How I Beat the System to Nab an Unbeatable System



   I'm one of a small circle that follows the advice of an audio guru/mentor who's been in the business for over forty years. He's sold high end amps and preamps in the 16K-24K range. Recently, he happened upon a company that modifies older models of amps and preamps made by Plinius, a New Zealand based audio manufacturer, and bought an amp for his own use. 
   Enter Ralph Abramo, a seasoned electronics repairman who at one time oversaw the Toshiba National Service Center and now owns the U.S. factory center for repair for Plinius New Zealand. Mr. Abramo, at age seventy, has a few tricks up his sleeve. Here's what he does to the amps and preamps in his own words:   
  "The upgrades consist of extensive use of Nichicon Gold and Muse audio designed capacitors. Power supply caps are low ESR type. All voltage regulators are replaced with low noise designs. Rectifiers are Schottky design because of their ability to switch quickly with virtually no ringing which causes power supply noise. Emitter resistors are replaced with low noise versions and all coupling and power supply bypass caps are replaced with Audience AuriCap XO versions. Power supply wiring is replaced with Cardas Litz wire and Furutech Rhodium or Gold IEC connectors. We make improvements in how heat is transferred from the output devices to the heat sinks on the larger SA or SB amplifiers. Relays and switches are replaced also."     ​
   The proprietary mods will remain between Mr. Abramo and his confessor. So I ordered a Plinius SA-102 amplifier and a Plinius M-16 preamplifier, based on the rave reviews from my guru, making me the fifth recipient of Plinius components in the group. In order to get the sonic equivalent from other products, I figured I would have to spend two to three times what I paid for the two Plinius units. Mr. Abramo provided both amp and preamp from his stock. With high end fuses ( I chose SR Orange) and shipping from California to the East Coast (about $300) the total was under 10K.      My guru chose to find and buy a Plinius SA-100 from the used audio market and had it shipped to Mr. Abramo's company, Plinius Repair, in California.     What do I think of the sound? The model SA-102 delivers 120 wpc in a/b and 120wpc in Class A mode, with a simple flick of a toggle. If you suspect that your speakers are sounding anemic, this beast is the cure. The a/b mode is outstanding, but if you're a critical listener, especially of vinyl, the pure Class A mode will put an end to one's lifelong search.
bartholomew
Congrats.  I'm glad the mods worked out for you in spades.  

I used Auricaps as an upgrade to a kit I built a while back.  They were on par with some more expensive stuff by popular boutique makers.

While I can't speak to the sonic potential of each of those modification upgrades you and the Guru performed, logic and experience say that you should hear some upgrade to the sound quality.  I wouldn't be surprised if the betterment was material--especially to someone who owned the unit pre modification, as you would be greatly familiar with it.

You may get some responses to your posts where people criticize modifications as being sacrilegious.   I view these hifi items as machines that a usually clever designer made to sell to run a business. Parts quality matters.  It just does, but that doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune building or upgrading these devices.  I think you can do the things you did and see the best that this design could offer or better than the stock unit built to a certain price point. 
Whoops, I forgot....  Hope you are listening to gobs of music old, familiar, new and so on!!! Enjoy what you did!
Thanks, jbhiller! All of the mods were performed by Ralph Abramo of PliniusRepair, so I can't take any of the credit. It was an extensive modification of the original units- akin to a major organ transplant without the huge hospital bill. The net result is natural musical detail at its highest peak. Sometimes I have to pinch myself!
And, now that you have gone to all that trouble to beat the system, the system beats you. 

Read my review of the Legacy Audio i.V4 Ultra Amplifier at Dagogo.com 

Only a direct comparison would tell which is preferred, but I would put my money on the i.V4 Ultra, given the variety and pedigree of amps I have handled. 

I used to think that inexpensive gear and/or modded old gear was a great way to beat the system. Not really, not in my experience.  :) 

Regarding audio gurus, you pick your authority, you get your results! 
enjoy the music !,,,,
   After an evening of listening to classical LP's on pressings of varying quality, they all came through with sonic perfection. Now that the Plinius amp and preamp are fully broken in and the Class A mode is cooking, I can recommend these components without hesitation.
   I'm uninterested in having a pissing contest about Class D versus Class A because it's pointless. But if you insist, my Plinius is bigger than yours!
I also got my Plinius SA102 modded by Ralph and I was pretty satisfied. I also have Plinius M16P.  
Then, I got Audible Illusions M3B MM preamp, and it was a huge improvement and now I am very satisfied with the overall sound. Huge 3D sound stage. Especially, orchestral music sounds fantastic, which is probably hardest to reproduce correctly.  
I thought about modding M16P too, but I was not sure about it, and went for AI instead.
Now M16P is used in my second system. 
@ihcho 
  Congratulations! I consider Ralph to be a national treasure. Plinius would have to charge three times the price for their components if they duplicated Ralph's mods, but they wouldn't know how to.  Even in your second system, I recommend modding the M-16 because it transforms the factory product into a component that takes it well beyond its original performance, which is great to begin with. Sometimes you hit the jackpot!
   
Yes, I am thinking of upgrading my M16. 
I am just happy with AI M3B and do not listen to my second system that often, but I am curious about how much M16 will sound better after the upgrade.
I got the SA-102 first from Ralph, and used my Cambridge Audio 840-E as the preamp while waiting for him to send the M-16. I thought that my Cambridge components were exceptionally neutral, and was not prepared to be blown away when I installed the M-16. I cannot in good conscience resell my Cambridge amp and preamp. It would be wrong!