I’m not sure if it’s the climate in New Zealand or the Lord of the Rings effect, but if the Plinius Hiato is anything to go by, they like to go large down under. The Hiato is a beast of an amplifier; I have not reviewed a larger integrated in recent times. But, it’s not unattractive even if one is discouraged from taking it out of the box on account of its bulk. The Hiato is a pretty serious piece of kit in all respects and thankfully what comes out of its speaker terminals makes all the effort worthwhile.
According to the spec it weighs 25 kilos, but that’s without the phono stage, which feels like it adds another 10 kilos or I’m getting a bit more of a lightweight in my old age. That’s not excessive for a 300 Watt amplifier: what is excessive is the remote control. I’ve definitely not come across a bigger example. It’s a foot long and weighs more than a pound, you could use it as a bludgeon to fend off attackers. I presume that either Kiwis are all gorillas or that it acts as a heat sink to cool down your hands in the summer. The explanation from Plinius is that they do the majority of the machining, surface finishing, and anodizing on site and they use ‘through-hole’ components rather than surface mount, which makes for a bigger PCB inside. Plinius also wanted to use the same buttons as you find on the amp itself, all of which makes for a handset you are not going to lose in a hurry. It gives access to four single-ended line inputs, two balanced, and an optional phono stage. The latter adds £1,300 to the price, but does at least have variable loading and gain accessible from the back panel. There’s also home theatre bypass for incorporation into a surround system, effectively turning the Haito into a power amp for external processors.
Looking at the rest of Plinius’s extensive range of electronics, the top power amp, the SA Reference, looks a lot like it was used in this integrated. Both share the same power rating but the power amp has twice the current capability and weighs more than twice as much. So clearly the resemblance is not very deep, the power amp section is actually based on the Plinius SB 301, but has been adapted to suit the available space. It looks more like the Tautoro preamp and this part of it is ‘largely related’ to that range topper.
The chassis construction looks more complicated and expensive than the ‘square box with a big facia’ approach used by many but this is presumably related to the in-house metalworking. That also explains the bright blue rear panel which makes a pleasant change. That panel houses the aforementioned inputs alongside preamp outputs in single-ended and balanced varieties plus a line output on RCA phonos. There are gain and loading settings for the MM/MC phono input, with five impedance options allied to four degrees of gain from 50dB to 66dB. The front panel has input and phase switching, alongside a minijack input for portable devices. There is no headphone output.
I noticed that the Hiato stays quite warm in standby mode, and the spec says 69W is consumed in that state. I also spotted that another reviewer suggested it needs a few days to warm up and settle down. It thus joins a select few brands its polar bear bothering tendencies of drawing a lot of power when sleeping and needing to sleep when not in use, so the ecologically inclined will have to install a few more panels to offset their musical enjoyment. I imagine that solar could be a remarkably clean source of AC if only the sun shone when you wanted to listen!