Review: Plinius SA-102 power amp

Category: Amplifiers

Plinius SA - 102 Power Amplifier

I was first exposed to the Plinius SA-100 Mk. II in 1997 after reading a review wrote by Wes Phillips in Stereophile Vol. 20, No.4. I bought one in the fall of ‘97 after auditioning it against the Mark Levinson 331, Pass Alpha 3, Jeff Rowland Model 2, Bryston 7B, Krell FPB-300, Ayre V-1, Sonic Frontiers #2, Audio Research VT 130SE, BAT VK-60 and Cary CAD-805 . The Plinius SA-100 was 100 watts at 8 ohm (360 watts bridged mono) Pure class A. This amp possessed a wonderfully warm tube like midrange, smooth highs and solid bass. I found it extremely detailed with excellent imaging and a good deep sound stage. I loved the sound, but had a series of problems. The mute switch created a pop sound when switched on or off. The Plinius SA-100 had ground loop hum issues, nothing I was not able to solve, but every time I would change anything in my system I would have to rework the grounding to solve the hum. This amp finally died with a cloud of white smoke and an awful electrical smell. This was the end of round one for Plinius and me.
I moved onto a pair of Aloia Inductive power amps. These amps had all the virtues of the Plinius in midrange and the high end. The bass was less impressive on the Aloia but not so much that I missed the Plinius. Imaging of the Aloia was good but not nearly as pinpoint or etched as with the Plinius. December 2001 a friend brought me a new Plinius SA-100 to try. This was one of the last model SA-100's made. I found the same popping at the mute switch and the same ground loop problems existed as they had three years earlier. What I also found is that I missed the Plinius's imaging and slam. I ordered two of the new model SA-102, and waited a month and a half before they arrived from New Zealand. Finally two massive 90 lbs. boxes arrived at my door. Wasting no time opening the boxes I set the two amps in the middle of the floor, they were beautiful black anodized aluminum. Plinius have not changed the looks from the SA-100. These are very seductive amps. Each amp has the same massive aluminum handles smoothly built into the thick aluminum faceplate. The same cut out in the lower middle of the faceplate has the same two toggle switches and the main power rocker switch as the model had before. The very elaborate cooling fins on the side are again the same as before along with the rear panel. Two sets of very well built five way binding posts are situated with plenty of room for hooking up even the fattest cables. Both RCA and XLR inputs are available with a selector switch that allows the user to set the amp up for RCA stereo or mono-bridged and XLR stereo or mono-bridged. The SA-102 is now 125 watts at 8 ohms pure class A in stereo and 460 watts at 8 ohms pure class A in bridged mono configuration. The new amp is 8 3/4" h x 19 3/4"w x 18" d, 83 lbs. Where the old was 8 7/8" h x 18 3/8" w x 13 ½" d, 70 lbs. After reconfiguring my rack system I set the amps up and plugged these bad boys in to see how they worked.


