Considering switching from Audio Research to PrimaLuna, troube with VS115 amp


Hello everyone, I have question that I hope some of you either can answer or have an opinion on. Ever since I was 17, I have always wanted to own Audio Research equipment. I’m 56 now, and finally was able to fulfill my life long dream. My first acquisition was an ARC LS15 pre-amp bought here used in mint condition. I paired it with a Vincent 331MK hybrid amp also bought here used in mint condition. The resulting sound was impressive. After that, I started looking for an ARC amp I could afford. The resulting search found me an ARC VS115 amp also here in used, awesome condition. This is where my problems and my doubts started. Upon hooking up the amp to my system, a tube in the left channel arced and blew a resistor. I had to take the amp to an ARC dealer and he installed a new resistor and suggested I buy all new tubes from ARC for the amp. I did and when I got back home, I again hooked up the amp and immediately upon turning the amp on, I started to hear thumping sounds coming from my left speaker, then, two left channel output tubes started to glow a very bright orange, and then white smoke started to rise from one of the tube sockets. I immediately turned the amp off. I called the dealer and he suggested I mail the unit back to ARC. I did and I am now waiting to see what they say.

During this time, I started to search out other brands and came across one called PrimaLuna. I have watched their videos and seen them compared to ARC equipment. Their build quality seems to be superior to ARC and the reviews are over the top. I am looking at their Dialogue Premium HP amp and their Dialogue Premium pre-amp. For what they cost, considering how they are built and supposedly sound compared to units costing 3 to 4 times their price, they almost seem too good to be true. Anyway, my bubble has been burst, and in simple terms, I am considering jumping ship and going with another company instead of ARC, despite all those years of drooling and waiting.

My main question is this, is there anyone out there that either owns PrimaLuna or has had experience with the equipment and can give me their opinion on owning and using it. Then, my second question is how does PrimaLuna really compare to other high end equipment such as ARC. Kevin Deal in his videos on PrimaLuna makes a very compelling case for the equipment. In one video, he compares an ARC LS17SE to the PrimaLuna pre-amp.

My last question is in regards to my ARC VS115 amp problems. Anyone have an opinion on what is going on with my amp or a VS115 in general. For those of you who want to know what else is in my system, I am using KEF 104ab speakers, a Cambridge Azur 752BD Blu-ray player as my CD player, Morrow Audio Cables and I am considering getting the Sony HAP-Z1ES music player for my digital files.

I greatly appreciate all who take the time to comment and give their opinions. I will be glad to answer any questions you may ask or provide additional. Thanks for your help. Steve.


skyhawk51
Post removed 
Kevin's videos are convincing except for one thing -he never comments on which one (ARC or Prima Luna) sounds better. He always focuses on parts, as if parts is all that makes a component sound the way it does.
Make sure, if you purchase PL, that it doesn't hum through your speakers. I purchased a PL Prologue Premium integrated to power my Klipsch LaScalla II speakers (105 db efficient). There is significant hum which can be heard at my listening chair. Works fine with normal speakers, however.
The PL line is a great buy, when kept in perspective.

The reviews and my ears pretty much agree that if you want something at least "in the middle" of "high end" audio, PL is among the best value lines.Whats better sounding is subjective.

If you insist on made in USA, matching feature for feature,build and aesthetics, IMO you will pay more.

As a fan of performance audio since the 70's, I've heard plenty of great ARC,VAC,etc..and for the money PL gives enough of what pricier US and boutique stuff does for considerably more.

My PL Dialogue HP integrated with tube/power cord tweaks keeps me satisfied enough to forgo seaparates. This was after enjoying the basic Prologue series for several, trouble free years.




 When you got the amp did you bias the tubes after installing them? Were the tubes marked so they could be put back in the same socket? How old were the tubes? Did the dealer install the new ARC tubes? Were the properly biased?

 A tube blowing and taking out a protection resistor is no big deal. I have had it happen a couple of times in the last 30 years. The new tubes are under warranty and having ARC will completely go through the amp and make it work and sound like new. But when it comes back you will still need to check the bias a couple times just to make sure it doesn't drift.

 I have not heard the VS115 in my system but it was suppose to be a very good sounding amp. I have heard the PrimaLuna amps at my ARC dealer. The are very nice sounding amps but not in the same league as ARC. Kevin Deal is trying to sell PrimaLuna so he is talking it up. 




