Prima Luna Premium Pre


How does The Prima Luna Prologue Premium Preamp compare to the larger tube companies like Audio Research, Conrad Johnson etc?

I was talking to a dealer who was really praising Prima Luna, their superior build quality and sound.

I am a bit skeptical as I don't have any knowledge of Prima Luna and I see they are a Chinese company.

Does anyone have experience with Prima Luna and how hey compare with the more established companies?

Thank You
Without question, one of the best values today. It outperforms units costing three times more. I am extremely pleased with mine. Build quality is excellent. My selling dealer let me take a demo home for a couple of days. I was sold right away.

Apparent, my retailer is batting 1000 with this process with 10 out 10 customers buying the Primaluna following an in-home audition. This amp blows my McIntosh MA2275 out of the water.
"This amp blows my McIntosh MA2275 out of the water."

It maybe one of the best values in hifi today...But don't compare this to a McIntosh 2275! If you think the Primaluna sounds better than the McIntosh, you need new ears or cables or speakers or something. You might as well say they sound better than CJ equipment too!( which they don't) I find these Primaluna products to be great entry level amps. The McIntosh would be a few levels above in dynamics, articulation, sweetness and musical presentation. The Primaluna has a very wide soundstage and very warm and velvety sounding not neutral. Also, 30 or 40 watts is not going to cut it for most speakers.I listen to music LOUD so the Primalunas do not cut it for me.
Matt, thanks for your virtual analysis of my ears, cables, speakers and/something!

By way of reference, the amp to which I am referring is the Primaluna Dialogue Premium. Since I own this unit and have owned a MA2275, I think I am fairly qualified to make a statement as to which gear sounds better to ME unless you have some way of magically analyzing the performance of my system remotely.

While the amp does not have all power of the MA2275, it is more than adequate to drive my Totem speakers as I rarely listen to loud music anymore.
They sound different. You need to listen. Putting its simplistically, if you like rock, you will probably go home with the Prima Luna but if you like acoustic music the CJ mid range will win out.
I have owned Primaluna I sold it for a Manley labs, I have owned many MAC amps, and I still do So I think I am qualified as well....Typical ..another person that wants to hear hi end BACKROUND music??? You can get that in any elevator! I want to FEEL the musical event! isn't that what its all about buying all this hi end equipment? Otherwise would not a BOSE system suffice? NOT FOR ME!
The original poster asked about a preamp, not an integrated amp.
I saw this thread and smiled. I can assure you that PrimaLuna is everything that the experts say it is. As to the fellow that said he likes to listed to it loud, I just received this from another Mac owner that has 601 amps. He didn't sell the Mac...I don't think. But has the following things to say:

Kevin the Primaluna equipment arrived in fine shape, one Dialogue Premium preamplifier, and one Dialogue Premium HP power amp. I got them set up and currently playing with interconnects, so this is what I have found out so far. The following comments are compared to using a Benchmark HGC driving a pair of Mcintosh MC 601 amplifiers using balanced interconnects. If anyone say’s tubes are not for Magnepan 1.7’s they just haven’t heard the above Primaluna set up. It takes the preamplifier and the amplifier about one hour to come on song at this time, will see if it changes as it breaks in. The Primaluna is very quite you do not hear any tube rush through the 1.7’s. or other noise at any volume. The bass is very good, in some respects better than the Mac’s which surprised me, also the treble seems more extended. But as everyone knows the music lives in the midrange and this is where the Dialogue gear really shines. The Dialogue gear will not make a poor recording sound good, but on good recordings it doesn’t get any better. The thing that has really surprised me is the increase in dynamic range over the Mac’s, some of the criticism of the Magnepans is a somewhat compressed sound compared to some dynamic speakers, if that’s a problem get some Dialogues. To sum up the sound at this time there is just more there-there. Now I’m redoing my listening room and making some new equipment racks hanging the TV on the wall all of which I hope will help the room. People this Primaluna Dialoque gear is the real deal get you some.
I also wanted to respond about preamps. You can't say there is a CJ "sound" anymore that you can say there is an ARC "sound". The CJ ET-3SE is a hybrid. Quite different than the PV-10, 11, and 12. And it uses a 6922.

ARC has made hybrids too. And hybrids are fine. But there is no "family sound".

These are the facts about preamps:

There are no "new" designs. It's a hybrid, or uses multiple tubes or followers or feedback to lower output impedance. All this crap about a companies cheaper models being like a "mini" of their more expensive model is B.S. It's just not true. They haven't "learned something new" There's nothing to learn. It's just the facts about the two or three brands you are comparing. REAL FACTS.

The best preamps will have more tubes. The best preamps will have tube rectification. And be dual-mono. And have point to point wiring. And weigh something.

The ET3-SE is a single tube on a PCB with a small power transformer and chip for a volume control. It weighs 13 lbs. for $4,000. They are not alone on this. Preamps are like soft drinks at a restaurant. The food is $8 and has ingredients. The drink is $2.75 and is water and syrup. I'm all ears if anyone can justify to me the prices I see.

