I bought the Plinius SA100 MK2 used. No need to say more.....sounds like an amp many times its price.
I played many power amps, this one has the right tone... listen to believe, buy it if you can find one used.
Internally very well constructed with Siltec wiring.
This preamp is incredible. I noticed an major improvement in the sound of my system immediately after installation. I had my doubts about being able to reverse the signal absolutely phase until I heard the difference - subtle but there.
The construction of the product is flawless, the finish powerfully states its quality.
I had a number of commmunications with Peter Townsend of Plinius before and after purchasde to clarify various questions I had and he was extremely responsive.
The sound took the edge off of my system and created a very tube-like sound that I prefer, though very revealing at the same time. I use it with my Hafler DH500.
This premap is a steal on the used market especially.
This is a review of the Plinius M16 preamplifier combined with Plinius SA250 IV and Plinius SA100 III amplifiers via an electronic crossover. The system is, in a word, superb.
TAS recently had a critical comment about net reviews of equipment by "amateurs" such as myself and this has validity. It is valid from the point of view of a critic who is familiar with a variety of items and gives the honest reviews that TAS does. However not all reviews by "professionals" are completely honest under advertising pressure so it is useful to read critiques from grass roots consumers as long as the context of such articles are kept in perspective.
So what is the context of this review?
Over the decades I've listened to music (not hi-fi!) with the aid of various high profile brands such as Leak (my last flirtation with tubes - I could not be bothered with constant fiddling with bias etc that the latest gear requires), Quad, Levinson, Luxman, Audio Research, Rotel, NAD, Forte, Threshold, Wharfedale, KEF, B&W, Celestion, Rogers …. At times I could detect improvement with an "upgrade" although this was not always evident to my long suffering wife. I have attended live concerts so know how music should sound. However the change to Plinius has been dramatic. Never have I experienced such a quantum leap in clarity etc of reproduction and, to underline this, my wife is as enthusiastic as myself and freely admits so. We both find the Plinius sound awesome.
Before proceeding further with the Plinius side a word about the listening room etc. We recently designed and built a new house with the music/lounge room the hinge point of the whole plan. The basic design criteria for the room were no parallel surfaces, a high cathedral ceiling and 32 foot of clear path in front of bass speakers to allow for clean LF sound. The final shape was an irregular pentagon. LP's, LD's & books are on shelves on the 20 foot rear wall behind the main 9.5 foot high electrostatic speakers. 33 ft side walls fan out to the listening area which is in front of two bay window walls angled at 150 degrees to one another. The centre beam of the ceiling is 14 ft high and total room volume is estimated to be 6300 cubic feet. Walls are plastered over double brick, the floor is carpet covered concrete and the cathedral ceiling is covered in special compressed mineral tiles (from Japan) which have inherent sound absorbent as well as fire resistant properties. The equipment is set in a wall between this room and another with rear access to it all from behind in that room. Because of the heat emitted from the Plinius amps they are located in the room next door on a metal stand for maximum ventilation.
My philosophy is to strive for simplicity in the 2 channel path and add subtle ambient sound as a separate entity. . I have been a fan of added ambient sound for some time, starting with the interesting but flawed Audio Pulse systems many years ago. The trick is to create a subtle effect and to keep the rear channel at an appropriate level. I'm horrified by the current trend towards complex controllers with everything converted to digital & then back again to analog. There is no way that approach can achieve the sound quality reproduced by the Plinius M16 preamplifier.
At Peter Thompson's suggestion, the main interconnects are Sitech. The audio sources are Koetsu/Fidelity Research/Townsend for LP's, Theta Data III for CD's & LD's into a Theta DSPIIIa for digital + Yamaha tuner + video signals from satellite & tuners. Surround sound (Dolby prologic only) is via a Fosgate 2 with only the side, rear & sub channels used. The 2 channel signal goes into the Plinius M16 preamp, from there to a Dahliquist LP1 electronic crossover (about to be replaced with a Bryston 10B) with above 80 hz to the Plinius SA250 IV to the big electrostatics and below 80 hz to the Plinius SA100 III's to large solid sealed bass bins each housing Alpine DDW-F30A drivers (superb bass drivers designed, inappropriately in my opinion, for in car use). The side speakers are Celestion SL6's and the rear ambiance drivers AR6's. The sub signal from the Fosgate feeds to KEF B139's in transmission line enclosures. The Fosgate is cranked up for appropriate movie viewing (we have a BARCO VSE40/BARCO 808s video projector also but that is another story) but it is kept down for audio only use.
We use the system a lot for viewing opera & ballet on LD's (& now DVD's) with musical taste in our 3000 LP collection covering most classical fare of instrumental, chamber, orchestral, choral, opera plus jazz and some more modern vocal artists, excluding heavy metal & rock. The CD collection is limited mainly because of the extensive repertoire already there on LP and, up to now, dissatisfaction with digital sound.
But digital sound through the Plinius equipment has been a revelation. On first hooking it all together I proceeded to start sampling various items to see how it sounded. My first sample was a CD of "Pictures at an Exhibition". The sound which came forth from relatively cold and "green" amplifiers set in class A/B bias mode was electrifying! So much so I could not stop listening. Here was clean string sound, superb harmonics from woodwind, hard hitting tympani, deep clean bass…… Result was I heard the whole work with the hair on the nape of the neck bristling throughout. WOW!
If the class A/B biased amplifier sound is good then the class A biased item is even better. I can distinctly hear the edge going off the digital sound as the A bias cuts in and the amps warm up. For some time now I have decried the digital sound of tenors on some laserdiscs in our collection. Put Plinius to class A bias and the sound loses its unpleasant bite.
