I've used the Plinius SA100MKIII with an Audio Research LS16 and the Reference Two. Both tube preamps sounded wonderful with the Plinius. Great bass with very clear defined highs. Never bright or fatiguing. I have not heard the Plinius with the CJ 16LS.
I have not heard the Plinius combo. But I have had the AR LS-25 and the LS16 and now have the CJ 16LS MKII and in my system it out performed what the AR Pre-Amps would do. More bass, fuller mid range, and smooth highs. So you should have a shot at something good.
I've had the Plinius SA-250 MkIV with my CJ 16LS for couple of months and agree that the Plinius has great pace and slam, but to me not even the CJ 16LS can overcome the Plinius's lack of warmth.
Thank-you Brandon, what are you using now?
I have not heard the Plinius mono blocks but the other Plinius amps I have heard sounded a little brittle and one dimensional when compared to the Sim Audio hooked up to a 17LS for example.
I have spent the past two weeks trying some different set-ups with the Plinius. I've found it to be more sensitive to cables and footers than the Aloia. The Plinius can sound edgy and dry or can be very nutraul with the right footers. The Plinius I would not define as one dimensional, in fact the depth is amazing and very well defined. I guess it comes down to personal taste more than anything. If one was coming from Krell the Plinius would tend to sound too warm, where alot of the Plinius intrest has been from tube people, and the Plinius is not tube by any means. At any rate I ordered two Plinius 102-SA's to use as mono blocks, I continue to look for thoughts on pre-amps. I tend to like solid state and digitial over tube and vinyl. Just my personal taste. I find the slam, pace, imaging and dynamics of solid state to out weigh th warmth and glow of tubes. Again, I believe both are great directions and do not wish to start up that old war, Just my taste. I do tend to like a bit of a warmer side of solid state, thus the tube pre-amp has always been my choice.
I should also point out my budget keeps me from some of the elite gear that can do both extremely well. Maybe some day...
Remember those Plinius amps need 3 months of decent use to come right. You will also find the SA102 to be warmer and more liquid than the SA100 MkIII. I doubt that a tube preamp is the way to go since you will lose the pacing of the Plinius (will get me some reactions to that one, I'm sure).
Contrary to what Peter Thompson says (Mr Plinius) I find the Cardas Neutral Reference, or Cardas Golden Reference are great with the Plinius (Peter recommends Siltech - but hey, he also listens to Shahinians).
Plinius uses a very hard footer that can dry things out a bit. I keep recommending them - so maybe I should buy some shares - but the E-A-R feet are what I use under my Plinius.
I sincerely hope you are well JD. Sorry about being out of touch for so long.
Hi Redkiwi my old friend. It's nice to see a Plinius/New Zealand thread brings you north!
I was going to try the EAR footers but was wondering if weight was too much. They tend to deform with very little weight, I'm guessing your saying that's fine. I was also thinking the Walker points might be a good choice in that the weight of the Plinius is too much for the Nuance.
What would you think as a good pre-amp to try?
I have the plinius sa100 and have paired it with the audiovalve eklipse. I tried a number of different tube preamps with the amp (one of the lower CJs, not the 16ls), and the eklipse got me. It is clean, clear, felt remarkably transparent and has a remote control, which is important to me. I never felt like I lost anything from the Plinius, instead I got wonderful imaging, a precise soundstage, and great musicality.
There is one on sale at audiogon at half price (sadly, it came up after I had already bought mine).
I like the Placette buffered preamp - has none of the hard grain of most moderately priced ss preamps, and has the pacing that is so hard to find in valve preamps. Can be had on a money back trial - but its construction is tenuous. My advice is don't open it and you will never know. The E-A-R feet will only handle about 10 to 20 lbs comfortably each. Six or eight of them ought to be right for the SA102. The Walkers are very good, but with less warmth that the E-A-R feet. In fact the E-A-R are just a finishing touch - the key issue is those Neuance shelves (or something similar) - I have not tried Ken's new version for heavier components.
By the way JD - are you using the SA102s bridged, or bi-amping? There are downsides to using Plinius amps in balanced or bridged modes.
I had a Plinius SA-100 Mk III which I sold almost two years ago. There are things I loved about the Plinius and others which I felt clearly prevented me from classifying it among the best. I loved the midrange. In my system, I never heard a cleaner, more distortion free sound than that. Talk about seeing the world for the first time through a clean window! The upper mids might be a little bright, but that never bothered me. It added a little life and air to certain instruments and vocals, even if it wasn't absolutely neutral. It had outrageous bass slam and dynamics like few amps that I have heard. On the down side, despite the slam, the bass wasn't as deep as it should be. A top solid state amp should go lower than the Plinius. On the other end of the spectrum, highs are a little rolled off. Detail and soundstage reproduction are just a couple of notches below the highest level. Despite the negatives, I would say that taken in total, it gives a lot of sound for the money and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Your initial emotional reaction to this amp tends to be very positive before you try to analytically pick apart its sound to find individually what is there and what is not. Even today, as a very happy Pass Aleph 4 owner, which I feel is a significantly better amp, there is a lot I miss about my old Plinius. I would say that if you are auditioning tube preamps to go with the Plinius, you should definitely listen to the CAT SL-1 Ultimate with the Plinius. Those two had TREMENDOUS synergy. I recently A/B'ed the CAT Ultimate and the Conrad Johnson 16LS in an audition. IMO, the CAT blew away the CJ. In that audition, we were using a VAC Renaissance tube amp, not a Plinius.