Go to Google and use "images" to compare the insides of preamps. You have to do this. Think like an engineer. The $2199 PrimaLuna weighs 37.5lbs, and the $3199 weighs 53lbs. Both are built in a way that none of the brands mentioned build. If you deal in facts, not blustery emotion that "Brand A is expensive so it MUST be better!" you will see what I mean. I have re-tubed over 10,000 amps and preamps in all these years, and I have also supplied many companies with their tubes. I know who's naughty and who's nice.
Importer of the brand, not exactly impartial observer...
"Importer of the brand, not exactly impartial observer..."

Yes, but he has some points, doesn't he?
Yes, he does make some good points.
So The Prima Luna weighs more and may be better built.

How do the parts internally compare to a Conrad Johnson ET3SE on a quality basis?

More importantly does it sound better?

My local dealer sells both CJ & Prima Luna and he told me The Prima Luna is inferior to The CJ ET3SE. His opinion is if you are going to upgrade go to an ET5 or something in a similar price range and that The Prima Luna is going backwards.

Of course that is his opinion. It is hard without listening to the Prima Luna in the same system as the CJ.
I wouldn't worry so much about the parts as the sound. My Jadis preamps had parts in them that may not have been the most expensive, but the end result was stunning.

If your dealer has both brands, can't you listen to them there and compare? Or better yet, borrow them to try at home in your system? That way you'll know if it sounds better to the only ears that matter, yours. Look at the above posts--there are two people who have differing opinions of the Prima Luna vs. McIntosh. I would say they are both correct, as far as their own hearing and personal preferences in what they want out of their audio systems go. You need to make your decision based on what you hear, not what someone else says.
Pkelly, I'm wondering if with your present CJ ET3SE you are having to operate the volume control undesirably close to the bottom of its range, especially with digital sources if you are using any.

The reason I ask is that your ET3SE, and also the ET5 you mentioned as a possibility, are spec'd as having unusually high gain (25 db). And I see in another of your recent threads that you are using Sonus Faber Elipsa SE speakers, rated at 91 db/2.83V/1m and 4 ohms, and Cary CAD 500MB amplifiers rated at 1000 watts into 4 ohms, with 1.42 volt sensitivity for full output power. That all suggests to me that you may have too much gain in your system to be optimal, and the same would be true if you went to an ET5.

The 12 db gain of the PrimaLuna preamp, which is more typical of the gain of most line stages, seems much more reasonable in the context of your particular system. To be sure it's clear, however, in saying that I am not expressing any opinion about the PrimaLuna's sonics, having no experience with it.

FWIW. Regards,
-- Al
My main source is now a turntable. A project extension 12 with a Sumiko Celebration 2 cartridge and an Audio Research PH 7 as the phono pre.

Thank You all for the responses.
The 57.5 db gain of your phono stage will raise the output of your cartridge by a factor of 750, so the 0.5 mv rated output of your cartridge under the standard cartridge test conditions will be raised to 0.375 volts. The peak levels of some recordings will be several times greater than those standard test conditions, but still the maximum output levels of many digital sources are likely to be significantly greater than that. So if you go to a different preamp, and you envision the possibility of eventually using a digital source as one of your main sources, the possibility of issues arising from the unusually high gain of the ET5 and perhaps other CJ preamps (in combination with your particular speakers and amplifier) is a factor that should be considered.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al
I read this thread and could not resist.

For what it is worth, I have had in home preamp auditions with ARC, Rogue, and BAT products in the $3,000 to $5,000 range.

None could top my $2000 W4S STP SE in my system (Maggie 3.6, W4S ST 1000, Ric Schultz modified Oppo 105, Technics 1200 table, Jolida preamp with upgraded capacitors and op amps, Cullen innerconnects).

Because I still thought that I wanted the "tube" sound, I bought a used Prima Luna Prologue 3 preamp. I liked the sound but it was not as resolving on detail as the W4S and it did not have strong bass.

I just purchased a new Prima Luna Dialogue Premium that has maybe 20 hours on it. Tube rectified and hand wired among other attributes and a beast at 53 pounds.

The sound is not there yet but is improving. Lots of texture across the audio range and a more live presence to the sound to my ears than the STP SE. Still not positive about the bass ("maybe" not as much as the STP SE....) but do think I am hearing a more holographic imaging of the instruments in the mix.

Kevin (Upscale)could have sold me a Cary SLP 98 for about twice the price but said the Dialogue was better. I trusted his judgement and I think that he is going to be right.
Hi Pkelly

I have no doubt your ET3SE sounds great. Your question above asked about the quality of the parts used. Valid and important to ask. The PrimaLuna uses audiophile grade Takman resistors and SCR Tinfoil caps made in France, Alps Blue Velvet volume control, and input selection is pretty slick using very nice Japanese relays made by Fujitsu. There are two toroidal power transformers. The tube sockets are mounted to heavy-duty ventilated panel mounts instead of a printed circuit board. In fact there are no PCB's in the entire circuit path. It's wired with Swiss made silver plated oxygen free copper.

