I read the whole thing JD, as I can see that you put alot of time into sharing your good experience with us. It really sounds to me like you've got a great amp there. It feels so good when we can get it right, doesn't it? I hope you enjoy it for a good long time to come.
I like your gear selection for your reference system. I can imagine how it sounds based on my experience (except for the amp). I am certain I would enjoy sitting down and just listening with you.
Several of your components are complimentary. This says to me that you took the time to find the pieces of the puzzle that fit together to form a balanced and accurate end result.
Thanks for your informative review and expertly crafted explanation. Your labor is appreciated by this Audiogon member, and I suspect many others as this is read.
I would wish you luck, but it appears you have made your own luck, the hard way.
Thanks for the review, Jadem6. Perhaps Audiogon would consider a new topic in the forums for users reviews. I've owned the Plinius SA 100 MKIII for about 18 months and never had any problem with it. It was dead silent in its operation. I now own the SA250 MKIV and am very satisfied with it. I think Plinius makes an excellent and very well built product. Is it the best amp in the world? That depends on who's listening to it. "Music is in the ears of the beholder."
You know I'd love to meet you and have you listen to my system. It would be a real honor to get your impressions and suggestions. If your ever in the Twin Cities please do let me know, I'll buy dinner before a listen.
Perhaps a client will send me on photo assignment to your area. In that case you may depend on getting a call from me.
Same offer is extended to you if you should travel to the Dallas/ Ft. Worth area. My listening room is complete, should be putting furniture and stereo equipment back together in the next week or two.
I agree with your impressions JD. The Plinius amps have been promising for some years now, but I too have had problems with hum. I also found the mids to sound a little dry and the treble a touch grainy in the SA100, and found the early SA250s to sound stodgy and lazy. Both the SA250MkIV and the SA102 manage to eliminate my reservations - both being more liquid than their predecessors and more convincing.
I traced the hum in my system to using long RCA interconnects of any variety. Using short RCA interconnects solved the hum problem, whether shielded or not. Not sure why this should be, but it worked.
As I have mentioned before, using balanced with Plinius does not make any sense as it is achieved by introducing an IC into the circuit (last time I looked).
For those with less cash, the 8200P gets you very close to the SA102 and SA250MKIV, and is an absolute steal.
Well done JD! I very much enjoyed your review.
I greatly appreciate your passion as well.
I would like to publicly thank-you redkiwi for helping me over the past couple years building this system. Your recommendations above any other have been most useful. I don't know if it's simply the two of us having very similar tastes, or if your research is just that good, but you have been right on in your recommendations. The last was the Placette pre-amp. I must say I had my doubts about having a system as transparent as this is, but what I have learned is with excellent components through out, the transparency translates into flawless sound. I was sure the sound was going to be over etched and a bit glassy, not at all. Again thank-you for the reports on vibration, footers and shelves, but mostly for taking the time to let me know your thoughts.
Great article, great work. We need more like this: well-written, thoughtful, comprehensive, informed, and honest yet non-dogmatic. We all have some stories such as Jadem6's, even if sometimes on a smaller scale - now we just need to occasionally take the time to tell them to each other in such an ingratiatingly readable manner. It breeds enthusiasm and hope, rather than degenerating into a thin veil for competitiveness or insecurity. Sure, we don't all have the resources to play at J.D.'s level, but we all have ears and the ability to write about what we hear. The result, as seen here, is information that is potentially beneficial to any one of us reading, even if we are not actually considering the exact components under review. A surprising number of folks (yes, certainly not all) have displayed this kind of effort in reveiws written on Audioreview.com, but comparitively few get posted here. Because we get to know each other and our preferences and predelictions better in this forum format, reviews like the above carry more weight when written here on the 'Gon.
Thank-you Zaikesman, You'll be happy to know Audiogon is working on this very issue. They are in the process of putting together a review format that will be like no other on the internet. I believe we all have the ability to review equipment if we love audio and are honest with our perceptions. Please contact Arnie at A'gon to discuss how you can become involved.
Audiogon is again investing it's resources in this site to make it far and away the best audio site ever. Not only are the members informed and interesting, but I've been lucky enough to meet people from all over the world who I now concider friends!
J. D., I finally found your review of the Plinius 102 and enjoyed reading it immensely. It's the most nearly perfect user review of an audio product that I've ever read, being virtually a "straight wire with gain." The only thing missing is intimate knowledge of how you listen and where your empases lie. Even so, yours is a review I would happily use as a springboard to track down a quality amp. I hope you will find time to review other products...we should all benefit from it. Thank you. Lee in VA.
