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
What speakers did you use?
I listened this amp with Totem Model1 sig monitors and it was realy enjoyable. This amp has no edgines and yet excellent detail and musicality. From what I notice there is some "Plinius signature" of sound present in each Plinius amp even if only their preamp is used. In fact it's my favourite SS electronics.
This is not the Mk II version, correct?

Have you tried the phono stage?

My experience was about the same. I loved some things about the 8200 but the boomboomboom drove me crazy after a while. I think I actually like the 8100 better.
I own and love the Plinius 8200 Mk-1, which is an incredible product!
I do not believe the Plinius is responsible for the "bass problems" reported in this thread. I get absolutely taut deep bass with mine, driving Meadowlark Heron i speakers - which go down to 25hz!
Without addressing room acoustics, there is little hope of good sound - especially good bass! I use ASC Tube Traps to control lower frequencies, Sonex Foam (4- walls & ceiling) panels to absorb reflections, and an area rug on the floor. Get your room right first - only then can you appreciate and honestly judge equipment!
I, too, have heard complaints about the boomy bass from this Plinius. I must agree, though with Equa, that it is probably an artifact of some other part of system or listening room (speakers on stands? carpeting? etc).

For instance, if I put my large "bookshelf" speakers directly on the carpeted floor, I get some "boominess." If they are on appropriate stands, the bass just is as deep and as clear as can be. I listen to chamber music, and the deep bass of cello, etc. is stunning. I'm hearing bass that I never heard before, and my initial reaction was somewhat negative only because I was hearing something so clearly for the first time.
More about the Plinius sound:

The bass is incredible, in my opinion, as I state above, and not "boomy" in the least. And the mids are incredible! The thing that I HAVE noticed is that the highs seem "dark." Does anyone else have this impression? Or could it be that the extended bass gives the impression of the highs being darker or more recessed?
Cpdunn99, I think I hear what you are talking about the "dark" highs. I would call it more as being slightly reticent and recessed, but a lot of this is what you previously may have heard with your previous amp,which may have over-accentuated the highs or you may have been hearing benign noise which comes across as giving the illusion of being more airy and bright. Also, by experimenting with interconnects and power cords on both the amp and your source(I imagine a cdp)and not to forget the speaker cables, by concentrating on the highs of whatever music you are listening to, you can fine-tune the highs to be more to your liking.Go to a live concert of classical or jazz and you'll see that in some venues the highs may seem lacking, but once your ears get acclimated you'll hear the highs(i.e.cymbals attack and decay).Now remember, I have the Plinius 8200 mkI and supposedly with the better power supply in your MkII the highs should be even better.Then again,the 8200's may have this slight trait of darkness in the highs as a characteristic.I have heard that to do better, we'd have to move up to the separates, like the SA102,which puts you yet in another league of sound.For now, I am tweaking my system to sound as natural as possible and try not to yearn for equipment that is better(but more expensive).Isn't life a bitch when you're such a perfectionist ? Oh, if I could only control my anality... P.S. I just remembered reading in another thread that the Plinius amps can take as long as 4 months to properly break in. If that is the case, then we both have some wonderful sounds to look forward to. Cheers and enjoy the music.

I agree completely about the characterstics of live sound and the implication that quest for "live sound" from electronics equipment is a never-ending quest!

Two weekends ago, I was in NYC and went to two very different jazz venues in the same evening (Small's and Blue Note). What you say about the highs possibly being "lacking" is true. Also, I agree that one's perception of what is "good," "true," "natural sounding," etc. can simply be a result of whatever was most recently listened to.

My next purchases will be (in this order, I think): new speaker cables, cpd, and power cord.

