Published On: 27 May 2022Categories: Reviews


Model PLA100
Power Output 8 ohms 100W
Power Output 4 ohms N/S
Power Output 2 ohms N/SS
Frequency Response 3 Hz – 40 kHz
Signal to Noise Ratio N/S
Digital Inputs N/A
Analogue Inputs Line in
Digital Outputs N/A
Analogue Outputs N/A
Connectivity N/A
Dimensions 115 x 430 x 330 mm (HxWxD)
Weight 16.5 kg
Model PLC100
Frequency Response 20 Hz – 20 kHz
Analogue Inputs 5 RCA
Analogue Outputs Main and Tape out, Headphone out
Dimensions 66 x 430 x 385 (HxWxD)
Weight 6.2 kg

PRICE PLA-100 R68,310.00
PLC-100 R41,400.00
Optional phono stage MM/MC for PLC-100 R4,830.00


CONTACT 083 407 1889

In a continuing theme of listening to and reviewing South African-manufactured audio gear, this time I’ve put PL Audio’s  PLC-100 pre-amplifier – or control amp in PL’s parlance – and its PLA-100 stereo power amp through their paces.

Probably the first aspect that most people will note when looking at the PLA and PLC-100 is just how, dare I say it, plain they look. There are no flashing lights, digital displays that give you all the information you don’t need to know, or glossy and glitzy paint jobs.

This lack or external glamour is, as it turns out, by design. The exterior is functional and old school looking, while all the really good stuff that converts incoming signals into music is hidden under the covers. Said good stuff includes components chosen for musical delivery over analytical measurement.

As an aside, but an explainer to the above statement, I had a long discussion with Peter Lotter about the choice of resistors used in his gear. Some measure better but sound worse, and vice versa. Suffice to say, PL Audio gear is voiced to sound superb first and then measure well.

But now back to the gear. And if the looks are a little old school, so is the operation. Once again, this is by design. Of course here I’m talking almost exclusively about the PLC-100 control amp, as the PLA-100 power amp has but one switch, with this being power on and off. The PLC-100 sports a power switch, headphone out and three rotary controls. The largest of these is for volume, while the second and third are for input selection and tape/monitor out selection. Yes, the PLC-100 has a tape out for those who like these.

To select an input or tape out, you need to manually rotate the selectors to the desired position. The reason for this is because Lotter believes that these switches sound better than relays (used in most remote input switching circuits). Thankfully I’m not that lazy – but my growing midriff is ample proof that I’m getting there – for getting up to switch inputs to have bothered me. You can adjust volume via remote, and said remote is a simple and functional device.

Of the five inputs, one was used for phono and our review unit was fitted with a phono card optimised for my cartridge: a Hana high output MC for those that like all the details. When ordering a phono card for the PLC-100 you can get either a MM or MC module and for MC models, you can specify the loading you require. A second input was used for my NuPrime DAC10 H, a third was connected to my phono pre-amp so that I could compare the built in phono stage to my external one, while cables between the pre and power were AudioQuest. For speaker cables I used my custom made bi-wire cables. These cables were connected to Sonor Audio Claro 6.2 speakers

While the look of the PL Audio gear may be a throwback to simpler times, you could probably say the same for the power rating of the PLA-100 stereo power amp. In our more is better world – more power, more channels, more gears, more processors – having an amplifier with “only” 100 watts per channel to play with, sounds a little light in the pants. Heck I used to run my system with a 1 600 watt amplifier (8 x 200 watts amplifier, bridged down to 4 x 400 watts and bi-amp per speaker). 1 600 watts has to better than the little PLA’s 200 watts right?

Well as it turns out, no.

Many readers will know of the First Watt Theory that simply states, with a little bit of poetic license,  the following: If the first watt sucks, who really cares if the amplifier can produce a quadrillion more that suck as badly?

The reality in my audio world also means that in my room, with reasonably efficient speakers, the maximum level I listen at (I do like my neighbours), I probably never used more than 20 or 30 of the 100 watts available per channel.