Hello, yes I did. And yes, they were all marked. They had 400 hrs on them according the owner I bought the amp from. Yes, the dealer installed the new tubes and I assumed he did bias them. I have read that some people think PL sounds better than intro level ARC. Other idea was to sell the VS115 amp and go with the new ARC VT80 amp. Anybody have or heard that amp? Steve
You need to do a listening test in your room with your pgm material.

ARC has been around a long time and I've had good customer service from them.

I know some dealers are enthused over PL, but I don't know if it is pure SQ or if they are just pushing them.

You could also move to a newer ARC setup.  I am fond of my ARC LS 25 Mk II... 
Never had ARC, but have heard it at my dealer who is long time dealer. I do have Pass XA 160.8s after being a Spectral owner for 20yrs. My Avalons never sounded this good in the 12yrs I have had them. Might be some truth to ARC pre and Pass amps as a great match. I drive the 160.8s directly with my Manley Steelhead. Great combo! Tube phono and SS power. Does all I want.

Best to All on this Journey 
The VS115 was a highly regarded amp. It was a big improvement over the VS110. The amp has new tubes and will be completely gone through and just like new. I would take my time and let the tubes break in a bit. Get to know that amp and what it sounds like before making a decision to sell it. Once it is completely broken in, you could bring home a few amps one at a time and compare them. If it were me I would look at a used Ref amp as opposed to the  VT80 . The Ref 110 is still excellent and not that expensive anymore
 
But I would be more inclined to upgrade your preamp. The preamp has more impact on the sound then the amp. And preamps have come a long way in the last 10 years.  Maybe something like an LS25 mk2. That will have far more of an impact on the sound of your system.



 
Kevin Deal doesn't just sell Prima Luna he is part owner of the company so take that into account. 

If you want US built maybe checkout reviews on Raven Audio; I am not affiliated with them, nor an owner of their product simply mentioning them as a possible option to explore
There's a VAC 100 with the Phi upgrade currently listed for a measley 1750.00.  Ditch the ARC blowup special and purchase a quality piece that is built to last and easy to bias.  I would also suggest a different preamp but at least the ARC preamp is reliable. 
I love my Primaluna Dialogue HP integrated.  My analysis was it was a great value for the price, really well built, and designed for ease of use. Having it for 7 months, all those things are still true.  

There re is little to fault with it. I don't like that when the amp turns on that it defaults to ultra linear mode--not a big deal. The remote is a milled piece of beauty but I think it could be more sensitive by having greater response--feels unidirectional in transmission. 

Pm me if you want to chat. 
I own the Dialogue Premium preamp. It is a superb music making machine for the money...that is...any money!!  Its been in my system for almost two years, with zero issues. The biggest complement I can make regarding the PL would be I have had no desire to upgrade it...other than the rolling of tubes..... 8)   Good luck!   
Thanks for your input. I am starting to believe that the PL would sound better than my ARC units due to how they are built, their premium parts, etc. I guess it is due to the fact that they are built in China where the labor costs are way down and they can put the savings into better parts. Until I saw PL, I never heard of point-to-point wiring. Does that help in the better sound quality, imaging, soundstage, depth, etc. Anyway, it seems everyone who owns this equipment, can't rave enough about how it sounds compared to anything else at any price level.
skyhawk51... Parts quality and the implementation of said parts... along with great engineering and construction know how would be a the key factor to any great sounding piece of kit.

There are a lot of good sounding products that use both point to point wiring and circuit board construction. Whether or not one form is better than another is always up for debate,but in the case of the PL gear... the consensus seems to favor the point to point scheme,and I tend to agree.

Old school tube construction does have huge merit,but it can be rather costly... without help from high labor costs.
Steve, as for your ARC amp,  I would check for lose socket pins or cracked solder joints where the tube socket is soldered to the PCB. Both can cause a tube to red plate.

As for the PL Dialogue, they are nice sounding amps too. Pretty bullet proof and all point to point wiring which eliminates the thermal stress between the socket and PCB each time the amp is turned on and the socket and tube start to warm up.

The PL amps also benefit from tube rolling and coupling cap rolling....
best

@skyhawk51,
I'm certainly no expert but it's my understanding that some consider point-to-point wiring advantageous (over printed circuit boards) due to the heat created by tubes.  The reasoning is, I think, that the tubes create signficant heat that can damage PCBs and/or the connection between a wire/component part and the board itself.  

I've read that some of the premium manufacturers of radios kept using point-to-point wiring for this reason.  

