You can't go far wrong with either pick but I think the Dialogue may be a bit faster/tighter than the Cayin. Note I own a A100T but not the Dialogue, just a Prologue 3/5 combo and a PL1. The sound of either can be greatly affected by power tube selection as well as driver tubes as well (especially the 6CG7's in the Cayin).
Trade offs with the two are that the Dialogue allows greater tube type selection (you may find you prefer something other than a KT88 (I like the 6L6GC in my PL5for example) but you have to assume the auto bias circuit works perfectly for your selection or you have to go into its guts to make/check the selection of bias for the tube you use. Most people are happy with auto bias, but until I re-adjusted mine I did not like the 6L6 tube at all. In the Cayin choice is limited to KT88's or 6550's but manual bias is a walk in the park. Takes a minute or two.
I suspect that you will find the PL product to be relatively more analytical than the Cayin but the Cayin's relaxed nature can be a blessing some times. But both brands are warm in nature with PL stuff having cleaner/crisper highs.
Hope that helps a bit. Oh, another thing, because of resale issues I'd probably go for a Dialogue first, if for no other reason that they are less expensive and hold resale value better. And, I think, they would be easier for some one not inclined to fuss much about tubes to get them dialed in.
I haven't heard PL's before, but both PL & Cayin's OEM = Spark Audio...so build quality should be similar.
PL probably has better after sales service/warranty/advice here in North America.
Having said that, like Newbee says, resale value for PL probably better than Cayin, which means you can get a slightly used Cayin for an awesome price.
Don't think you can lose with either choice.
I can't speak to the PrimaLuna, but I have owned two Cayin amps and currently run a Cayin A-70T in my main system.
I can't say enough good things about the Cayin and the customer service the importer, VAS Industries, provides. I've called VAS on a couple of occasions with questions and they have always been very helpful and friendly.
Neither the A-70T that I currently have nor the A-88T that I owned prior had any trouble at all with my Usher X-718 speakers (87db/8ohm)and both sound absolutely wonderful. They are VERY well built and have proven very reliable.
If you keep a look out here on Audiogon, an A-88, A-70, or A100 comes available every month or so. Be aware that the A-88 is the biggest pain to bias and there are two versions of the A70; one auto-biasing and one manual. The autobias A-70 has a switch on the top plate to select either KT-88/6550 or EL34 power tubes, the manual bias A-70 takes only KT-88/6550 power tubes. Mine is the manual bias version.
Thanks for the input. I just installed a Primaluna Dialogue 2 into my system. After listening to it for a few days it strikes me as bright -- so much so that I switch from ultralinear to triode to compress the top end. I am using the factory KT88 tubes. Perhaps switching to "better" KT88 will cut the harsh top end. Any suggestions?
Why don't you give Kevin Deal a call at Upscale Audio to see what he may suggest - doesn't the amp come with Genelex Gold Lion Reissue KT88s - everyone's ears are different but with my amp (Ayon Spirit 2 ) they seem the most balanced - might want to consider some NOS signal tubes if you aren't using them already
Try installing EL34's output tubes; I can't believe that they would be 'bright.' Also, give the amp/tubes a few weeks to break-in; it needs a couple of hundred of hours to settle-in.
I had a Prima Luna Prologue Two for one month and then returned it. I loved how it looked and the build quality, but found the high-end harsh, the mids muddled, and everything overly "colored," while my wife disliked the sound even more than me, and disliked having no tone controls.
Had I seen this thread earlier I would have let you know this in advance, as it was only a bot over a week ago that I returned it. My speakers are very clear and revealing, though. I didn't want to bother trying different tubes because I had only one month of use within the return period and I was very busy.
Mine was used and in super-good condition for less than half price, and I got my money back. The shop sold it again the same day. It is a very highly-rated amp with a big cult following, so it must sound great with compatible equipment.
It looked so nice between my black piano, black speakers, and black CD player that it was hard to give-up, even though multiple listenings always returned the same verdict - harsh!
Sorry, I just noticed you got the Dialogue, whereas I had the Prologue. I am surprised, as I had imagined the Dialogue should be steps up above the Prologue, yet from your post maybe not.
My speakers sets are Yamaha NS-1000X, modified B&W 805N in one room, and Rogers LS2a in another. Same Prima Luna sound problems on all. Could be my room set-ups, but I never had the high-end harshness any of with my three previous amps.
I've decided I might just not be a "tube guy," and I'm looking for an SS integrated now.
Dramapsycho, As indicated in my first post, tubes make a huge difference and I have not cared for OEM tubes in Primaluna products at all! But it is synergy thing and its hard to recommend tube type/brand replacements without having heard your system and understand what you mean when you say 'bright' relatively speaking.
