Reviewing Manley Gold Reference Multi Pattern Microphone - From Intermusic UK
Thanks go to Intermusic.com in the UK for this review.
It doesn't look like an ordinary microphone, and it doesn't cost like one either. Can any mike really be worth four grand? Looks like it...
If you're going to sell (or try to sell) a mike at four grand, it needs to look as well as sound The Biz, and Manley's Reference Gold, with its outrageous styling and 24-carat gold-plate finish, certainly scores ten in the 'wow' stakes.
But we're not a fashion concern, so it's the gubbins - and the sounds they produce - that really matter...At its most basic, the Gold is a 'large-diaphragm' condenser with valve electronics.
The large-diaphragm bit is a feature common to most studio mikes and, along with the use of valves, it's reasonable to expect a sound that combines warmth, detail and 'openness' with a sense of what can only be called intimacy.
A Pickup Pad
Features are few: just a 'pad' switch for extra-loud sources, and a pickup pattern selector. Most top-end mikes offer a choice of patterns, usually including all-round omni, moderately directional cardioid, and seriously directional hyper-cardioid, sometimes with the more specialist figure-of-eight pattern.
The Gold goes much further, replacing the standard switch with a continuously variable control that covers all these options, plus an infinite number of in-between settings.This not only allows you to 'dial-in' the exact pattern for the job you're doing, but also gives precise control over the bass-boost 'proximity effect' (this increases as you move from omni through to hyper-cardioid).
Once used, it's a feature you won't want to be without.Build quality is - as it should be - utterly immaculate, though the very nature of the beast means that it's not designed for life on the road.
The exceptionally open grille leaves the all-important diaphragms highly exposed - great for capturing subtle detail, but also for capturing moisture, dust and just about everything else that mikes don't like.
The Gold comes with a leather (naturally) cover for the capsule, and a popstopper is virtually essential for vocal use. Being a valve mike, there's an outboard power supply, and the whole lot comes in a heavy-duty carry-case.
My Beautiful Microphone
Okay, so how does it sound? 'Beautiful' is a pretty good starting point, but then most mikes at a grand-plus produce this kind of reaction. There's the expected excellent reproduction of fine detail (you can almost hear how many fags the vocalist smoked yesterday), and it's presented in a totally musical manner.
But if there's a single aspect that makes the Gold as special as it needs to be, it's what happens down at the bass end. Most voices benefit to some extent from warmth, but it often comes with a blurring of detail - not so with the Gold, which gives you as little or as much warmth as you want without any loss of clarity.
Results on instruments are equally impressive, though you not surprisingly need to take time to get the mike exactly where it gives the tonal balance you're after.
The Bottom Line
It's pointless asking whether the Manley is value for money, since that mostly depends on how much of the stuff you've got.
But it looks gorgeous, sounds even better, and my only current problem is explaining to the importers how their review sample went missing...