Review: Plinius 8200 Amplifier

Category: Amplifiers

Trying to simplify my life (and audio system) I decided to try an integrated amp. This was prompted by numerous equipment failures that left me without the ability to listen to music for weeks. I got really tired of sending equipment in for repair, waiting for it to return, only to have another component fail.

Looking around I had heard good things about Jeff Rowlands but that was a little pricey. I auditioned a Gryphon Callisto 2100 and liked it as well but also out of my range. The Plinius was highly rated and had the right pedigree and fairly reasonable at $3000 so I went for it.

Mine arrived in silver and had the impressive Plinius quality with low key good looks. The power switch leaves a little to be desired but there you go. The remote, thankfully, is simple with only three buttons for a change: MUTE, and VOLUME UP & DOWN.

The 8200 has plenty of inputs (all RCA) and two sets of speakers binding posts. The speaker outputs are very good quality, substantial, gold plated metal. I used a 13mm wrench to tighten down my Empirical Audio Clarity7 spaded cables, connected Empirical Ics to the Cary and let her warm up for a few hours.

When I came back, man my rack looked empty! All that was there now was my Cary 306/200 and the 8200. The Plinius (like everything else these days) has a blue led for a power indicator that flashed briefly when it's first turned on and another blue led indicating whether the 8200 is muted or not.

My first listen was with Keiko Matsui's "Deep Blue". I have listened to this CD so many times I know it very well. It is soothing yet dynamic, restrained yet thrilling. She plays piano and keyboard for those that don't know her. Within the first few notes I knew the Plinius was something special.

The mid range came alive with lush fullness I had never heard before from my Muse monoblocks or Bryston 4B-ST. And the highs, well they were etched in space and time with definition I didn't think a redbook CD was capable of. Each key struck, hung sharply in the air with perfect pitch until it gradually dissipated in anticipation of the next. And then there were incredibly low level triangles and chimes I had never noticed before, so subtle as to be almost inaudible but now clearly heard. These did not call attention to themselves but blended into the overall composition as she intended.

After many hours, I am still in awe of what the 8200 can portray. I listened to Norah Jones, Lorenna McKennit, Vanessa Mae, and Rachmaninov. The 8200 produced vocals, piano, violin, and brass with equal fidelity and effortlessness. Oh, but does this come with a price? In my system, I began to detect a looseness in the very lowest bass octaves.

I put on Madonna's "Like a Virgin" and played through all the cuts and it seemed okay, brilliant in fact, in keeping pace. I then played McKennitt's "The Visitor" and on track 5 "Greensleeves" and especially on track 6 "Tango to Evora" I detected an irritating boominess at the bottom which I had not noticed before.

The Bryston went back into the system, using the 8200 as a pre-amp. I played the same CD.
Damn, the boominess was mostly gone but so was the phenomenal midrange and highs I loved so much.

Recently, I have trying different power cords. A DIY 8 AWG cord helped quite a bit, but I'm not sure I can live with the low end. I don't care how loud it is, I just want it tight. Maybe the 8200 is actually getting lower than the Bryston and my speakers can't handle it. I will continue to work with this amp because it is too good to give up.

If you lack space, and seek a high resolution, yet smooth sounding amp, give the 8200 a try.

Associated gear
Cary 306/200 CD Player
Empirical Audio Cables

Similar products
Gryphon Callisto 2100
Denon 5700
Hi 99. Yes I had read your earlier review. Living in NZ, and NZ being a very small place, I hear a lot of the "behind the scenes" gossip about how things have evolved at Plinius. One of their frustrations is the insatiable demands from the US to come out with a "new and improved" model at regular intervals. I guess there are some that just ditch their old one and grab the new one every time. I know Plinius would prefer to only do it when they have made a significant breakthrough, but the US importer has different views. I see a lot of talk about whether an 8200 is MKI or MKII, as if the MKII must be preferable. I would say there are differences, but you should listen for yourself. Similarly I see a lot of talk about MKI versus MKII for the CD-LAD, when the differences are insignificant to my ears when they are teamed with an amp that has a normal (read, not low) input impedence.