An initial set-up of the amps was in a bridged mono block configuration using the XLR inputs. I chose to burn the amps in this way, thinking they might be broken-in faster with the larger wattage. I have no idea wether this is true, but that is how I did it. After a week of playing the system during the day while listening at night, I switched the amps over to RCA inputs for two more weeks of burn-in. They now were set in stereo mode, bi-amped in a vertical configuration. I had a few minor problems arise, either through operator error or the amp not understanding they had switched it to RCA stereo. It blew an internal rail fuse found inside the amp, under the top panel. Of course this now gave me the excuse to open the top and look around. Four internal fuses are found on the main circuit board, each with a LED light next to it. If the fuse does blow, the LED lights to show the fuse that blew. I replaced the 10 amp normal blow fuse and turned the system back on. It blew again so I went back and reconnected everything. Unplugged the amps and pre-amp power in case some memory chip was trying to tell the amp of the earlier setting for XLR. Whatever I did it solved the problem, I now had RCA vertical bi-amps. While I had access to the main circuit board, I could find a few of the new features. The first is an eco logic Control. This allows the user to set a time for the amp to switch from Class A automatically to Class A/B if the amp is left with no signal to it. The benefit of this is that in Class A, the amp draws 500 watts in idle, in A/B it is around 35 watts according to my meter measurement. The eco logic control allows for select times of 15, 30, 60 minutes or turns the option off completely, it is set at the factory at 30 minutes. The SA-100 did not have this feature and it drew 1000 watts in idle. Therefore if I forget to switch it back to A/B, it burned quite a bit of electricity and staying very hot. Another new feature is a LED brightness control. Again this is on the main circuit board and allows the owner to dim or brighten the LEDs on the front panel. I counted ten Bi-polar output devices (bolted directly to the heat sinks). I do not know how many were in the original, but ten lined up is very impressive. Another major change from the SA-100 is in the power supply. I did not remove the bottom panel to get a first hand look, but there is a good picture at the Plinius web site Where the SA-100 had one main transformer, the SA-102 has dual toroidal power transformers ( aprox. 8" dia.) with much higher capacity than those in the SA-100, improved power supply filtering, circuit refinements, and the same energy saving and error detecting logic control as found in the SA-250. Just a couple other items worth noting before I move on. The pop I referred to on the mute switch of the SA-100, it has gone. Whether this is because they changed the circuit or simply abandon the toggle switch of the SA-100 and replaced it with a pulse switch (that looks just like the toggle) I am not sure, but there are no pops! The ground loop hum was also gone with the SA-102, again the reasons I do not know but I appreciate having those two concerns dealt within a positive way.

The Sound

So how does one describe perfection? I guess I could simply say this is the best amp I have ever heard and leave it at that. Instead I will try to give some idea of what I heard. I guess to start I would say the overall sound is extremely natural. The pace and dynamics are flawless. A friend described the sound as warm, but not artificially so in the mid range. Female vocals sound real and natural with no excess of glow or color. The bass is tight, dynamic and focused with no wooly blooming or exaggerated depth. Sound stage was huge, both in width and in depth. The feeling of the acoustic space is very prevalent in all recordings, both in the overall venue and between instruments. However, it is the transparent high frequency that most impressed with, and that is how I will start.
Piano, violin, piccolo, organ and soprano vocals can be the toughest instruments to reproduce accurately, at least with the systems I have had. Piano is notorious for sounding electrical and artificial in the top octave. Plinius have gotten this right. Even the highest keys of the piano sound like a string being hit, and then a tone vibration into decay. Each string has a precise timbre when struck, followed by a full pallet of colors. I liken it to watercolor painting. If a painter starts with a brush stroke in the middle of a white sheet of paper and continues to wash that first stroke down the paper with water, the result will be a fine line where they took the first stoke. Continuing the wash decreases the color until almost transparent but always with some original tinge left. With the Plinius SA-102 the piano key hitting even the shortest string begins with a sharp point of color, fading off into several subtle shades and hues of the original color. I found myself seeking out recordings that I always found fatiguing and tiring to which to listen. After six hours of what I have always considered bright and edgy recordings, I was not in the least fatigued from the sound. I found myself excited with how smoothly this amp handled this difficult presentation. Now I am not claiming this amp will take a bad recording and magically make it good. I am referring to well-recorded pieces that comprise of a great deal of high frequency energy.


