This moving magnet or moving coil phono amplifier is dinky, small and not very big yet fully featured enough to interest Paul Rigby
I reviewed the Mani 1 – I suppose we now need to call it – back in 2016. It’s about time I looked at the Mani 2, a phono amplifier that supports both moving magnet and moving coil. It’s also aimed at the budget user. Spanning 127 x 89 x 38mm (5 x 3.5 x 1.25in) and weighing around 0.45kg or a pound in weight, it’s also ideal if you’re short on space and are looking for a box with a small footprint.
I say that but take a look at the linear power supply hanging off the end of it. This is a bit of a beast in power supply terms, when compared to much of the immediate competition and well, I admit that the power supply excited me more than the actual Mani 2 chassis.
Why? Because a large power supply often supplies cleaner and quieter power with lower high-frequency noise. And this one is dual filtered incidentally with ±16 volt rails. Any HiFi component with a small power supply can also sound a little strained. Big power supplies add confidence to the sound. I’m guessing at this point but I think this supply might be a factor in the review.
After the thrill the power supply, let’s look at the chassis. Available in black or silver (although silver is £15 more, so bear that in mind), the main action occurs underneath the chassis with DIP switch options to change the settings.
Printed figures for the gain settings are all over the place and reportedly incorrect but apparently the correct numbers are 30db, 42db (for moving magnet), 48db and 59db with a loading of 47KΩ, 200Ω, 47Ω, or 38Ω and 47pF, 100pF, 150pF or 200pF for moving coil. For the price, that’s a decent spread of options. There’s also a Low Frequency filter running at 6dB or 12dB.
The manual (printed or online) is substandard. Right now? It’s confusing and misleading. The sign-posting around the DIP switches themselves also needs improving. Many users will find themselves scratching their heads in an effort to find the best settings for them.
On the front? There’s nothing except a power light which is white and way too bright – as it was on the Mani 1 – so I would cover that up, to prevent blindness, if I was you.
On the rear you’ll find the usual inputs and outputs and power socket. Unusually, at this price point, you get a power switch, via a rather lovely toggle switch. A bit of a luxury this.
Also, the Ground grub screw is of high quality for the price with a robust screw thread that sports an all-important hole for a banana plug or especially a bare wire if you need it. If you’re using a bare wire you’ll appreciate that little extra or not, in this case.
Oh and when you use the Mani 2? Turn it on before the main amp and turn it off after the main amp. Just to prevent damaging pops through your speakers.
So how does this one sound?
I began with Ella Fitzgerald’s version of One For My Baby on the Speakers Corner pressing of the Harold Arlen Song Book double album, originally out on Verve. Spinning a Pro-Ject Debut EVO, I also began in moving coil mode via a Benz MC Gold and compared it to the more expensive Leema Elements phono amplifier at around £500 or £600 to see how it performed in rarified company.
My principle issue with the Mani 1 was its MC performance which didn’t really offer enough dynamic reach for my liking but there was a distinct improvement here. There was extra room around treble-infused cymbal hits while I noticed greater insight around the upper mids. And yes, I reckon the power supply is a factor because that noise floor was surprisingly low.
Turning to Krosia’s Transmission, a dreamy Balearic electronica piece from the Mental Wealth compilation album (Vinyl Moon), I was also happy with the bass response which was precise without being chrome plated and massy without sounding boomy.
The focus impressed me.
Keeping the same vinyl sources, I turned to moving magnet and my Rega RP3 plus the Pro-Ject MM Phono Box (£70). Was the Mani 2 worth the extra cash?
Goodness gracious yes, it really was. Compared to the Mani 1? I thought it offered lower noise, which enhanced the midrange detail and better encouraged subtle details like reverb.
As for the competition? The Pro-Ject is my go-to phono box under £100 but the Mani 2 pushes the soundstage left and right, up and down and provides heaps more space for the music to roam within. Again noise is very low so brass sounded clean and smooth, treble was open and delicate while bass, via the Krosia track was focused and precise but also disciplined, it never encroached on the midrange or treble, it never masked detail from those frequencies which was a real plus point.
Finally, I brought in my Cambridge Audio 540P which cost around £140 when I grabbed it new a long time ago, you can pick it up for far less second hand, of course. In sound terms it fills that price-point position.
The Cambridge is quite superb ‘as is’ and makes for a great second hand buy, incidentally. Even so, while the Cambridge is better than the Pro-Ject, it’s not as good as the Mani 2. The Mani 2 has the edge right across the board: more spacious midrange, better tonal realism, firmer and deeper bass, lower noise…I could go on.
Should you buy the Mani 2 for moving coil use? Sure. You can and many will be very happy with it, in this mode. It sounds rather nice, much better than the Mani 1 in this respect. Saying that, if you’re looking to buy a MC cartridge retailing at £400, £500, £600 or more than I would actually advise upgrading the Mani 2 to something even more capable. Something like a Moon 110LP Mk.2 or better.
In MC mode, the Mani 2 is ideal to use as an upgrade box. That is, buy your MC cartridge, use it with the Mani 2 for now, then upgrade the phono amplifier in the future, when funds allow. But there’s no immediate rush because the Mani 2 performs well.
I see the main use for the Mani 2 in moving magnet mode and in that mode, this phono amplifier is quite, quite brilliant. There’s an effortless musical flow from the Mani 2. The performance level from moving magnet is of the level you only really hear from high-end phono amplifiers.
In moving magnet mode? Especially at this price? The Mani 2 is a real giant killer and as such? It might be the only phono amplifier you’ll ever need.
SCHIIT MANI 2 PHONO AMPLIFIER
GOOD: price, footprint, overall sound quality, feature set, power supply
BAD: manual, power light
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GP25th May 2023 at 6:52 pm
I don’t think that’s a linear power supply, as it outputs AC, not DC. It’s just a transformer in a box.
Paul Rigby26th May 2023 at 11:59 am
Hi GP – here’s a quote from the company, “Holy schiit that’s a stout power supply. Switcher? Nope, 100% linear. It’s a phono preamp, for gods sake. What are you, a savage?”
GP26th May 2023 at 12:04 pm
You’re right that the Mani has a linear power supply, but the linear parts are all inside the preamp itself. The plug-in part is just an AC transformer. That was my point.
Paul Rigby26th May 2023 at 3:14 pm
Frankly, GP that tech nuance is neither here nor there (especially as I couldn’t secure official confirmation or otherwise of the design from the company before my deadline) because the aim of the test was to see if this thing sounded good in and of itself, compared to the Mani 1 and the competition and, by gum, it does 😉
And the power section itself – I think we can possibly agree on this one? – goes quite a way to achieving that goal. Thanks for your comments, much appreciated.