Manley BACKBONE Mastering Insert Switcher

In 2008 we brought a mastering engineer's dream to the world, the MANLEY BACKBONE mastering insert switcher. This unit is the centerpiece of a mastering system allowing precise control and manipulation of up to eight pieces of outboard gear.

Manley Backbone Wins 2009 TEC Award At 127th AES Show!

Watch Chris's video presentation from AES Amsterdam 2008 below.

Watch the video presentation from NAMM 2008 below. (prototype shown)

A little history: we have been building custom mastering consoles for many many years, since the early 1990's. You can view some of these custom creations on our Custom Mastering Console Page. But as we know, custom design work is both expensive and time consuming so we drew upon our experience to create a new stock production Mastering Insert Processor, the Manley BACKBONE.

The MANLEY BACKBONE accepts up to three balanced SOURCE INPUTS, selectable on the left side. LEFT & RIGHT can be reversed and ABSOLUTE POLARITY can be flipped. The 24 position INPUT & OUTPUT GAINS can be switched active or left passive. Up to EIGHT INSERTS can be switched in or bypassed. A SUM - DIFFERENCE MS MATRIX can be addressed between inserts 2 and 3. The order of inserts 4 & 5 can be SWAPPED. There is an injection point between inputs 7 & 8 to allow for several functions on the 3-Function MIX - FADE output control. You can mix in the DIFFERENCE signal from the input. This mixes in some out of phase signal from the input to the output in order to widen the image if desired. OR you can mix in a parallel signal in between inserts 7 & 8. A lot of folks run a reverb or parallel compressor in this fashion. OR you can use the knob as a FADER to make smooth and accurate level fades with the Penny & Giles rotary fader.

The MANLEY BACKBONE is available with ELCO or DB25 connectors for the INSERTS I/O. Cables for either system are not included and must be custom made or ordered.

Features & Specifications



  • 3 x Balanced Stereo Inputs
  • 8 x Balaced Stereo Inserts
  • Selected Input can be mixed to parallel outputs
  • Patchable SEND and RETURN
  • Balanced signal path all the way
  • Left - Right Reverse Switch
  • Absolute Polarity Reverse Switch
  • Bypass GAINS makes passive signal path
  • Over 90 nice relays employed
  • EAO switch buttons can be easily custom labeled
  • INPUT and OUTPUT GAINS use 4 x 24 position Grayhill switch attenuators
  • SUM - DIFFERENCE (MS Matrix) can be used for Inserts 2 & 3
  • Separate SUM and DIFFERENCE outputs available on rear panel
  • SWAP order button can be used to reverse the order for Inserts 4 & 5
  • MIX - FADE injection between 7 & 8 with mode select
  • Expensive Penny & Giles rotary fader/mixer
  • I/O Inserts connection system can be ordered with ELCO or DB25 (you choose)
  • Bulletproof MANLEY build quality. But of course!



  • Frequency Response: ± 0.1 dB, 10Hz-100KHz
  • THD + Noise @ +4 dBu input level: 0.0015% A-WGT
  • THD + Noise @ +22 dBu input level: 0.0011% A-WGT
  • IMD60 4:1@ +4 dBu input level: 0.0017%
  • IMD60 4:1@+22 dBu input level: 0.0035%
  • Crosstalk Rejection: ≥ 95dB @ 1 kHz between Gains and Mix-Fade Stages
  • Crosstalk Rejection: ≥ 70db @ 1Khz at SUM-DIF stage
  • Common Mode Rejection: ≥ 100dB @ 100Hz; ≥ 95dB @ 1KHz; ≥ 80dB @ 10KHz
  • Noise floor: -95 dBu, Bandwidth 22Hz-22KHz A-WGT
  • Maximum Signal Level: +28dBu
  • Dynamic Range: 124dB
  • Input Impedance: 30K Ohms
  • Output Impedance: 150 Ohms
  • Input/Output Stepped Gain Switches accuracy: ±0.05dB
  • Power Consumption: 60 watts
  • Mains Fuse: 1A @ 100~120VAC; 0.5A @ 220 ~ 240VAC
  • Mains Fuse type: 5mm x 20mm SLO-BLO GDC glass fuse, 250V AC rating
  • NOTE: Operating mains voltage: Units are purpose built for original destination country's mains voltage: 100V, 120V, or 220-240VACas indicated on the serial number badge. The power transformer in this unit must be rewired in order to change mains operating voltage.
  • Unit Size: 19" x 10" x 3.5" (occupies 2u) Note: add 5" behind unit for cable allowance
  • Unit Weight: 13 lbs.
  • Shipping Weight: 19 dim. (international); 17 lbs. (USA)
  • Shipping Box Dimensions: 23" x 15" x 9"


