Can the top end of a PrimaLuna Evo integrated be tamed w/tube rolling?


This weekend I have a PrimaLuna Evo 3 as a house guest to compare with my Supernait 3 solid state integrated. Both are about the same price, basically tube vs solid state. I am a big fan of the Naim PRaT but I also find the depth and transparency of tubes very engaging. The Evo integrated on its own lacks the rhythm and pace of the Naim but it does have transparency and imaging in spades.

So the idea is maybe run an Evo 3 preamp instead along with a Naim 250 (or just use the amp section of the Supernait).

But one problem I cannot get over is that there is a very fatiguing high end to the Evo 3. Cymbals, snare drums, top edge of distorted guitars, etc are pretty harsh at any volume higher than background music. To compare, my vintage Luxman valve preamp into the SN3 does not have this quality (but it lacks the refinement of the PrimaLuna).

It would be ideal to do some tube rolling to get the best of all worlds... is there a tube selection that could work with the Evo preamp that would tame the harsher high end and smooth out the sound a little bit on top? Or is this just a part of the PrimaLuna signature?
33c1efbf 2142 46a3 a4bb c4042a2db044Ag insider logo xs@2xjsqt
Valve units are picky about IC too. Speaker cable, XLR, RCAs.. I'd look there first..  If you using a silver clad wire, BE CAREFUL.... The more copper you add the more you'll tame the highs and warm up the mids.. Look there too.

Unless the signal or power valves are Sylvania or something like that.. THEY can be overly bright in some valve units.... cable first.. You hear the difference. Pretty good example of cable vs valves.. Can't say its a room.. it's the same room.. UNLESS, unless what?..:-)

Regards
You should be able to make a difference by rolling tubes, but it may or may not be enough for you.

I would call Upscale Audio, the importer of PrimaLuna and dealer in NOS and current production tubes,  and talk to them about it.
It is not the amp. No idea why you are blaming the one thing it can't be. But you are.

Keep looking.
I am comparing a Supernait 3 and a PrimaLuna Evo 3 in the exact same system. The PrimaLuna has a harsher top end than the Supernait 3. Period... I unplug the cables from one amp and plug them into the other. It is most definitely the amp. Not the cables, not the speakers, not the room, or whatever mystic Yoda garbage is in the post above this one.

Just looking for a straight answer about tubes, thanks.
One person's clarity is another person's harshness. Although I've personally never found ANY tube amplifier to sound harsh, my ears are not your ears. Just stick to what you like and be done with it.
I can think of two tube amps that sounded harsh.

Sonic Frontiers Power 2

VAC PA 100/100

I would take a mid fi receiver over either of these.

Oz
I've owned valve components by Luxman, Rogue, Backert Labs, and Quad, and now spent the past 24 hours with this Evo 300. It is a very nice amp, but without question compared to my memory of those other units, it has a more pronounced top end which makes cymbals, distorted guitars, etc more forward than my experience with these other amps. Certainly more so than the Supernait 3 I'm comparing it to. 

Was just wondering if swapping out tubes could smooth out that top end a bit. I guess I will call Upscale on Monday.
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Did you buy the PrimaLuna from Upscale Audio? If so...even if not...I’d suggest calling Kevin Deal and telling him what you’re hearing. Ask him what tubes he would recommend to smooth out the rough edges. Better tubes than the new production East European or Chinese stock tubes will definitely improve the sound of your Evo 300.

I will call on Monday - I don't own the amp at this point, it was lent from a dealer to help make some comparisons with the Supernait 3 as I was having some issues with that amp and I needed some kind of benchmark to compare the sound. 

I do like the Evo 3 though so I will reach out on Monday. I do have a pair of Mullard 12AU7/ECC82s sitting around here that I thought about swapping the Evo driver tubes over the weekend, but because I don't own the amp I did not want to risk any problems. 

Just posting here in the event anyone had similar experience with the Evo 3 or experience tube rolling in the Evo 3 in general that could comment on that. 

The stock sound does seem like it was voiced to be "exciting" out of the box... in fact kind of like a sublte Aphex Aural Exciter effect, or maybe it's just my ears.
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Do it...if only to know that swapping different tubes will make a difference, even if you’re not sold on the Mullard ECC82. I preferred RCA 12AU7 Clear Top side getters in a preamp that used 12AU7.