First though I will say that the 12AX7's I have seen are usually EH12AX7A's and I do not like them at all! If you want to help cure the highs try some re-issue Mullards for a bit of warmth, or some EI12AX7's (long grey plates) which are near identical to old Tele's in tone and you can get a clear balanced tone but its not rolled off - works well I think with power tubes that are warmish in nature ( I like them with SED EL34's for example). I also like the JJ12AU7's in the Primaluna's - I find them very clean and they don't seem to add much to the tone of the 12AX7's. The JJ's and Mullards are cheap and easy to find. The EI's are only a bit more expensive but they are discontinued and a bit harder to find. Then of course there are a bunch of NOS candidates out there but I would reserve that experience for later when you are really up to fine tuning, unless of course you have lots of money.
The OEM KT88's are probably contributing to your problem. Very few folks have ever commended them. The problem is identifying a KT88 which is warm in tone. I'd probably rely on Kevin Deal's recommendation for that at least until I had a chance to explore options.
Part of the problem comes from deciding whether to select a linear tube or a colored tube. Most KT88's, like EL34's are not linear (except perhaps the re-issue Gold Lion) and most 6550's and 6L6GC's are linear or at least less colored. But that is about all you can say - from there out its all about synergy and desire.
FWIW tuning a tube amp to match your system is one of the really great things about tube amps. Options abound, just don't let it burn you out. Take your time and read a lot about other folks experiences with tube types/brands and see how much of that might apply to you. Use the Tube Forum at the Audio Asylum. There are some outstanding contributors on that site.
Hope that helps a bit. Have fun!
Another amp for consideration should be the Ming Da EL 34A/B.
These sound very well balanced and can drive most speakers with well above average control.
As good as most amps several times their price.A great example of modern tube amps with no sonic weaknesses or peculiarities.
Also excellent build quality and absolutely silent.
You can buy them direct via Ornec or New York Sound
I am somewhat puzzeled by the report of the Primaluna being bright .
I too have revealing and neutral speakers , DiCapo i's , and I do not have that problem at all . Either before or after rolling the input and output tubes .
However the Primaluna is nicely extended in the top end with good detail and clarity . More so than the Cayin that I owned and directly compared in my system . I would suspect something else as the culpret .
Just my observation .
Saki70 - I also wonder whether there might have been something wrong with the Prima Luna unit I had, such as a faulty component. If so, perhaps Dramapsycho's unit has a similar problem.
My Prima Luna looked so nice, was in minty-new condition, and I bought it for under US$1000, and with all its raving reviews it was hard to return to the shop, but my wife and I both found it unpleasant to listen to and I was too busy to fiddle with blind tube swapping via mail order or room tweaking within the month at-home trial period I had for it.
In retrospect I regret having returned it. At the price I bought it at, I probably should have kept it longer and tried a few things, even taken it to a repair shop for a components check (very expensive here), and then sold it later on eBay or somewhere for a profit later if all tweaks failed to improve the sound.
I have to agree with Saki70. I have used my PL2 with BW 602 s3, Triangle Comete (bright speakers) and just installed De Capo I, and bright is not the word i would use with any of these speakers and the Primaluna. I do have warmer tubes but even with KT88's it was always smooth and non-fatiguing. We listen for hours on the weekends and never want to turn it off.
WOW! Thanks for all of the suggestions. Here are the changes that I made and -- for now -- my problem of "brightness to an extreme" has been solved.
I shared my problem with Brent at audiotubes.com and he suggested I insert NOS Telefunken 12AU7 smooth plate tubes and NOS Sylvania 6L6 power tubes. This move was costly but I figured that I wanted to make this tube change once with noticeable results.
The outcome is fantastic. The harsh high end is gone, the bottom is better supported, and the mids . . . oh, the mids are awesome. Add to this, the 3D sound stage and instrument placement is to die for. My Sonus Faber Cremona Auditors vanish in the room and I am left with a very VISUAL musical experience. In particular, disc 1 of the new stereo re master Beatles White Album and all of Abbey Road is a completely new experience. As is Rene Olstead, Bluesquest, Alison Kraus, and many other SACDs in my collection.
So, thank you to everyone who chimed in to help me. You are the reason that I frequent Audiogone.com.
Good for you, Dramapsycho - It makes me deeply regret having sold my Prima Luna, which I had such a great deal on. The chance of finding one in that condition at that price again in Japan is probably about nill.
As some sort of compensation from the Gods, however, I just upgraded my Ah! Njoe Tjoeb CD player with the upsampler and Siemens 7308 gold pin tubes, and now I am totally happy with the sound of my system, and don't feel I need a new amp anymore, so long as I only play CDs.