated by armchair audio critics.

The input transformer for the balanced inputs are also made by Manley. "This is Manley iron, made in Chino," says EveAnna with justifiable pride. Less critical but still important, the power transformer is sourced from a nearby California company. Thus, Manley is able to maintain the highest QC standards on these sound-defining components.

EveAnna Manley LabsEveAnna Manley, president, Manley Labs, at the design and manufacturing facility in Chino, CA, just 14 miles from Upscale Audio.

A Real Rush

With ten Tung-Sol EL34 power tubes in each monoblock, that's a monstrous amount of tube power. Why? Big amps, we cannot lie, have grace at a vast scale. It's easy to find a small nearfield setup loaded with tube grace, and it's even easier to build a solid-state city skyline that'll blow out your windows. It's far more challenging to combine delicacy with sheer sonic scale. This doesn't mean you buy a big reference amp to play at 115 dB in your room, but that only amps in the league of the Neo-Classic can come close to conveying the vast dynamic range of live music.

In this way, the Neo-Classic 250 captivates you right from the pianissimo opening of a symphony and has enough oomph and headroom to slam you with the fortissimo majesty of the climax. Or, if you listen to music that this writer is more familiar with, you'll see the birds chirping through the opening of 'Xanadu' while Neil Peart's chimes twinkle like stars. And when Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson join Neil to prog-drop the hammer, you and your viscera will understand the term "power trio" in all its beautiful brutality.

As mentioned, we have just one pair of the Manley Neo-Classic 250, and it is selling at a great price because it's open stock. The product listing shows the actual units you will receive, so you can see some minor signs of use. At $6,000 off retail, this is a real warehouse treasure, and we're hoping to sell them before Kevin sees this and wants to keep them for his personal collection. Call us!

Manley Monoblock Pair
Manley Neo-Classic 250 Monoblocks (pair) (OPEN)

The neo-classic origins of the Manley Neo-Classic faceplate

Manely Nameplate

One of the highlights of the Manley Laboratories tour last year was when EveAnna stopped at one end of the factory and pointed to a computer.

Not just any computer, of course; it was the computer that ran the mechanical engraver. But even more interesting, it was a 1982-vintage Apple Macintosh.

EveAnna brought down a large plastic box that was familiar to about half of us on the tour and pulled out something none of us had seen in a long time (and more than one of us had never really seen in real life.) A 5-1/4" floppy disc that stores the engraver's design files.

All of this 8-bit technology controls the spinning metal bit that carves out the faceplates of the Neo-Classic 250 and 500, a process that befits these high-end behemoths since it results in deeper, more silvery linework.

The laser engraver next to it (powered by a far more modern computer) creates a whiter, shallower line that looks more like high-quality printing than engraving and is well-suited to detailed faceplates that need switch and knob information.

Believe It or Not, This Is an Easy-to-Set-Up Fully Active Six-Amp High-Res System

Rialto SystemWith a coaxial tweeter/mid on the front, and a 6.7" woofer on the back, the Cabasse Rialto makes even the most hardened audio journalists and salespeople incorrectly accuse us at audio shows of hiding a subwoofer.

Audiophile-grade hi-fi systems are assumed to be hard to set up. Everything is in a separate box, and you have to tussle with special cables, extra power supplies, and sometimes multiple amplifiers.

What if we told you that you could set up an audiophile-level system by plonking two boxes down, plugging them in, and once on your home network, you would have six dedicated amplifiers, a DAC, and a streamer in a three-way stereo that's all ready to rock?

The Cabasse Rialto is a powered wireless bookshelf hi-fi system for those who love the idea of all-in-one audio but don't love the spherical designs of Cabasse's other highly regarded systems. Set in each of the two "normal" looking boxes are a 450 W amp for the 6.7" rear-facing woofer, a 300 W amp for the outer (mid) driver on a 5" coaxial, and another 300 W amp for the tweeter.

On the top of the main speaker is a touchscreen that'll allow you to change volume, sources, and more without finding your smart device and opening the app.

The Rialto also comes with a built-in microphone for active room correction and can be grouped with other Cabasse systems. The onboard 768 kHz, 32-bit DAC has plenty of digital headroom for all the processing, bringing you a huge, detailed sound that never fails to amaze even the most seasoned hi-fi salespeople.

Take a Stand

They call them bookshelf speakers, but we prefer standmounts, because nothing makes a pair of monitors come alive more than being placed on dedicated stands. These bring the tweeter to ear height and let you position the speakers out in the room to harness the best nodes. (Even with room correction, it's important to get placement right and not give the DSP too much work to do.) A good stand also greatly improves imaging and bass by providing a solid, non-resonant structure that minimizes and drains away vibration.

cabasse rialto black cabasse rialto floor stand

Cabasse Rialto Hi-fi System (pair)


Cabasse Rialto Floor Stand (pair)


Focal Naim Raising Prices on Feb 1

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Have you been eyeing the Naim New Classic range or perhaps the ever-popular Atom? Or perhaps the Focal Sopra No2 floorstanders or the Bathys wireless noise-cancelling headphones that are renowned for helping turn economy into business class?

Talk to our team today and lock down your preference from either or both sides of the English Channel!

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