REVIEW: PLINIUS JARRAH AND M14
[This mini-review is a sidebar to the Final Vinyl article]
Many new amplifiers are line stage only, that is they they can only be used with relatively high output components such as CD players, tape decks, video recorders and Laserdisc players. An extra circuit board is required to amplify the tiny voltage produced by a cartridge plus do technical things like attend to the RIAA equalisation curve. Some of todays new amplifiers don’t even offer such a circuit board as an option. However the dedicated phono fanatics at Plinius Audio in Palmerston North have come to the rescue with not one but two options.
First up the Jarrah, whose name comes from the timber used to handcraft its outer case. I just love the look of this component – so completely non hi-fi. The beautiful soft glow of burnished timber with wonderful exposed dove-tail joints and a brass name plate on the front. It looks more like something associated with railways than audio, but what a terrific talking point. Marvellous.
The Jarrah is based on the phono stage as found in the more recent version of the Plinius M12 preamplifier. It caters for both low and high output cartridges plus various loading options at the flick of a switch or two. Two screws have to be removed from the rear of the Jarrah and its internals slid from the case before you can get at these switches, but following the instruction manual makes this an easy task. As with big brother M14, both units plug into a spare line input, and away you go with superb quality analogue reproduction, all for $595.
Now the M14 is a different beastie altogether. A real cost-no-object affair. Built like a tank, sized the same as a Plinius M12 preamplifier, all necessary switches on the front panel and costing a mere $3000. How the hell can you justify spending three grand on a phono stage? Quite easily actually, once you’ve listened to it.
Imagine if you would listening to an LP on your current system. Sounds great. Then some spoil sport installs a Jarrah phono preamp between turntable and a line stage input. All of a sudden the musical performance is transformed. There’s clarity, detail like you’ve never heard before and if you are using a low output moving coil, an absence of any electronic noise or sense of strain from a preamp trying to provide enough gain. Here is a must have, $595 upgrade.
Right, $595 is one thing, but $3000 for a similar component? Well let me assure you the M14 is similar only in brand-name and that it is a phono preamplifier.
Build quality and choice of components are exceptional. Ease of use and facilities are fantastic. So it looks and feels value for money. Still not convinced? Well have a listen.
The M14 is not about clarity, detail, top end, bottom end, soundstage or any other hi-fi term. It has them all, no question. What is important is how everything is bought together. There is a sense of correctness, a naturalness, that I have never heard from any recorded medium before. You play record after record trying to pin-point strengths in what you are hearing, trying to decide why it sounds so good. In the end you give up and just accept this is a great music making component. As you toddle off to bed thinking of any inheritance which may be on the horizon or that lucky Lotto ticket – ah, sweet dreams!
Highly recommended – in fact I rate this as one of the two best products I experienced during ’96.
(From the print magazine AudioEnz, March 1997)
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