Manley Steelhead MM+MC Phono Stage
UK Price including vat
Manley Steelhead Front  Manley steelhead Rear

Product Details

Manley launched their orginal Steelhead phono stage some years ago. Continuing the aquatic naming theme, The Steelhead is a device with a very clever MC variable load auto transformer designed by Manley's staff HiFi designer Mitch Margolis. Manley's in-house Magnetics department brought this to fruition (which makes the MC stage so very clever)

The unit has two Moving Coil inputs with selectable impedance load 25, 50, 100, 200 and 400 ohms via an innovative "Steelhead" transformer/autoformer. It also has variable and selectable Moving Magnet input impedances too 25, 50, 100, 200 ohms and 47Kohms. Very nifty too is the selectable-dial-able-in-able-from-the-faceplate-able capacitive loading for all three of the MM & MC inputs 0 to 1100 picofarads in 10 picofarad steps. This is cool clever stuff! TEN picofard steps! Now you can easily dial your perfect cartirdge match.

The Steelhead uses six tubes. 2 x 6922 plus 4 x 7044. It has a large volume control. It can drive an amplifier directly if required and, if you don't "do" digital and happen to have three turntables set up, it gives you 2 x MC and 1 x MM selectable inputs! It has variable and fixed volume outputs and all-tube very low Z tube buffered outputs. Inherently, 20 ohms plus a little 47 ohm "OK drive those high capacitance audiophile cables" resistor, so its real output impedance is only 67 ohms. No cathode follower output here like other manufacturers - Manley's Steelhead provides real low impedance all-tube outputs.

It has selectable 50, 55, 60, 65dB gain (the switch auto-mutes as you change  to avoid those nasty thumps) Gain switch markings are referred to from the input of the 1st active electronics at 1 kHz to the fixed output @ 10k load, regardless of whether source is MM or XFMR stepped-up MC. It is not really practical to include MC step-up gain on the front panel markings due to the variable SOURCE impedances of MC cartridges and the variable LOADING that input transformers have on any given cartridge. Total MC gain variability is confined to about 3 to 12 dB of range though. Transformer step-up gain plateaus as the load impedance on a given MC cartridge is optimized. This does not produce a VOLTAGE gain but does offer a slight POWER gain. All this means you can set a load impedance to best suit your MC cartridge and adjust gain to suit your system's operating level. Whatever you do, it's very unlikely anything will be damaged.

In essence - gain-a-plenty! Enough to do justice to your favourite lo-output MC cartridge.

It has a handy mute switch as well as really handy "just turn it down while I cue up so I don't throw my woofers across the room but I still want the same volume I was listening  to before I flipped the side" DIM switch and, as a perfect accompaniment to the latter (reminding us Brits that the Yanks have a tangible sense of humour) what could be nicer than a SUM button to double as the MONO button? It has a hyper-regulated outboard power supply that connects via a very large mil-spec multipin connector. And you can hit the "standby" button to keep the family at bay while you take a brief holiday in Tuscany (how did they know that?)

A backlit "MANLEY STEELHEAD" badge reflects a nice nod to vinyl and days-of-Bakelite-yore while LEDs remind you this is indeed modern cutting edge engineering & design. A tube-lover's dream!


Manley are now shipping Steelhead Version 2 which has a LINE input as standard. This means you can drive amplifiers directly from the Steelhead's Variable Outputs and select whether you are listening to the Steelhead phono stage or any LINE source (CD, SACD, Tape, Tuner, a whole different preamp's main line output, whatever). This feature turns the hifi world upside down.

Other features on Version 2:

  • LINE input comes after RIAA stage, but before the volume control
  • Variable output white follower buffer. New button on faceplate selects LINE input or built in RIAA stage. Version 2 has FIVE push buttons.
  • Clever new anti-RFI grounding options user selectable via dip switches on back for those in high or troublesome RFI zones. If you're picking up a local radio station through your system, try playing with these switches.
  • DIN MC2 connector has been scrapped. Now MC2 input is another pair of RCA/phonos.
  • Additional pair of RCAs added for bi-amping or driving amps and a subwoofer directly from the Variable Outputs. This second set of outputs is wired in parallel to the Variable Outputs. If you would like them wired to the Direct Outputs, this can be done upon request.
  • Badge illumination changed to long lasting white LEDs.
  • Output Muting relays changed to short outputs if power is turned off.
  • STANDBY button now called SLEEP
  • Audio (audible) circuitry remains the same as Version 1 and Version 1.5.

Technical Specifications

Pin out for the DIN MC2 input on Version 1 and 1.5 (Version 2 changed to RCA connectors):

The pinout of the DIN on the Steelhead is not in the manual! Shoot.
The pinout reads 1,4,2,5,3 if you are looking from the rear face from left to right (clockwise)

Pin 1: red left high +
Pin 2: ground
Pin 3: white right high +
Pin 4: green left low -
Pin 5: blue right low -

Unit weight: Steelhead: 15 lbs.
PSU: 18lbs/8.2kgs

Chassis dimensions: Steelhead: 19 wide x 3.5 tall x 15.5 deep
PSU: 13.5 wide x 4.5 tall x 11.375 deep

Minimum mounting allocation footprint including all projecting parts and controls:

Steelhead: 19 wide x 4.125 tall x 18 deep
(allow an additional 6 inches depth for PSU umbilical cord projecting out in the center)

PSU: 13.5 wide x 4.625 tall x 12.5 deep
(allow an additional 6 inches depth for PSU umbilical cord projecting out in the left)

Owners Manual

Owners Manual Download Owners Manual

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