Manley SLAM!® Stereo Limiter & Mic Preamp Close Window  
The making of the new John Mayer album. Steve Jordon drops the Manley name. Check it out!


While I'm writing I thought you'd be curious about a couple shootouts we did. I mentioned before that on our SF recording session we split the signal after the mic pres to 1" 2 track ATR with trick EAR tube electronics, and to the SLAM! to PT. It was pretty hard to hear what was going on in the control room, but we finally got to set up a test in Paul Stubblebine's mastering suite where we compared the same performance:

A) right off the 1" 2 track
B) from the PT hard drive (straight to SLAM! at 96k)
C) a transfer of the 1" tape to the SLAM! at 96k
D) a transfer of the 1" tape to Pacific Microsonics converters at 96k

(FWIW, Bob Ohlsson says that the Pacific Microsonics sound better at 88.2 than at 96k. He rates the Pacific Microsonics and the SLAM! as comparable in quality but completely different in sound.)

The track we compared was vocal, acoustic guitar, and vibraphone, recorded through a Jecklin pair of DPA 4041's and thence through the Millenia preamp.

First I will mention that it was encouraging and refreshing to do a comparison like this where everything was basically quite healthy sounding.

I very much prefered C) to D). Love that SLAM! speed. Actually I might have preferred C) to A)! Somehow it seemed to resolve the signal off tape into something a bit clearer and more obviously dimensional. Jill prefered C) to A) as well, but she continually protests that she is no golden-ears. She's a musician though and a pretty good stand-in for a lay listener.

I definitely could hear more dynamics and more detail on every sound on B) than I could on A). I was very surprised to find that the vocal sounded way bigger and healthier on B) than on A). I expected the transients to come across better, and indeed they did, but I was surprised to find that the vocal did too- not a lot of transients there. This was somewhat unfair as the engineer didn't leave enough headroom for the sudden loud part of the vocal, so it was really mangled on tape. However the quieter parts of the vocal and the rest of the track had plenty of headroom.

All in all, it was enough to convince me that the SLAM! vs. ATR 1" 2 track was a matter of nuance really, and that even though the tape had some very nice qualities to it that might suit different music better, it really is not worth the time and expense. If there was a nice tape machine already on site with operator, and another SLAM!, I would track to 4 tracks on digital: tracks 1+2 straight from the SLAM! at 96k, tracks 3+4 off the tape repro head to the SLAM!. More sonic options and a hard copy of the session on tape for the archives. (Actually, we did record off the repro head into the new Genex converters, but those converters were not that good.)

I didn't do the A)/B)/C)/D) comparison on any other tracks, but I have digital copies of several different tracks with both straight to SLAM! and tape to SLAM! versions. A couple of the tracks work better from the tape to SLAM! version. Both have too much organ bass in the mix (grrr... at the engineer and the control room), and for whatever reason this excess bass is not as much of a problem on the tape to SLAM! version. It's quite overwhelming on the straight to SLAM! version. Also, one of these tracks has a very loud distorted Leslie intro with a big mock-Bach diminished chord, and this comes off smoother and less overwhelming on the tape to SLAM! version. So, we will probably be using the tape to SLAM! version for those cuts but for the other cuts we will be using straight to SLAM! versions.

It was rather an expensive experiment and a lot of trouble for the engineers, but it resolved the question definitively enough for me!


(Posted on

I need to say more about this unit.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm an "experiment and find the best sounding XXX" kind of guy. I try to not let it stand in the way of musical expression, but I'll always have at least five mics up in front of a singer anytime we're starting lead vocals. And if you've heard either the Mic CD or the Pre CD, you know that I *can* get carried away with exploring options.

So when it was time to record the performance for the ADC CD, I had four guitar mics positioned with two others on standby (KM-84, A-T 4033, Studer stereo mic, Shure SM-81 and Neumann U-87). We spent about half an hour considering the possibilities and repositioning the mics, until I was finally happy. Both mics (I ended up with the first two) went straight to my Focusrite 110s and then straight to the analog 2" via DH Labs Air Matrix cables.

For the vocalist, Jonelle Mosser ("One of the greatest singers in the world, with a direct link from heart to larynx." - according to Don Was, quoted in the Washington Post) stepped up to a press conference setup with five mics. A Neumann U-67, Neumann U-87, A-T 4033, A-T 4050 and a Sennheiser 441. I had decided to audition them through the Manley SLAM!, the latest wunderkind from the idea of EveAnna Manley and the genius of "Hutch" Hutchinson. This is a tube preamp with a ELOP limiter and FET limiter built in and I had the optional ADC/DAC card in this unit. Since it was here for the ADC evaluation, I decided to give it a shot as the vocal chain.