Cymbals have always been a source of interesting texture and sounds. Now all these sounds have exquisite tonal coloring and a delicate richness in their hues. Cymbals now begin with the impact of the drummer's stick followed by countless hues of shimmering tones and glistening color. The entire cymbal becomes defined by these shimmering sounds. Not only is the point of where the stick touches the surface of the cymbal defined, but the entire diameter of the cymbal itself is easy to see. Drums are even more impressive. As the drum is struck, the subtle tonal differences from one tap to the next are delightfully presented. The dynamics and transient attack is exhilarating, timing and pace is perfect. The entire face of the drum becomes apparent along with its location in the sound stage. Bass impact is stunning, playing the Reference Recordings of the Minnesota Orchestra is a great tool for me to use for determining the effect of the kettle drum. I have been to several presentations in person, my knowledge of how a kettle drum affects Orchestra Hall and how the dynamics compare to the rest of the orchestra is something I am intimately aware. This Plinius could produce the full Dynamic impact to a tee, and the reverberation and decay is flawless. This is the first time I have felt a stereo system that was completely able to reproduce the proper scale of Orchestra Hall accurately. On Patricia Barber's Modern Cool the percussions consist of two members. One drum set and one on bongos among other instruments. They define the face of the bongo skin along with the height of the drum's cylinder. It is a wonderful experience to sense such detail. I think it is important to explain that although the detail is extremely well defined, never overly etched or artificial in its feel. One minor complaint I had with the SA-100 was the detail was at times overemphasized. It created the illusion of a computer-enhanced photograph. The focus was sometimes simply too tight, too defined, almost like a cartoon where they outline the figure with a pen, rather than a natural edge to the picture. The Plinius SA-102 has refined this fault. Never did I feel the picture was unnaturally focused. It was simply a photo made with the best Nikon lens, but never enhanced in an artificial way.


O.K. your saying, but what about the midrange? I hope I have made it clear that the bass and treble are as good as I have ever heard, but it is the midrange to which we all listen. I listen to jazz and rock female vocals at least 50% of the time. For me the midrange is the most important. Well, the Plinius did not let me down. I have heard so many amps that simply tries too hard to sooth me into loving them with unnatural glowing midrange, often sounding thick and muddled. Again the Plinius was not one of those. The midrange is extremely natural, rich and warm, but not so colored that I felt like melting. Plinius were simply right, if the voice is liquid, glowing warm or whatever the adjective, the Plinius reproduced it accurately. Most vocals are not quite so perfectly radiating however, it is the subtle harshness of the upper throat and vibrating of vocal cords that produce the emotion and character. Too often amps try so hard to please with their synthetic midrange that the actual character and emotion of the voice are lost. Not with the Plinius, here the warmth is euphoric if the recorded voice possesses euphoria. As a singer voices from the throat to the chest, the glow intensifies. The depth of color available within the palate is again endless. Much like your computer has "Millions of colors" this has Billions. I found myself completely entranced, fully engulfed in the experience. I could almost feel the singers soul as she sang, it was truly as if she were in the room, so palpably real. When listening to acoustic guitar or other string instruments the glow and shimmer of the strings sang out. Rich and deep, the experience is like being in the best venue with the front center seat. Again, I have heard warmer, fatter, thicker midrange reproduction, but they feel muddy and blurred when compared with the natural atmosphere of the Plinius.
So by now it is obvious I think this is a superb amp that produces great detail and wonderful imaging. The true grace of this amp is it can put all this detail into a natural tapestry of sound. Although the amp can precisely place an instrument on the sound stage with great air and space around it, never was it distracting or overemphasized. Generally the presentation is fully integrated in the same way that a patch work quilt combines many separate textures and designs into a single beautiful composition. Most of the time it was the overall presentation I enjoyed. If I wanted to focus on one instrument within the sound stage, doing it was easy and natural. As with an orchestra, the full ensemble is the picture, yet each section, and for that matter each instrument, has space it occupies. All these details make up the picture we see. With orchestras the individual instruments should remain visible even during the most complex passage. Often amps fail to retain this detail fully. The Plinius never faltered, even during the loudest, most complex sections of a symphony the detail remained transparent and clear. The kettle drum never became muddy or washed out, the strings remained transparent with a glorious glow of color, brass was sharp and textured. Timing and pace remained quick and precise, dynamics were distinct with a leading edge to each note and each instrument always presented with the right speed and impact.