In addition to Primaluna, I Rogers looks like it does hand wiring as well.  I've never looked inside a McIntosh or ARC tube amp. http://rogershighfidelity.com/portfolio-type/rogers-ehf-200-ehf-200-mk2/


@johnss , I think you may have noted something like cap rolling before with respect to PL amps.  Can you tell us more about that?  I'm very interested. I though PL used good French caps. 
Early in my earlier career as a service engineer with a brand x business machine manufacture I saw all too often the hidden and obvious affects that a simple resistor could have on even the most robustly designed printed wire boards.

The first time I saw a tube socket mounted directly to a printed wire board I had to catch myself from, well...
I can only assume there have been monumental advances in printed wire board materials and design in the past eight years.   
PL has given you a good education and the ads are ha-ha funny. Point to point wiring for most tube equipment is almost a necessary but not sufficient indication of quality. For example, look at old JADIS gear. There the problem was poor design and totally over-stressed components. I don't know about the new stuff.

m-db is correct; his amusing assumption is incorrect as he well knows!  ARC warranties its tubes for 90 days. If one goes it usually takes out the entire PC board. Same with McIntosh and lesser brands. Look at the early McIntosh gear like the 240, the Avery Fisher gear and I think the early QUAD valve amp. 

I'd check out Baekert Labs before I bought any more tube preamps. I've heard Rogue is good too. Unlike the anointed KD, with his Schwarzwald-Reise magic tubes, I have no interest in the company nor will I in the next 72 hrs.
I've had the PrimaLuna Dialog Premium HP Integrated for an in home demo.  I agree with the others that, for the price, it's a wonderful integrated and provides the benefit of tube rolling as well as trying not just different tube manufacturers but also tube types (the demo unit I evaluated had the stock EL34 tubes).  However, I ended up deciding to go with ARC.  I was pretty set on the new LS28 preamp, when my dealer told me that another customer had traded in a REF6 (with only 280 hours on it) to move up to D'Agostino, and I got a good price on it after a side by side comparison to the LS28.

I also directly compared the new VT80 (with KT120 tubes) to a Ref75SE (KT150 tubes), and there was no comparison.  The Ref75SE was a noticeable improvement over the VT80, particularly in the lower frequencies with more definition and grip.  If you're considering a VT80, I've seen plenty of Ref75SE's on Audiogon for around the same price as a new VT80.  The only downside to the ARC amp is that you can't try different tube types, and nor can you switch to triode mode.
Resistor blowing due to a runaway tube (age or mfg defect) is a common problem. Unless you have VAC phis that have thermal tube sentry circuit you will always run into it. Nothing wrong with audio Research. Just ignore what most people say and replace ONE defective tube. 
Skyhawk - you situation reads more like bad luck to me.  ARC are supposed to be great.  I have only heard bits and pieces of ARC and PL in other systems so cannot really comment.  However in a few weeks I will get to hear a PL Dialogue Premium in my own system and my be able to offer an opinion then.  As for Kevin Deal.  My only experience is posting on his website, or rather attempting to post, an opinion on some tubes I had bought.  It was not consistent with with other gushing experiences.  It did not get put up.

I rather like the comment of another poster (nkonor) who suggests tube pre and SS Power. I have gone that route too. With 6H30 tubes in in the Pre that is all the tubiness you are likely to need.
I have PrimaLuna AND Sony Hap-S1. That amp is Dead silent itself and with my ear an inch from any speaker. I am very happy with what I think is a fantastic sound from my system and I am still waiting on my Triton Ones to come in. That Sony is nice too. I'm not sure if the specs are different but I've got a mother load of lossless music (DSD and FLAC) and I've got a ton of free space. So unless you've got a very massive collection, you may save some money and get this unit instead. I also made my own speaker wire with some Cat5 I had left over double twisted and triple braided (6 lengths each cable) I love my sound and I'm in an Audiophile club and have heard a lot of nice systems.
I've got to chime in on this one as I always wanted to get ARC again. Many years ago as a young man (I'm also now 56) I owned a D125 amp and SP9 pre and then an LS1 pre. Still have the LS1 as a back-up. It was the best sound I ever had with ML speakers. However, I always had a problem with the D125 tubes arcing and glowing bright red. Changed tubes, same result. Sent the unit back to ARC for a factory check. Came back, same result. I simply got frustrated and traded it for a D400. Well that was a mistake to me. I love the sound of tubes.

Which brings me to today at 56. And I'll qualify what I'm going to say by letting everyone know I have a mild high frequency hearing loss which is pretty typical at this age. I'm building my retirement system. I had all expectations of going back to what was the best sound I've had ever known which would be ARC and ML but my gosh has the cost of all high end sky rocketed! Not that I can't afford it but ultimately is it worth it? That was a decision I had to make.