I first want to thank-you for the kind words, it's fun to know my reviews help. Secondly I know your question of music preference is rhetorical, but it deserves an answer. I should start including this response in all my reviews to better allow people to understand my tastes.
I grew up on rock. Blind Faith, CCR, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Wishbone Ash... I still listen to these bands know and then. Pop was something I avoided more often than not, but Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac were my favorites.
My true love sense the start is female vocals. My collage girl friend called them "my women". That has not changed much over the years, I still love women singers in all genres. Today it's Patricia Barber, Emmylou Harris, Nora Jones, Lucinda Williams, Dave's True Story, Cowboy Junkies... it's a full range.
As my stereo has improved my tastes have grown into a full spectrum of music. I enjoy all types, Classical, Jazz, Rock but have a true fondness to small ensembles and acoustic. I find the color and texture of each instrument to be an enjoyment. The emotion of the music tends to be more involving for me when it can be enjoyed intimately.
Finally, if you click the "review" button after my name, you will find all the reviews I've written. Please enjoy.
I own a sa 100 plinius, it is so musical with my martin
logan, i was into buying krell tried the 300i, and mark
levinson 331 but no match with the sa 100,transparency,
tubelike sound, transient, palpability,female voice,
etc, now i got the chance to hear the sa 102 its 3 times
better than the sa 100, the post binding that i used
to hate on sa 100 mark ll were replace by wbt, i jus bougth
andra there are 2 amp i would like to audition at this
time,odyssey stratos and the sa 102, iam a very open
minded person, if i hear a product is good, ill try it
hopefully buy it.Like my friend always tell me its all
about synergesity and passion, i myself truly appreciate
the guy who review the 102, he was right on the money
he also gave all the things i have to look for before
listening to the plinius 102 made it so easy for me.
if i say i have a good music on my marble 6.9 and le amp
norh you wont believe me but I do,it is because of
synergisity and open mindedness of any equipment regardless
Just got a new Plinius SA-102. I must confess I have quite a strange feeling about this amp.
Sometimes it sounds great (jazz trios), with an incredible sense of palpability. But other times it just sounds muddy. Plus, I do miss the smooth liquidity, articulation and lots of AIR of the Concentra II I have tryed a few weeks ago. Highs are also seem to be a bit aggressive.
BUT (and this is a big but) I am still using my former integrated 8150 as a preamp now. I guess this explains a lot. Don't you?
Lisbon, my experience with the SA-102 indicates that it requires a transparent front end, and revealing, but smooth cables to get the most from it. If your amp is new it also takes a few months, literally, for it to fully open up. You should leave it on all the time, and have it plugged into a dedicated line. The SA-102 also greatly benefits from after market PCs.
In your case a Placette passive might work out very well. I borrowed one from a friend to try a diffent cdp in my system and found it to be very transparent, full bodied, and dynamic. I currently run a Resolution Audio Opus 21 directly into my SA-102.
Last year I downsized my system, and went from a Classe Omicron to the SA-102. I had similar misgivings initially.
thank for such insightful and great review. you made audiogon greater audio community.
has anyone compares this Plinius SA-102 amp with symphonic Line SL250 amp? thanks
I have the Symphonic Line RG4 Mk3 monos. I have NOT compared them to the SA-102. I have also heard the Kraft 250 dual mono stereo at a friend's place. What I can say about the Symphonic Line amps is that there is NO grain in the mids & highs compared to the Odyssey Stratos monos. There is no colouration either - it seems that amp doesn't impose any of its own signature on the music. I reached this conclusion after hearing music that I'm intimately familiar with on my friends' systems, which have various other amps (Aloia, BelCanto SET, Odyssey Stratos monos & the Kraft 250). I know that this is not a large variety of amps.
I read the TAS review of the SA-102 written by Wayne Garcia wherein he seems to have trashed the SA-102 quite badly! I don't know how true those statements in the review are 'cuz I have no personal experience w/ the amp.
However, if I am to believe even a little bit of the TAS review then I'd say that the Symphonic Line amps are much better! (This might be the incorrect concl. 'cuz of the way it was reached!!).
I can tell you that the Symphonic Line amps have none of the negativities of the SA-102 TAS review.
FWIW, YMMV, IMHO.
hi, thank you. i am a SL user too. i am so surprised to see that the manufacturer in the response letter admitting that this amp is " off"? maybe this is true!!
TAS just relased its reviw on this 102A? did WG did a well thought review? any user can provide second opinion.??
thanks a bunch.
Hi, I listened to Plinius/SL combos recently. The SA-102 with a Plinius pre (OK sounding, but don't know *which* pre) and a SL pre. The latter combination was nothing short of excellent -- especially considering the asking price for the amp. We happened to compare the sound to a Kraft 250 & a big, class A SL integrated (Kraftquelle??? s/thing like that).
