REVIEW: The Plinius 980 Integrated Amplifier

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In a small apartment setting, space is always at a premium. The Plinius Inspire 980 Integrated addresses this challenge by combining an amplifier, linestage, MM phonostage and DAC in a modestly sized case to provide its owner extreme versatility for digital and analog playback. It is a fantastic hub to your system with a minimal footprint—just add speakers and source components.

The unit’s dimensions are modest—about 18 inches wide, 14 inches deep and 3 inches tall—though the slender frame is somewhat deceptive when lifting the unit. It weighs in at a surprising 22 pounds, a result of its burly transformer for Class A/B amplification which delivers 80 watts per channel into 8 ohms and roughly double that into 4 ohms. Around back lurks inputs for a turntable, two optical inputs and two single-ended line-level sources. There’s also a set of XLR inputs for a CD player, plus an Ethernet port and a USB input for networking from computer-based audio sources and DLNA-capable devices. As a nice bonus, the 980 also offers a wireless connection option.

As with other Plinius products, the 980 features simple and understated aesthetics. The smooth, bead-blasted aluminum faceplate is interrupted only by a volume knob and two buttons to toggle source selection. The 980 comes with a remote, but the $7.99 Plinius Arataki app (available on the iTunes store) makes controlling the unit from your listening chair even easier.

The unit’s dimensions are modest—about 18 inches wide, 14 inches deep and 3 inches tall—though the slender frame is somewhat deceptive when lifting the unit. It weighs in at a surprising 22 pounds, a result of its burly transformer for Class A/B amplification which delivers 80 watts per channel into 8 ohms and roughly double that into 4 ohms. Around back lurks inputs for a turntable, two optical inputs and two single-ended line-level sources. There’s also a set of XLR inputs for a CD player, plus an Ethernet port and a USB input for networking from computer-based audio sources and DLNA-capable devices. As a nice bonus, the 980 also offers a wireless connection option.

PLINIUS 980 rear viewThe Plinius sounds neutrally voiced, with little glare, grain, or stridency. It does not romanticize music or lean towards euphony. There’s just a slightly forgiving and relaxed quality to the sound; a delicate balance between warmth and stark realism is the name of the game here. The 980 has no noticeable roll-off among high frequencies. Piano key strikes in the upper region have the requisite plink, ring, and ambient decay. There’s no lack of bass either, with a solid, punchy grip that goes deep.

The internal 24-bit/192-kHz DAC can handle any digital files you have on hand except DSD, but for 99.99% of you, that won’t be an issue. It does a stellar job on CD quality files as well as high resolution digital files, if they are at your disposal. Those migrating from iTunes, Spotify and the like will be equally impressed at the sound of MP3 files through the 980.

Vinyl lovers will find the Moving Magnet phono input equally handy and the 980 turns in not only an excellent performance, but one that is equal to the rest of the components inside the box, making this a well balanced all rounder.

The Inspire 980 costs $4,450, which is not chump change. But given the quality of all the elements within—amp, preamp, DAC and phonostage—it’s a far better value than similarly performing separates. For those who don’t need wired or wireless home networking capability for music retrieval from a networked drive, the Inspire’s little brother, the 880, offers the 980’s prowess for $3,650.

If you have limited space to dedicate to your hi-fi system or if you simply want to scale down the number of components in you audio arsenal, this all-in-one component offers a lot to love. The Plinius 980 integrated amp is recommended enthusiastically.

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http://www.pliniusaudio.com/en/Plinius_Range/Integrated_Amplifiers/Inspire_980.html