Thank-you Rayhall, excellant reply. I owned the SA-100 MK II for a couple years before going to the Aloia. I used a Kora Eclipse pre-amp. I had some major equipment failure with the plinius wich blew my Dunlavy III cross-overs and drivers along with the cd player. I have always wondered if it was my emotions or reality that I missed the Plinius. Now that I've had the chance to try a Plinius again I know it's the amp I like best of all I've heard. (I've listened to most) I am interested in your choice of CAT, what did you find between the CAT and CJ that makes you feel the CAT was better?
Redkiwi- I looked into the Placette as you suggest. Very interesting! From all the reviews I still am a bit lost as to the mid-range qualities. Have you had direct experience? As with the CAT it's hard to audition either without taking a leep of faith, even if I can return it. I'm assuming you were refering to using the RCA jacks and vertically bi-amping the Plinius rather than balanced and bridged mono-blocks. I plan to vertical amp and RCA. Why is it that bridged is not as good?
Another thought Rayhall, The Plinius SA102 has two power transformers each about 7 1/2" diam. vs the single in the SA-100This might help the bass and high end roll-off you sensed.
JD, the Placette has a very clean grainless mid that, if it has a coloration, it is an added sparkle - a slight golden glow.
The SA102 sounds much more like the SA250 than the SA100 III did - ie more liquid (less dry - whatever) and fuller, plus better extension at the extremes.
The balanced on the Plinius amps that I have taken apart, is not balanced at all. That is, the amp is not balanced - just the input. They use an IC (yuck) to handle the inversion, meaning when you use balanced you get the sound of an additional stage - that is executed by using a simple IC. You could probably deduce from this that Plinius believe in single-ended (RCA) and do not believe that making the amp fully balanced is worth it - and I would agree with them. Just don't waste your money on balanced interconnects. Listening to a Plinius amp and comparing RCA with balanced will prove this to you - more grit with balanced.
I am pretty sure the bridging involves the use of ICs on the input side too, but cannot say for certain.
I haven't yet heard a Plinius SA-102, Jadem6. So I don't know how the two transformers will affect the bass and treble extension. Has anyone A/B'd those two units for those characteristics? As far as the preamp shootout we did at a dealer, it was between the CAT, the Hovland and the CJ. The CAT was the smoothest and most balanced. The CAT emphasizes the deep bass through the mids. With this CAT in the store using stock tubes, the extreme highs were a little soft, but that can be improved with NOS tubes. Although the CAT does not sound rolled off in the highs, it doesn't give that sense of limitless high frequency extension which the Hovland can. The CAT has a beautifully integrated sound from the lowest lows through the mids. The CJ was much more emphasized on the mids, sounding to my ears rolled off at both extremes. It certainly was not anywhere near as capable in the deep bass as the CAT and it lacked that integration of low bass to mid bass to low mids etc. that, to me, makes a CAT so exceptional. The CJ had a nice remote and volume control which I wished the CAT has and the CAT has only two line inputs which are a pain, but IMO, just evaluated on sonics, there is no contest between those two. As far as the CAT and the Plinius together, most of the other CAT models are quite dynamic. The CAT Ultimate is still quite dynamic, but less so than other CAT models. Paired with the outrageous Plinius dynamics, the super clean Plinius midrange alongside the CAT which also spotlights the mids, you get great dynamics (Plinius characteristic) and super-clean sound (both Plinius and CAT characteristics) with terrific tonal layering (CAT) and musicality (CAT) in the frequency band where 80-85% of the music is. The CAT has more extension in the bass than the Plinius, so you don't give up anything there in the mating of the two. I think it is a match worth seeking out. I have heard good things about the Aloia preamp, with some saying it is as good or better than the CAT. A friend of mine feels that a very important match needs to be made between the preamp and the speakers and we didn't even talk about what speakers you are using. My feeling is that to get the most out of the CAT Plinius match, your speaker should also be a superb midrange reproducer.
Rayhall, that was an extremely well written and very helpful review. Thank-you, thank-you. My from end is Sony SCD-1 with full Audiocom modifications. The speakers are Dunlavy IVa, Walker high definition links, both up and down, Nordost Valhalla interconnects and I plan on changing my NBS Statement speaker cable with Valhalla. All equipment sits on EAR footers, on Nuance shelves, on an Apollo rigid steel rack. My power comes from dedicated circuits, the pre-amp and SACD player run through a Hydra conditioner.
Thanks, Jadem6. Good luck with your auditions and purchase decisions.