I love integrated amplifiers. I love the simplicity of them, and you save money by only needing one set of interconnects to have a system. Plug your CD player or DAC into the integrated, and away you go. And if you're a gearheard like me, it makes it really easy to change your system if the mood strikes you. Sell the integrated, and drop a new one in there.
I have a lot of integrateds come through my listening room in the last few years. In fact, I've actually lost count. One thing I do remember, however, is that the Manley Stingray is among the best I have every heard, either tube or solid state.
The Stingray that I owned was the original iteration of the amplifier, not the Stingray II, or (gasp...!) the Stingray iTube. The big difference between the Stingray II and the original iteration that I owned was that the Stingray II included a remote, as well as other improvements.
Basically the Stingray is like a monoblock amplifier in one chassis - chop the diamond shape amp in half, and you basically have a mirror image. For a relatively small amplifier, the Stingray is remarkably heavy. Very solid construction with really heavy transformers at the back of the amp. The transformers are so heavy, in fact, that the amp is very "back-heavy" and almost did wheelies on my amp stand do the compression of the soft rubber feet on the bottom of the amp. Solid indeed....
You also basically get 2 tube amps in one with the Stingray. With the flip of dual switches in the back (remember the mirror image thing?), the amp goes from ultra-linear to triode mode. I tried both extensively, and much preferred the ultra-linear. U\L puts out about twice as much power (40 watts) as in triode mode, and seemed to have more bottom end, more punch, and more attack on the top end. Triode sounded a lot more like your stereotypical tube amp.
I found the the Stingray responded quite dramatically to tube rolling. speaking of tube rolling, this can get a little expensive change all 8 EL84 output tubes. When I dropped in an octet of matched Gold Lion EL84's, the amp really began to sing. It uses 12AT7 input tubes, and the somewhat unusual 6414 tube for the phase splitting duties. Manley uses this tube in almost all of their designs and I believe this tube is getting harder and harder to find, since they're not made anymore. I had the misfortune of having one the 6414's go wickedly microphonic on me, so I tried a pair of 5751 tubes, which are supposed to be an alternative. I can see now why Manley uses the 6414. The whole sound of the amp seems to be designed around this tube. The amp just lost all it's magic and sounded dull and flat. I managed to find some brand new 6414's (from the 1950's - still in their original packaging!) and once I dropped these in, the amp came alive again.
Of all the amps I've owned, this amp had the biggest wow factor. Non-audiophile friends, and ever strangers that came through my house, would see it sitting there looking lean and mean on my audio rack and say "wow, what the HECK is that??". It certainly has a very high coolness rating.
In the end, I decided to part with the Stingray. The lack of a remote was too much for the lazy side of me to overcome. Sometimes I still wish I hadn't though.
A+ if you don't care about a remote, A- if you're like me, and you need a remote.
Added By: Daniel Campe Hamme Belgium
Since about one year I own a Stingray, which I bought second hand.
This is really a very good amplifier.
Also I have been playing around with the input tubes, changing the 6414 by another type is not a good idea.
No other tube matches the characteristic curves of the 6414.
Although by changing the bias, a 12BH7, 12AU7, other even other tubes can be used without affecting the sound quality, than only small differences are noticeable.
The amplifier is now running with the EL84 EH, which gives a very good result.
Comment Added: 3/5/2012 2:34:15 AM
Added By: dmitchell
Theoretically, 5751 tubes are a direct replacement for the 6414's, but they sounded nowhere near as good as the 6414s did.
Comment Added: 3/14/2012 7:20:25 AM