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AES Manley Labs tour
Old 31st July 2002
Lives for gear
hollywood_steve's Avatar
🎧 15 years
AES Manley Labs tour

I only have 4 1/2 hours to grab some sleep before the alarm goes off, so this will only be a preview; the info will come tomorrow. The LA chapter of the AES held its July meeting at the Chino facility of Manley Labs, where Ms Manley led us on a 2 1/2 hour tour of the factory. If anyone present had any doubts about the quality and value of Manley products, those doubts are now history. This is the way a manufacturing company should be run. The only way the evening could have been better would have been if we got 16x2 mixers as souveniers; but the "Tubes Rule" coffee mugs were plenty cool. More tomorrow, must sleep....

Old 1st August 2002
Lives for gear
C.Lambrechts's Avatar
🎧 15 years
mind if we all sing you a lullaby while we wait for your return .... heh
Old 1st August 2002
Lives for gear
hollywood_steve's Avatar
🎧 15 years
AES Manley Labs tour

OK, first the bad news; the price increase on the SLAM is for real. The way Ms. Manley explained it was that they really have to "guess-timate" a products price up front. But after you have built a few and calculated actual labor hours, you can then develop an accurate cost model. Sometimes the early cost forecast is high and the price can actually come down once production is under way. This time the forecast was way low, so low that the new list price is almost $3k more than the initial list.

Non-audio comment: Chino is one dog-ass ugly town with some of the worst mall-sprawl I've ever seen. Makes me really appreciate a lifetime of living in big cities.

According to Eveanna, Manley's basic corporate philosophy is almost totally opposite the business rules for success for a manufacturing company. One of captialism's biggest faults is the need for growth at the expense of almost everything else. Manley currently produces something like 65 products and they have no desire to get much larger. Only 2 people of the 40 person staff are dedicated paper pushers. Everyone else has some hand in the actual production process. At its current size, the boss can understand what each staff member does all day, and she has actually performed most of those jobs herself during her early years at the company. All the benefits that come along with that level of job knowledge would quickly disappear if Manley was focussed on increasing their market share. Instead, the focus is on designing great sounding, reliably constructed audio products and then continually developing incremental improvements as they learn more about manufacturing tasks required for that particular product.

An MBA would have a field day criticizing their inefficient methods, but that's to be expected when the goal is top audio performance and world class quality control; not return on investment.

The good news is that Manley proves that a company can be very successful while maintaining focus on their products and their customers, not cutting seconds off their assembly cycles or searching out the cheapest suppliers.

OK, enough anti-corporate ranting, lets talk gear! This place is a gear junkies fantasy. Everywhere you turn there are stacks of Vari-Mu's and ELOP's, 16x2 mixers and Massive Passive Eq's. Even more impressive were several early Manley tube amps, sent back from a mastering house for service. They looked like old McIntosh amps on steroids; capacitors the size of beer cans, shoe-box sized transformers. And something like a dozen KT-90 tubes in each. Then there were piles of burgandy Langevin solid state gear and yet more racks and tables filled with GML recording gear. (now manufactured by Manley for GML)

We were walked through all of the various stages that a product goes through while being manufactured; from etching circuit boards and winding transformers to engraving faceplates, final assembly and testing / QC.

Their machine shop looked like it belonged in an aircraft facility; I just couldn't imagine what they needed a room full of huge Bridgeport machines for - until I noticed that one entire wall was full of boxes, each containing dozens of a single piece from the big Starbird mic stands. They can actually mill every piece necessary from raw stock.

But my favorite room was the testing / QC room. One obvious plus was that this was the location of complete versions of almost every Manley, Langevin and GML product. But the highlight for me was the adjacent library. A great collection of all the well known audio circuit books, countless other studio related books and dozens of old audio electronics catalogs, many reaching back to the 1940's or earlier.

Overall, it was a great night. Eveanna really knows the workings of the gear she builds and can tell stories all night long. It was wonderful to hear that a company can still succeed by producing top quality products, instead of selling cheap crap in huge volumes. And the was everywhere! mics, preamps, mixers, compressors, limiters, amps, equalizers...... Huge piles of great sounding gear everywhere you looked. What more could you ask for?

(and before anyone responds with "How about some info on upcoming products?" - that really never came up. With the "we're about as big as we wanna get" attittude and the recent debut of the SLAM, I don't think that there are a ton of new products about to be released. But AES is only a couple of months away, who knows?)

Old 1st August 2002
Jules's Avatar
Cool report!

Thanks for posting it!

Old 4th August 2002
EveAnna Manley's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Steve, Thank you for a fabulous report. It was a real pleasure having you guys out to our place. (I agree about your comment about Chino. It does indeed have a bad case of Mall-Sprawl, but hell, at least we can buy anything we need here without driving too far...)

Thanks again!
Old 16th August 2002
Lives for gear
Mad John's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Hey Steve, great report man!

Eveanna, what can I say, your the best there is!

I'm a MANLEY man! yuktyy heh
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