I listened to the VSI 75 in 2 separate systems as I was in the market for an integrated. I was devastated when I walked out thinking that was no where near the sound of my D125. Now I know there are a lot of factors there but disappointment was present. So I knew I had to seek another integrated as is soon time for me to downsize not only my music system but also my living quarters.

I checked out the Rogers High Fidelity. Awesome sound but like the VSI75 somewhere around 8-9 grand. What do they say? C'mon Man! So like you, after reading all the glowing reviews on PL, especially the PL HP, I saw it at a dealer and took the plunge. This was a snap decision that I usually don't do. Build quality is incredible. As good as any ARC equipment in my opinion. The tube sockets are definitely better than anything I had in my D125 or even my preamps as those ARC tube sockets were part of the printed circuit board and the board flexed when changing tubes. That may have been a reason for the arcing tubes. A broken electrical path on a board. This may be different in todays ARC production units. But back to the HP, the controls are silky smooth. The remote a solid piece of aluminum. This unit will last me the rest of my life and at half the cost of others. The sound??? Well lets just say it puts a smile on my face with a beautiful midrange, wide soundstage and solid bass. And yes, I'm still breaking it in so I expect more from it. Am I pleased? Yes. Now if I want, I can afford to get some nice solid state equipment like the PS Audio Stellar series and play to my hearts content in retirement.
"I checked out the Rogers High Fidelity. Awesome sound but like the VSI75 somewhere around 8-9 grand. What do they say? C'mon Man!"

dolfan1467-
I feel the frustration.Rogers vs the PL however, ISN'T an apple to apples comparison. The Rogers is a space heater CLASS A output, while the PL is  A/B. That, and of course Rogers is US made, separates the PL and explains the price gap along with Rogers also uses even more premium components. Build quality 
is equal. I believe the entire Rogers line are configured as Class A output.

Heard the 34S-1. Nice sonics and good looking but at $20K, that's a chunk of change I devoted to my entire system!

That said, I mentioned in an earlier post I'm a PL HP user and would love to have a rack full of USA gear. Being in the same age group as you however, I'm forced to have a pragmatic outlook on expenditure, due to retirement on the horizon.

The PL HP series does hang with the "big boys" in a good enough way. The nice thing is if you're not satisfied with it stock, a little tube and cable tweaking will  push the PL closer to ARC,BAT,VAC...territory.  Notice I said CLOSER, not it will
perform exactly like the US stuff.

Maybe that can change if one is capable technically, and swaps some of the internals to goose it a little more? Hmm....

Goes without saying good sound is the sum of all parts-source,speakers,amp,setup and room treatment.


The group that put together PL are the same European guys, plus Kevin, who brought out the Ah! Tjoeb tube (6922)-buffered CD player about a decade ago. It was built around a rather chintsy plastic Marantz chassis but as for performance and durability I can't fault mine. I had to replace the drive about 6 years ago but considering the near-constant use it got that was no big surprise, and Kevin Deal supplied a replacement dirt-cheap and talked me through the install. The group baby-sits the Chinese very hard on QC and while I've not had the pleasure of PL gear, its predecessor company set an excellent precedent for design, QC and SQ. And the Aj! Tjoeb, while relegated to the small sound system in my den now, still performs daily duties flawlessly.
Other Chinese sourced well reviewed and regarded options would be Audio Space & Line Magnetic (own the latter's 518IA) . Again from US perspective Raven Audio (Texas deisgned and built) have good reviews as well
I owned several solid state amps/pre-amps/integrated amps before moving to tube equipment. My first piece of tube equipment - in 1981 - was ARC. I've stayed with them ever since. I've owned 3 ARC amps and 1 ARC pre-amp. One of the amps required service on 2 occasions - a bad power supply cap when the amp had less than an hour on it and a bad power supply xformer when it was about a year old. Both were repaired under warranty. I had the service performed by ARC and not a dealer. It was fine when it came back both times. (UPS did a number on the exterior box with a forklift. If I have to send something in again, I think I'll use Estes.) The other two amps and the pre-amp have not had any problems. I let ARC put some new caps in when they put new tubes in one of the amps, but I'm not sure it really needed it. I think you might have had a run of bad luck. I know it's a pain to send it to ARC for service, but I think their work is a little more reliable (on average) than dealer service. I never grow tired of the audio quality nor do I ever wished I'd bought another brand.  
I have no experience with the Prima Luna amps, but I do own a Prima Luna CD player (the Classic 8) and pass along my impressions in case they are relevant. For the money (which is a lot less than ARC or other high-end payers cost) the fit and finish and build quality of CD-8 is indeed impressive (a quality that I assume applies to their amps and pre-amps as well.) I did have a problem with the player early on, which turned out to be a real inconvenience because, at the time-- roughly three years ago -- Prima Luna did not have an adequate customer care and servicing operation up and running in the US. Deal first directed me to an "authorized" service center about 30 minutes drive from me, which turned out to be the home of a guy who repaired audio gear out of his living room. He tried twice, but failed both times to diagnose the problem, let alone fix it. I was, at this point, ready to give up on Prima Luna which, although designed in the Netherlands, is manufactured in China. Keep reading, however, because the story has a happy ending... 

