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A similar glance at the SA-103 guts first disappointed because Plinius had hidden its twin 1.2VA toroidal power transformers in the lower storey. The visible upper deck showed eight Sanken transistors per channel generating 125wpc into 8Ω or 400 watts mono. A 4Ω load encounters 220w per side or 730 in mono for near power doubling with impedance halving. Switched to class A bias, a perfectly linear 8Ω load would see a constant 60 watts but like most of its class A colleagues, the SA-103 eventually does transition into AB. Only single-ended circuits like my Small One of yore don't cross over. Bias current is controlled with two pots. Conversion to class A mode switches in the second pot via relay to automatically raise the bias current.
During my auditions the Plinius amp drove Kharma CE3.2 as well as Gamut Phi3 monitors. It was mostly tethered to its matching M8 preamp but also connected directly to the variable output of my universal Bladelius Gondul M player. Finally I isolated the Plinius preamp's contributions by using my Mudra-Akustik M500 monos.
Both New Zealanders settled into this context most agreeably and distilled an energetic quicksilvery response from the Kharma 3.2. Forget ethereal sound clouds or reluctantly applied hints. These electronics spoke an earthier tongue and felt more pressurized and substantial than many colleagues. Yet finely veined nuances didn't fall beneath the table. This demonstrated a canny balance and fundamentally musical approach. Subtle detail on top sidestepped all coarse sibilance from Kharma's ceramic tweeters to never aggravate the ear.
On her latest Reunion effort, the American singer/songwriter Lucy Kaplansky blends the profound thematic of grief, death, happiness and hope into highly personal nearly intimate snapshots. Accompanying production values avoid all glossiness to make for a mostly calm session that invites introspective intense participation. Kaplansky's exceptionally tacit voice is the central focal point. Here transients with the Plinius gear seemed minimally subdued yet didn't suggest any dimmed lighting or softening. Rather everything felt very natural and long-term happy. Absence of onset of eventual listening fatigue thus benefited greatly from this voicing. A rich color palette avoided all monochromatic greyness or sterility. Voices and acoustic instruments exhibited their signature timbres and the piano on "Sleep well" was clearly a piano, not a concert grand.
Stage width well exceeded speaker placement and created sufficient space between the performers. This made for an impressively broad panorama which additionally disconnected agreeably from the speakers as apparent sound sources. The depth dimension meanwhile was a bit less generously illuminated though far from flat. Here the Plinius approach simply avoided excess.
The new Dead Can Dance Anastasis is a clearly solid production even if I could have done with a bit less vocal reverb. Meanwhile bass is impressive, massive and quite low. This the SA-103 cottoned to with great lust as a direct comparison to my Mudra M500 monos made quickly clear. Not only did the Plinius extend lower than the Germans, it did so with astonishing control. Yet the SA-103 was no show-off monster muscle amp but rather a true bass artiste. This naturally called for seconds, now acoustic bass for a change and at the nimble fingers of Renaud Garcia-Fons. How this "Paganini of the bass" plays the 5-string upright is a true marvel. Listening really suspects an ensemble including flautist and percussionists but not so. The entire fireworks of Solo: the MarcevolConcert were generated by just one man though with the obvious assist of effects machines and loops.
The Plinius gear again impressed with nicely articulated extension to never feel artificial or bloated. This Solo reading became so involving that I could barely remain in my seat. Swing and timing are clearly highlights of the SA-103's vocabulary. By contrast the Mudra M500s felt a bit stiff in the hips. The already admired dynamic chops which the Plinius gear had displayed on Anastasis made for new surprises especially whenever Garcia-Fons snapped his fret board with such force that broken strings seemed just a matter of time. Whoever assumes that an acoustic bass can't reach into true treble is quickly shown wrong. This man elicits amazing sighs and soars from his giant instrument even in the high flageolet registers. This signaled the most opportune moment to switch in class A.