Jonell stepped up to the 67 and started singing.


That sounds good.

After about a verse and chorus, I realized that it sounded perfect.

I leaned over to the second engineer and told him to strike the other mics. He looked at me incredulously, since we've worked together for years and he knows my penchant for auditioning options. "I don't know how it could be better. I can't imagine what I would change."

This mic through the SLAM! on her vocal was perfection. The path was mic to SLAM! to tape. I dialed in a bit of the ELOP limiter and we were making music. It was that easy and the vocal sounded incredible. In the mix you'll hear on the ADC CD, I added 1 dB of shelving at 9K and that was it. I don't mean to sound like a commercial, but I've spent so many hours in the studio looking for that "perfect" vocal sound, that when it comes to you like a strike of lightning, you don't forget it.

I can honestly say that I've never ever experienced the one mic, one preamp perfection phenomenon before in my 25 years in the studio. But it's nice when it happens.

If I've learned one thing in my years in the studio, it's "when a magical moment arrives and the music is flowing, just stay out of the way." That's an important part of being a great engineer.

For more info about Jonell, go to

Lynn Fuston
3D Audio Inc
Home of the 3dB Recording Forum

Yeah, I'm a proud owner of a Slam!, into which I've put two NOS Mullard 12AT7WA valves. This box is truly a Pure Magic - I've gone through tons of gear and I can't even imagine there's another pre/limiter which could sound better.

Peace, Alex Kharlamov

From: Bil VornDick
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2002 18:55:12 -0500
Subject: Boxes and boxes

By the way...The Manley Slam is the most incredable box I have heard. Used the 96 k for mixes as well as analog 1/2 inch, pretty close. " It's getting better all the time" John Lennon

Do you want it back or can we loose it in Nashville for ever?

Hi Eva

I have just brought a mastering slam and am running it after a massive passive and I cant believe the sound its amazing I opened up a protools session that was recently mastered by a kick ass mastering guy in Wellington New Zealand He used some out board gear and waves mastering plug ins etc

I spent about 10 mins with the massive and slam using no plug ins and got a sound that left his one for dead My song that I once thought was sounding ok now sounds like a million bucks it totally slams It sounds louder than his one even without brick walling it It has way more punch and simply much better to listen to

Awesome gear
cheers Henry

Hi EveAnna,

I have been playing with the Slam for the past two nights. It absolutely lives up to it's reputation. So far, I have only used the D/I with my bass. I sounds so good that I have not found the time to rack it up and try it as an insert on my HD system. The Vari-Mu arrived today, too many news toys at once. I will need to spend the entire weekend in the studio now. What a shame.

Thanks again and again,

Tom Richardson

Hi Hutch and EveAnna:

I thought I would drop you a note on our progress using your pro gear to amplify guitars. You might remember that I wrote you on this subject 5 or 6 months ago. Since that time, we purchased a SLAM!, a Massive Passive, two Studio 240 monoblocks, two Demeter spring reverbs, and two JBL two-way (12" and horn) PA speakers. Most of our purchasing decisions followed the absolutely right-on advice that Hutch gave me.

The equipment seems to work best hooked up and set up in the following order and manner:

1. SLAM! The other guitarist I play with, Bob, uses one channel and I use the other. The very high impedance instrument inputs work best with acoustic guitars. We play Martins with piezo pickups. There seems a bit of an "edge" or very slight harshness using the lower of the high impedance inputs. This is eliminated using the very high impedance alternative. The higher of the two high impedance inputs also works best with Rickenbacker 12 strings and Gretsch guitars. For some reason, Fender Stratocasters sound a bit thin through this setup, but that may be because we are using strings that are too light (11-47), or because we should be using the lower of the two high impedance alternatives, or we need to think about different pickups. We still need to experiment further with Fenders.

We also have not tried Gibsons with humbucking pickups yet.

Incidentally, we tried using two Manley 40dB mic pres before the SLAM! came. It is just as Hutch said -- the SLAM! is MUCH, MUCH better!!!

The metering you put into the SLAM! is great. I can set the input levels using the VUs, then separately set the output levels, then dial in the compressors, and reset the output levels again. With the guitars, the 3 dB pad seems to work best with the VUs. If I don't use the pad, the needles seem to bounce too much off the right side of the meters (!)

And those colored LEDs are amazing -- they are almost worth the price of admission in themselves.

