Belles Virtuoso or PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium HP


Hello and good day all. First time post here. I’m in the market for a new integrated. My source is a Oppo UDP 205, speakers are from a company called Funk ( 6.1P). I’m torn between trying tubes for the first time, or sticking to SS. I’ve read good reviews about both companies, I’m just having trouble making up my mind. Any suggestions?
jtweed
What is your timeline on when you want to get it?   The Virtuoso doesn't come out for a month or two.  
I’ve got an old Adcom pre and power now. It makes sound, but not music. I’m willing to wait until the Belles comes out. Only problem is, I’m in western Canada, and there’s no Belles dealer anywhere out here. I can order it, but can’t audition. The PrimaLuna I can get locally. The PL is around 6k, and the Belles will probably be around 8500-9k. I’m willling to spend the extra if the Belles is going to be worth it. Any experience with one or both of these companies?
If you can call Johnny Rutan at the Audio Connection.  He handles Belles - Power Modules. He is a great guy that will not try to sell it to you but tell you what he knows about it and let you decide yes or no with no pressure at all.  I have a Belles amp and think it is pretty great and I am sure the Prima Luna is also. It does matter what the system is it is going to be a part of. 
If you want  to dabble in tubes, check out Modwright's website.. He can mod the Oppo with some tubes.. I have a 205 also.. I already began the fun of trying different tubes.. Well only 3 so far but still.. In my system the Oppo was so detailed I felt the need to soften it up a little.. I bought some NOS Mullards and that did the trick.. If you're just starting with tubes, I think that's the way to go for you.. Besides you have couple months to kill before the Belles comes out..
The Mldwright upgrade was one of the reasons I bought the Oppo. I like the idea of valves, and am also thinking the PL would be a good option to be be able to roll a little. I think it would be a good place to start. The Belles I’m thinking is going to sound a little relaxed in the middle, and still have punch on top and bottom. Besides, it’s got meters. Not another boring, black box.
If you buy the PL, then there's no turning back from tubes unless you replace it.. Getting the Oppo mod and the Belles you can switch back and forth (SS/tube sound).. Not saying don't get the PL, I've heard good things about it too.. Just saying there's flexibility with the Oppo mod.. I have a SS behind the modded Oppo and for fun change inputs to compare..
I have a Classe SSP800 processor.. to hear the tube sound, I switch to the 7.1 bypass, which is where I have the analogue output on the Oppo connected to.. To bypass the tube, I have the sound output from the Oppo via HDMI ... You can also output from the Oppo's other single ended outputs to bypass the tubes
jtweed, the Belles Virtuoso is going to be 6495.00 not 8500.00 to 9K.  
kclone I think the OP is translating into Canadian dollars. $6500 would be around $8200. And to the OP I hear you on wanting meters but I strongly urge you to try out tubes if you don't that itch may never go away!
jond, am I making a good choice with going with PrimaLuna? Whatever I choose, reliability is a very close second to SQ. What’s the point in owning something I never get to listen to, if it’s always in the shop?
jtweed good point and another in favor of Primaluna as it's point to point wired and as a result both reliable and easy to fix. I think you're making a good choice and don't be scared of tubed gear being less reliable than SS that's just not the case. Good luck!
@jtweed - 

IMHO if you’re willing to pay 9k for the Belles I would seriously consider paying another 1k and buy the PrimaLuna Dialogue Premium Preamp and two PrimaLuna Dialogue Premium HP monoblock amps. Absolute killer sound that you will enjoy for a lifetime. 

Cheers 
if you're going to spend that much on tubes why not look at some of the heavy hitters: line magnetic, mastersound,ayon, audio research
@jond , the PTP wiring is one of the selling points for me. My local HiFi shop also sells Rogue, and I’m not into it because of the PCB. If a guy wants to roll, the more you twist and turn, the higher the chance of cracking the board. I’ve also read that because of the auto bias(catch 22), you don’t get as much of the tube ‘flavour’ from tube to tube. But, it makes it very easy to own because of it.

