Wow, sounds like you definitely did not like the sound of the PL.
Additionally, I disagree with the notion that an amp should be "voiced" for particular types of music. Ideally, an amp should have no voicing whatsoever - whatever is presented at the Input terminals should simply have gain applied and nothing else. If an amp cannot do that properly, it is a failure.
It appears, based upon your review, that this amp is a failure.
Thanks for the writeup!!
I don't own the Primaluna Dialogue2, but the Dialogue1 for the past 6 or so months. First-off your experience is completely opposite of my experience. System synergy is a must and looking at your components I suspect it is your ancillary equipment that is a major contributor or culprit of the harsh, etched sound.
Out of the box my unit sounded ok, yet as is typical everything needed to be broken in. I knew before I bought the unit that I would roll-tubes to find the sound that I wanted. My unit came with Primaluna EL34s as well as their standard complement of 12ax7 and 12au7. As the unit was breaking in the violins, for example, were a bit much and irritating and the sound was thin without much warmth and lacked weight and body; but as the unit played on changes for the better began.
From experience I knew where I was going with respect to tubes and I started by first replacing the standard 12au7 with RCA Clear Tops which I had on hand. Nice improvement everywhere, but especially in soundstage width and depth. I kept playing and listening, and changing these tubes: NOS Sylvania, Mullard, Amperex, and so forth, each one better than the stock tubes. I also did the same with the 12ax7. And the music played on, warmth, body and weight, dynamics, lovely highs, Ella was in my room, Miles too, Louis Armstrong trumpet about perfect, rock rocked, small and large classical pieces sounded right, excellent timbre in a coherent well-defined stage. But I still knew it could get even better.
So I dropped in some SED Winged C EL34s, nice improvement again more warmth and body with no loss of detail and all the other attributes. It was coming together, rolled some more and finally settled on NOS Russian 6n3ce (6L6), Amperex Bugle Boy 12au7, Sylvania 5751 3M Black Plates.
Now, to my ears, in my system and space, the Primaluna has proved to be a versatile integrated that makes wonderful music in my office system set-up. It really loses nothing in comparison to my main system (Cary v12 and SLP98). A little different presentation, but it keeps up with the big boy and plays music as it should with all the Audiophile and music lover attributes. I have also compared the Primaluna against my Cary CAD 300sei, new Almarro 205 and my brother Leben 600 integrated. You may prefer one over the other, but the Primaluna is a stellar performer, and yes, I just love their adapive auto bias.
By the way, I recently put the Primaluna EL34s back in for a couple of days of listening and guess what, they sound quite good now. Not as good as some of my other tube rolls or my 6n3ce, but sweet, not a hint of harshness, no fatigue, so don't forget the driver and input tubes, they can make a significant difference.
Wow, this is opposed from what i know. Sad you didn't find the "Right" tubes.
@ Mikirob you may want to try the 12AU7 direct sub made by Amperex Heerlen called the 7316. It is my favorite 12AU7 by a longshot.
Thanks for that review. I thought it straightforward and matter of fact. Also, seems like you gave the unit a reasonable amount of time -- 8 months.
Mechans, thank you for the info on the 7316, I sort of forgot about them, rare. I will keep an eye out for them. I thought I saw a pair here on the A'gon some months back, but I will give them a go if I run across them. The Bugle Boys are excellent, the orange lettered Amperex also quite good.
Anyone shopping for this amp should not take this review seriously. You are running an amp that puts out 38 watts a side to a speaker rated at 89 db. I wouldn't play jazz or something "easy" with this setup and you say you listen to rock and alternative and "heavy is preferred". I would not play Linkin Park on a 38 watt tube amp driving an 89db speaker.
You also go on to say that,"Tube rolling my be fun when you are feeling experimental, when you are looking for a certain sound, the lack of information on the sound qualities of various tubes make it just expensive and frustrating". Really? The internet is a pretty big place. There are MANY sites devoted to tubes that list the sonic characteristics of a given tube. For example, if you go to Brent Jesse's site you will spend half the day reading about the differences between fifteen different tube manufacturers for a single type of tube. Tubes have been around for a VERY long time. Trust me, the info is out there.
I appreciate anyone taking the time to describe their opinions on an audio product but it sounds to me the amp was not the right choice given your taste in music and speakers used.
Devilboy, well stated, I really like your set up and I believe I would enjoy it immensely. I'm rethinking my DAC with the Primaluna office system, I am currently running an Eastern Electric DAC with Shuguang Black Treasure tube and upgraded fuse. I have read some of the threads on the Metrum Octave and would like your opinion. Sorry, OP, don't mean to hijack thread, but info like this could help you build a better, more musical system. I'm mostly using Tekton 4.5 monitor or Lores. Thanks.
