Audio Research LS/Ref or Primaluna EVO Preamp


Currently I own a LS26 and thinking up upgrading. My amp is a Ref 110 so usually makes sense to stay with the same company. However, after speaking with a few dealers they are saying the Primaluna EVO 400 is kicking the pants off even Ref series of ARC.  I am not talking the higher end of the Ref series.  My shortlist I have been considering is a LS27, LS28 or Ref 3. One thing I like about ARC is they hold their resale value very well. A new EVO 400 xlr is $4699 but one dealer (won't mention) offered for $3900.  I also like the gain function of the LS26 for my phono stage but it isn't a huge issue I don't guess. My phono preamp is a Manley Chinook SE MkII and I am using it on 65db gain for my Dynavector 20x2L.  Has anyone owned or know much about the PL EVO 400 or is it wiser to stay in the ARC family? Thank you in advance  :)
Ag insider logo xs@2xsamzx12
ref 3 > evo 400
all day long
esp into arc ref amp
I have heard the new Prima Luna and like the sound very much.  I never liked the ARC presentation, so my vote would be for the Prima Luna.  They also hold their value quite well.
Stereo5 how would you describe EVOs sound and/ or presentation? 
Just curious has anyone purchased a EVO from Upscale and did you get a discount?  
I thought about PL EVO and demoed it a few times. At the time I had a ARC LS15 and was looking to upgrade it. Demoed a used LS25 and it was what I wanted and needed for my system so I bought the LS25. I have had a few experiences with Kevin and none have been a pleasure. Not even when I called him and was asked about a piece of gear he had for sale. I worked in the industry for over 15 years and never dealt with someone so rude and nasty, even when I was looking to buy tubes he told to me to just buy off the internet. Kevin Deal is a total A**HOLE and he will never get any of my money.
I've usually had good luck with Kevin and Upscale but I do know we all have our good and bad days.  In the past few months I've bought a Dynavector 20x2L and a Manley Chinook phono preamp.  However,  a couple days ago I was talking to an online sales guy there inquiring about a Ref 3 and EVO 400. Told him I am a returning customer and what kind of discount could I receive.  He said sorry we can't give a discount on either item. I thought are you kidding me and typed WOW ok.  Ended up buying a EVO from another dealer and he gave me a substantial discount on a new one. It was a no brainer.   Not sure if this salesman was conferring with Kevin or a manager but I doubt I'll do business again.  Very disappointed because I've always had good luck with them.  Kat was wonderful to deal with and I've had some good conversations with Kevin in the past. 
I don’t know too many dealers that are willing to carry a product if the importer and distributor undercut them on price. It makes for a complicated relationship and limits the price flexibility. 

I’ve bought a few things from Upscale. Kevin can be patient and nice and he can also be a dismissive dick. Probably depends on how many stupid questions he’s heard that day. Try not to take it personally.
retail is a tough business, retail for high end hifi is especially tough... so much education to do, so many naive/idiotic questions (just look at this forum), so many tire kickers just taking advantage, not respecting retailers’ time and energy - when you have done it as long as kevin has, one can see how he can become short and impatient sometimes

in his case with primaluna it is especially complicated as he is importer/national distributor (and part owner too, as i understand it) for the brand as well having his historic upscale audio as a southern california based retail store - so it creates a lot of channel conflict with other dealers whom sell the line...

...how this is typically handled is for each retailer to have their own designated geographic territory - but just like people and covid, borders are artificial and porous, product and customers don’t stay in their lanes, actively cross over, so defined territories really cannot be enforced... for example,i bought my primaluna amp from a dealer in florida who posted an ad on one of the internet equipment sites, i do not live in that state, in fact, nowhere close to it...  

if i were kevin’s shoes, i would think the profit from the importer/distributor level handling all the USA unit sales is much greater than his retailer’s profit for the few units sold through his store, so i too would say ’no discount’ from upscale, in order to protect his total margins earned from products sold through all other retailers... and this sounds like that is exactly the position he is taking at retail...


If you like the ARC sound, I'd go up the ladder with ARC.  I've only heard one of the previous Primaluna integrateds at a dealer.  It had an intoxicating syrupy sound at first, but after a while, I didn't like how much the sound was colored.  I prefer the neutrality of the ARC house sound.  One of the nice things about the Primaluna is you can roll all kinds of tubes in it.  I believe the one I heard was using EL34s.  I don't know if the newer EVO units have the same house sound.  

I also own a LS26 as well as a Modwright LS100.  The LS100 is in my main system and shares many of the traits of the LS26, but with maybe just a hint more of a "tubey" sound.
Jjss49 you bring up some valid points especially dealing with the public can be frustrating and exhausting.  I would hate to be in his shoes most of the time having to answer dumbass questions and attitudes.  However,  I'll disagree with your discount statement simply because Upscale usually does offer some sort of price break or so they have in the past on bigger items. Its just good business and people will buy again because they were treated well. Why do you think I called them about both preamps? Satisfied returning customer.  It is what it is and I probably shouldn't have vented on a discussion board 🤷  Upscale does very well and you can't please everyone ALL the time haha. 
Thanks Greg for your post. I'm thinking the EVO probably has their house sound as they voice their equipment to the warm side. 90% of listeners prefer it that way but like you said changing tubes can change the flavor somewhat.   

I used to own a Dialogue Premium integrated purchased from Kevin. Rolled many tubes in it and definitely liked its overall presentation but ended up going back to separates. BAT and now ARC. The Ref 110 is the best amp I've ever owned.  Needed it to drive my Thiel 2.7.  
If I was Beavis or Butthead, Kevin would be God. Lol

I do get a kick out of some of his video speaker reviews though.