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Integrated Amps: An Addicts Guide Part, The Third.

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The 9200 does look good doesn't it guys?  I find myself staring at it as I listen and I can't help but feel that it may be staring back and trying to work out what this vacant looking human is doing while he stares at it.


I'll start this review with a few things about the remote that are not audio related as such but are more to do with laziness and creature comforts.


The remote control is one of the best executed remotes I've handled.  The remote itself is huge, almost high enough to be considered an effective wheel chock, I've seen pics of it from the top before but I never thought it would be this high/thick.  Check out the comparison with two 'normal' remotes in the pic below.




And it's a solid aluminium case.  I have claimed several times in the past that the Consonance remotes, which have a nice solid aluminium construction, are so solid that they can be used for home defense without fear of damaging them but this thing could be used to fend off lions while tracking across the African Savanna, it's like one half of an over-sized aluminium set of nun-chucks!  

On a more functional level, it manages the volume control very well, it does not increase or decrease the volume so fast that you have to try to set the correct level 4 or 5 times and then give up and do the micro adjustment by hand like many other brands do.  In fact I have had to tap the "+" button two and three times to get the desired amount of increase several times in the last day and a half, and I find two or three button presses far less annoying than having to get up and adjust the volume by hand after the remote fails to do what I want it to.

So it's nice to know that Plinius have put some thought into volume control.


On the negative side the remote does only control the volume, up, down and mute.  There is no remote source switching available so if you have decided to move from music to movies or back then you will have to get up and do it by hand.


Also, Plinius have this strange approach to a HT bypass, the manual is confusing and I can't get it to work and after a few searches it seems many others have failed to sort it out as well and these attempts led me to indirectly sabotage the 9200's bass performance.  I've been wondering about the bass side of things since Friday afternoon, what was there was good but it just didn't go very deep and I was waiting for it to show up, but it just wouldn't, until this afternoon when I finally tried something that sorted it out.  During my attempts to use the HT bypass I had been using both the outputs on the back of the Halcro cd player, the stereo plugs and the L and R of the 5.1 out, when I disconnected the 2 I wasn't using, suddenly I had depth in the bass.  Stupid, stupid, frustrating hobby!


I can type more later, after I've listened again to every song I've played in the last 48 hours. :mad:

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You could build a house with 10 000 of those remotes! it's a damn brick....

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I think the later integrateds from plinius do a more modern style HT bypass. Looking forward to your full writeup!

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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Interesting review of the Amber 50B.I owned one for a while about 7 years ago and always liked it.

Like most integrated amps a bit let down by its preamp section but still very capable and musical.I always thought it sounded rich and smooth and very easy to listen to.

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This Plinius 9200 has taught me a few things, and I have to say that I've enjoyed the lessons.  I started out learning that having both the outputs of the Halcro cd player hooked up made a bit of a mess of my bass and then I continued to learn because after I removed the second interconnect the bass, while it had deepened did not return to 'normal'.  Instead it (while remaining very smooth, strong and just plain delicious) seemed to be shifted out to the side and it lacked initial impact.  Now this was pretty strange and it took a visitor to help me work through what was happening.  The top end was just great, best cymbal taps, triangles and metal strings I've heard but somewhere in the lower mids (or maybe upper bass) that impact disappeared and was replaced with bass notes that just gave you the middle of the note and not the leading edge (think of a bell curve and that's the form of each bass note, there is no leading edge there is only the middle of each note).  And I wasn't really impressed with the vocals, they were a bit bland.  So... eventually... because I can be a bit slow when I'm trying to work things out... I changed cd players.  Then everything* changed.  


*(OK, almost everything) 


With the Consonance cd120 on duty the top end wasn't as extended or as clear as it had been (but it was still damn good) but the vocals improved dramatically and while the bass still felt just a touch smoothed over on the leading edge of each note at least it now had a leading edge that you were able to notice as being smooth.  

(why oh why did I only bring two disc spinners with me? I could really use the Thule and the Redgum at this point but they're still up north waiting for me to pick them up)


So I have some to a few conclusions.

