The Sounds of Mana

There is an exquisite and terrifying sound from a HiFi system on a stack of Mana tables- the “Sounds of Mana”. The effect increases with levels.

Naim250.2_with_Mana_clamp_and_tables_3669

A Naim 250 with Mana Clamp, on glass then Mark 2 Sound Stage above a board on a Mana amp rack

This is an independent review. It is based on multiple trials involving 31 Mana Stages, 8 Mana Frames, 11 Mana Clamps, 4 Mana amp racks, my own HiFi plus kit loaned to me.

 

Musical differences – the sounds of Mana

When improving HiFi using new cables and HiFi components the changes can vary considerably – some musical qualities improve, and others have little effect or can reverse. With additional Mana levels the effects seem to be consistent, and across the whole spectrum.

The audio differences are largely consistent in quality, whatever element is improved. What differs is the quantity (size) of the benefit. For more, see a well-balanced Mana system.

  • Bass sounds deeper. Actually it’s not measurably deeper, it’s more accurate at reproducing drumbeats, double basses and concert pianos.
  • When your speakers reproduce deep bass, its ability to vibrate the floors and furniture is comparable to a passing truck.
  • Electronic (and organ) music can roll on for much longer before the amps get tired.
  • Acoustic instruments become more detailed. Where for LoFi it’s difficult to tell the differences between a viola and violin, by the top end it’s possible to enjoy the individual subtleties of a soloist’s instrument.
  • Close-miked voice, such as in rock, picks up increasing subtleties and realism. Acoustic microphone techniques, as in classical music recordings, can show how a top soprano singer competes with a symphony orchestra.
  • Percussion becomes a cascade of different sounds, where you can guess at the type of instrument and how it’s being hit.
  • Speakers that struggled to reproduce broken signals, now sound musical. And distortion and artificial sounds disappear.

All of these are stepwise, as levels are increased across a HiFi system.

 

Sonic booms

When music is played with unamplified instruments and voices, the sound travels through to neighbouring rooms. It’s increasingly muffled, but it does not boom.

HiFi typically booms in other rooms.

At the top end of HiFi reproduction it’s the same as for real instruments and voices. I listen to music from one room throughout the house.

 

Volume level warnings

With increasing levels of Mana tables, the sound becomes cleaner, supporting higher volume levels. This is welcome, but …

PROTECT YOUR HEARING! The clean music may be much louder than you realise. If you feel pain or a throbbing head it’s definitely too loud. For advice, consult a qualified medical practitioner.

Overheating. I’ve experienced overheating in every power amp I’ve used when playing 24-bit music and Blu-ray. Monitor heat because it results in reduced sound quality and may seriously damage your power amplifier circuits, which could also damage your speakers.

Risk of speaker damage. Given higher volume levels and long transients, it’s important to protect your speakers. If the coils in your speakers burn out you may also destroy boards within your power amp.

  • If it sounds distorted, turn down the volume.
  • Periodically check the speaker cones. With very gentle pressure they should move in and spring back, without any friction or scraping sounds.

Don’t assume that distortion comes from the speakers. As I’ve added extra levels to the source (and better cables) the distortion has disappeared – the speakers were merely reproducing the bad signal passed down to them. For more, see Guide to Balancing a Mana System.

Neighbours. Music can carry through double-glazed windows and cavity walls. If you have neighbours, you may want to consult them on acceptable volume levels.

 

Mana for Audio Visual systems

I use Mana tables under my AV receiver, the multichannel amp, the Blu-ray drive, and the front speakers. It all helps.

Anthem AV and multi-channel power supply with multiple Mana supports

The benefits:

  • In action films, the sound during critical periods adds substantially to the drama.
  • Specifically, the deep sounds become increasingly precise and realistic, and sharp sounds (like gunshots) become very intense.
  • The musical build-up becomes more effective, from better reproduction.
  • As with music, the sound is cleaner, supporting higher volume levels.
  • And CDs played in a DVD drive sound better than before.

Noteworthy:

  • Blu-ray 24-bit recordings come out stronger than DVD.

 

Acoustic sound stage

An acoustic sound stage is the creation of a three-dimensional area occupied by the musicians. (This is completely different to a Mana sound stage, which is a metal frame.)

Acoustic sound stages are found in most classical music, some folk and some jazz. It relies on microphones that are placed away from the instruments and voices. In contrast, rock seldom has a sound stage because it uses close microphone technique to create an immediate and compelling sound. (Even an orchestra is close-mic’d in rock.)

With Mana tables, each new level adds depth or precision to the acoustic sound stage.

At the highest levels of reproduction:

  • The stage reproduces the acoustics of the recording area, which may be completely different to your listening room – it sounds like another world.
  • The breadth of the sound stage can appear to go wider than the two stereo speakers.
  • If the mics and acoustics are correct, there’s also some vertical resolution.
  • The depth can extend so far back that it’s not possible to assess its distance.
  • For some recordings there is nothing in the plain of the speakers – it’s like the sound is entirely independent of the speakers.

However:

  • On stereo systems, the audience has been moved to behind the orchestra – it’s reproducing the distance from the microphone, not creating surround music.
  • The positioning of instruments may not be accurate. The reproduction shows the distance from the microphone. So if the mics are in the wrong places, the reproduction will also be wrong.
  • For 24-bit recordings, 88.1/96 MHz generally has a significantly stronger sound stage than 44.1/48 MHz (CD-quality). Microphone technique is important.
  • Within classical music, there is one well-known label that went through a long period of using close microphones then adding an electronic delay to simulate distance. I don’t like the sound.

 

Limitations to Mana tables

  • Mana tables can’t recover damaged signals from low quality interconnect cables or speaker cables.
  • Tables can greatly improve “economy” HiFi (LoFi), but you’ll hear the difference if you replace an economy component with a high fidelity one.
  • They can’t extend the power handling of speakers.
  • Speakers don’t go measurably deeper – they just appear to be deeper.
  • Tables can’t increase the power of amps, although it may be possible to run existing amps at higher volume levels.
  • Tables can’t remove their own dust.

 

Related articles

The Mana Clamp – for a far superior contact with Mana tables than the feet supplied by manufacturers

New Mark 2 Sound Stage and Sound Frame – doubling the performance improvement, and looking better

Guide to balancing and maintaining a Mana system

The Rise of Glass – once you start using the Mana Clamp (or speakers on spikes) then there are some amazing things that can be done by swapping the boards for more levels of glass

 

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