Plinius P10 power amp
by Fabio Barbato
First of all, the Plinius P10 is a beautiful object.
From the aesthetic point of view, I like it because its look is minimalist but refined, although a bit narcissistic with the name Plinius carved in big characters in the middle of the massive aluminium front plate, above the likeable light blue led of the on/off switch button.
Even if the name would suggest Latin origins, it comes from a faraway place: New Zealand, a country that I love and know quite well since, in my twenties, with a home-born friend, I had the chance to visit many island in the Pacific.
The front fascia has no buttons; also the power switch is on the rear. There, you can find RCA and XLR input connectors, with double pairs of outputs for the loudspeakers, and binding posts of good manufacture that accept various types of connectors, banana pins included. There is also a toggle switch between RCA and XLR outputs, and another selector for the grounding, which has no influence on the sound. Obviously, IEC socket for a power cord at your choice. Strange, but not so strange, four fuses, two per channel, in correspondence of the four pairs of the speakers’ terminals. With this power amp, whose power is 200 watts into 8 ohms, to turn the system on you must respect the switching order from the source to the power amp, in order to avoid current peaks affecting the loudspeakers that can make wrongfully jump the drivers. The opposite has to be considered to switch off the system.
The Plinius P10 is solidly made and quite heavy, about 14 kg (30 lbs). Inside, all the components are very tidy in a dual mono configuration, except for the unique toroid main transformer which is very bulk and incumbent.
On each side are 6 power transistors with their heat sinks and, a note of national pride, several centimetres of made-in-Italy Tasker wiring.
Well, in a certain way, amazing.
Yes, indeed, because from a so high power, you would expect a real matter sound, but what you get is a delicate and refined sound instead. I mean, the Plinius P10 cannot be characterized by the low range. Rather, I have been smitten by the balance between the ranges and by the neatness and incisiveness of the sound representation. Moreover, as demonstration that the power is present and works, the best match I had was with Stat Audio Immagine bookshelf loudspeakers, pneumatic suspension with top quality components. They are not so easy to be driven and with less powerful amplifications their qualities didn’t come up.
Connected to the P10, they have shown an excellent synergy and both speakers and amp have flaunted all their potentialities. Therefore, first, an unordinary soundstage with an incomparable extension on the three dimensions and a great spatiality among the instruments, then, a remarkable tone refinement, mostly in the high range, with violins, cymbals and bells so mellow and captivating that you can never get annoyed if not with the recordings that have taken them in that way. An outcome due to the Scan-Speak Revelator tweeters of the Immagine, and to the Plinius that has been capable of handling them in a proper way. The basses are precise and controlled, never abyssal and with limits depending from the physical characteristics of the speaker.
I’ve also had the opportunity of listening, unfortunately just for a short time, the P10 inside a stratospheric system with Soulution equipment and Wilson Sasha loudspeakers, where it has replaced two Nagra MSA solid state monoblocks. Well, also without the burn-in, it performed greatly. The connections where balanced.
Back down to earth. In comparison with the Nadir Mk101i power amp, which has half power than the Plinius into 8 ohms, the MMG Magneplanar loudspeakers have shown a better control, although not at the same level as for depth and immanence. Regarding the rest of the spectrum, they have better performances, also in the speed rate of attacks and releases: area where the Magnepan excel and where the P10 contributes in an active way thanks to the 50V/μs high slew rate. Dynamics is another strong point of the Plinius. Great are the pianissimo and fortissimo of the big orchestras and the piano solos. Evidently a very precise designing choice that you can also find in the full Plinius series where the P10 is the entry level product, according to the web where the comments on the Plinius are always positive. The mid-range, with intelligible and realistic voices, is always enjoyable and always keeps the composure and correctness of the solid state.
If, you like me, prefer the tube amplifications, maybe you notice a lack of warmth and harmonic richness, but these features are what the tube-enthusiasts love most. On the contrary, if you like a harsher and tensed reproduction, maybe more realistic too, the solid state is the ideal. So far, the listening impressions with an RCA-RCA unbalanced cable, a part the brief parenthesis with the Sasha speakers. Then, I remembered to own a pair of cables with RCA-XLR terminations. Although without balanced gears I have tested them. And I’m glad to have done it. With the XLR input things have changed, in better. I mean, the sound is louder and it’s quite easy to explain considered the sensitiveness of the XLR input. Then, some mechanical noise from the amp disappears after some seconds, while with the unbalanced mode something remained. For this purpose you must set the grounding trigger which, with the other mode, was ineffective. Hence, the machine becomes noiseless. But, what is most important, is that the final sound is more present and vibrant and more involving. Starting from a very high base, this is not just a subtlety.
So, in brief: a great power amplifier, with a great look. An iron hand in a velvet glove, where the glove is dense and refined, pleasant to touch. An amp capable of driving also very though loudspeakers. If you like ambience, velocity, dynamics, refinement, you can find here what you are looking for and, if you own balanced equipment, something else too.
The price is not very low, but, I believe with interesting offers from our Italian distributor Il Tempio Esoterico di Catania. The competitors are many and hardened like Pass, Classè, Accuphase, Electrocompaniet, Norma, AM Audio, and Audio Analogue, both Italian and non-nationals.
Selection of listened music:
Vivaldi: Concerti e arie da box 20 CD Vivaldi Recordings, L'Oiseaux Lyre
Bill Evans: For Lovers, CD Verve
Crosby, Stills & Nash: Greatest Hits, CD Warner
Patty Smith Group: Wave, CD Arista
Frederick Fennel, direttore: Hi-Fi A La Espanola, LP Mercury Living Presence
Paganini: Concerto per Violino, Salvatore Accardo soloist, LP Deutsche Grammophon
Official technical specifications:
Power: 200 watts RMS per channel into 8 ohms, 300 watts RMS per channel into 4 ohms.
Both channels driven from 20Hz to 20kHz at less than 0.2% total harmonic distortion
Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz +/–2dB; -3dB at 5Hz and –3dB at 70kHz
Distortion: Typically <0.05% THD at rated power, 0.2% THD and IM worst case prior to clipping
Current output: 40A short duration peak per channel. Fuse protected
Slew rate: 50V/µs
Hum & Noise: 90dB below rated output 20Hz to 20kHz unweighted
Input Impedance: 47k ohms
Gain: RCA Inputs: 32dB, XLR Inputs: 38dB
Power/current consumption: 600W, 0.4A (92W), Class AB Idle, 0.14A (32W) Standby
Dimensions: 450x120x400mm (WxHxD)
Weight: 14kg (30lbs)