Lamm LP2 Deluxe vs. Manley Steelhead

Has anyone (mike lavigne, gladstone, etc.) had the chance to A/B the Lamm LP2 Delux with the Manley Steelhead; and if so, with what cartridges and associated gain/loading? Although, I like the flexibility the Steelhead offers (over the Lamm), I was a bit concerned about the Fremer's 12/02 comments that the Manley "can sometimes sound a bit mechanical on top." Appreciate your thoughts.

I can't comment on the Manley, but I've owned the Lamm for almost a year now and find it to be as quiet, neutral, dynamic and natural a phono stage as I could ever imagine. I'm going to be comparing it to the phono stage in my newly acquired Jadis JP200MC shortly (I needed a longer phono cable than I had) to see if it can be topped by that unit (I'm kind of hoping it can be, I could use the shelf space and the extra money for my new kitchen), but I'd be surprised if it can be bettered in my system. Both of these pieces you're interested in are reputedly superb, and I can attest that Fremer's description of the Lamm's sound is pretty accurate, but I've will add that I've been seriously impressed by the Lamm's engineering and sonic quality.
I have had both and can say they are both excellent. I do prefer the Manley for a number of reasons. It is a much more flexible phono stage from the stand point of adjustability. It also has the ability to run direct and bypass an additional preamp and additional interconnects and power cords.

Sonically, the Manley was a home run in my system. It had greater dynamics with as low a noise floor as the Lamm, but appeared more neutral out of the two. The Manley has 2 6922 tubes which should be rolled and will make a HUGE difference. They also use 4 - 7044's which can be replaced by 6900's or 5687's. All will take this phono stage to an entirely different level.

The Lamm is wonderful sounding, but in an inefficient system with low output carts, you may not be entirely pleased. It is rich in harmonics and timbre, but not as resolute as the Steelhead.

As far as cartridges go, without any doubt, you should pick up a van den Hul Colibri 0.85 mv from the user "Colibri". They are remarkable when it comes to speed, dynamics and musicality. If you want to go with a really low output cart, another contender is the Audio Tekne at 0.01 mv.

I am a proud dealer for Manley and Audio Tekne. I am also a fan of Lamm and van den Hul.
Rvlardon, i've not 'yet' had the chance to compare my much-loved Lamm LP2 Delux with the Manley but hope to soon. like Rcprince, i have a hard time imagining a better phono stage than the Lamm......but i also agree with jtinn that the Manley is more flexible and less probematic with low-output cartridges and inefficient systems.

i also agree with Fremer's might also read Dick Olsher's comments on regarding the Lamm.

the Lamm is very quiet and highly resolving.....but always natural and has worked flawlessly for 10 months now and is the real deal. i think there is something to be said for the simple design and non-adjustability of the a phono stage everything matters a great deal and Lamm does not compromise to attain adjustability.

i also highly recommend the Colibri XCP 8.5 cartridge as absolutely stunning with the Lamm. it has bettered all comers in my system (i am also enjoying the Colibri XWG 6.5).
I can't do a comparison, but I've used the Lamm for more than a year and love it. I use it with a Koetsu Rosewood Signature, which is a pretty low output cartridge, and it has been fine. One point, which might be of interest: even with sources that have more than enough output, I find that increasing the input gain on the line preamp can sometimes have a startling effect on dynamics. If you increase the input gain on my Synergy IIi and decrease the master output volume, it sometimes makes a noticeable improvement on certain inputs, and the LP2 was one of them. Of course, it helps a lot if you have individual gain settings for each input. Also, it could be that it is the line preamp which is working better with the gain increase, but that's another question.
I think the mechanical sound referred to is a result of the Sovtek 6922s in the Manley--I've retubed mine and found it to be absolutely stunning. Though I should say it was a winner out of the box.
I'm tired of phono stages like the Lamm that are a pain to deal with as far as cartridge loading issues. Fine-tuning the adjustability is a real plus on the Manley.
Gladstone, Happy Holidays! when you need adjustability it becomes essential. but if your cartridges have enough gain and work well with a 400 ohm loading that comes preloaded on the Lamm then why complicate things?