1.  The Halcro and the Plinius are both quite detailed and where they aren't (notably bass and vocals) they are very neutral so when you combine them you get a brilliant top end and great instrumentals but ho-hum-ish vocals and overly controlled bass.  

2.  In the mid range the Plinius is the most neutral amp I've encountered so far, that often quoted "straight wire with gain" phrase comes to mind.  It will give you the amplified source material without adding any personal colouration of any kind.  When I listen to the mid range I am hearing either the Consonance or the Halcro and not the Plinius.

3.  The two personality aspects that the Plinius does possess are beautiful, clear and extended highs and strong, clean and smooooooooth bass.  Highs that are free of any and all of those pesky aspects that sound bad and bass that, while strong and present is kept out of the way of the rest of the frequency range so it does not smear any higher frequencies that it is sharing the soundstage with at the time.

And both of these seem to be good, nay, desirable traits in an amp.


Now, while all the info above has me thinking very highly of Plinius and their Integrated amp range it does make this review a little difficult, since in many ways I'm actually reviewing the sonic characteristics of the cd players and not the amp.  I'm going to forge ahead anyway and give scores, where possible, for both cd players, but I'll lead with this warning:


Beware, if you buy a Plinius 9200 and find it has some sort of sonic trait that you dislike be sure to listen with a different source before you move it on as the odds are 50:50 that the trait that you dislike is not the fault of the amp at all and is due to the personality of the source unit.  


Integrated Amp #64.  Plinius 9200


The hardware in use is:  One Halcro EC800 disc spinner and one Consonance cd120 disc spinner (with Burson discrete opamp modules installed) feeding the Plinius 9200 via Aurealis R1 ICs.  The Plinius feeds my Lenehan/ETI S2R stand mount speakers via Redgum "Expressive Line" speaker cable.  And the power for everything is fed through two consonance PW3 power boards, one for sources and one for the components that need serious wattage.


Highs:  The Plinius is capable of greatness here if the source component is up to the task, the cd120 doesn't extend as far up as the Halcro does but even on it the cymbal taps, triangle, trumpets and piano are just superb.  I give it a 9.0 with the Halcro and an 8.0 with the cd120.  


Mids:  Very, very neutral.  You really get the impression that you are listening to the source without any "Plinius personality" added.  Many will say that this is what an amp should be, and in an ideal world they would be right, but I'm finding it is difficult to feel strongly about neutrality so I'm going to go with my mind on this one (whereas I usually rate on "likeability" which is a very emotional trait) and call it a 9.0.


Bass:  string sourced bass is damn near perfect, smooth, clear and kept separated from the upper frequencies to avoid interfering with them.  It does smooth off the bass impact a little so the bass can feel a little less dynamic than an ME or Redgum amp, the Plinius won't kick you in the chest like the ME or Redgum will either however it also won't cause you listening fatigue anywhere near as quickly.  Some amps can put out so much bass they can make the room feel claustrophobic (again on certain songs at certain volumes both ME and Redgum do this, but they are far from the only ones), the Plinius does not do this, at all, it fills the room with a nice, smooth presence but it doesn't force that presence on you.  That's its musical personality anyway, if you use it for movies then watch out, because you'll find that it very much can kick you in the chest (I watched "The Lazarus Effect" with the Plinius and it was an entirely different beast to the musical one I was used to, if you feed it deep bass then it gives you deep bass all right) it just doesn't do it with music because music just doesn't go that deep.  A 9.0 with the Consonance but only a 6.5 with the Halcro, the Plinius and the Halcro just don't combine well here.


Vocals:  Again, very neutral *.  A bit stark and matter-of-factual through the Halcro, a 6.0 there.  But nicely smooth and full bodied from the Consonance, a 7.5 on male and an 8.0 on the female vocals.

*  if I was prone to the use of metaphoric examples I might say something like; as neutral as a gearbox, stuck in neutral, missing it's handle, every position label except for the "N"... and sporting a "made in Switzerland" sticker.


