Or try a Krell FPB 200.
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I own a Plinius SA-100. But last weekend, I heard an Ayre V1 fed by an Ayre K1 and Wadia 860 driving a Vandersteen 5. The sound was exceptional, maybe the best I have ever heard. What was particularly satisfying was the midrange and highs which were liquid, and velvety smooth. However, with this combination, the music did not have a whole lot of get up and go. In other words, it was not terribly dynamic. Maybe boring after a while. The bass showed some evidence of a slight boominess in the midbass and the deep bass was significantly lacking IMO. Speaker cables used were Nordost SPM which, I believe are light on bass. I can't tell you whether the problem was speakers, amp, preamp or cable, but V1's reputation is to be soft in the bass and light on dynamics. Also, it has been said to have even less get up and go when used with its single ended inputs. Check the Stereophile review of Sept. 1999. The Plinius has an outrageously potent and powerful midbass but I find it slightly rolled off in the deep bass. It has a beautiful tubelike midrange. There is a slight prominence to the upper midrange and the highs are extremely clean and crisp. There may be a slight rolled off quality to the extreme highs. You have to be careful not to match the Plinius with other bright equipment. The Plinius is in general, over the entire frequency range, an extremely dynamic piece of equipment as contrasted with the Ayre. To summarize, I would say that the Ayre has beauty (beautiful midrange and highs) going for it and the Plinius has both brawn (dynamics, bass slam)as well as beauty (beautiful tube like midrange). I would say neither deliver the ultimate in deep bass extension, but I think that I would give the edge to the Plinius in that regard. Which should you choose? Both are exceptionally sounding products and truly Class A all the way. At this level, its all a personal choice. However, I believe the Plinius is considerably cheaper than the Ayre ($4495 vs. 7k+). Then the V1 has twice the wattage as the Plinius. But you didn't say which Plinius you were considering. Perhaps it was a Plinius SA-250? Happy listening!
Have you listened to the Bryston amps? I demoed a Plinius 100 in my home for a week and then demoed a Bryston 3B-ST. I chose (2) of the 3B-ST's bridged. The Plinius was very warm but just lacked a sense of realism. I was simply too laid back. I have always found however that matching the amp to the speakers and the components is really the most important thing. Because i was using a Bryston pre, this may have amde the difference. The Bryston was definetely stronger on the bottom end. Sorry I do not have any experience with the Ayre. Good luck!
Anyhoo, I still say try the FPB 200 against either the Ayre or the Plinius. I don't know why it would'nt do everything better than both of them. Rayhall (Bobby?) mentions tubelike midrange. The Krell FPB series have THE VERY BEST MIDRANGE of any solid state amp, and at least the equal of most tube amps. They also have the PERFECT combination of bass tightness and bass roundness. The treble is maximally smooth with the right power cord. Dynamics are killer, especially with the right interconnects and speaker cable. You just can't go wrong with an FPB, except the monoblocks are even better. And an FPB 200 could be had used for around $3500 to $4000, so money certainly wouldn't be an issue...
I don't know who Bobby is, but the Krell FPB series has never impressed me. I have listened FPB200, 300 and 600. I have found all to be non-involving. Whereas I would say both the Ayre and Plinius are extremely musical, with the Ayre probably being slightly more so than the Plinius. The Plinius will have just a little more bite in the upper midgrange, but is not "steely" and is never harsh. It's always hard to follow someone else's recommendation since no two audiophiles ever agree on everything. So, I guess it is best to hear all three amps (Plinius, Ayre and Krell) and make up your own mind.
Question mainly for Rayhall (can be anyone). You stated not to have to bright of system with plinius. I have the B&W Nautilaus 803 speakers. Planning on Theta Cassanova for home theater. Haven't picked musical preamp yet with Cardas wires. Right now running Denon 1600 CD but would change that later. I am not an audiophile just looking for damn good music. Is this bright? A lot of stuff I have been listening to seem to harsh. That's why I liked the Ayre.
Hi JCraig6, I don't know any of your equipment, so I cannot make a judgement. I have always found B&W to be too bright for my ears, however. I have heard the 801, 802 and 804 and make that judgement based on those speakers. Your electronics are completely unknown to me. I would say that if you buy the Ayre and your system still sounds bright or harsh, which it could, then the problem is elsewhere than the amp. That amp has an extremely smooth and non-fatiguing high end. Even though you claim to not be an audiophile, you have sonic likes and dislikes. This equipment is too expensive to buy something that you will not be happy with. I urge you to listen before buying. In this price range, while no component ever sounds perfect, you should not have to make major compromises on sound quality. My recommendation is that if anything sounds overly bright or at all harsh to your ears, find out why, by exchanging other components into and out of the chain. You need to ensure that the source of the brightness or harshness is not the component you are interested in buying. And you want to hear the component under its best circumstances to see what its potential or capability is. I think you can build a superior sound system around either the Ayre or Plinius amp. Whether your current gear matches one, both or either is something you will have to determine.
Hi again Jcraig6; And thanks for the correction re: home of Ayre amps-- my ignorance. I thought both Ayre and Plinius were from New Zealand or Australia. If you really want a powerful, musical amp, the McCormack DNA-2DX is hard to beat (MSRP about $5000.) I definitely preferred it to Levinson 331., and have owned the McCormack for a year now. It is excellent with Vandersteen 3Asig. speakers.