The penalty of class A amplifier biasing is weight and heat. These amps are very heavy and run very hot in class A bias mode. To my eye they are beautifully sculptured although are not aesthetically pleasing enough for my wife to allow on display in the lounge. The remote has a phase reversal switch and it really does make a difference to the soundstage on some recordings. The volume control is designed with a gentle action on first press so minute changes are possible. Clever.
Away from the mainstream and living in the peaceful and beautiful island State of Tasmania, Australia, I have not had opportunity to hear many of the excellent amps of today so cannot give any definitive comparisons. I leave that to TAS. However I can describe the sound coming from the Plinius preamp and amp system thus - absolute silence using RCA connects (even with the phono cranked up full), brilliant soundstage, superb dynamics, absolute clarity and resolution on complex orchestral passages and organ music (which on lesser equipment sounds jumbled and somewhat incoherent), awesome bass, and a breakthrough for me in digital sound with raspiness and previous unpleasant artifacts minimised or gone. I am still coming to terms with this and find it hard to believe. It is contradicting one of my long held prejudices about digital sound.
About the only downside to report about the Plinius equipment is that it makes one very intolerant of other amplified sound. Most commercial theatre sound is too loud & generally awful and I have become super critical of other systems. Most amazing is the price being asked for some very flawed equipment. I attended the Hi Fi show in Los Angeles in 1998 and could not believe the mediocre sound coming from a pair of $US100,000 speakers. Unfortunately some appear to correlate price with quality and may look down on Plinius equipment because the price tag for it is reasonable.
In all of the above do not lose sight of the M16 preamp. I feel this is an essential part of the system. A lot has been (justifiably) written about the glorious Plinius amplifiers but I sense the M16 plays a pivital role in what we hear in our system. I also have the M14 phono amp but feel my 20 year old Koetsu Oynx might be in need of another refurbishing so I feel unable to give a fair appraisal of the M14 at this stage. Problems of VTA etc make critical vinyl listening a much more complex challenge. I'll keep you posted when I come to conclusions about the M14. In the meantime ignore mischievous (commercial sabotage by someone?) postings by the MrB's giving Plinius low ranking. Plinius must stand at least equal, if not above, the best equipment available today. Congratulations to Peter Thomson, Gary Morrison (responsible for the majority of the circuit design) and the rest of the New Zealand team for producing a series of outstanding preamplifiers and amplifiers. May the force remain with them!
After allowing the manufacture's recommended warm up time of 48 hours, I found this pre-amp to offer a rematkable lack of artificial electronic artefacts such as grain. It provides a neutral sound across the spectrum thus allowing differences between different records ( CD or LP )to be clearly audible. A factor of this neutrality is a sense of correct timbre.
Soundstaging is marginally narrower than some pre-amps, but deep and providing clearly defined, correctly scaled images.
Most of all , it provides immense musical involvment with astonishing dynamics and an impression that rhythmic expression is not impeded. Couple this to superlative build quality and it has to be recommended.
Any downside? Well, I could do with two and not one balanced input. However this does not reduce my opinion by 20percent, so 5 stars.
Associated equipment: Marantz CD-7. Michel Orbe/SME V/Lyra Clavis. Plinius M14 Phonostage, ATC SCM50ASL active speakers. All cabling Kimber Select.
Equipment Reviewed Perreaux SM6 Classic partnered with Perreaux 250P
Plinius M16 partnered with Plinius SA100 Mk3
Marantz CD17KIS, Cardas 300b, Kimber PBJ (balanced), Ocos, Dynaudio Contour 1.8 Mk2, DH Cones & Squares under CD player.
Firstly, I am generally not quick to form opinions on audio equipment and this is no exception. I need prolonged exposure to really work out what is going on. That said, the Plinius & Perreaux both transformed my system. The difference was enormous. I was not previously aware how power starved my current system is. The big amps opened the soundstage dramatically & let the music effortlessly wash over the listeners. My 60 watt integrated (Marantz PM17) now sounds miserly by comparison, still enjoyable, but you have to work harder to get into it.
I liked both the Plinius & Perreaux, selecting a favourite was not easy. The Plinius produced a soundstage that was more forward & had more depth, but the Perreaux's soundstage had enormous height & greater width. The 20 x 14 listening room has a ceiling height of approximately 18 feet (speaker end) sloping to 8 feet. The Perreaux effortlessly filled the available vertical space with a huge wall of sound, so much so that questions were raised whether it was a little overblown on the live Marianne Faithful track "Time Square" (Blazing Away) sounding a touch more stadium than cathedral. Alternatively it could be considered that the listeners were moved from row 20 to the front row.
The "naturalness" of instruments (acoustic guitar) was debated, with honours being given to the Perreaux by all. This is very subjective, and impossible to prove unless one was there when the track was recorded.
On some tracks the Plinius sounded a little edgy on the tops, not exactly harsh but significant enough to cause concerns about fatigue over extended listening sessions.
Some may say the Plinius combination extracts more detail, however the Perreaux presented the same detail but in a more natural, cohesive way. Nothing was founded to be missing.
Overall when the enjoyment test was applied, I recall the times when I found myself really enjoying the music was when the Perreaux was playing.
Another Listener’s Opinion
The Perreaux was far more assured and open, laid back and controlled. I remember saying the speakers suddenly sat up and folded their arms (like an obedient school kid). The soundstage was enormous by comparison. In contrast the Plinius was interesting and involving beyond the initial sample of the integrated amp. But the base/lower midrange tended to run away with itself, especially on the cello track. The overall sound was harsher/brighter than the Perreaux. The Plinius' soundstage was quite small and more directional, but the imaging was still good.
A close finish but it would appear the Perreaux takes the honours, although I have awarded the same marks (4) to both. I am a tough marker.