One of my two systems has the SA102 and CD-LAD in it, with Thiel speakers. This system can sound recessed on top and even a little thick in the mids with the wrong cables, but it can sound very right simply by using cables that are "wide open", not bright. It is not an issue of speed or PRAT, it is just an issue of system matching. By that I mean, don't use cables that tend to deliberately veer to warming the sound up on its way through - such as Cardas. Like every other component on the planet, you cannot just throw a Plinius into a system and expect it to sound perfectly balanced - the variabilities in all other components make such an ideal impossible for even a perfectly neutral component.

A further issue to be careful of is that Plinius amps seem to be very affected by the support you use under it. The Plinius opens up and sounds very neutral, revealing and dynamic on the right support. On the wrong support it just sounds like a good amp trying to get out of the mud.
Great observations - again - Redkiwi! Yes, US buyers have this thing for constantly upgrading. It is true for cars, houses, audio, spouses..... never happy!

What ICs and speaker cables do you use? And what kind of rack?

I have mine on a rather inexpensive spiked rack, and it sounds pretty good. I know I will have to replace it at some point.

One of my very positive impressions is that the Plinius is really muscular (not of the steroidal variety), but with finesse.
Well of course it is muscular, but yet with finesse. We are talking about a Kiwi amp here, not something from West Island (known as Australia to you). North and South Islanders (Kiwis) are typically just so.

We of course do not enjoy such stratospheric incomes as Americans do, so we can only upgrade one from your list at a time. But fortunately Plinius gear is dirt cheap in NZ and that helps us have enough money left over to buy American cables and things when our currency, the Pacific Peso, lurches upwards on some whim of the international financiers (such as confusing us with Luxemburg - also tiny and insignificant)

Despite this I have managed to try a decent range of ICs and speaker cables with the Plinius gear and found the Kimber 1130 ICs to be very nice, as well as the Wireworld Gold Eclipse speaker cables and the Kimber Select speaker cables - but they obviously should do at the price, and I would find it hard to recommend them as value for money.

The value for money choice would be Coincident ICs, being wide open and fast enough to let the Plinius shine without breaking the bank. The Alpha Core Goertz MI2 Python speaker cables work great at very reasonable prices too. So too does the equivalent Goertz silver cable - but at a much higher price obviously (meaning a delay on that new mistress).

I have had the combination of Coincident ICs and MI2s in the system and the result is fast, musical and very balanced.

AC power cords are a bit of a problem down here as few of the US-made cords can fit our pathetic plugs (all made in West Island these days) and only some of them are safe for 230V. But I can say the SA102 likes a chunky power cord and I use Synergistic Research, and it seems to not like the Shunyata cords I have much - goes all lumpy in the bass. The CD-LAD likes the BMI cords, or more accurately the BMI on the CD-LAD is required to balance out the characteristics of the Synergistic cord.

I have written extensively on Audiogon on my views about isolation. But in summary I use a welded steel rack that is spiked to the floor and which supports its shelves on spikes. Then I use Neuance shelves between rack and component, and use no fancy footers at all - despite trying perhaps a dozen or so different varieties. The Plinius feet seem to be ideal for the Plinius.

I find the Neuance to be quite a remarkable product - being light (so that it will not store energy), rigid (so that it releases the energy quickly) and damped (so that the energy is not released in a narrow resonance band). Who cares why - it just sounds both neutral and very fast - usually you only get one of these, if you are lucky, but at the expense of the other. And performance for the dollar is excellent.

Now did you realise (as I have come across Americans that get confused on this) that the word Kiwi does not refer here to the fruit. Here we call that thing a Kiwifruit, and I guess we shortened the name for export purposes to make it easier for foreigners to spell. The Kiwi is many things here, such as a member of our national rugby league sports team or just a New Zealander, but its origin is that it is the name of one of our cute native flightless birds, which some say shares much in common with males from these shaky isles, since it eats, roots and leaves.

But whatever you may hear about our silly left-wing politics and our pointless, ludicrous and terribly amusing anti-nuclear stance, you Americans are very welcome to come and spend your money here anytime. What you would save on buying a SA102 here would pay for the return business class air fare.
I have always wanted to visit New Zealand. I have heard it is quite beautiful there. Isn't Tiger Woods' caddie from there ? Maybe I'll someday take up your suggestion to buy an SA-102 amp there and use the savings for the return trip.