When you add in the fact that unlike your average A/V receiver that uses more than a little trickery to achieve its power ratings (I feel a tech article in the works to explain this), that PL Audio is, if anything, a little conservative in its ratings and that the PLA-100 will double its power into 4 Ohms, you’ll start to see that for most people an amplifier correctly rated at 100 watts is more than enough. Besides this, it’s how the power is delivered that matters and not really how much of it there is. And this takes us neatly back to the First Watt Theory.

For much of the critical listening assessment part of my review, I used a selection of the IASCA (International Auto Sound Competition Association) competition CDs I’ve collected over the years. These discs feature tracks from some of the top recording studios and artists, but more importantly give information on when, where and how a track was recorded. Many of the tracks feature a “stage map”, a diagram of where artists and instruments were located during the recording session, information on the size of the venue and stage, and specific details of what to listen for in each recording. This makes evaluating gear a relatively quick affair.

One of the first aspects of the PL Audio gear that I noted, was just how natural the spoken human voice sounded (as opposed to the highly manipulated auto tuned voices heard on many a modern recording). Strange as this simple thing may seem, many systems don’t get this aspect right.

The system delivered individual male and female voices in their correct location and size and with a presence that made me feel like those people were right there in front of me.

Next up on my listening agenda was listening to the duo’s noise floor, how this affected micro dynamics and overall instrument and artist positioning within a musical stage.

Here I’m happy to state that the duo was commendably quiet with, from my listening position, an imperceptible noise floor. Subtle sounds within music were audible as was the decay of, for example, bell strikes, or those of cymbals. These sonic cues give one insight into the music and enhance one’s enjoyment of the performance.

With these tests out the way it was time to move on to some real dynamics and to see if the PL Audio duo could deliver the goods when being asked to play low and loud. To test these aspects, out came some well recorded solo drum tracks, followed by a few extreme bass tracks.

At my listening levels the PL Audio gear was never flustered, despite being asked to play some really dynamic tracks. I never detected any distortion or artefacts that led me to believe that the amplifier’s power supply or output stage were taking any real strain. What I did get was a believable rendition of a drummer playing a solo right in front of me. I could easily hear as the drummer moved from drum to drum and from cymbal to cymbal. Imaging remained precise and focussed throughout.

My extreme bass torture tracks have caused many an amplifier or speaker to falter. This because some of these tracks feature low frequency sine wave sweeps and bass drops that can get almost any amplifier hot under the collar or voice coil. Again, at the limits that I play at and in deference to my ears and neighbours, the PL Audio gear just worked. I could if I really tried hard, detect just a hint of distortion, but at these levels I was rattling the doors and windows in my listening room and I never play this loud for an extended period of time anyway.

With the bulk of my technical review of the PL Audio duo out the way, I moved on to listen to its phono card. This proved to simply be one of the best phono stages I’ve listened to in a long time. It easily bettered my admittedly midrange external phono pre-amp in virtually all aspects of performance from detail retrieval, to pace and rhythm. The only downside to the built in card was that values are fixed and if you change cartridges you may need to have the card modified for best performance.

To be honest I never got around to listening to the PLC-100’s headphone out, but having listened to all its other attributes, I have no doubt that headphone quality would be superb.

So far you know that technically the PL Audio duo is extremely good. They offer impressive detail, imaging and overall staging. They have the power and control to deliver deep bass and dynamics. What I haven’t really written about is, apart from mentioning the spoken voice, what the duo sound like.

Here I would describe the sound of the duo as being slightly on the warm sound of neutral. This is particularly true when compared to the sound of my Class D amplifier that errs slightly to the lean side of totally neutral. What I liked about the PL Audio gear was that while they certainly are “Audiophile” quality in that they do everything extremely well (from precise imaging and staging to superb dynamics and control), you can also hear that they have been voiced to be more musical than analytical. This voicing takes us back to the choice of resistors mentioned earlier.

What I also liked about the PL Audio duo was that they were simply fantastic to listen to for extended periods of time, and dare I say it, for longer than I usually listen to my own amplifier.

You can get amplifiers that are a little more analytical than the PL Audio duo, you certainly get a whole lot that have more rated power, but there are few that offer the musical enjoyment that they do.

Joel Kopping


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