Thanks I may just give it a shot. I have these left over from my Backert Labs preamp. They were the stock tubes which I swapped out for Mazda Ciftes. Then when I sold the preamp the buyer wanted the Ciftes so I have had these sitting around for over a year on my desk. 

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There's a recent thread here about replacing the caps.  I am not a tube expert, but I know caps a little bit and I would 100% go with cap replacement before anything else.
@tvad they are Volti Rivals.

@erik_squires replacing caps on a brand-new amp?
OP, I am breaking in an EVO 300 integrated and in my system, using Virtue cables connected to Sonus Faber Guarnieri Homage speakers, the high end is anything but harsh, and this after only about 40 hours run-in. I very much like that I can switch the PL Integrated from ultra-linear to triode mode merely by pressing a button. Consider my post merely anecdotal, of course, like pretty much everything else one reads on any audio forum.

After many years of listening to excellent (but upgraded vintage) tube separates as well as some very nice solid-state gear, I find there’s a great deal that’s compellingly positive about the Prima Luna Integrated. I also want to say, customer service from Upscale Audio is stellar. I’m a first-time customer and am mightily impressed. They know WTF they’re doing.  And, finally, I'm well aware that some think that Kevin Deal is a bit of an eccentric.  At this point, I think it's part of his, uh, "charm."   The man knows his shi* that's for sure.
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@ps that is helpful, thanks. I wonder if my problem is that I’m just A/B comparing to the Naim amp which is more rolled off on the top end and seems a bit smoother (yet less immersive and more laid back).

I have swapped out the stock driver 12AU7s for the Mullards I have. It does sound a little less toppy and also strangely enough the balance is more centered.

The Evo 300 I am listening to is a floor demo incidentally which runs about 8-9 hours a day for the past 3 months, so well broken in at this point.
@tvad yes they are 6ohm speakers and I think I am getting best results with the 4ohm taps.
Hi OP,
If it's using Solen's then absolutely.  Rather than listen to me though, see if you can find the thread of the A'goner who went through several iterations. 


Best,
Erik
@tvad yes and void the warranty too I would imagine.
@erik_squires thanks I will do a search and see what I come up with. It would be an interesting read.
@jsqt. All I can relate is my experience and it’s all relative. But I will say that the EVO 300 is likely going to be a keeper for me. And I’ll likely sell my excellent, highly-regarded vintage tube separates. I wish you success and am happy to have helped. One last comment. The Guarnieri Homage are revealing speakers with a more neutral presentation than other Sonus Faber speakers I’ve owned. In some ways, they’re rather close to planars, in that they truly disappear and present a sound stage that is simply"there" and not coming out of boxes.

As far as "changing caps" is concerned, IMO a recipe for madness in every way imaginable.  The folks who designed and chose the components and assembled the PL gear know what they are doing.
I’ve had an Evo 400 Integrated for around 6 months.  I was surprised at how bright it was at first.  Brighter, more transparent than the SS amps I had and compared it with.  Over time as the amp and tubes burned in the amp sounded sweeter, less harsh.  Tube rolling can definitely help as well.  I’ve had multiple amps I’ve continued to compare the Evo to and the Evo wins out with imagining, holographic sound that is more open while having great transparency.  The longer I listen and compare the more I like the Evo. 
i would only add 3 comments to what has been said already regarding perceived top end harshness of the primaluna evo

1) swap out center position au7’s to mullards or black plate ge or rca’s to get a more ’rounded’ and dimensional sound - the stock chinese tubes the PL’s ship with are indeed grim, esp. the small signal tubes

2) what power tubes are being run in your evo 300? if they are the same ’primaluna’ branded shuguangs they tend to somewhat thin and sharp -- suggest new stock russian made tungsol 7581’s or 6550c’s... once again, for more full, balanced, less etched sound

3) i assume you have played with your triode/ul switch... the former setting should sound more natural tonally, if reducing sense of drive somewhat

good luck
To reinforce what @jjss49 said

I find Primaluna to be nothing like the OP is describing. Of course EVERTHING is system dependant.
That being said, I use silver wire throughout. I have also changed all the stock tubes out for NOS.
The 2 center 12AU7 is where to start.
I find the warmest to be NOS Mullard long plate. CBS HYTRON 5814A and RCA 12AU7 black plates are also a good option. Stay away from Telefunken and Mazda in your situation.