The Plinius SA-102 carries all the transparency of the Pass Aleph 0 and 3, the quickness and impact of the Levinson and Krell, smooth liquidity of a Rowland, the lush midrange of a Bel Canto and the airy texture of a Cary single ended. What is so amazing it is all in a single amp. In order for me to experience the most that the Plinius SA-102 can offer, I found I needed the cleanest transparent signal I could achieve. In my system the modified Sony SCD-1 with all Vishay resistors and Black Gate capacitors along with an upgraded opp amp and power supply is extremely transparent and open. The CD playback is virtually as good as the SACD playback, making it (in my opinion) one of the best digital systems available today. The Placette pre-amp also uses all Vishay resistors making the combination extremely clean and revealing. Using the Aloia, Theta or Kora pre-amps added a small amount of haze to the system, covering up some subtle hues and tones I found so special. In the same vane, interconnects and speaker cables other than the Valhalla were less involving, less inspiring. Overall the more transparent the system, the more through which the richness of the Plinius could shine.

The Plinius SA-102 has one fault. It runs very hot, in the same way any Class A or single-ended tube produce a great deal of heat, the Plinius becomes a 500 watt space heater. It is not so hot as to burn the skin, but it will require air conditioning in the warmer months. Luck for me, Minnesota produces 8 months of natural air conditioning, and as luck would have it the natural cooling comes during the longer, darker months. These also happen to be the best months to spend listening to the stereo.

Is this the best amp available? How the hell do I know. All the amps mentioned in this review, I have heard over the past couple years. For my taste, in my system the Plinius could match the attributes of each of these amps, and yet to my ears had none of their short comings. In my mind, this is the best I have ever heard, and must be among the best available. I realize this amp will not please every person and cover every desire a listener may have. Some people will always want something more that this amp could provide. If it is overly euphoric warmth that some tube amps offer, or a highly etched, extremely sharp image that some solid state amps provide, than the Plinius simply will not fit your needs. If your looking for a perfectly natural, extremely transparent, non fatiguing amp with extraordinary slam and dynamics I would suggest seeking this amp out. In my mind it is simply perfect.

Plinius SA-102 Specifications

125 watts RMS 20Hz to 20kHz into 8 ohms both channels driven
460 watts RMS 20Hz to 20kHz into 8 ohms bridged/balanced mono
Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz +/- 0.2dB, -3dB at 5Hz and -3dB at 70kHz
Distortion: typically <0.05% THD at rated power
Saturation:140 watts per channel or greater into 8 ohms, 220 watts into 4 ohms
Rise time: Typically 5us
Phase response +0 at 20 Hz and -14 at 20kHz
Hum and Noise: 100 dB below rated output 20Hz to 20kHz A-weighted
Input impedance: 46k Ohm
Input sensitivity: 0.8V RMS for rated output at 1kHz
Serial Numbers: 1040 and 104
Manufactures Recommended List Price: $5000

Musical selection

Too numerous to list, I played more than 60 CD and 20 SACD's during my review that lasted over a month. Selections included vocals, choir, symphony, concertos, jazz ensembles, big band, rock and roll, blues, acoustic, piano solos and raga.

System used

Digital: Sony SCD-1 with full Audiocom-UK modification (see review on Audiogon)
Pre-amp: Placette active solid state pre-amp
Aloia Inductive power
Kora Eclipse triode
Theta Casablanca
Amp: Plinius SA-100 MkII
Aloia Inductive power bi-amped vertically
Speakers: Dunlavy IVa with bases removed, supported with Black Diamond cones and pucks with Walker High Definition Links on all terminals
Power: Shunyata Hydra power conditioner
NBS Statement power cords
20 amp dedicated circuits with 8 ga wire and Hubble outlets
Quite line filters at noisiest outlets
Cables: Nordost Valhalla interconnects and speaker wire
NBS Statement interconnects
FIM Gold interconnects
Nordost Red Dawn speaker cable
NBS Statement speaker cable
Audio Tekne speaker cable
Misc. Apollo rigid steel rack
Neuance Alpha and Beta shelves with EAR footers under equipment
Numerous footers and cones
Walker resonance control disks
Misc, room acoustic devises

J.D. MacRae
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, 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
of price.

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
Hi Timchen,

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.
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?

Hi Timchen,
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. ;)
Hello -

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.

Best Regards,

Raul Yan
Lexington, Kentucky
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!
Hi Valhalla,

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.