Specifications subject to change because they just might.

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price


  • Manley BACKBONE Mastering Insert Switcher ELCO: MMBBEL: $6,000
  • Manley BACKBONE Mastering Insert Switcher DB25: MMBBDB: $6,000

    The MANLEY BACKBONE is available with either ELCO or DB25 connectors for the INSERTS I/O. Cables for either system are not included and must be custom ordered and custom made.

    For ELCO-fitted Backbones, we recommend going through Rapcohorizon.They do excellent work, are very dependable, and we've already worked out a product number for the BACKBONE ELCO snakes.

    Pricing for the RAPCO supplied custom ELCO cables are:


  • Part # MANLEY-Insert-A-4 (4 ft) MSRP: $469.00
  • Part # MANLEY-Insert-B-4 (4 ft) MSRP: $469.00
  • Part # MANLEY-Insert-A-10 (10 ft) MSRP: $498.00
  • Part # MANLEY-Insert-B-10 (10 ft) MSRP: $498.00

    These snakes use an EDAC (interfaces with ELCO) female with screw, 4 ft or 10ft in length to 8 XLR-M/8 XLR-F wired and labeled according to the diagram inthe BACKBONE manual. Snake "A" covers channels 1-4 and snake "B"covers channels 5-8.

    If you want to order cables for your DB25 BACKBONE, THIS IS THE SNAKE TO BUY (YOU NEED FOUR OF THEM: each dB25 cable covers two channels inserts each.).
    Item ID: DigiSnAES
    Description: DB25-XLR M+F AES/EBU DigiSnake, 12' (4 x XLRF + 4 x XLRM)

    Instructions for making I/O cables yourself can be found in the BACKBONE Owner's Manual.

    Watch EveAnna's video presentation of the new MANLEY BACKBONE Mastering Insert Switcher at AES NYC 2009.


    As seen in the March edition of Pro Sound News Europe: AIR Mastering chooses Manley BACKBONE!

    Question: I am a little confused by theMIX - FADE - Parallel Processing thing. Please can you explain it some more forme?

    Please remember that Insert 8 is after everything else, even the output gains, so if you were to feed signal into send 8 and listen to the main outputs, the fader functions will have no affect on the signal.  Another way help understand this, because you are not the first to be confused by this feature, is if you look at the lines on the front panel insert: the engraved line from the mix button comes up and points between insert 7 and 8 to try to show you that insert 8 comes after the mix stage/injection point. Insert 8 is supposed to be the "final-final" place for signal changes before going back to the converter/tape. 

    Let's assume everything is engaged. Here is the order of signal flow:

    input XLRs x 3 = Source->

    input gain (on/off via gain button)->

    insert 1->

    insert 2->

    M/S1 encoding amplifier (on/off via sum/dif button)->

    insert 3->

    insert 4->

    ms2 decoding amplifier (on/off via sum/dif buutton)->

    insert 5->

    insert 6->

    insert 7->

    mix/fade amplifier (on/off via mix/fade button)->

    output gain (on/off via gain button)->

    insert 8->

    main outputs->

    Go out to your converters/tape


    Also, to perform parallel processing, the mix mode toggle switch is set to "mix", and it mixes in additional signal from the MIX INPUT XLR's on the rear of the unit (next to the main output XLRs).  NOTE: if you have nothing connected to the MIX INPUT XLRs, the fader will have no affect to the signal when the toggle switch is set to "mix".  


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