While microdynamics, transparency, and resolution took minor hits with the installation of the Premium preamplifier (keep in mind, my reference preamplifier is more than five times costlier), the overall superb mastery of musical scaling, the dynamic prowess and the unflinching faithfulness of tone previously noted with the HP amps were apparent with the Premium preamp too. With it in the mix, the system maintained its enchanting sense of effortlessness, yet relinquished very little in control and slam—not an easy trick even for such an overachieving yet affordable preamp to pull off. There is no questioning the synergistic results of pairing of the preamp and HP amps, they clearly work extraordinarily well with each other.
One peculiarity surfaced while using the mute function with the remote. When engaging mute, the lamp on the preamp lights red to indicate its muted status. Because I had the preamp set to the right side of my equipment rack, just above and slightly behind the right HP amplifier on its isolation stand, sometimes pressing the mute button would change the lamp to red on the preamp and both amps; other times, the left amp light stayed green. But depending on how I was aiming the remote, sometimes the preamp and right amp would have their lamps green, and the left would remain red. I could restore the errant left amplifier lamp to green by aiming the remote slightly past the left amp, holding it just so, and pushing the mute button.
This was merely a distraction; it had no effect on the sonic performance of the gear. But given that the amps don’t actually have a mute mode, I wondered why the amplifiers’ status lamps would change color when pressing that button on the remote.
While these PrimaLuna DiaLogue components may have been inspired by the milestones of yesteryear, gone here is any hint of that syrupy, dark, blatantly euphonious sound common in those earlier components. Even today, with lesser designs, the over-editorializing of color and texture that has put me off many of today’s more affordably priced tube gear—even some held in high regard—never reared its ugly head throughout my months of audition. PrimaLuna has set an incredibly high bar for performance, with equally incredible pricing.
It would seem apparent that the degree of “overbuild” these products enjoy, the sheer number of devices employed, all being run well below their thresholds, the parts-quality, and the surfeit of safeguards put in place contribute to superb sonic performance. To my ears, the PrimaLuna DiaLogue gear (the HP amplifiers in particular) represent some of the best bargains in valve electronics available today.
While these devices may not reach the pinnacle of “the absolute sound,” I want to make it perfectly clear that they are nonetheless exceptional performers, metaphorically punching well above their class, never failing to serve the music they are asked to portray. They display a degree of tonal purity, dynamic expression and scaling, and resolution that I had no reason to expect at this price point. The result is that they have an unswerving ability to draw you into whatever they are serving up.
Combining their exquisite sonic performance with their seemingly bullet-proof design, supplemented by the host of features like their Adaptive AutoBias and AC Offset Killer, these PrimaLunas deliver remarkably authentic music and will likely give their owners years and years of dependable, musically engaging enjoyment.
For someone looking to indulge in the tube experience, with most of the drawbacks superbly minimized, I cannot recommend the PrimaLuna DiaLogue gear highly enough. They offer creative and thoughtful design, exceptional build-quality, first-rate parts and assembly, tremendous attention to detail, an elegant look and feel, and their sonic performance is clearly well above their reasonable asking price. Don’t bother with how they pull it off, just sit back and enjoy!
Specs & Pricing
PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium Preamplifier
Tube complement: Six 12AU7, two 5AR4
Analog inputs: Five pairs RCA, one pair HT bypass
Outputs: Two pair RCA preamp outs, one pair RCA fixed tape out
Dimensions: 15" x 8.3" x 14.2"
Weight: 52.9 lbs.
PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium HP Stereo/Mono Amplifiers
Output power: Stereo, 70Wpc (ultralinear)/40Wpc (triode); mono, 148 watts (ultralinear)/85 watts (triode)
Tube complement: Six 12AU7, eight EL34
Inputs: One pair RCA
Output impedance: 100k ohms
Dimensions: 15" x 8.3" x 14.2"
Weight: 66.3 lbs.
Price: $3899 ea., $7798/pr.
Analog source: Kronos Sparta turntable and Helena tonearm, Air Tight PC-1 cartridge
Digital sources: Dell Optiplex running JRiver MC-22 and Fidelizer Pro v7, Hegel HD30 DAC, McCormack UDP-1 Ultimate universal disc player
Phonostages: DSA Phono II, ModWright PH-150 Reference
Preamplifiers: DSA Pre 1, Pass Labs XP-20, ModWright LS-100
Power amplifiers: Pass Labs XA160.8 monos
Speakers: Von Schweikert Audio VR-55 Aktive
Cables: Stealth Śakra and Audience Au24 SX signal cables, Stealth Dream V14 speaker cables, Audience Au24-SX biwires, Audience Au24 USB, Audience Au24 powerChords.
A/C Power: One 15-amp and one 20-amp dedicated line, Audience aR12-TSSOX power Conditioners
Isolation system: Grand Prix Audio Monaco equipment stand and amp stands, Magico QPods
Room treatments: Shakti Hallographs, Room Tunes Corner Tunes