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This review first appeared in the June 2010 issue of hi-end hifi magazine High Fidelity of Poland. You can also read this review of the Manley Jumbo Shrimp in its original Polish version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with publisher Wojciech Pacula. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of High Fidelity or Manley. Ed.

Reviewer: Wojciech Pacuła
CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Air 
Phono preamp: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC
Preamp: Leben RS-28CX 
Power amp: Luxman M-800A
Integrated amp: Leben CS300
Loudspeakers: Harpia Acoustics Dobermann
Headphones: AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro 600 Ω
Interconnects: CD-preamp Wireworld Gold Eclipse 52, preamp-power amp Velum NF-G SE, speaker cable Velum LS-G
Power cords: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9100 (CD) and 2 x Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC7100 (preamp, power amp)
Power conditioning: Gigawatt PF-2 Filtering Power Strip
audio stand Base
Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD, turntables change continuously, as do cartridges
Review component retail: zł 9.900 in Poland

Despite being named tongue in cheek, the Jumbo Shrimp is a very serious machine. Based on six signal-path tubes, a solid-state power supply and cosmetics typical for the brand, this preamp has all the necessary inputs and outputs plus an RF remote control which needn’t be aimed to operate. The only item missing is a headphone jack. I deliberately wrote ‘jack’ because Manley’s website does describe how headphones may be connected via a 0.25'/binding-post converter. But this solution does not guarantee proper function for all headphones. If there were an appropriate output socket with a multi-tapped transformer to match the impedance of various headphones, we would have a really complete device. I understand that Manley wanted to keep the price as low as possible but I for one would pay a little more to have a two-for-one device. That aside, this is a brilliant preamplifier that’s complete and competent. It was designed to handle the tough working conditions of a recording studio. Being comfy in crowded hot racks, home conditions won’t pose any challenges.

Besides the usual reference system, I used the analogue deck with a Reed 3Q tone arm and Air Tight PC-1 Supreme cartridge, the Avid Acutus Reference deck with the same pickup plus a Miyajima Waza and finally the Music First Model MkII copper TVC and the nowe audio mono3.5 power amps. Previously I have reviewed the following Manley Laboratories gear:

Discs used - Clifford Brown and Max Roach, Study In Brown, EmArcy/Universal Music Japan, UCJU-9072, 180g LP (mono); Danielsson/Dell/Landgren, Salzau Music On The Water, Act Music+Vision, ACT 9445-2, CD; Deep Purple, Perfect Stranger, Polygram Records/Polydor K.K. Japan, 25MM 0401, LP; Ella Fitzgerald&Joe Pass, Take Love Easy, Pablo/JVC, JVCXR-0031-2, XRCD; Frank Sinatra, The Voice, Columbia/Speakers Corner, CL 743, Quiex SV-P, 180g LP (mono); Frédéric Chopin, The Complete Nocturnes, piano: Gergely Bogányi, Stockfisch, SFR 357.4051.2, 2 x SACD/CD; Gerry Mulligan Quartet, Dragonfly, Telarc, CD-83377, CD; Jean-Michel Jarre, Zoolook, Disques Dreyfus/Polydor Canada, Jar 5, LP; Julie London, Julie Is Her Name. Vol. 1, Liberty/EMI Music Japan, TOCJ-90014, HQCD; Kraftwerk, Tour The France Soundtracks, EMI Records, 591 708 1, 2 x 180g LP; Lars Danielsson & Leszek Możdżer, Pasodoble, ACT Music, ACT 9458-2, CD; Marty Paich, I Get A Boot Out of You, Warner Bros./Warner Music Japan, WPCR-13187, SHM-CD; Milt Jackson Quartet, Statements, Impulse!/Universal Music Japan, UCCI-9088, CD; The Cult, Electric, Beggars Banquet/Sire, W1-25555, LP; Thom Yorke, The Eraser, XL Records/Warner Music Japan, WPCB-10001, CD; Tori Amos, Abnormally Attracted To Sin, Universal Republic Records, B0012906-01, 2 x 180g LP; William Orbit, My Oracle Lives Uptown, Guerilla Studios/Linn Records, AKH 351, 2 x 180g LP.

For a long time now I have scoured our domestic audio scene for a ca. 10.000zł preamplifier that would be versatile, well made, reliable and a good match for power amplifiers in the 8K to 20K zł range [at the time of publication, one Polish Zlotych was worth €0.25 - Ed]. This proved really difficult. With inexpensive power amps a preamplifier must make the most of what they offer and minimize their shortcomings. With expensive amps it must be transparent enough to only impose minimum character on the amplifying system of preamplifier + interconnect + power amplifier. That’s a tough task. It’s why a preamplifier tends to be the weak link in the hifi chain. It’s where resolution, timbre, dynamics and elegance must come together and fuse. It’s why the best preamps cost relatively more than any other component in a system. If they fulfills even one of my criteria, most preamps below 10000zł do so at the expense of another criteria to always be a tradeoff. This holds true also for passive preamplifiers. Those have their own problems. All this is precisely what makes the Jumbo Shrimp so special.

If you remember my review of Ayon’s CD-07 deck, you should have no issue when I say that this is probably the most successful Manley product ever. It’s not the best—I’ll repeat just to make sure—nor the most expensive but the one most successful at combining high-quality sound, versatility, quality of manufacture and price in one single device. At least that’s my take. I can’t say there won’t be others sooner or later but for now, the Manley Jumbo Shrimp is a safe bet. Why? How did I define its success? Based on listening, looking, comparing and a long time of using it. In my listening sessions the Manley did almost everything the expensive master devices do, just less of it.