Deal subsequently directed me to another repair person, this one based in New Jersey. He found the problem right away, fixed it and  and player has been working flawlessly since then. So my impression is that they have improved their servicing capability. (Quality control in the Chinese manufacturing process has, as far as I understand, also improved significantly, over the period in question.) And the sound? Best and most analogue-like sounding CD player I've ever heard in its price class ($3K). I haven't heard them all, of course, but the lower-end Esoterics (those in the 5-6K class don't hold a candle to it, in terms of the Prima Luna's deep yet well defined bass, its smooth, mellifluous mid-range and pristine treble. So, if the other products in the Prima Luna line are as good as the CD-8 (and if Deal has resolved the servicing department's growing pains... and do question him about this before you buy!), I'd say go for it... And do let me know your experience if you do, as I'm considering replacing both my aging ARC amp and my even older Sonic Frontiers SLF-2 pre-amp. Hope this helps. Bests

Michael         
Spearit Sound has a Conrad Johnson LP125SA Tube Amp at around $4999. Plenty of power at 125wpc. Very quiet and made in the USA.
I know about the mystique of tube equipment, but if you get a well made great sounding solid state it will give you pleasure with no heartache.  I use Ayre....if you can find a used piece you made a great investment.  They never go bad.
The Rogers stuff is guaranteed for life, but less expensive amps (my Inspire SEP was around 1200 bucks) would have to be repaired 8 times or so to make up the difference in cost. I don’t care how "precious" the "parts in a box" are claimed to be, an amp is still "parts in a box," and both my Single Ended Hand Wired guitar amp (Burriss Royal Bluesman) and my Single Ended Hand Wired SEP stereo amp list for a little over a grand (although newer Inspire stuff is around 1600 bucks or so), with bespoke USA assembled bits including groovy wire and transformers and things, and the guitar amp includes a preamp and spring reverb. No reverb in any Rogers or ARC amp I can see…maybe the Primaluna has reverb (note to the humorless: that was a joke). This post is guaranteed for life.
This is a really interesting discussion. I am in Minnesota, so ARC is a local company. They are well represented in the area by some big dealers. I’ve heard so many good things about the sound quality, but haven’t really auditioned them due to the cost.

So, this discussion is an eye opener. I’m really surprised how many have commented that the gear is unreliable (stated in different ways above, but still meaning unreliable). It sounds like ARC is hard on tubes, and when tubes fail, it causes other things to break, and then requires it to be sent back to ARC, or taken to a repair shop. I cannot believe that a tube failing means you need service! And, even more strange to me is that so many people say these issues are "normal" and seemingly acceptable in very expensive equipment. I don’t agree, no matter how good it sounds.  

I had a PrimaLuna Dialogue One for about five years. In that time, it never had a reason to go back to the shop. I did have a few tubes wear out. For example, some NOS 12AU7 that didn’t last very long. When it happened, I heard something odd in the speaker, the unit shut down, and I was able to test and replace the bad tubes. No problem after replacing tubes. I’d have been pissed if I had to send it back for that reason.

Now, I have a PL Dialogue Premium HP. I love it. It’s so very flexible, easy to swap tubes, rock solid in terms of performance and build quality. I don’t want to jinx it, but I have no reason to think I’d ever take it back for repairs. In my mind, I spent a lot of money... $4k is nothing to sneeze at. But, I got a ton of quality and good value.

Just within the past few days, a friend was here and heard my system for the first time. We weren’t "listening" to music... we were hanging out playing pool. After a short while, she said, "I’m coming back next week, and you are taking me shopping to get ... THAT. It’s awesome!". To me, that’s enough said right there.

