New Mana Sound Stage (Mark 2) – review

18 years after the last Mana Sound Stage and Sound Frame were built, they’re back in a new form. The Mark 2 is twice as good. This is a customer review.

Mana sound frame Mark 2
Mana sound frame Mark 2

This is an independent review. Please contact Mana Acoustics via its founder, John Watson (Instagram page).

Product description

The Mana Sound Stage Mark 2 is a 500mm x 500mm welded iron frame with a black ionised finish. There are four sharp spikes downwards and blunter ones upwards to the glass or board that goes above them.

While the Mana Sound Stage Mark 2 is designed to go under an amp rack, there is also a smaller Sound Frame, designed for typical HiFi components. It’s about 450mm wide by 360 mm deep.

Where the Mark 2’s differ from Mark 1’s is the angular U-shaped bar along the front and back, with a tensioning bolt in the centre. It’s much more rigid than in the Mark 1’s. As before there are none of the negative sound effects of cast iron or moulded aluminium. And with its new powder coating and U-shape, I find it harder wearing and more attractive than the Mark 1. When I win the Lotto I’ll replace all my Mark 1’s with Mark 2’s.

Mana Sound Stage, Mark 1
Corner of a Mana Mark 1 table – welded angle-bar with different coating

Mana tables are supplied for home assembly – see below.

Boards can be purchased separately. Mana no longer supply glass and you must source that yourself – 10mm float glass, grey tint, polished edges & corners. (Apparently, thicker or thinner glass is not so effective.) Mana can supply anti-vibration strips to put on the glass.

As for the Mark 1’s, the tables can be stacked. Each extra level should create a noticeable sound improvement. (If it doesn’t, something is wrong – see notes in Balancing a Mana System.)

Tables are separated with wooden boards or with glass – see The rise of glass for HiFi.

Stacks of tables can be used with any HiFi components: turntables, CD, streamers, DVD players, NAS drives, AV processors, pre and power amps, power supplies, and speakers.

Improved sound

In my experiments, I consistently found one level of a Mana Sound Stage Mark 2 is equivalent to two levels of a Mark 1. Likewise for a Sound Frame.

This is an independent customer review. I have been buying Mana tables since the early 1990’s. My ambition is to recreate the original sound of music, within my own home.

The test:

  1. Replace a Mana Mark 1 with a Mana Mark 2, and hear the improvement.
  2. Replace two Mark 1 levels for a Mark 2 – it sounds similar to before, but now I’ve got a spare Mark 1 to use elsewhere (after the tests are complete).
  3. Replacing three Mark 1 levels with a Mark 2 – sound quality drops perceptibly.

From my tests, adding a single Mark 2 level makes a significant difference

  • Like going from a £1800 streamer to a £3500 one
  • Or an amplifier to one twice the price
  • Or a £300 interconnect to a £800 one
  • Or a £5 power lead to a £150 one.

The sound differences are across the musical spectrum: bass, instrumental, voice, percussion. I also hear transients that last much longer, as in electronic music and organ. For more, see The Sounds of Mana.

How many levels are needed? That depends on budget and expectations of quality, but using clamps, Mark 2’s, and glass it’s possible to go far beyond what was achieved in the 1990’s.

The downsides

They’re ugly. I’m house proud, and the Mark 2’s are better than the Mark 1’s, but this does not fit with my idea of cool. One trick I’ve used is to buy sheets or table clothes and wrap them around the metalwork.

Mana Sound Stages, hiddem
Naim XPS on 4 hidden sound frames

They’re dust traps. The Mark 2’s are a dust trap in the same way as the Mark 1’s. Cloths squeeze in the gap for partial cleaning. For perfection, switch off the HiFi, and remove each component and level in turn. Clean. Then reassemble in exactly the same sequence. When reassembled they should only need tuning if the previous tuning had already slipped.

They’re ‘unscientific’. I’m told I’m nutty for spending money on metal, glass and wood rather than electronics. There’s currently no scientific reason why it works so well, but the effect is entirely repeatable so clearly science needs to catch up with reality. For more thoughts on this, see The Rise of Glass for HiFi for some thoughts.

Setup is time-consuming and fiddly. You need to be comfortable tweaking systems, or have someone who will tweak it for you.

Damage risk. Every time you make changes to your HiFi setup, there’s a risk of making a mistake and ending up having to get a component repaired (or replaced).

Installation for the New Mana Sound Stage Mark 2

Installation is do-it-yourself. There’s no installation service, as when Mana Acoustics operated in the 1990’s. However now we have the internet, where experiences can be exchanged for free.

If you’ve installed Mana Tables before, the Mark 2’s are similar but:

  • The upward spikes are more of a fiddle to get right. I found it easiest to adjust three and tighten them, then on the fourth to wind it up with my fingers until the pressure changed (i.e. contact). Then tighten and check with tapping to see if it’s right.
  • It’s now worth getting the downward spikes correct because the flex in the frames is less. Tap on the metal downward frame just next to the spike – you should be able to hear when it’s right.

If you’ve not tuned Mana tables before, there are instructions. It’s like tuning a drum. Expect to spend 20 minutes on the first one. This will come down to a few minutes when you’re expert. (Hint: Could someone add a video description to YouTube then I’ll add a link to it from here.)

Related articles

The Mana Clamp – for a far superior contact with Mana tables than the feet supplied by manufacturers

New Mark 2 Mana Sound Stage and Sound Frame – doubling the performance improvement, and looking better

Guide to balancing and maintaining a Mana system

The Rise of Glass – once you start using the Mana Clamp (or speakers on spikes) then there are some amazing things that can be done by swapping the boards for more levels of glass

The Sounds of Mana – what to listen for, and how to balance the upgrades.