Prima Luna Prologue 1 or 2,Almarro with 6c33c-b/18W (318A?
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Fi or Wright are amazing. Fi, as I understand it, no longer builds an integrated. However u may be able to find one used. Wright is coming out with an integrated. Both Fi and Wright offer simple separates, though. All self-bias. Finally, there is the Korneff stuff. Also, utterly great. He is taking a "break" though. I'm trying to get him out of retirement!
I have been using the Prima Luna Prologue Two happily for the past year and a half. Admittedly, auto-biasing was one of the things that made me go with the P2, as I wanted a no fuss tube amplifier with possibly some tube rolling as the only tweak that I would perform. Note: The stock tubes are pretty good, but I replaced them anyway. I replaced the stock KT 88's with Svetlana (SED) KT88's; the 12 AX7's with NOS Sylvania; and the 12AU7's with NOS Mullard CV4003.
I can't say enough positive things about the P2. See my review of the P2 here . In fact I liked the P2 so much that I replaced a very good power amplifier in my other system to put in a Prologue 5. I use the P2 in a manner similar to yours ... in a small room and nearfield. This system sees more use than any other system. I didn't audition any other tube amps. I had dealt with Kevin Deal before, trusted him, and went with the P2.
For a good overview of biasing and what is involved here is a good site .
As for speakers, I am currently using Omega Super 3 (single driver), but would also recommend the NHT Classic line (Two or Three).
I too owned the Cayin A-88T- a truly great amp. It is not however, self or auto biasing. The biasing procedure involves removing the amp from the system, standing it on it's side, removing the bottom cover and following a biasing procedure.
This is admittedly not as easy as, say, the Cary SLI-80 Signature- a stunningly good amp that's far easier to bias.
I must say however that the Cayin- with proper tubes- is extrememly transparent, and lives up to the hype.
Listenhere ; Self or auto biasing is as the term implies . The amp contains a circuit that will bias the power tubes on its own , no user intervention required . The speakers , that I listed above , are quite nice and they are not fully broken in yet as I have only 135 hours on them . The dealer stated that the tweeters would require at least 200 hours to open up . The only caviet that I have is the 'somewhat' lack of sparkle on the top end as compared to their predessors , Soliloquy . This could also be a coloration aspect of the Soliloquy's .
Lindisfarne ; The Wright amps seem to be all SET's , do you thik that they will provide the extension and dynamics that I require for my music preference ? I can not find any listings here for Fi .
Rar1 ; I have read your review and it was a big factor in my decision to consider the Prologue II . Good review by the way !
Mrtennis ; Could you elaborate on the differences between the Almarro , Cayin and Prima Luna in relation to the extension , detail and dynamics at low volume , please ?
Thank you to all who have responded here ! Very helpful , as always !
Anyone else ?
Saki70, A couple of comments regarding small tube amps, especially the Primaluna models of which I have the One and the Three/Five combo.
Low volume dynamic's are far more likely to depend on your speakers that it is your amp when you're dealing with tube integrateds, although tube type choice can be influential. FWIW, in the PL5 which comes stock with KT88's, I have used every type that it can take (except for KT90's which have a signature I'm not particularily fond of). With my associated components I find the KT88 (SED's) to be somewhat fullish in the mid/upper bass, producing a warmish sound, with a slightly airy but uneven upper mids and highs. Actually a lovely, if somewhat non-linear sound. When using EL34's the deep bass takes a vacation (with small speakers no problem there). I found 6l6GC to be similar to the EL34's but they were a bit smoother thru the upper mids and highs - not overly warm though. Didn't leave them in long. Most recently, and surprisingly to me at least, I tried some SED 6550's. At first I just found them tonally too cool but after a while when playing some music with very well defined mids and highs I discovered what I didn't like about the other tubes! With the 6550's the upper frequencies were crystal clear and smooth. The bass was full and deep with out any upper bass bloom. All in all I think a very accurate tube in this amp with my stuff and it will be my tube of choice. BTW I still use the EH12AX7's that came with the unit - I found that they support the bass much better than other available new production tubes.