I could easily have the ARC equipment, but I’d have paid more. And, I’d be worried that if something goes wrong, I’d be driving it over to Plymouth MN for repair. Plus, they only suggest their own tubes, at twice the cost of everyone else. I may get a bit better sound quality, but realistically, how good can it get? I love my PrimaLuna! I’ve upgraded on the PL path, and would have no qualms about buying it again. Plus, PL is so easy on tubes (they last) and it’s easy to roll tubes. I don’t see a reason to take the chance on the ARC unless it’s truly a night and day difference in sound quality, and the higher cost doesn’t matter to your budget.
Hi guys....I was looking for some info on Google and saw this thread.  I wanted to respond to the post that said in my videos I don't talk about how ARC sounds to PrimaLuna and that I only speak of parts and engineering.  The reason is everybody says their gear sounds good.  And it would be unusual if it didn't.  But the way something is engineered and built is black and white.  

Is anybody on this thread in the Los Angeles area?  I would like somebody independent to come here and we will do a level matched within .1dB A/B instant comparison between a bone stock $3399 PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium and a fresh but broken in $8500 VSI75 we just had traded in.   That person can report here.  Or maybe a few of you guys.  I'll even come in on my day off.  It would be fun!

I want to make a comment that will stir up a hornets nest.  I'm just waiting for ICE to come down on some audio companies that claim made in USA, Japan, or Austria that are made in China.  I can look at parts and see through it, and privately people are honest with me so I know.  I've been to the factories in China and seen the names.  Kits are made in China where the PCB's are stuffed and the chassis are made, they get shipped here and the boards are screwed into the chassis.  Others imply being made somewhere else by putting a country with their name like Triode Japan, they have no country of origin sticker at all.  

My Iphone is made in China.  That's where electronics are made.  But for Americans that think they get a leg up in quality with made in USA they need to be careful to not be complacent.  It's your money.  Look at how it's built.  Hence my videos.   
My Fire Bottle amp is made by an old man who's stuck in North Carolina (it's really hot there a lot of the time, and he's not getting any younger) forcing himself to make this stuff by hand and sell it cheap…sad, just sad…*sniff*...
((((Is anybody on this thread in the Los Angeles area?  I would like somebody independent to come here and we will do a level matched within .1dB A/B instant comparison between a bone stock $3399 PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium and a fresh but broken in $8500 VSI75 we just had traded in.   That person can report here.  Or maybe a few of you guys.  I'll even come in on my day off.  It would be fun! ))))
 Hey Kev
 Be Careful
It can go the other way!
 How bout you come to Jersey and run up against the Made in USA Quicksilver Mono blocks? We already did this one for you.
 So Sorry u no makey sale.....
 And Kevy why must you pretend you carry Aesthetix on your website as a brand when you are not a dealer? Bait and switch y man?
 JohnnyR
Audio Connection
Any "shoot-off" ought to be with the 5x more expensive ARC Ref 6 and the twice as expensive Ref 150SE. Why? Because PrimaLuna claims to be giant-killers so walk the walk! I have no doubt the PL stuff presents tremendous value but also no doubt it does not come close to the best. The top of the line PL pre-amp in particular is a weak link as measurements prove the subjective impression that it puts out a lot of 2nd harmonic distortion. The PL pre-amp is also not designed in a true balanced configuration-an almost universal quality of the best sounding pre-amps. PL seems to either fail to realize or simply ignores that pre-amps are the heart of any great system. Like the addage in golf, "drive for show, putt for dough", PL seems to "show" the amps and has the yips putting for dough when it comes to the critical pre-amp. IMHO PL puts marketing over true state of the art performance. No surprise, the top of the line PL monoblocks accept single ended inputs only. Again, I have no doubt the PL gear represents above-average value but there is no getting around the high level of coloration caused by the second harmonic distortion. 

Sounds like Audioconnection has a beef with Uncle Kevy? Wonder why?I doubt Kevin would be posting without some sort of proof?
fsonicsmith said .... "The top of the line PL pre-amp in particular is a "weak link" as measurements prove the subjective impression that it puts out "a lot of " 2nd harmonic distortion."

Informative read on THD... https://electronaut.info/harmonic-distortion-musically-speaking/


I like to think of harmonic distortion as an annoying guy in the band that you can’t kick out, who is hell-bent on playing exactly the same thing you play but an octave higher. As annoying as that might be, you might prefer he stay on the octaves than play a perfect 5th on top of every note you play.
Simply stated, harmonic distortion is a harmonically related sound that is found at the output of a piece of audio equipment that was not part of the sound at the input, which means it must have been created by the equipment.
Suppose you had a piano that played pure tones, with each key producing a pure sine wave of a single frequency. (Obviously, real-world pianos produce a rich series of harmonics with each note, which is why they sound they way they do, but for the sake of simplicity let’s just suppose a pure-tone piano existed.)