2. Massive Passive. It is interesting that boosting and cutting the same frequencies seems to work well for most of the guitars we are playing. For the Ricks and Gretschs, the following settings seem to work best:

  • (a) Boost 100 Hz about 5-7 dB.
  • (b) Cut 560 Hz about 15-20 dB. (This is a nasty frequency for all guitars we have tried except the Fenders. For some reason you don't have to cut 560 Hz with Fender Strats.)
  • (c) Boost 3.3K Hz about 10-12 dB.
  • (d) Boost 5.6K Hz about 10-12 dB (This is a magical frequency for the Ricks -- it really adds shimmer and chime.)

For some reason, the Bell curve works better than shelf. (Do you know why this is?)

Seriously, the Massive is so good that we can get Beatle (and Byrd) tones with this thing!!! It is absolutely the best equalizer we have ever used!!!

For the acoustics, we use the same settings as in (a) and (b), above, but we boost the next higher frequencies for (c) and (d), 4.7K Hz and 8.2K Hz. We also boost these frequencies a bit less, say 8-10 dB. It sounds incredibly natural!!! Again, the SLAM! and Massive combination is phenomenal!!!

Sometimes we will cut the bass a bit on the acoustics using the high pass filter. You can cut 120 Hz there, and then boost a bit higher frequency on the "parametric" portion of the Massive, say 150 Hz. This seems to cut the boominess, while retaining some bass boost that the Martins seem to like.

We are also using the ELOP compressors on the SLAM!, usually set about half or a bit less. We then run the signals through:

3. An LA2A or 1176LN compressor (Bob uses one compressor and I use the other). We don't use much additional compression here, just a bit on the LA2A, and the 4:1 ratio on the 1176. I made the mistake of putting these compressors in front of the Massive once -- the high frequencies I needed to boost for the guitars had the added impact of increasing the hiss from the UA units. Not a good thing. Although your units are dead quiet, not everything else is. It seems that putting the Massive as early in the signal chain as possible is the best bet.

And then the signal goes through:

4. Demeter Real Reverb spring reverbs. We have tried using a Lexicon PCM81 and Eventide Eclipse, and both are good units. However, the reverb from the Demeter sounds the most natural.

5. Then the signal goes to the Studio 240s (again, Bob uses one and I use the other). We have tried both triode and tetrode, but they sound about the same running guitars through the amps. And finally:

6. The signal goes to the JBL PA speakers. Bob uses one and I use the other.

Again, your equipment is incredible!!! I can't say enough good things!!!

If you ever wondered how the Beatles got the incredible guitar tones they had on cuts like Dr. Roberts, I would bet it was a result of running directly into a board and using an equalizer somewhat similar to the Massive. You just can't get those tones through a Vox amp, like an AC30. I've got one, and have tried. Now that we have used your gear, we can't go back.

Thanks for your help and advice.

-- Chris

Hi EveAnna,

the SLAM is just great ! We love it - beats everything we have ! And the ADA ist the BEST I've ever heard - and its so loud and clear - !!!! Just great

I just did a quick mastering and it sounds great.


BME Records / Studio
Dietmar Barzen

I have to tell you that I am VERY pleased with the Manleys. The Massivo is incredible, nothing I have worked with comes close. It's so gentle and at the same time effective, GREAT product, everything sounds better at every frequency.

The SLAM is the best of the best. I can't describe what it does because I wouldn't know when to stop. Power, power and delicate. These units are the best equipment I could have bought. The people at Manley labs really know their stuff. So well made and designed.I didn't realize I was so far from this sound. You can't come close with any plug-in to what these units do. Now I am going to enjoy my toys.

See you and thanks again

Got in to Buenos Aires this morning, dicked around for a few hours eventually made it to the studio and hooked up the SLAM!, started mixing and I just wanted to tell you how F!@##$ amazing this thing is, I knew i liked it when jose had it but it is way different in a real mix situation. i am stunned, I should have had this thing a long time ago.

Thanks a million.

I've tested the SLAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hello Eve Anna,

just to let you know that we've tested the SLAM! and that.... we've decided to purchase it. Thanks to Playback (Alain and Henri) in France, we've tested the SLAM! during a recording session in a very nice concert room in Paris (salle Gaveau) on some classical music (once more, sorry...). Well, I would just say that we now have a wonderful stero channel consisting of 2 M149 powered by 2 vintage tube power supply (Neumann as well), preamp SLAM!, Massive Passive as the stereo EQ and a Variable Mu as the recording compressor. It sounds more than natural, more than great. Thanks for those products. Now, we hope to earn enough money to buy more than 2 channels.

Nice week-end to you.

Laurent Maury