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Plinius 9200 Solid State Integrated Amplifier Review

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Plinius 9200 Solid State Amplifier

The Plinius is the integrated amp for music lovers, even vinyl lovers. Plinius Audio Systems begin in August of 1980, and their first amplifiers were designed for the New Zealand market. It wasn’t until the 1990s that they began to be discovered in the USA. The Plinius 9200 integrated is based on Plinius separates, and comes with a very nice phono preamp that has deservingly been highly praised. It allows for connection of both moving-coil and moving magnet cartridges.

Description

The 9200 is Plinius’s top-of-the-line integrated amplifier with a really nice phono stage. It is very powerful for an integrated amplifier that’s not digital- or chip-based. It has a power rating of over 200 watts per channel and uses large toroidal transformers, so it can easily deliver its 200 watts and even more into 8 ohms, and over 300 watts into 4 ohms. The power supply has supposedly been designed to deliver power to very difficult speaker loads with ease, control, and finesse. The 9200 operates in high bias class A/B, but Plinius says they have designed and voice it to preserve as much of the Plinius class A sound as possible. I want to commend the folks at Plinius for including a very nice mc/mm phono stage, in addition to the expected line inputs. It also has one set of balanced line inputs.

The 9200 Integrated has a stylish, but simple, brushed silver front panel with rounded edges. As stylish as the 9200 is, the three rather clunky knobs on the front panel look a little out of place and time; just a hint guys, they would have looked great if they were set in and popped out when you pushed on them. They control the RECORD INPUT SELECTOR, SOURCE INPUT SELECTOR, and VOLUME. The power switch is in the rear, but the source selector can be set to standby when you’re not listening.

The back panel is very blue! It has handles on the back which come in very handy with an amp this heavy. The back panel has two sets of binding post, presumably for bi-wiring or subs. There are also the above mentioned balanced inputs, plus five sets of single-ended inputs, a set of preamp outputs, and record outputs. Also, the 9200 is built from the ground up to withstand vibration. It has a double chassis and internal parts which are well isolated to reduce resonance and vibration.

You will either love, hate, or die laughing at the remote control. When unpacking the amp I reached into the large cut out in the foam packing and almost dropped the large, very heavy remote. It’s nearly 11 inches long, and is as heavy as lead. It only has three buttons, two for VOLUME, and one for MUTE. It’s made of the same heavy duty aluminum as the amp’s chassis. I just don’t get it though; why do high-end companies think they have to make such extravagant and, to me, ridiculous remotes. I don’t want one of those credit card remotes, but this just seems a little overdone to me. My son loved it though, he said, “it’s simple, you won’t lose it, and if someone breaks in you can hit them with it,” then he dropped it on his toe and changed his mind (just kidding).

Setup

I used the Plinius 9200 in two completely different systems, and I also used it with several different speaker systems. I started upstairs in a system that is used both for music and video. The sources are all digital in this system. They are an Oppo DVD player, a Sony PS3, and a Direct TV high-definition receiver. Speakers used in this system were the B&W805S, the Genesis 7.1p Petite, and the Raidho Ayra C1.

Downstairs in the reference system, the vinyl source was the Clearaudio Wood Anniversary turntable with a Benz TR mounted in a Clearaudio Satisfy Carbon Fiber tonearm. The digital source downstairs was a hard drive into an Audio Note DAC5 Special. Speakers downstairs were the Teresonic Ingenium Silver, the Ikonoklast 3, and the Raidho Ayra C1. For cables I used the Shindo cables, the special Shindo power cords, Audience au24 cables, and the Teresonic Clarison Gold cables.

I thought it was interesting that the Plinius 9200 was very versatile. You could use it in a system where it was matched with speakers around the same price or slightly lower and feel like the Plinius integrated was helping you get the best out of your speakers. I also found out when I mated it with the Raidho speakers that you could put it with a much more expensive speaker and still feel like nothing was being compromised by using an integrated amp.

Sound

The Plinius 9200 retains many of the things it predecessors were loved for, such as low noise, low distortion, the J-FET input circuitry, and application of the very best of discrete components. This has resulted in a level of refinement that is hard to miss. It shows up particularly in the top-end, both in extension and quality. I found it to have surprisingly good harmonic structure for a transistor amp. It sounds very pure, and maybe even a little bit on the warm side of the spectrum. The 9200 speaks enough with one voice to work well on both single-driver speakers, and the two-ways I used for much of the review.