2D Soundstaging:  Very, very good in the treble, 8.0 for the Consonance and an 8.5 for the Halcro but not as distinct in the bass, back to a 7.0 for both, that smoothness seems to affect the level of expressiveness in the sound stage.

The 3D sound stage was quite good, certainly decent so I'll give it a 7.0, but if felt a bit stifled, I think it would benefit greatly from a larger room, it would love my old listening room.


Overall Performance Integration:

I think I've covered this up above, it's really a very good 'source chameleon' so there isn't that much more to be said here as you'll be hearing a different source every time you change sources.


Ability to Emote:

Again, very dependent on the source.  If I were to rate it only on the extended top end clarity and the bass strength and smoothness I think I'd give it an 8.0 but that score isn't as important as it usually is.


Electric Guitar Test:

The Halcro rates an 8.0, it does so well with instruments.  The Consonance rates a 7.0, I think the Burson discrete opamps smooth out the mids a bit and while that helps the vocals it doesn't help my love of the electric guitar.  Another example of not being able to have it all I guess.


80's Rock Test:

And now we are the other way around, the Halcro a bit bland (while still decent) at 6.5 and the Consonance rather good at 8.0.



So, if anyone wants to start comparing sources using an integrated amp then the Plinius 9200 would be a very good choice.


Oh, almost forgot, Plinius recommend you leave the 9200 turned on but it does not have a standby mode, or to be more accurate it does but that standby mode is simply a position that you move the input switch to and it does not use any less power than leaving an input selected.  Which means that it uses enough watts on standby to give greenies nightmares (I read 80 on a forum somewhere, but I can't remember where so take that figure with a grain of salt).  However I did notice that it warms up pretty quickly and I couldn't spot any noticeable loss of sonic performance from about 20 minutes after a cold start so I won't be leaving it switched on 24/7.  


And now I'm off to look for a Plinius cd player because, well... just because the amp is so damn good I want to hear it the way it was intended to be heard.

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Great read as per usual Cafad.  I am particularly interested as I have a P8 power amp (combined with a Lightspeed attenuator) which I no longer use in my main system since getting a turntable and thus switching in a Yamaha AS1000 for both the multiple inputs and the phono stage. And my CD player is a Consonance.  I did consider selling the P8 for a 9200 but it would be a step in the wrong direction - rather wait a year or two and get a pre.


Can I ask - does it have a way of adjusting balance? I gather not but this feature has become important to me (ears aren't quite equal) and I need to adjust slightly to get the image centred.



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I'm afraid there's no balance adjustment on the 9200 which is a pity but it does fit with Plinius trend of high quality builds that are short on extra functions.

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Hope you find a CD spinner to suit Jeff, would be a very interesting union.

Sounds like a keeper. :)

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.....and now for the Plinius V Ragnarok showdown :)

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Hope you find a CD spinner to suit Jeff, would be a very interesting union.

Sounds like a keeper. :)

Thanks Daz, actually my bank account has already squealed in agony on that topic earlier today.  Remember that Plinius CD 101 that Krispy had for sale in the Commercial section of the classifieds?  Well it isn't for sale any longer.  It is on its way to my lounge room right this minute.



.....and now for the Plinius V Ragnarok showdown :)

Well someone has to do these things.

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And it's here! 

I like this living within cooee of civilization stuff where I can order something from Victoria on Monday and have it delivered to my door on Wednesday.  I'm used to waiting until the following Tuesday.  


I know the lighting is terrible, but I must say that I don't really care all that much.



And in the rack next door.



Again with the bad lighting and again with the not really being very concerned about it, there's plenty of time for better pics later.  I'm giving them an hour to get used to each other and then I'm demanding perfection!  :)



And on a different note.  Hey Cameron (@@Krispy Audio) you wouldn't have happened to leave a disc in the drawer of the player would you?

(Yeah, it's a trick question that one.)

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Would the album name "Christmas Interpretations" by Boyz 2 Men assist in that brain racking?

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hahaha, that'd be even funnier if i wasn't a mad Boyz II Men fan as a teenager. Oh dear, that's enough from me, I'll be on my way now

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