@blues41, I’ve considered that option, I’m sure the SQ is very good, but the thought of adding 3 boxes, the HEAT it will produce, and the expense of rolling 20-25 tubes just isn’t realistic for me. I’m trying to not only increase SQ, but to simplify things. Decisions.
I think the transition/upgrade to PL from Adcom will be more obvious and more enjoyable than going to Belles. I've heard the lower model integrateds from each brand and the PL had a wow factor that Belles just didn't have.  
I just don’t want to vomit to something, and be left wanting. I know that’s part of this hobby, I just don’t want to be stuck on the ‘wish I would have bought that instead’ train. The idea of being able to ‘tune’ the sound with a tune amp really appeals to me. I know the Belles is supposed to be David Belles best work yet. Dual mono, balanced inputs, good quality preamp section, doubles down perfectly (200w-400w), and high quality parts all throughout. Is this going to be his piece that competes with others in the 15-20k range? And, it has METERS....
Guess I should spell check. That should read ‘don’t want to commit to something’. 
Maybe others can answer this, but is there any tube buffers that he could use in the signal path that would give him a taste of what he is looking for?
jtweed,,
All things considered I would prefer point to point wiring over a printed circuit board as well. Regarding autobias it is a good feature to have. I own a 300b SET amplifier with autobias and 2 push pull tube amplifiers with manual bias (simple to do) . The autobias is every bit as sensitive and revealing of tube changes as the manual bias amplifiers, maybe more so.

The Belles amplifiers are consistently praised and I assume rightfully so. Some describe them as smooth and "tube like" which is meant as a compliment. "Tube like" still isn’t the same as actual tube amp driven. If you’re truly interested in trying out a tube amplifier I say go for it. Your speakers are an 8 ohm nominal load so I imagine that either of your two choices should mate well.
Charles

My amp is also autobias and very revealing of tube changes, driver, power, and rectifier tubes all. Rolling tubes is certainly one of the fun parts of the hobby. And regarding Belles yes widely praised gear for sure and I am sure the new amp will be a good one but, no ones actually heard it yet. I'm not saying that's good or bad just a ton of hype for an unreleased unheard product. So the choice is yours but you certainly have some good choices before you.
I’ve considered the option of adding a buffer between source and amp. Seems like a viable option. 
Ive always lusted after ‘the tube sound’, and am finally at a point where my kids are old enough, and I’m ready for a change. My Adcom gear will be going to my shop with a pair of old Kef Q300 I have laying around. I am really leaning towards the PL. I’ve looked at other offerings from Line Magnetic(219ia), Atmos-Phere, Ayon, etc. The PL just strikes me as an easy way into tubes. 
I've been doing this for a long time and have dabbled in SOTA stuff as well as some moderately high end stuff, solid state and tubes. I have now settled into two PL Dialogue integrateds, the One and the Two. Two systems. They are about 4 to 5 years old and have not required any service. They are infinitely tunable by selection of power and small tubes and having that ability will keep you occupied for a while. :-). That said I must admit I have not heard the latest PL's. I'm happy with what I've got.
For the people that own PL stuff, How big is the difference in SQ going from the PL Dialogue premium HP integrated, to the Dialogue preamp, and the Dialogue HP amp? I’m worried that the preamp section of the integrated isn’t going to be as ‘revealing ‘. I’m just speculating, as I have no experience comparing the 2.
Since you're just speculating (:-) so will I. I've never compared them. It is likely that the pre/amp combo will have at least slightly better resolution, or at least presentation of detail, but unless you have very high quality speakers which have been set up to optimize their sound/room interface, it is more likely that you will not detect the difference. You will also optimize your ability to change the tone because you will have more tubes to play with (and IC's, etc). I subscribe to the KISS philosophy and maintain a decent level of sanity. :-)  BTW I think I read about some comments in one of the mag's (Stereophile (?) about the Amp/Pre combo which indicated the combo might not be optimum but I never actually researched it further. You might.
J,

I've owned SS amps for 40 years before purchasing the PL Dialogue Premium a few years ago. The sound is really wonderful compared to the much more expensive SS amps I previously owned. The soundstage is vast, the midrange is to die for and it's so much more musical. I was able to adjust the sound to my liking by rolling tubes which you cannot do with SS. Your speakers are similar to my Lawrence Audio Violins SE , both are 2 way stand mounted with ribbon tweeters and around the same sensitivity. The dealer and audiogoner teajay recommended a tube amp for my speakers.