If you were to strike the A key just below middle C, the pure-tone piano would produce a perfect 220 Hz sine wave. If you recorded that sound with a perfectly transparent microphone plugged into a perfectly linear mic preamp in a perfectly dead room, the captured waveform would contain just that single frequency, 220 Hz.
In the real world, with a less than perfect acoustic space, microphone, and mic preamp, a waveform analysis would reveal trace amounts of additional frequencies that were not produced by the pure-tone piano, and those frequencies would be multiples of the original frequency.
So with an A note of 220 Hz, the 2nd harmonic (H2) would be 2 x 220 Hz = 440 Hz, the 3rd harmonic (H3) would be 3 x 220 Hz = 660 Hz, etc.
The musical significance of these additional notes becomes clear when you look at them on a piano keyboard.

H2 is also an A note, but it’s one octave up, so no matter what happens it will always be musically compatible with the fundamental frequency. An octave can actually add some richness to music in the same way that a 12-string guitar has octave pairs of strings.
The other harmonics are as follows:
H3 is an E
H4 is an A
H5 is a C#
H6 is an E
H7 isn’t even on the piano! It’s somewhere between an F# and a G
H8 is another A
H9 is a B

If all these notes were played at the same time you played the A, your nice A note would sound terrible, so it should be obvious why harmonic distortion is a problem and why engineers work so hard to try to get rid of it.
Unfortunately, as much as we try and get rid of these superfluous tones, we can never eliminate them completely, so it’s worth considering whether they are all equally annoying or whether some of them are more annoying than others, and whether or not any of them are actually desirable.

Beginner’s Luck

Long before transistors were commonplace, audio equipment relied on vacuum tubes for amplification, and often the tubes used for voltage gain were triodes. Harmonic distortion was a well understood concept at the time, and engineers measured it and produced specs to ensure their designs were performing acceptably. But what was considered “acceptable?” A gold standard was needed; a target maximum level of distortion that could be seen as negligible enough to be acceptable.
The scientists of the day set out to determine what this gold standard should be, and they did not take this responsibility lightly. Many experiments were done using human test subjects, and after much effort it was agreed that the maximum tolerable level should be 1%, and that any further reduction in distortion was barely detectable by the human ear.

Enter the Transistor

When the transistor arrived, tantalizing companies with the promise of reduced cost, reduced size, wider profit margins, improved efficiency etc., designers were all too happy to abandon the fragile, expensive glass bottle in favor of a new tiny shiny nugget of silicon, and they set out to design amplifiers to meet that same 1% THD+N specification. It didn’t take long before functional transistor amplifiers were developed that met the 1% target, but there was a big problem: they sounded terrible!

The problem with the early transistor amplifiers was not the total harmonic distortion, it was the ratio of the individual harmonics that made up the total. Triode-based tube amplifiers tend to have very little energy in the higher harmonics, so a tube amp with 1% THD exhibits mostly 2nd harmonic with very little of the other harmonics. A 2nd harmonic tone 40 dB below the fundamental (equating to 1%) is quite difficult for the human ear to detect. Early transistor amplifiers, on the other hand, were dominated by odd harmonics, primarily the 3rd and 5th, to which the human ear is significantly more sensitive.

A comparison of 2nd-harmonic vs. 3rd-harmonic distortion waveforms reveals a hint as to why the ear is more sensitive to one over the other. The following waveforms show 15% THD in both 2nd and 3rd harmonics, an exaggerated level to help show the effect:

Both of these theoretical amplifiers would have the exact same THD+N specification, but they would not sound the same, at all!Even though both waveforms look severely distorted, the top waveform still resembles a sine wave, while the bottom wave more closely resembles a square wave. Square waves tend to sound “sharp” or “buzzy” or “harsh,” and listening to them for prolonged periods of time will bring on ear-fatigue more rapidly than a sine wave.

It’s important to remember that harmonic distortion does not discriminate; every note of every chord will produce its own series of harmonics, and if the amplifier is dominated by 3rd and 5th harmonics, that’s a lot of extra notes ringing out that weren’t there to begin with!
So what became of the transistor amplifier? Engineers realized that in order to achieve comparable sound quality with an amplifier producing mostly 3rd and 5th harmonic distortion, the maximum allowable level of distortion had to be reduced by 10 – 20 dB, to .3% or even .1% THD+N.

