Manley has been operating since the late 80s, and has always held an amazing reputation in the industry as one of the most reliable and impressive boutique manufacturers around.
In this review, I’ll be taking a look at a slightly newer model from the company, a tube condenser named the Reference Silver. I don’t want to waste much time so let’s get into it.
About the author
- tube condenser
- cardioid, omnidirectional
- 10 Hz – 30 kHz range
- 150 dB max SPL
- 30 ohms impedance
- 7 mV/Pa sensitivity
Final verdict on the Reference Silver
The Manley Reference Silver is a great microphone for a number of reasons. Its low-end response is overwhelming (in a good way), it’s rich, warm, and can handle a whole lot of sound pressure.
That being said, it isn’t the most versatile microphone in the world and it’s definitely an expensive one at that. I can easily see as many reasons to buy this microphone as to not, but it’s still a fabulous product nonetheless.
What I like
- Massive low end.
- Insane SPL.
- Incredibly smooth.
What I don’t like
- Not the most versatile.
- Design is delicate.
Use these jump links to navigate to the desired section of the review.
Polar pattern and frequency response
The Reference Silver is a tube condenser microphone capable of both cardioid and omnidirectional polarity, and has a frequency response of 10 Hz – 30 kHz. The microphone also boasts a max SPL of 150 dB and an output impedance of 30 ohms. Also, there is a switch to engage a low-cut filter at 55 Hz.
It should be noted that Manley has not provided any charts regarding the microphone’s performance. The company’s reason being that they don’t have access to an empirically correct measuring facility that would facilitate the creation of a truly useful chart, and felt it unnecessary to tamper its credibility and integrity by including an inaccurate chart.
While I certainly understand this point of view, there are definitely ways around it. Although, after all is said and done, maybe it’s best to let the microphone speak for itself.
After testing the microphone out for myself, I found that the descriptors that Manley had provided were correct. The Reference Silver has an undeniable richness and warmth to its character. What’s more intriguing is that its bass response is absolutely behemothian.
Due to this microphone’s huge bass response, it does have a tendency to make some vocalists sound a bit stuffy. However, the warmth it exhibits in the lower midrange can make it a solid choice for vocalists with higher registers, as well as tame some more abrasive frequencies in their tonality.
I personally wouldn’t choose this for live microphones. Aside from its delicate build, it’s a rather expensive microphone to try putting up to the assault that live performance can bring.
In fear of repeating myself, I’m finding I keep looking at the thesaurus to find a word other than “massive” to describe this microphone. The low end, the smoothness, the depth of character. This thing can help score you those face-melting tones if you so desire. Otherwise, I couldn’t find any tone I didn’t like coming out of it.
Awesome. I was partially worried recording bass with this mic would be a bit too “tubby”, but it actually worked out quite nicely, especially with a more present tone. This might not be my go-to choice every time, but I can see the value of it in this case.
This is an incredibly smooth-sounding microphone, which I found treated acoustic guitars quite nicely. I could see Elliott Smith faring well with this microphone had he lived to see its conception. If you’re looking for warm and textured strumming guitars, definitely give this microphone a shot.
I tried using this as a room microphone for drums and the bass response was so insane I debated whether or not it was even necessary to close mic the kick. Once I did, however, I was not at all disappointed.
Snares sounded gargantuan through this microphone as well, although I found placing it somewhat tricky due to its rather large body and shockmount. What’s more, is that this thing’s max SPL is 150 dB, so you don’t have to worry about blowing it out. Good news if you’re Dave Grohl.
This is a fairly obtrusive microphone, albeit striking in its looks. The shockmount is permanently attached to the mic’s body, and while this part of the design is definitely effective at eliminating any unwanted vibrations, it does make the microphone somewhat cumbersome.
This can pose a slight challenge if ever you want to close mic something, like a snare for instance. The body is also made of aluminum and is surprisingly easy to dent. Just be extremely careful with this mic.
Compared to other microphones
Here are a few alternative options to consider against the Manley Reference Silver.
Reference Silver vs Reference Gold
The Silver has bit more low end heft than the Gold does, and the Gold is a bit more expensive. They’re equally great-sounding microphones, and I don’t think you can really go wrong with either. If you can, try to find a place to A/B them before deciding.
Reference Silver vs Reference Cardioid
The Ref C is a bit bolder and authoritative than the Silver in my opinion, and has a bit more shimmer to it. This isn’t to say it’s better or worse, just that it’s different. Best to shoot them out for yourself and see which you prefer.
Reference Silver vs Neumann U 87 Ai
The Neumann has a bit more presence in the 2-3 kHz range, which can make it a bit more suitable for more vocal types and styles. Granted, more people are likely to recognize the U 87, so if your aim is to impress, the U 87 will deliver more than the Reference Silver. However, they’re both great choices.
Reference Silver vs Neumann M 149
While the M 149 isn’t necessarily more present than the Silver, it isn’t as generally dark-sounding. I’d say that the M 149 is the more versatile of the two, although maybe veering towards being a bit airier. This choice is best left to your own personal taste and preferences.
Who is the Manley Reference Silver best suited for?
The Reference Silver microphone is best suited for professional audio engineers looking to add a warm-sounding newcomer to their arsenal.
While I’m sure that novices could fare well with this microphone, it’s far too expensive and I’d rather see them use the same amount of money to buy a handful of more versatile microphones before shooting for this one.
You can also watch this video by my colleague Fabio where he puts the Manley Reference Silver dual-pattern tube condenser microphone to the test.