When a company uses brand-name parts they are pretty quick to mention it in their literature, I assure you. Because it can triple your build costs, and you want potential buyers to know it.

I understand your dealer telling you to upgrade to a ET5. It's $9500. You have an ET3SE that costs $4000. How do you expect him to react when you ask him about the PrimaLuna at $3199?

I've been told straight out by some dealers: I will sell the more expensive product when PrimaLuna is not expensive enough. The customers needs are secondary to the dealer's wallet. Sad but true.

All PrimaLuna integrated amps are Stereophile Class A rated. The $3399, 65lb DiaLogue Premium is incredible. There is another Class A integrated there costing $8000 that weighs 36 lbs, uses a chip for a volume control, and has a simple PCB where everything is mounted. Somebody here look at both internally and give an opinion. Use Google Images.

Given that, the ET5 is a nice hybrid preamp. $9500. 28lbs. 25dB of gain. The other fellow on this thread named Al seems technically adept and he explained the gain issue. At Upscale Audio we will not warranty vintage tubes going into preamps with super high gain. We will warranty current production Russian tubes as I can send them back for credit.

I understand this stuff and I'm most happy to discuss any aspect of it as long as we are pragmatic and not getting into blustery sweeping comments.
Please let me know how the sound improves over time. I appreciate your input.
Hi Upscaleaudio, glad you responded to this. I bought a Mystere CA-21 preamp from you a couple of years ago and am loving it- great sound, build quality, highly musical. I was wondering if Mystere will be sold again as they have been out of stock for a long time. I know that Durob owns both PrimaLuna and Mystere. Is Mystere still in business?
If I were going to buy their preamp I think I would instead just get their Integrated.

But why buy Chinese products at all when you have so many excellent choices? There are not many products today that a buyer can avoid made in china but high end audio is not one of them.
Hola Hiendmuse

You have a very good preamp. Yes Mystere is still happening and there are new designs that will come out. He wants to implement some new ideas on laddered resistor volume controls. Like yours has.

PrimaLuna caught on much faster than predicted, and there was some heavy engineering that went on to meet some goals that we had. It's more work than you would ever believe. And Herman van den Dungen, the owner of Durob Audio, is a little ummmm detail oriented.

One example was when they listened to different fuses. We all agreed on Littlefuse brand type 213, 218, and 219. He has the factory order them, but he was suspicious of their being genuine even though they were in official packing. Didn't matter a hoot. He took pictures of the end cap markings, sent them over here, then got in contact with a Littlefuse Product Engineer. They go back and forth, only to find out yes, they were the genuine article. While this is applaudable, it really slows things down.

So a lot of effort is being thrown at PrimaLuna. And in case you don't know, Herman is the man behind Kiseki phono cartridges. That's quite an undertaking.
Upscaleaudio, I'm happy to hear Mystere is still in business, thanks for your post. PrimaLuna has gotten a lot more coverage in reviews and advertising than Mystere. I hope Mystere experiences the same level of popularity as PrimaLuna.

Regarding your note about the Little fuse- the only change I made to my Mystere is to change the main fuse from stock to a HiFi Tuning Supreme fuse, which has definitely improved performance with better transparency, tonality, etc. It's well worth the price. This fuse is directional and sounds better with the arrow facing the preamp than away from it.

I read about Herman developing the Kiseki cart from a recent review of it by Fremer in Stereophile. Sounds very interesting!
Thanks Hiendmuse

I assume that anybody on this thread has also seen the thread about the DiaLogue Premium vs the CJ ET3SE. There is a lot of info there. This thread was about the ProLogue Premium so I'll put this info to explain the difference between ProLogue and the more expensive DiaLogue.

At $2199, the ProLogue Premium has all the things you want in a tube preamps.

Dual mono design with no shared parts, included a huge toroidal power transformer for each channel which is why it weighs in at 37.5 lbs.

It's tube rectified so it's PURE tube with two 5AR4's rectifiers, one for each channel. Point to point wiring. No printed circuit boards in the signal path.

SuperQuiet inputs using high quality Fujitsu Japanese relays for input selection instead of a selector switch which invites noise and will deteriorate over time.

The volume control is an Alps Blue Velvet motorized pot, not a push button chip.

The DiaLogue Premium at $3199 has larger transformers so it weighs 52.9lbs. It uses Swiss made silver plated OFC wiring in the signal path. High end audiophile Takman resistors. SCR Tinfoil caps made in France. One more input and a couple other minor things. The basic DNA is the same.

Both of them have 10-12 dB of gain so they don't have tube problems. The 12AU7 tubes are wired in parallel internally, then to each other. So if one tube goes sideways at 5000 hours the sound will not deteriorate much (smart thinking). I asked them to use 12AU7 tubes because there are more choices in 12AU7's both in current and new old stock than any other tube. NOS 12AX7's are expensive and hard to find now. 6H30's are only made in one factory, and I don't care for the sound of that tube much anyway. NOS 6922's are still around, but not as plentiful. I have 13,000 vintage 12AU7's in stock. It makes them cheap in comparison.