My New Manely Steelhead

I just received my new audiogon Manley Steelhead preamp. I let it warm up and I checked the tubes to make sure they were seated properly. I put it into the rack and turned it on. Lights are always a good sign. I turn the knob to MM and 47K for my cartridge Grado The Statement. The only settings I know to change. I played it for a couple hours thinking this sounds dry analytical. It did not have any life. I switched from a ARC PH3 and I was missing the romance of the PH3. The Manley does top to bottom better but lifeless. I looked at the Manely thinking what am I going to do. Sell it, but I just bought it. Then I noticed the gain setting was on 65. I changed it to 55 and immediately the sound stage grows wider and the music comes alive. Wow I just wasted 2 hours. The PH3 is now going. What a great unit. I hope nobody else makes the same mistake.
Probably one of the best. I have the vs.2 and this is one very flexible phono pre.
If you have the extra $ get a quad of 50's Bugle boy 6dj8's and a quad of Tungsol Late 40's ladder black plates. You will throw the stock tubes in the trash. What a huge difference!

Play with the settings and never mind the MC MM standard settings, you can really tailor the sound with all the setting combinations given. Manley recommends to tweak away.

Yep, its a good'un. It stands up to quite a few v good phono stages.
I am interested but what are Tungsol Late 40's ladder black plates? Why do need a quad of 50's Bugle boy 6dj8? Won't the Steelhead only hold 2? Where do I find Bugle boys good enough for a phono preamp?
My bad only two Bugle boy 6dj8's from the 50's or early 60's Tungsol 5687 black plate quad (very rare but can be found) I buy all my tubes here on the Gon from a small handful of purveyors. You dont need NOS but a decent matched pair & quad will keep the cost down

They are not gonna be cheap for NOS but the combination sounds incredible if you plan on using a higher end MC cartridge
I've done a bunch of tube rolling in the V2 and the best tube combination for my ears is Tung Sol 5687/Siemens CCa.


Dealer disclaimer
Sounds like the Manley's 65db setting was close to overloading your next gain stage. Gain/impedance matching between amplification stages is vital, as you just demonstrated. Too much can be as bad as too little.

The Steelhead's a fine phono stage, pretty close to the best I've heard. I don't know what tubes the owner had in the one he brought over to demo in my system, but there's no question rolling will alter the sound of any tube amp or preamp. Definitely worth trying in any high end unit.

I also concur that you should be able to tailor the sound to your liking with this unit. I also found the Tung Sol 5687 or the Raytheon 5687 the best tubes for that slot. I'm running pinched waists in the 6922 slot and have stopped looking there, except for a a spare pair. Yes....the PQ's and SQ's can be as good, but for me the pinched waists had a little more of the harmonic overtones (cymbals, decay,etc.) I like.

It will depend on your preamp and rest of the system of course, but there are plenty of tubes to try out.
Tube rolling never ends. I tried some Tele's 6922 and no real significant change It seems the 5687 are the key tubes to roll into the Manley Hold out for the Tungsol black plates from the late 40's Simply the best in the Manley

The 6922/6dj8 Bugles Seimans Tele's and so on will be better than the stock tubes but from one tube to another I'm not sure there is any real significant change. So I did stop with the Bugle Boy's, I have a good supply of them.

TheSteelhead is a tweakers dream!
despite its low output, the Statement is not like a moving coil, and is incompatible with mc transformers such as those in the Steelhead. The PH3 and the Steelhead have almost enough gain (without engaging the mc transformers, in the case of the Steelhead) for the low ouptput Grados, but not quite, unless (I suppose) you have a really sensitive amp. Finding a good phono pre for the Grados is not easy. I would be interested to hear what people who have solved this issue are using.
Is there a better phono preamp for the Grado Statment?

I was looking and I could not find any Tungsol black plates quads, only pairs. Do they have to be ultra low noise like the 6922?
The V2 can use the 7044 or the 5687 in the output buffers. Can anyone generalize and state how the 5687 differs in sound compared to the 7044 tube (regardless of brand) in the V2? Thanks for your comments.