My point, in case you haven't figured it out by my wanderings, when you're considering tube amps its much more involved than just what brand of amp you buy but its the extent you are willing to go to get the sound you want out of your speakers.
My advise to you at this point of your experimentation, is to get the PL2 and a set of SED EL34's and a set of SED 6550's and then spend some time listening. If you don't like what you get you can sell it at minimal loss. If you do you can then fine tune it with different small tubes.
One last FWIW. In two non-PL amps I use KT88's in one, 6550's in the other, and using different small tubes I get a sound very similar to the PL5 w/6550's, the differences being in power, resolution, and subteranian bass capabilities.
I lied, one more FWIW - If absolute resolution and full bass that is less than tight is not a big deal for you, and you love a big, warm, linear sound, very smooth w/no rought edges, admit it and just buy the PL One. For less than analytical listening it is really a great little amp! Hell even Mr T might like this one. :-)
Newbee ; Thanks for the tube comparing on the PL's . I assume that your refernce to the PL5 would also apply to the PL2 . I was not aware that the PL2 would take the EL34's also , how about EL84's ?
I chose the De Capo's and the Cayin for their low level characteristics . I included that in my request so as not to loose that feature when switching amps . My previous amp was not as good at low levels as the Cayin .
Again , I am switching amps due to biasing procedures , not sound characteristics . The Cayin is really pretty good !
Saki70, So far as I know the Two will not take EL84's. Re comparisons between the Five and Two, the units are very similar in design with a few differences, one being the absence of negative feed back in the Five and I have been told that sonically they are similar. Rarl has both and can comment on the differences if any, however I don't believe he uses the Three. Obviously choice of pre-amp can affect the sound of the amp. If the only difference between the One and the Two is the speed, taughtness of the bass, and resolution, as well as the different tubes and their individual sounds, the Two would be an excellent unit. I haven't heard from anyone who has both the Two and the 3/5 combo. You might call Kevin Deal and discuss this with him. He obviously has total knowledge of these units.
Regarding low level performance, my listening levels usually average about 80 db +/- 3db, and I note no loss or improvement for that matter, with the PL amps with lower or higher volume.
Thanks Newbee , guess I got confused about the EL tubes . That is great about the performance at low levels !
Looks like a tough decision between the Almarro and the Prima Luna ! On the one hand the Almarro may have a better sound and , I think , the better warranty , 5 years . On the other hand the Prima Luna seems to be more tube versatile and 'is' self biasing . Hmmm .
The Prima Luna P2 can use: KT88, 6550, EL-34, 6CA7, 6L6GC, KT66, and 7581 tubes. I have used both KT 88's and EL 34's with the P2, as well as with the P5. I prefer the EL 34's with my P2, mostly because the speakers in use only go down so low in the bass (Omega Super 3's; single driver monitors) and because I do nearfield listening.
I have the P5 paired with Acoustic Research 302 (10 inch woofer; 3 way) speakers that can go down to 35hz. Here the EL 34 are just not giving me all the bass that the KT 88's can offer (Newbee ... thanks for the tip about the 6550). I have a Musical Fidelity CD PRE 24 (solid state preamp/CD combo) in front of the P5. I like this take on a solid state/tube combination a lot ... it does most things pretty well. As for differences in sound between the P2 and P5 ... to my ears the P5 is a bit more elegant sounding, but I find that to be a trait of the Musical Fidelity components that I have used.
Newbee is correct in that low volume dynamics are more likely to depend on your speakers. I listen to my music pretty low (NYC apartment building) and the monitors that I have used (Omega Super 3's; NHT SB2's; Rega Ara's) have all sounded good when played low.
Hope this helps.
If you are still in the market I have an integrated that I recommend highly.
I have been using a Sound Quest SQ-88 for quite some time (almost two years) with a variety of speakers (Von Schweikert VR-4jr, AAD 2003, Paradigm Studio 60 v2, et. al.). It is self-biasing and can use KT-88, EL-34, and 6550. It looks and sounds great and is easy to live with. It is worth a look and is priced very well.