i have 4 cartridges from .2mv output to .85mv output that all work great with the Lamm.....and that is even with a passive preamp and only 90.5 db efficient speakers.....which you heard for yourself when you were here.

your 'rolled' Manley may be better than the Lamm but the Lamm has the gain and loading that works well for most MC cartridges.
Mike, Glad to see how we are spending our Holiday! Interestingly enough the factory preset input impedance is 40 not 400 ohms for the LP2 according to the specs on Lamm's website -- that is what really had me concerned as I found it unusually low. I'm beginning to think that there must be other factors that come into play that preclude one from comparing various load presets from one mfgr's phono stage to another. Perhaps apples really aren't apples?

Could you tell me what replacement tubes you used in your Manley, their cost and if anything else had to be done or did you just do a plug and play? Thanks.

Since you guys are some of the more knowledgable analogue guys around, would you both look at my audiogon query, "MCs to load or not to load: that is the question" posted a few days ago. I'd appreciate your specific input. Thanks!
I would like do not comment on Lamm/Steelhead sonic qualities but I would like to point out that the “flexibilities” that you pointed out hav a dark side. (Not to mention all those unnecessary in a serious phonocorrector volume controls, mono switchs, needless extra stages and so on…) Yes, it is "cool" to be able to adjust the input C and R but do not forger then you bringing that 0.2 mV signal over all those switches. Many people after thy have found the correct setting take all these switches out. You would need that “flexibility” once in 3-5 years when you get a new cartridge but you will experience the sonic degradations as the result of those “flexibilities” dally.
Rvlardon, thanks for the correction.....i mean't 40 ohms not 400 ohms.

i don't think i'm very expert on the loading issue. my first few cartridges seemed happiest at 47k ohms, more top end air and openness.....which i liked. that was when i was using the Aesthetix Io phono stage (which turned out to be have a slightly 'dark' character in contrast to the Lamm). the Lamm has always seemed more detailed and open than the Aesthetix Io even at 40 ohms. if i had the Manley i might be end up someplace else if i played with the adjustments.
I suppose there is (some?) degradation, but, honestly, it's hard to see how much there is given the quality of the phono stage. One of the advantages of the Manley is that the loading does, in fact, make a big difference as far as the final sound. You can fine-tune it, as it were.
The tubges I'm using: Siemens E288CC in place of the 6922s; and the gold-pin Tung-Sols inplace of 7044s.
Mike Lavigne does not appear to have RF issues--if you do, I'd be surprised if the Lamm can remain quiet at the lower cartridge output levels.
*** I suppose there is (some?) degradation…

I suppose to you were ably to detect, filter out and interpret those degradation

*** honestly, it's hard to see how much there is given the quality of the phono stage.

What dose it mean? Manley uses low gain tubes and many “toys” inside that forced then to pile-up superfluous amount of active stages. Lamm is two only stages design with a filet inside, that is all that you need to perform the purpose of the RAII correction. This dos not say anything about sound of those units but it at least indicated the initial intentions. Yes, it is nice to have at TT with automatically changing records but…

*** One of the advantages of the Manley is that the loading does, in fact, make a big difference as far as the final sound. You can fine-tune it, as it were.

Yes and no. Those “advantages” are fine sound in the reviews and in the marketing brochures but let look at those “advantages” under the real life. The capacitance loading is fairly funny things. The MC cartages do not really need it. The contemporary MM cartages are not sensitive to capacitance at all. (Actually then need it is as low as possible it means no extra capacitance) Impedance is very different story. However you have all this federal case created just because you need to fine one single resistor value… and forget about it then. Why don’t you fine this value by many other conventional methods and to replaces the default resistor. This little path up to the grid of your first tube is critically important: layout, the type of the resistor, proximity and so on. Those phonostages are not $500 Sony receivers where you comfort is the primary aim. Those multi-thousand dollars phonostages exist not because you are willing to have fun by dialing-in the cartridges loading but to yield a maximum result form you analog insulation. The only one real advantage I can see in the Manley’s loading is ability for the reviews to write this doodles very fast and to move forward to another product.