Before I continue, please remember that a Kraft 250 retails @ a motley $15k (in Europe), the integrated $~8,5k, and the big RG3 pre at an easy $ 9-10k (with MM/MC, multiple phono equaliser circuits, etc).
I'll borrow freely from JD's outstanding review above, with which my limited experience tallies completely -- but, I'm not as eloquent:)
Ok, the Kraft was much better (it should be). In all accounts, you can add a "more so" to JD's comments -- except for TWO regions: a) the lower bass where the Kraft was quite different, driving the subwoof area of the speaker to excursions while the upper end continued to be relatively quiet (there was 2ble bass + cello at that point, less so the violins). TWO: large orchestral passages (in Mahler 8) were the Kraft's exclusive territory: it seemed to get going there as if there was an extra power supply kicking in whenever the sound became more demanding. The integrated followed, the Plinius came in third. THis was the ONLY area where we though the integrated somewhat betterd the Plinius.
Overall, the integrated performed soniacally similarly to the Kraft, with less authority however; we assumed the driving power wasn't there, so we enjoyed it on lower volume than the Plinius & the Kraft. Nevertheless, the integrated held its own against the Plinius with a slightly different tonal balance (mids not so lush as the Plinius, more power seemingly "going" to frequency extremes where the two could be considered more or less equals, the slight edge in the integrated's favour because I'm a sucker for high high's). Also, remember that JD's experience is with a passive + SA-102, a combo that costs slightly LESS than the integrated!
We started with the big Burmester speakers (simply because they were there), then switched to AP Kronus (the Avanti's bigger brother) because they too were there and we wanted a more benign load for the Plinius.
THe characteristics of all amps, when driving the Burmesters were also there with the Kronus -- albeit a better capability for the Plinius & the integrated to "fill" the box volume. And it did make them happier (although the Kronus is NOT a good load which tells you lots about the SA 102's driving capabilities). The Kraft, as you'd expect, didn't show up much of a change -- except, astonishingly, that the differences b/ween Kraft & Plinius or integrated were MORE pronounced (so the Kraft did appreciate the "better" load).
Cables were Nordost Valhalla, source was a SL "reference" cd, we listened to mainstream classical cd's. All the equip was "broken in" apparently.
So much for a long Saturday at a dealer's!
dear Gregm(God father),
great infomation and admire your wonderful Sat. did you feel SA102 not very transparent? or lack of microdynamic and nuance compare with SL250 ? this is the WG from TAS comments. it has more electronic sounding?
Hi Timchen -- no, the SA 102 was "musically" transparent. By this I mean that details were there as a seamless part of the whole musical presentation. You didn't miss, or strain yourself to hear things... However, with the 250 there was more information, more expansively presented, changes in amplitude were more palpable, the timbral accuracy and the tonal balance were better. Switching back to the SA 102 from the 250, the latter sounded a tiny bit veiled by comparison, and a little bit in a "hurry" to get rid of decay in the various sounds (a piano sound, for example). At first, the plinius sounded "faster" than the 250, due to this quicker decay factor (it isn't, of course). But music with the Plinius remained VERY enjoyable! Cheers
I do want to clarify two issues. First I'm using an active Placette pre-amp, not the passive model. This tends to add a great deal of punch. I'm also using two SA-102 amps bi-amped vertically. The issues discussed above are addressed very well with the second amp.
As for the TAS review, a clarification was made in the latest TAS issue regarding "some incorrect resistor values were inserted into the pre-drive section in both channels of the amplifier".
This may help explain the reviewers issues, but it doesn't say alot for the quality control at Plinius.
Another issue I feel should be addressed is the Plinius pre-amp is not of the quality of the amps IMO. Pre-amp matching with any component is very important. If a system is not well matched the reviewer my not hear the full potential of a component.
I would also like to address the comments on the SA-102 being "bright" or "edgy, electronic" sounding. This amp in my opinion is very accurate, not rolled off. Actual live music can and is also bright and edgy at times, I see this as accurate, not electronic. I believe speakers tend to reproduce the highs in an artificial way, alot of systems are designed to offset this issue. In my system my speakers are natural to laid back in comparison to the full extent of speakers available. Again system matching is very important!