As far as power tubes I've been using
NOS Mullard EL34 XF2's. They have a fuller,  rounder, more meat on the bones type of sound compared to the stock ones. (For lack of a better descrition)

And ofcourse you can use the ultra linear/triode function found on the remote. Triode tends to be a little rolled off on the high end and also doesnt have as much air as ultra linear.

Only after tubes would I look at cables.
It doesn't sound like a weekend is enough time to spend with that amp for experimentation but not a bad way to spend a weekend at all.

Have fun

@jsqt, try some shuguang Nature sound, or black carbon 12au7s in the first 2 or 4 slots. They have a great midrange.


Sorry gang, I'm on the road and pretty tired.  Of course, before you attempt to tame the highs of electronics you should see if you lack enough absorption and diffusion. 

A room that is too alive will act like a tone control, exaggerating mid-treble.  For hard/constricted treble the floor between/behind the speakers are important targets.  try out some blankets or cushions there and see if things improve.
Thanks for all the input everyone. I have swapped out the stock driver tubes for a pair of Mullard 12AU7/ECC82 and found that it has smoothed out the top end, and also centered the balance better which tells me maybe the stock 12AU7s may have had some uneven wear on them or something. 

It is definitely sounding better after listening into the late night last night and again this morning. This morning, swapping back out with the Supernait 3 and the Evo definitely has an edge on transparent realism and engaging sound. I am using the Naim NDX2/XPS DR as the streamer/DAC so that helps quite a bit.

I'm pretty much ready to abandon the idea of trying an EVO preamp with the Supernait as I just don't think the Supernait is working well with my speakers. I have struggled with it since September and the EVO seems to be dialing in right out of the box. 

@erik_squires thanks I definitely have the room treatment covered pretty well in my room. These are some temporary 244 bass traps for corner and first reflections (took them down from my home theater) but I have new ones on order for permanent installation... unfortunately with Covid GIK is several months behind on production and shipping. My November order should arrive the first week of February (hopefully). 

https://www.smugmug.com/gallery/n-nh4Np6/i-b8N2h4n/A


On my Prologue 2, I changed out all preamp tubes to JJ high performance gold pin. Tamed the high end nicely. Has a warm, rich sound.
Strange to hear Primalunas sound harsh in high end. They actually are known, especially the Evo line, for soft, warm highs.

I've had the exact opposite experience. I wanted more upper end detail.

You haven't burned in the amp and tubes enough yet ... you can tame that high end just by playing it for a week or so ...
Don't forget the ceiling for damping/diffusion

The 2 innermost 12au7's as you have found out, are the money slot.
If you decide on PL, check out Upscales page on different 12au7's. There are user reviews particularly with PL owners experiences.

I use the Brimars in my PL HP. 
@jsqt

I hope you find the following of interest. This may, in a way, be relevant to your situation.
After burning in my Prima Luna Evo 300 integrated for about 130 hours, out of curiosity, I decided to swap the factory EL34’s with some spare veteran Ruby KT-88’s I keep on hand for my vintage tube amps. Well, much to my delight, the music coming out of my Sonus Faber Guarneri Homage speakers is far more engaging- more dynamic, delineated, "airy" and much less recessed. I would not have suspected this dramatic improvement. I’m also going to try different input tubes as many have suggested. Best to all of you.

Not many Naim users here, but as someone with a long history with the products, using the outboard power supplies on Naim equipment can be transformative. I don’t know what the Supernait will accept, but if it can take a hicap or 2, it makes a big difference. Much more than you would think.
@chayro

i would agree with this

naim in house ps upgrade or known aftermarket ones like teddy pardo teddy caps have a tremendous effect on the sound of many a naim unit

Not many Naim users here, but as someone with a long history with the products, using the outboard power supplies on Naim equipment can be transformative. I don’t know what the Supernait will accept, but if it can take a hicap or 2, it makes a big difference. Much more than you would think.
Just to follow up on this, I am currently running the Evo 300 with Mullard 12AU7s in the drive sockets and Tung Sol KT150s for power (in triode mode) and it is sounding fantastic. The Supernait 3 has found a new home and this combination of the Evo 300 integrated and NDX2/XPSDR is simply amazing. I've been through a lot of gear over the past 3 years but this is quite a magical combination. It does help that I spent nearly 6 months working on optimizing my room in an effort to get the Supernait 3 sounding its best. Now the PrimaLuna benefits from that. 

I guess the next experiment may be trying out the Evo 300 preamp and mono blocks versus the integrated to see if there is even further gains to be made.
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