The Cat

PS: BTW, the discrete values that Manley offers are not narrow enough (from my point of view). However, an average audiophool dose not know how to dial-in the correct input resistance and how to properly damp those MC cartridges. In the best case they run like wounded in the ass antelopes between the voicing their systems by the loading resistor values, “voicing” by the VTA setting, “voicing” by the phonocables, “voicing” by the overhanging and so on. (I’m not kidding: I have seen it a number of times event in context of very expansive installations and in context of people with very high “audio reputation”.) As the result an average audiophool could come up with some kind of more or less “pseudo-balanced all-together sound” but it has nothing to do with a proper cartridge loading. Generally I agree with what Lamm did: The level at which all those “product-type” phonostages perform it is not necessary to arm a “voicing hobbyist” with an extra discrepancy-able-to-induce gismo.
I have to agree with Verybigamp. How often does one really need to tune a cartridge? He's right about the capacitance issue. In the past, a certain capacitance was needed to resonate with the inductance of the coil to extend frequency response. That's not really a problem anymore with the advanced cartridges of today. Especially with the HO MCs.

For a more scientific analysis of loading, see my white paper. It basically demonstrates why Verybigamp firmly grasps the situation.

Personally, I think reducing load capacitance to a minimum (that includes cables) will bring out the best in your cartridge. Then, at that point you tune with resistance for proper damping (reduce ultrasonic resonance). All of my phono stages were designed with radically low input capacitance. You can hear the difference.
Well, Hagtech, let me to do some untypical for the felines barking…

You papers are fine (although I would add a paragraph dedicated to impedance loading in case of a step-up is in presents). However, these papers are mostly worthless for an average hobbyist. An average audiophool recognizes the HF resonances as “a HF extension” or “presents of air”. The 99% of the systems out there (if then are not roll off at 10KHz as most of them do) severally screw harmonic balance of HF and dynamic parameters of HF signal (they are just too sharp). Consequentially, an average audiophool unfortunately care only about how to overwrite (“to fix”) the HF imperfections of his systems by “beneficial” introducing of the “sufficient amount of the HF resonances in cartridges”… and his evidences that HF is in presents (there is a LOT of more to it but I will not go there). “An average Stereophile reader” and “AA’s wisdom sucker” would read carefully your article then turn his playback system on and put a record on his TT. Signal, born in presumably HF capable MC cartridge, and if it was not instantly killed by the upper-mid-frequency distortions in tonearm, (most of the tonearms that I have seen dose it) goes to those funny phono cables that severally crew HF, then goes into a non-properly broken-in phonostage (most of them, even after the years of use, are still raw), then it goes to HF-boosting interconnect cables (designed to impress the audiophools while they conduct their dummy “evaluations by contact” and even more foolish “comparing”), then the poor, already dead, signal goes into a primps staffed with HF destroying audiophile-approved capacitors and with a HF crosstalk at 60db, after thein another “I love you, you love me” Nordost-line interconnect, then the signal dive into a power amplifier where most of the time the HF signal looses even it’s DNK identity, after this the signal reach the final stage of the audio terminations: loudspeaker… where if it was not killed but the resonances and phase distortions in the FH high crossover then it will be defiantly end up in those tweeters. The rest of the HF sounds (that have even no remote resemblance to what initially was born in the MC cartridge) will be lost somewhere in the audiophile-wisdom-approved acoustic treatment…. Did I even mentioned those A/D and D/A devises, phono, line and speaker level “optimizers”, those harmonic recovery devises and so on? So, that “an average Stereophile readers” listens carefully his “sandwich of the signal-screwing-devises” and hear “something” and ask himself: “Why this formulas do not work? Hell with those cartridge-loading resonances because without them it sounds like crap! If it is too bright then I will lower my VTA…if it screamy and “not smooth enough” then I would spay the records with Glad-Grove…” Jim, do you think I too “concentrate my colors”? You wish…