I would first contact Funk and ask for their recommendation for amp type based on your preference of music and type of sound. I would also ask your local PL dealer for a home audition, if not bring your speakers to the dealer and compare the PL to an amp similar to the Belles. You may not need the more powerful HP version based on your room size and speaker sensitivity. Best wishes.
@jtweed 
@newbee 

i think the PL Integrated Dialogue Premium HP has received some favorable reviews. I own the separates and I’m quite happy with the sound. You should definitely try to check out both and see which fits you best. PrimaLuna gives you the best of both worlds, very detailed, involving, musical, creates a realistic soundstage and all with that glorious tube sound. Build quality is second to none. Please consider room size  as well speakers and cables as with any system. The good thing with PL is that due to the way they’re built you don’t have to replace tubes as frequently as other manufacturers. 
No one has asked about your listening habits. I’ve considered tubes but the fact that they need an hour to sound their best and the fact that with solid state I can leave on 24/7 usually means I’ve stuck with SS. 

If your thinking tubes may I suggest a Canadian company that makes some wonderful tube equipment all made in North America well Canada. I'm no way involved with them I just own an integrated from them.  Final Audio or the sister company Triode Labs they are out of Toronto and very good to deal with and make some top quality amps.

http://www.finaleaudio.com/

http://www.triodelab.com/


@austinbob , this is something else I have to take into consideration. I’m not a ‘just one song’ kind of person. I usually listen to music in the evenings, and weekends. I own 2 small businesses, and at times, I leave the house at 5-5:30 in the morning, and am not getting home until 8-10 at night. However, my wife runs the office portion of our businesses, and is home all the time. Often I will come home, and she is listening to music. I sometimes will sit down with a book, and listen to music in the background (when I have time). If I do go with a tube amp, I need something she can run aswell. PL seems to fit the bill for this. I’m still really curious about the Belles Virtuoso for a SS though. Looks super cool, will the SQ fit into that category aswell? I guess I’ll have to wait 1-2 months until it’s release, and see what others think. 
not trying to be mr. tough guy, but 1) you might have posted your question little early as no one has ever heard the Belles yet and 2) it seems you're being a bit wishy washy.. kind of nit picking.... consensus says the PL sounds good.. so if you want to dip your toes into tubes then mod the Oppo, hopefully your Adcom has a bypass .. if you just want to dive right in, then get the PL ..
Anthem STR instead of the Belles ???
I’ve listened to the new Anthem STR, and both myself, and the audio shop guys agreed, it doesn’t sound as good as the 225. I’m going to wait until the Belles comes out, and make my decision then. Thank you everyone for all your responses.
Ma5300 mcintosh is a pretty nice integrated imo.  Plus mcintosh does hold their value! 
+1 on Finale Audio recommendation - have a 7189 MK2 integrated with upgraded transformer and caps option; very well built and nice sounding at a great price.

Also, suggest Line magnetic 518IA 22 wpc  Set 
@facten  why the 518ia over the 219a? And I’ve been looking at the Finale website, they look like they make some great gear.
never heard of Finale...  looks like some good stuff
I believe that the Line Magnetic 508ia could be an excellent match with the Funk speakers and their relatively easy load characteristics. 300b tube drives the 805 output tube for 48 watts of "pure" class A power. This type of DHT (Directly heated triode) tube amplifier is capable of superb sound quality. It’s a different approach vs the more common class A/B amps such as the  transistor Belies or the push pull tubed PL. Something to consider if really interested/enthusiastic  about  an exceptional tube amplifier listening experience.

Single chassis so avoids multiple boxes if that matters. Heavy single box due to big high quality transformers and power supply (which is good). A very worthy viable alternative to consider compared to the well regarded Belles or PL options. My gut feeling is that the LM 508IA and Funk speakers could be a superior musically and engaging match. I doubt that any of the three choices would disappoint you.
Best of luck,
Charles
jtweed

I didn't suggest the LM 518IA over the 219IA. I am just recommending the 518IA as a potential option based upon my personal listening experience from owning it. 
@facten the only problem I see with LM, I can only source it from one dealer out of Montreal. The PL I can get locally,(dealer in town), and the Belles I have to order aswell (being offered a sweet deal out of Toronto). The Belles can be serviced in Vancouver if need be (3 hrs away). I’m leaning towards the PL, HOWEVER, something tells me to wait for the Belles. I’m not sure why, I HAVE TO HEAR THE BELLES..... I’m planning on adding a pair of either Funk Audio subs, or, a pair of REL’s.... just like everyone here, my wife thinks I’m crazy.... I’m still looking for other possibilities. This hobby is going to be the death of me.....
Sound Hounds in Victoria is a Line Magnetic dealer
@msommers that I did not know. You are obviously from Canada aswell. I lived in Victoria for almost 20 years. I will have to give them a call. I would really like to pack up my FUNK’s, and go on a little road trip....