New ways of expressing THD+N were developed that weighted the individual harmonics separately in order to provide a more accurate and fair comparison, but they were not widely adopted, for one main reason: if transistor amplifiers required a much more rigorous standard for THD+N in order for their sound quality to approach that of tube amplifiers, the companies making them wanted to be able to brag about this reduced distortion as an “improvement.” After all, .1% distortion appears to be a big improvement over 1% distortion, and it was just too tempting for the marketing guys to use this juicy spec to help sell transistor amplifiers!





That all sounds very familiar with things written on the same subject in the past Aolmrd1241 but my criticism of the PL Dialogue Premium in not limited to the high amount of second harmonic distortion it puts out. PL puts out entertaining-even refreshing-ads touting that no piece of audio kit is as overpriced as the pre-amp and fails to back up the talk with a top-drawer pre-amp. They evidently need to hire a better engineering team and implement better parts, which means raising the price. I will repeat-it appears to be a nice piece, and built like a tank, but it's more of a Buick Roadmaster than a BMW 7 Series. 
PL would not but anything from this Deal dude nothing!!
Must be a lot of ARC owners chiming in here but I do have one question. Why does the PL Dialogue Premium get rave reviews from very well respected reviewer's in Stereophile and other major audio publications? Just curious :)
(((Sounds like Audioconnection has a beef with Uncle Kevy? Wonder why?I doubt Kevin would be posting without some sort of proof? ))))

 Sam you took it the wrong way no beef here.
 I like Kevin, and he is way into the spirit of good competition.
 I just needed to let the folks know the truth of an alternative experience like yourself ,other parrots, band aid wagon jumpers and Mongolian Kool aid drinkers of the upper mundane.
 There is also great Made in USA competition amps like Quicksilver without the marketing, yet performance installed in the transformers.
 
 Happy 4th
  Best,
 JohnnyR
@aolmrd1241 Thank you for taking the time to write that very informative post. So much to learn here @Audiogon.
Sammy,
Shouldn't you wonder even more what the Great well respected reviewers own themselves?
 Paid for, with their own money, in their own system?
If you want a clue it starts with an A and listed above.
May i suggest to relieve you from further consternation try being a participant in listening and loose being a spectator relying on others to choose your pets.
 Happy 4th
  Best,
 JohnnyR

Johnny your biased sarcasm makes me laugh. Enjoy your Quicksilvers and I do quite fine choosing MY OWN components. Always have and always will. I just don’t overpay for my components for example companies that start with an A. :)

Happy 4th,
Sam
fsonicsmith said... "PL puts out entertaining-even refreshing-ads touting that no piece of audio kit is as overpriced as the pre-amp and fails to back up the talk with a top-drawer pre-amp. They evidently need to hire a better engineering team and implement better parts, which means raising the price."

fsonicsmith ...Have you ever even listened to a Primaluna Dialogue Premium preamp with NOS tubes installed? My guess would be... you have not... 8(

I believe you are missing the point here. I am sure if PL wanted to make a $15,000 preamp... they very well could. I think what they offer for ones hard earned money is "outstanding sonic’s & quality of build" at a price point that is far more musically conducive than some other more highly touted brands. If you want to hear what the PL line can do,give a good hard listen to their products...then decide if spending more of your money is what you really need or want to do.




steakster...I did not compose the post. It was written by one Rob Roy.












Johnny I have enjoyed this hobby for several years now and never paid over $3000 for an amp, preamp or integrated amp. ARC these days have forgot about affordability and shot straight for the stratosphere so the majority of audiophiles can't afford their products. If you can then good for you however, there are many products that equal or perform better than ARC for much cheaper prices. OH and build quality is better also. Kevin brings out a great point. ARC uses circuit boards mainly whereas PL uses point to point wiring. Hmmmm why is this? 
I confess to not having heard the Dialogue Premium. Watch Fremer's videos of the ARC factory tour on youtube. It takes a week to hand-build a Ref 6 at AR's Minnesota factory. Every transistor is stuffed and soldered by hand, all assembly in every other aspect is by hand, parts are not only proprietary but are not shared from one model to the next, and after each piece gets measured, it does not leave the factory until Warren Gehl listens to it. Do you think that's the way of things with PL? Cheap labor saves a lot of money but there are far larger differences that account for the price differential. Point to point is very nice, It does not make one piece of gear better than another. 
I have not heard an ARC Ref 6. I am sure that it sounds great. But...way out of my price league. I do know for sure though...that at five times the cost of the PL...I would bet dollars to donuts it certainly does not sound "five times better" than the PL.