Mix Messiah Productions presents: 31 Women in Audio, a series celebrating Women's History Month.
Day 3: EveAnna Manley, Owner, Manley Labs
Today, we are featuring EveAnna Manley, owner of Manley Labs, manufacturer of professional audio gear including microphones, preamps, outboard mastering tools, and more. Leslie Gaston-Bird chatted with her by phone.
Leslie Gaston-Bird: "What was your earliest experience with audio?"
EveAnna Manley: “I was looking for a job in the music industry, and I interviewed at Vacuum Tube Logic. I remember looking at the vacuum tube amplifiers and wondering, “What the hell is that? A receiver?” I didn’t have electronics training at school, so I didn’t get to play with circuits, and in physics class I only learned simple circuits. I took AP Physics in high school and college physics at Columbia. I loved physics and still do. I was just taking it for fun - my pre-med friends teased me about it!”
LGB: What about childhood experiences with music or audio?
EM: I remember listening to music from 3 years old. I was into rock ‘n roll music, Top 40 music on the radio (like Chicago, Elton John, and so on). My first experience recording was with a Dictaphone. I would put the mic up to the speaker and record Casey Kasem’s Top 40 show. I studied music in college: sax, trumpet, clarinet. I was always a leader, whether it was playing first chair or serving as band president.
LGB: How would you compare working for someone versus owning your own business?
EM: I started out first at a company called Vacuum Tube Logic of America (owned by David and Luke Manley). I made coffee, tea and PCBs (printed circuit boards). I learned how to solder. I’m a natural leader, in any kind of social group, and I trained other girls to stuff circuit boards. That company was running by the seat of its pants! This was all before computers: they had no purchasing system in those days. So we would self-kit our parts. They’d say, “build 30 of these” and then you had to count your own parts. So if you looked in the bin and there were no resistors you had to ask someone to buy them. So one day I took a ruler and a marker and created a purchasing system with part number, description, P.O., date, etc. And then I developed an inventory system. David Manley and I got married in the early 90s. David struggled with alcoholism and I ended up buying the company after he left in 1996. The transition took place within several years and I learned things, created systems, implemented systems, and got into the job by doing it. I saw something that needed to be done and took care of it. The hardest part about owning a small company is you can’t afford to hire experts, so you HAVE to learn how to do this shit yourself. It is creative: I might solve problems in a different way than what we typically consider to be “creative”. But you are always in a catch-22: you’re too small to hire so you have to learn to be a versatile person.
LGB: When the topic of “women in audio” comes up, what do you like to talk about, and what rubs you the wrong way?
EM: When I’m working I am not thinking “am I male or female”. I have tasks I need to do and I do them, for example, when I am out beta testing. When I started at age 20 I probably faced more discrimination for being YOUNG. But now I don’t get problems from guys in the industry at all. Probably because they can’t get rid of me. (laughs) I’m one of the guys - we’re all geeks. I always wonder why there aren’t more women but it is not like you see a ton of female pilots, either --- certain professions seem male-dominated. And there doesn’t seem to be a reason for that. When I see STEM and STEAM programs now, there is more emphasis and there are efforts to get girls into these fields. Geekiness has become more socially acceptable and that’s cool. There shouldn’t be any gender limitations - or any limitations at all. I’m an embracing person. The most important trait of all is not gender but honesty. I hired a female circuit-level engineer who misrepresented herself, and I also had a male who had the character flaw of not speaking up when he didn’t understand the work. So I would caution anyone: don’t be afraid to say “no, I don’t know”. Because bullshitting is dangerous. It’s important to be truthful. It’s okay to be humble and truthful and ask for clarification. Then you have an opportunity to learn something new! Don’t be so defensive. Most people are happy to share and contribute to your personal growth.
LGB: Who are your role models, fictional or real?
EM: Important role models that I had? Probably my first boss, Terry Jones. I worked at a picture framing shop in high school. He was a small business owner. I learned by observing him and applied that to how to run my own business. He didn’t directly teach me, but I learned from him and his wife Patsy how to enjoy life. Work hard and enjoy life. He was my bon vivant from Atlanta. And my late stepfather Al Dauray who owned Ampeg. He sold it to Magnavox in 1972. He was a business man with Unimusic -- it’s all in the History of Ampeg book. I remember hearing the stories of the late 60s when the Rolling Stones took the Ampeg amps out. He met my mom in the 70s, after his first wife had died. He sold Ampeg and the money he got he put into stocks and borrowed money from family and he was scrambling for all those years after that. So we grew up in an unstable environment. That was a major influence on my life: I didn’t want to live with that kind of financial chaos.
LGB: What new projects are you working on?
EM: Working on right now: at the NAMM show we previewed our new microphone, the Reference Silver, successor to the Reference Gold and Reference Cardiod. This is our first mic in 27 years! It uses the David Josephson C3 capsule (developed for the C37A tube mic). It’s a capsule with a rich middle tonality recalling the original Sony mics from the 50s. A bunch of LA engineers say the Sonys are their favorites. We are building a new mic with and that middle tonality is great for woodwinds and brass. Combining that with our latest switching power supply custom designed for vacuum tubes. What a tour de force. And it has this interesting metal finish on the body. It was hard to do, but it’s great. It looks like reptile scales. My crew was mad at me but I insisted!
I’d like to add that audio business is not always competitive. I am always reaching out to Josh Thomas of Rupert Neve, Erica McDaniel of Universal Audio, John Jennings of Royer, Paul Wolff... these guys are total best friends even if we are in the same field. They are my peers. And they reach out to me, too. It’s a wonderful industry for that. We often interface and help each other.”
You can learn more about Manley Labs’ new, Reference Silver microphone at https://www.facebook.com/manleylabs/. Their homepage is http://www.manley.com/.
Owner, Mix Messiah Productions, LLC
Owner, Mix Messiah Productions, LLC