I’m not sure why, I HAVE TO HEAR THE BELLES.....

jtweed:

As a music-loving audiophile and fellow Canadian, I understand your position and the choice (solid state vs. tubes) you are trying to make.  I have also been reading whatever I can on the upcoming Belles Virtuoso integrated.  Unfortunately, the price will be too rich for my blood, especially in Canadian dollars.  Are you able to share any information about the Toronto dealer who can offer you a good price?

I previously owned a Belles integrated and really loved it.  Stupidly, I sold it in my quest for more power, only to realize later that watts aren't everything.  I still miss the sweet sound it produced; it was one of the best solid state pieces I ever owned over the course of 40 years of listening to stuff.

@recroom that’s what I was waiting to hear about the Belles product. I did some digging, and have found out that the new Virtuoso is going be the best piece David Belles has ever done, integrated/stereo/mono’s.... he’s apparently been obsessed with ‘putting it together right’. It was the suggestion of a long time friend of his to even put meters on. It will be true dual mono, great pre section, balanced in, unreal vol. control, doubles down perfectly from 200w-400w, and a full featured QUALITY remote. There are some other things I was asked not to mention..... yet...... I was also asked not to divulge my source.... I’m going to buy it, AND, either the LM, or the PL, and do a head to head, tube vs SS..... I will make my decision then..... the only way to truly know, is in my listening room, with my gear... when this guy gives me the go ahead, I will share more.
J.
jtweed, have you heard of a release date?
@kclone what I’ve been told, they are shooting for late March. But, then he also told me it’s ‘TBA’....
I have a PL Dialogue Premium Integrated and i absolutely love it.  The imaging is amazing.   Soundstage is surreal.  The only thing that it is missing is a real thump to the bass.  I did upgrade with KT-120 tubes which was a good improvement but not quite SS on the bass.  I have had Threshold, Aragon, Emerald Physics among others. None could compare to the PL in creating an emotional involvement with the music.  
+1  PL Dialogue Premium HP Int. Called Upscale considering separates and Kevin talked me into the Integrated. For the price difference vs SQ difference a much better value. A little tube rolling (KT 150 /Mullard CV 4003) and I doubt anyone would be disappointed.
BTW, OEM Wheels: I also have a ModWright Oppo The tube mod Oppo plus the PL Dialogue was too tubey in my setup. Might depend on your speakers though. I also have the Oppo hooked to SSP 800 and, unless your mod is different, I think you maybe misunderstand the configuration. The tube mod only affects the stereo analog outputs (both balanced and single ended), not the 7.1 outputs. True, you can bypass the tube mod, but by using the digital coaxial output, not the single ended outputs.
Upscale will sometimes have an open box PL Integrated. Worth asking.
Maybe worth knowing: Not all auto bias are the same.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9iD-pjU4Lo&feature=youtu.be&utm_source=Upscale+Audio+Newsle...
I made the dive into tubes with the PL Dialogue Premium HP integrated maybe 18 months ago. Here’s what happened-

I began listening more and more. I had to start scheduling date nights with my system. I played the thing for six months with bliss. Then I started tube rolling. I learned soooo much doing that and enjoying nearly every minute.

While i I could live with a stock unit and be forever happy, I really like being able to tweak the sound to my liking in my system. Not only do tubes draw me in more, but adjusting the sound to my specific taste and system is more fun and with better results than “equipment rolling”.

So much of this is subjective, but I’d bet PL owners have high levels of satisfaction, and have low levels of buyer’s remorse. If you’re leaning towards tubes I think you don’t have much to worry about. The product is well built, reliable, sounds glorious and adds fun through rolling abilities.

PL’s customer service is first rate too.
Perhaps this will help.  There is a shop in the tiny California town of Trinidad called Audio Waves.  The owner, a lovely man called Alan, deals with Belles equipment, though I cannot vouch for this particular piece of equipment.  Most importantly, customers may return any equipment that does not meet their expectations within 30 days.  The telephone # is 800 510 4753.  Does not answer your question, but I have the Prima Luna HP amp and I think it is wonderful.  Good luck.  
+1 for the LM 508ia