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Plinius: Poor, Maligned and Underappreciated

Have you ever had one of those moments when you slap your forehead and say, “I could have had a V-8!”

Yeah, me neither.

I obsess, so I’m rarely shocked by system changes. So, I suppose you could say that I’m not shocked that the poor, maligned and under-appreciated SA-250/IV that’s been sitting neglected in my basement ever since my Joule-Electra monoblocks showed up last October actually freakin’ rocks my Merlins all over the basement like some drunken and deranged debutante after having 748 too many dips into the spiked punch bowl at her coming out party.

Whew. That was a bit much. Apologies.

Anyway, yes, the Plinius amp is just stellar, as the experiment at Command Peformance A/V led me to expect. Bass is deep and profound, treble is grainless and extended, and midrange is real and present. I’m a happy camper!

Now, to the preamp!

So, between conference calls today, I’ve been fiddling around with the Joule-Electra LA-150 Signature that I’d been using to drive the Marquis monoblocks, swapping it in and out with the Plinius Tautoro I currently have on loan from Jeff over at Command Performance A/V.

At first, I had the all-Plinius set up wired exclusively with balanced cables (no BAM anywhere as my BAM is single-ended only). The single-ended only LA-150SE I had wired with the BAM in the tape loop. Using the Alpha DAC from Berkeley Audio Design as my source, I was able to send a single ended set of wires to my LA-15oSE and a set of balanced wires to the Tautoro. To do the swap, I’d head over to the SA-250/IV, mute it, swap the balanced for the single-ended wires (or vice versa), and toggle the input selector to the correct inputs. Unmute and off I went.

All in all, telling these two apart was redonkulously difficult. If you held a gun to my head, I’d say that the Tautoro had a slightly recessed sound-stage (everything takes a step back). The LA-150SE has a more immediate presentation, but all the transients are ever-so-slightly dulled when compared to the crisp-and-clean Tautoro. Both have great top end extension, but the Tautoro might have a slight edge here. The LA-150SE might have an ever-so-slight emphasis on the midrange over the bass or treble, where the Tautoro felt dead neutral. Bass control went, hands-down-and-no-question, to the LA-150SE.

I was taken aback. Seriously? The Plinius had weak bass?

Then I remembered: the BAM. The BAM has a ~5db bump in the mid 30Hz region to augment the speaker’s performance, before it begins to roll off the signal at 29Hz. Ahh! To verify, I had to rewire the entire setup to put the BAM between the DAC and the preamp (no tape-loop on the Plinius, sadly), but yes, the BAM made all the difference in bass output, not surprisingly.

All in all, I think I prefer the Tautoro over the LA-150SE, but this is most definitely a judgment call. As I hear more and varied gear, I find that I’m favoring a more neutral presentation and that tone-controls like tubes or wacky wiring or biasing tricks are simply distracting and ultimately unhelpful given the variety of music that I listen to. I fully expect that someone else’s taste could differ — and that for them, the LA-150SE might be exactly what the doctor ordered. Toe-MAY-toe, toe-MAH-toe.

My new Furutech fuses should be coming in some time this week. Scot Markwell, the Plinius distributor for the US, was very enthusiastic about them. He said that swapping out the four factory rail fuses for the Furutechs would revolutionize the amp’s performance. I’m a sucker for inexpensive tweaks, so that’s definitely on the near term horizon.

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