I continue to believe, for my system with the equipment it's matched with that the Plinius SA-102 is the best amp available for the money, and will compete with amps many times it's cost.
well said, Jadem6. from the opinion of here and other places, SA102 seems an excellent product, and the latest TAS new claim may clear this up. But how about the QC here?
why Plininus sent this bad amp for reviewing?? Symphonic Line had this big problem when his SL400(mono) was reviewed by MF or J10 at Stereophine, although the reviewer was so much impressed with the SL400 sonic performance, but the buring fuses and fail to work almost destory SL reputation in US?!
BTW, do you feel SA102 sounds bright or edgy? I never feel Live(concert) are edgy or bright? do you feel sa102 overly
dynamic? show solid state artifact?
No I would not say my system is bright or edgy in any way. In fact I've continued to "tune" it with footers to get every bit of treble avalible. The Plinius is very sensitive to footers, another factor to concider in reading reviews.
I should tell you however that if the recording is of poorer quality, the Plinius will not roll of any bad things, so poor recordings do not sound good. This is maybe the biggest downfall of an acurate system, garbage in garbage out. Tube systems I've used tend to be more forgiving in this regard.
Jadem6's exeprience seems to tally with mine regarding the plinius pre (i.e, I felt that (much) better sounds resulted when we used the big SL pre).
Upper level details: with the 250 we didn't feel we "needed" or "could have had" more; with one plinius, we did. But, as Jadem6's using two 102's, his highs/mids amp has an easier load to drive and should be able to deal with those frequencies more efficiently than our stand-alone. Sorry, I missed the bi-amping!
Both the Plinius preamps are a little dark sounding and add some mid bass emphasis, with the CD-LAD sounding a little harder than the M16. I too agree the amps are better than the preamps.
It is worth noting that Peter T voices his amps with Shahinian Diapasons (and silver cables). This tends to make it easier to match his amps with speakers that have metal dome tweeters, than with soft domes or with panels. Using my 102 with Thiel speakers, I don't feel the need for any enhancement of highs through use of cones or rollers, and there is no lack of sparkle and detail. Like most things, it depends on what you put it with. I am very satisfied with my 102, find it much better than the 100, and with most speakers, better than the 250. The key reason I am so fond of it is that I can really enjoy the music on almost every disc I own. I have had amps that have at times been more thrilling and that have evoked more emotion than I have ever gotten out of the 102, but those amps were also major let-downs at other times or on other discs. I have never experienced an amp that so consistently brings out the music as the 102 does.
I've got an SA-102 hooked up to a Plinius M16P. My sources are a Resolution Audio Opus 21 and a VPI Scout. My speakers are B&W N803's. I'm using PS Audio power cables and conditioners.
I don't find it dark or lacking in any way or exaggerating certain attributes over others. I've heard all kinds of gear from Wadia, Theta, Levinson, BAT, CJ, Accuphase, Naim. I've owned CJ and Theta gear myself.
I guess I must have silver plated ears rather than solid gold. ;)
I came across your nice thread on Audiogon from 2002 regarding the SA-102 amp. Just wondering if you can still recommend the SA-102 in this price range.
I presently have the SA-100 Mk3 amp and am thinking about upgrading to a SA-102. However, the difference in price is quite substantial (about ~$1000) and so I'm asking people who've tried both amps if they think it's worth the extra money. My preamp is the Plinius CD-LAD alternating with an Audio Research LS16-Mk2. The rest of my system are the Sonus Faber Cremona speakers and Ayre CX-7e-MP CD player.
Thanks for your time and input.
I bought Siltech cables based on a Wes's review and F.Y.I it is a good combination. I'm using G3's with a SA-100mkII. Still happy!
Sorry I didn't answer you sooner. I still own my Plinius SA-102 and love it. I have been able to hear many different amps over the years, but the Plinius still is my choice.
Excellent review supplemented with some great comments as well. Especially enjoyed Gregm's comparision of the SA-102 to Symphonic Line Kraft 250 stereo amp; his conclusions mirrored my own when comparing the Plinius SB-301 A/B amp to the Kraft 250 monos.
The SB-301 went from very good to borderline great when the Plinius M8 pre-amp I used to feed it was replaced with the tubed Symphonic Line "The Enlightenment" pre. I would imagine that all Plinus amps would truly benefit from association with the better level of tubed pres (CAT, Aesthetix, BAT, Einstein, Lamm etc.).
In the end the Kraft 250s knocked the SB-301 out of my system. As Gregm likewise noted in his now ten year old comparison to the SA-102, the Kraft 250s are plainly better than the SB-301 in several areas, e.g. microdynamics, musical information, tonal balance etc. But the Kraft 250s should be, given that they cost over three times as much as the SB-301. And the Kraft 250s never would have found their way into my system in the first place but for pure serendipity and an insane markdown in price. Had they not, I would have remained very happy with the SB-301.