With respect to the 4 month break-in period, that seems like a long time! However, I will say this: the Plinius is sounding better and better by the day. How good is it sounding? Well, when I had my previous NAD-based system, if I went away for a few days, I was OK without my music. Now, I get very impatient and can't wait for meetings/conferences/social visits to be over and done with because I have to get home!
I experienced some graininess and loose bass but this has gone away with long breakin of both speakers (Thiel 1.6) and amp (8200 mkII). I'm very happy with this combination right now.
Did you buy the Thiel and Plinius new and at the same time? How long was your break-in period? Might be hard to tell, if both were breaking in at the same time.
I've got an 8100 and had some "boominess" in the bass. I switched to Acoustic Zen Satori speaker cables and now the bass is tight, deep and rich. The Satori's made all the difference in my system. Just a thought.
Interesting about the AZ Satoris tightening up the bass. I have been thinking about picking up a pair to audition. This is another good example of how the so-called "boominess" is actually an artifact of other parts of a system, not of the Plinius itself.
Just some quick "sound bites".. The MKII is a bit more lush and full than the MKI - neither better nor worse, in my opinion - despite the claims about the power supply. The MKI appears more neutral to me. All current Plinius models have a tendency to sound dark or reticent (I believe the latter description is more accurate) on top, I suspect principally because they are voiced with speakers that use a metal dome (Shahinian Diapasons). I know some that have soft dome tweeters have found the Plinius to paradoxically be dynamic, yet lack "snap". As always, system matching is required. But if there is a truth about any of this, then I suspect that the Plinius sound is actually pretty neutral. I say this because Thiel speakers like the new 1.6, which are pretty neutral, sound great with the Plinius amps yet can sound bright with others.

...just how I "hear" it.

My Cabasse, too, have domed tweeters. I really like the sound, but do accept this notion of darkness or "reticence," as you put it. I have not compared the Plinius sound with other kinds of speakers, but find your observations to be interesting.

Did you see my review of the MKII? I don't know why "mkII" didn't appear in the title.
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.

Yes, I know about why you are referred to as "kiwis." I grew up in Scotland (which I think of as another former English colony!). I carry two passports (UK, US) just in case I get into trouble.

I was hoping to get to NZ for part of the Dylan tour, but it's not going to work out, unfortunately!

Thanks for your comments regarding cables and shelves. I'll look into the ICs, esp., and see if I can find some for audition.

I don't know about ludicrous left-wing politics. I lean that way a little, but find most politics/politicians to be ludicrous regardless. And, by the way, you are welcome up here anytime!
Sherod - yes Tiger's caddie is from here. Kiwis are usually both fiercely independent and fiercely competitive. This is possibly why our ancestors went to precisely the other side of the world just to get away from the English. Poor old Tiger probably gets told exactly what to do and gets ribbed when he screws it up.

Marakanetz - last time I looked the price in NZ was around half the price in the US. Some dealers here began to get a lot of internet and mail order sales to the US, but the US importer got wild and Plinius had to reign in those dealers. All that is fair enough. I personally do not disagree with the right of a supplier to set whatever price they wish, and therefore do not object to the price discrimination. But I am pretty sure noone can object to you walking into a NZ dealer and buy a Plinius at NZ prices, get a refund on the sales tax on the way out of the country and then rely on the international provisions of the warranty. Conversion to 115V is fairly easy with the Plinius gear, but I am sure the dealer would happily supply it in 115V guise. The relativity of prices will have changed with the NZ dollar having risen recently - principally because the US dollar has fallen, but also because our interest rates are high and terrorists are not interested in us. Since you seem like an old buddy to me, if you want to follow it up just send me an email and I will happily help some more.

Cpdunn99. Yes, I was referring to the ludicrousness of the politics, not the ludicrousness of being left-wing. While I lean to the right, or should I say towards Libertarianism rather than the "let's nuke 'em" part of the spectrum, it would be fair to say that NZ's right wing parties are well to the left of the Democrats in the US. What frustrates me about NZ's ludicrous left is that their well intentioned, but totally emotionally driven decisions, often completely backfire on the people they so desperately want to help. But I guess my apologetic reference to our politics was to say I am often embarrased at the churlishly anti-American sentiment that is often present in some of the statements of our left-wing leaders here. However, I am sure you are occasionally embarassed by your politicians too(?) Now tell me, are you a man that likes a wee dram. I love the Scot single malts, but can always benefit from a recommendation. I tend to like the peaty Islay (like Lagavulin) or Isle of Skye (Talisker), but also like some complex lighter drops such as the Balvenie too. The last Scotsman I asked this question of on Audiogon told me he didn't drink the stuff - hope that wasn't you.
No, Redkiwi, it wasn't me!! I actually responded to another post on another thread about Scotch. I listed two of the three you mentioned, Lagavulin and Talisker! I also listed Knockando. So, ye ha' goood taste!
I shall get my hands on some Knockando today as the cupboard is looking perilessly bare - and drink you a toast (or three) over some music tonight. If Lagavulin and Talisker are to your liking and so is Knockando, I am sure I will agree. Many thanks.