Scale, dynamics, power

These are areas where you get more from the Plinius 9200 than I expected from an integrated or transistor amp. To put it simply, like a good tube amp the Plinius was big, dynamic, and powerful in its presentation of music. Instruments had a near life-like size. Part of why it can do this is the excellent dynamic range that allows the music to come to life. There’s no two ways about it, my system is bigger, a little faster, and a little more dynamic with the Shindo and Wavac, and the Plinius has better scale than either the little Roksan Caspian M-1 ($2,595) or the Oracle SI1000 ($9,250).

The power of the Plinius 9200 is rather intoxicating. As much as I like the Roksan Caspian, and I really do find it quite musical, the extra 120 or so watts of the Plinius 9200 can easily be heard. It takes control of a speaker, it gets loud with less effort and it produces very musical bass. With a speaker like the Raidho (89dB/6Ω), the Roksan just doesn’t have the power for the job while the Plinius plays them effortlessly.

The Top-End

The top-end is nicely textured and extended, but compared to my reference Shindo and Wavac combo, I do detect an ever so slight amount of graininess. This is a rather unfair comparison considering the Shindo and Wavac combo sells for a cool $35,000 more. The Plinius’ top-end is a little more relaxed and warmer than the Oracle Integrated I had in for review at the same time. For some, this will make the Plinius the more musically enjoyable of the two integrated amps. I rather liked the top-end of the Plinius 9200: It didn’t draw attention to itself which is a worthwhile goal for the top-end of any component.

The Midrange

The other thing I would say about the Plinius is that it has great attack and definition in the midrange without sounding aggressive or the least bit “transistory”. It is noticeably smoother throughout its frequency range than earlier Plinius amps that I have heard. It also seems more tonally accurate than earlier versions. Voices had a very natural timbre and ease, but do not have as much presence as voice were with the Oracle, and not nearly as much as with the Shindo/Wavac reference combo. Guitars played over the Plinius 9200 had more body and weight than they did with the Oracle or the Roksan integrateds. Again, I think some of this is due to the sheer power of the Plinius 9200.

The Plinius 9200 has a bit of the bloom in the midrange that I most often associate with tubes. It lets you hear some of the layering of music like the Shindo gear. Now don’t get me wrong, the Plinius 9200 will never be mistaken for tubes, but it does give you just a touch of their magic. I was rather surprised by this by the way. Overall, I found the midrange of the Plinius 9200 to be more to my liking than I would have ever thought from a solid-state device.

The Bass

There’s one thing even a tube lover like me has to admit: This kind of power and current can surely take hold and control the bass of a speaker. Upright basses came through with plenty of texture and very solid, by comparison to the Oracle, the Plinius 9200 did not play the attack quite as fast, but was better with the decay and air of the instrument. Drums sounded very solid and full on the Plinius. Simply put, the Plinius had terrific bass and dynamics.

Soundstage and Imaging

Images are focused, clear and sharp. The soundstage reached beyond the B&W 805S speakers and even further beyond the Raidho Ayra C1.0 speakers. Speaking of those speakers leads me to want to talk about something very special indeed.
A Very Special Combination

I did a lot of this review using the excellent Raidho Ayra C1.0 speakers, they sell for $15,800 with their stands. Combine this with the cost of the Plinius 9200 and you have an amp/speaker system that costs $20,000. This may be a combination that doesn’t seem likely when you look at the prices of the speakers and amp, but I challenge you to find a preamp with this quality of a phono stage, an amp with this kind of power, and speaker that comes close to giving you the kind of sound you get from the Plinius integrated and the Raidho speakers.

For those of our readers who love a ‘reach out and touch you’ soundstage, you need to hear this combo. You will not believe the bass either; it was just mind blowing. This was really a very special combo.

Phono

The 9200 has a very nice sounding phono stage. It’s as good as most thousand to fifteen hundred dollar phono preamps; the only thing is, it’s not as versatile. The phono stage was not labeled either for MM or MC; instead, it can be set to HIGH (61dB) or LOW (54dB) gain for MM or MC cartridges by means of jumpers inside the amp. This is a little trouble, but not complicated. Interestingly, I found its MM performance to be extremely good in the lower output setting with the use of a good external step-up transformer.

Conclusion

The $4,835 Plinius 9200 is a very musically satisfying amp. I enjoyed every minute with it. Combined with the Raidho speakers it produced a sound that defied its cost. It is very versatile and the power is always nice to have. For many music lovers this will be all the high-end amplification they will ever need.

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