Plinius 30th Anniversary Components – Listening Evening

August 27, 2010
4 mins read

There’s not much hi-fi gear quite as discreet as Plinius’ curved faceplate range. I’ve got a lot of time for the look (and sound) of these subtly rounded designs and placed in an audio rack in a darkened room, with their LEDs faintly glowing away, they’re a restrained presence that promises much without shouting about it. They’re nothing like the big S series amps, with their huge handles, chunky faceplates and imposing heatsinks, which look like they were designed for use on the set of a Hellboy movie.

After three decades in the audio game, Plinius has decided to celebrate its 30th anniversary but instead of the fire breathing, extra power, gold plated titanium SA REF power amp I expected, they’ve released a limited edition of seventy five integrated amplifier and CD player combos. These are based on the CD-101 CD player and 9200 integrated amp. They’re simply called the Anniversary Compact Disk Player and the Anniversary Integrated Amplifier.

Gary Pearce and I had the chance to see and hear the anniversary gear at a listening evening hosted by the team at The Listening Post in Hamilton. According to Plinius’ production and NZ dealer manager Aaron Haines, the 9200/CD-101 were picked to be the basis of the anniversary components because they could be offered as a matching set. The anniversary units are only available as a combo, with a single remote control and matching build numbers; once the seventy five are gone, that’s it for good.

The back end of the anniversary amplifier

Externally there are some subtle tweaks – both units feature a matt black chassis with blue text and panels that have been anodized a dark silver blue colour using organic dyes to create a finish that constantly changes depending on the lighting.

The amplifier is also updated to reflect the current Plinius design aesthetic with a single volume knob on the front and pushbuttons and pinhole LEDS instead of the three knob panel of the standard 9200. There is also new wiring and some internal engineering tweaks. The CD player gets a new transport and decoder system. So there aren’t any revolutionary changes, this is rather an evolution and optimization of the current designs.

Paired with Monitor Audio’s $15,999 flagship PL300 floorstanders and cabled with Analysis Plus cable, the $12,000 30th anniversary combination definitely impressed the crowd on the night as I heard a number of complimentary comments and even enthused outbursts.

The back end of the anniversary CD player

We started off with Tori Amos doing Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat from the Tower of Song tribute album. This was laid out deep into the back of the room (the sound not the raincoat or Miss Amos) with no sense whatsoever of music actually coming from the speakers. This is a party trick of these speakers by the way, so you can’t give all the credit to the Plinius gear but the presentation was intensely detailed and spacious, with a delicacy that felt as fragile and ethereal as silk lace.

Johnny Cash’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face from American IV: The Man Comes Around continued this theme. At times it felt as if I could reach out and nudge his microphone, the performance was again delicate, completely controlled and very natural. One of the listeners in the room remarked afterward that he could almost see a tired man standing there singing, so the system obviously connected with him on an emotional level.

Next up was Logos by Rodrigo y Gabriela, from the 11:11 CD. I noticed brilliant detailing on the plucked strings courtesy no doubt of the ribbon tweeters on the Monitor Audios but remember that the detail has to first be extracted from that spinning disk. In this case, it seems to be making its way down the chain almost in its entirety. There was a sense of air and spaciousness around the instruments and the soaring but slightly worrying, almost creepy nature of parts of this track came through as clear as the new day. Speed was not an issue as the system easily kept pace with the highly charged dynamics of these virtuoso musos.

The Listening Post's Romesh doing final set-up while we relax

Of course, we had to spin Nils Lofgren’s Keith Don’t Go from his Acoustic Live CD. This is one of my favourite tracks of all time and it was fabulous on the night. Deeply spacious, atmospheric yet speedy and energetic.

With the reasonably sensitive PL300 speakers, the amp was barely idling with these tracks, so we decided to crank it up with some Lynyrd Skynyrd, namely Born to Run from The Last Rebel. Now we were cooking. The big bass lines punched into the room with solid weight and authority courtesy of nearly 300 watts of available power (into the PL300’s 4 Ohm load). Bass was also taut, fast and controlled on Pearce’s perennial bass reference track – Stanley Clarke’s Passenger 57 Main Title from At the Movies.

Delicate, yet powerful. Sounds like a dream combination to me but that’s to be expected with around $30,000 of top-class hi-fi gear. The limitation I picked up is that the Plinius sound in this range isn’t exactly warm, and when combined with the ribbon tweeters on the PL300s, the sonics are close to the chasm where cool becomes edgy.

It’s not a problem with most tracks but cue up something a little bright and you’re in borderline territory – Stina Nordenstam’s Soon After Christmas (introduced to me by Franco Viganoni – grazie Franco) almost had me reaching for the humongous Plinius remote to reduce the volume, it was a close run thing. So the system pays a price for that detail and the extended treble; as always your mileage may vary but there are so many speaker options out there, you can rest assured that you’ll find a way to get the Plinius Anniversary gear sounding right for you. After all thousands of happy punters all around the world have managed.

Aaron Haines from Plinius taking us through the static component display

At this price point, there are a great many amplifier and CD player options available to buyers, in every shape and layout under the sun, so it’s an immensely competitive space (although which price point isn’t?) so this Plinius gear has to fight off a list of competitors as long as your arm.

Narrow your choices down to Kiwi made components with real breeding, which are beautifully built and presented, with heaps of features plus grunt and finesse and that list is suddenly rather short. Add in the rarity of these items and the picture changes yet again. With only seventy five sets on offer, they’re not exactly as common as mullets in West Auckland. A majority of the production run are apparently already pre-ordered and I’d suspect that many will be going offshore, so anyone with real intent needs to find a set to listen to and then pony up with their VISA card chop-chop if they like what they hear.

1 Comment

  1. I simply adored Plinius’ use of alien technology – thanks goodness they have an insider at Area 51, otherwise the Anniversary CD Player just wouldn’t levitate as demonstrated in pic #1. Clever buggers those boys at Plinius.

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