Likewise to everything you said, Mikirob. I hear great things of the Eastern Electric DAC and Shugang Black treasures...apparently wonderful tubes. Does your Primaluna office system use the volume control on the EE DAC, or is the PL an integrated? I'm assuming it's integrated since you are considering the Metrum. I love the Metrum. The closest competition I've had to the Metrum in my system was the Weiss Minerva. In regards to the Metrum, the Minvera sounded more like hifi, while the Metrum sounds more like music...natural and organic, while the Minerva kind of "exaggerated" more of the highs and lows. Given the cost of the Metrum, it is an absolute steal IMO. Hope this helps.
Back to the OP: Given your taste in music,(and because of that taste I assume you like to crank it every once in a while), have you considered a higher current, solid state amp? What about digital? With the frequency in which Nuforce upgrades their amps, you could get a pair of monoblocks pretty cheap here. I know because I got spanked pretty good when I sold mine. :^( This approach may be more of what your requirements call for. Just my opinion. Good luck!
Thanks for your comments. Although in theory a perfect device would not color the sound I think we can all agree that the perfect electronic device is yet to be created.
You sound like an experienced tube user and knew exactly what you wanted to do with your amplifier. I'm sure that if I had your expertise I would have had a more favorable result. I do agree that my ancillary equipment may have been a contributing factor but I took the amplifier back to the dealer and used their ancillary equipment several times. The Wadia 121 digital computer has been a recent addition, not recent enough to be of any value in this review.
I had the amp about 14 months.
Although I respect your opinion I never held myself out to be an experienced tube user nor was my review pitched to esoteric users. In my search for the right tube I spoke with Kevin Deal several times, I spoke with several other tube retailers, I worked through my dealer and their resources, I spoke with an electrical engineer, I searched the web many times looking for user and other recommendations for this amplifier, obviously I never found the website that you refer to.
Guys like you and Mikirob seem very experienced in the world of tubes and if I had known you personally you probably would have had me setup in no time. A 38 watt tube amplifier on those speakers ... well blame my dealer for letting me get away with that setup if it is indeed a poor combination, I wanted a NAD M3, he talked/demo'd me around to the PL.
My review was to give guys like me, pending newcomers to the world of tubes, just one more perspective to aid in their journey. I disagree that this review is irrelevant, it is merely of limited use to an experienced user.
Devilboy, the Primaluna is integrated, I bought the Eastern Electric before its latest incarnation and have not swapped out the op amps as many folks are doing; it's reported to be more analogue-like. I'm happy as it is now, but the Metrum intrigues me as it is described by A'gon member articles I have read.
Aussiejetpilot: as I stated in my original reply to you I believe what you heard was mismatched ancillary equipment such as the blue ray player, your cabling and so forth. Efficient, high impedance speakers, a decent DAC, good transport, better cable would allow great head-banging sound with the Primaluna Dialogue 2. The Primaluna EL 34s in my Dialogue 1, after break-in are sweet, smooth, detailed and extended, not thin, the mids are very good. Yes, I like some other tubes better, but could easily live with the stock output tubes. I don't much care for the stock input and driver tubes and they do make a significant difference in performance...Sorry that you did not find the right synergy.
Just for some kicks and variation I'm going to install some KT 88s as well as the stock KT 66s that came in my Cary V12 to hear how they perform? This ability of the Primaluna product to take so many different tubes combined with the adapive auto bias make them a bottle head Godsend. You should be able to dial in what you like. The problems you had is not inherent in this amp
Kevin Deal is one of the best audio guys in the business; he is one of the best tube guru's with vast knowledge. I believe your dealer really let you down.
Aussie: I never meant that your "review was irrelevant", as you said. Looking back on my earlier posts, it seems my opening statement was a bit misleading. What I meant by "seriously", was someone new to a PL amp, thinking it was a bad amp. In your defense, you did write that, "To be fair, I am not the audiophiles audiophile, both my equipment and music/quality tastes and choices probably did not showcase this amplifier in its best light". So in retrospect, I regret writing that first line. I apologize. However your dealer, in my opinion, made a poor recommendation.
Also, as Mikirob said, the KT88 may be the way to go.
A good or even a great power amplifier can disappoint if matched to an inappropriate speaker. This point can`t be over stated but is overlooked more often than it should be.
Put this same amplifier on a proper efficient speaker and it will more than likely sing.
Some speakers by design(load impedance,crossover,senstivity,phase angles etc.) are meant to be driven with higher power and some more specifically with solid state amplifiers.
The OP`s experience with his PL amp is a good reminder.Nothing 'wrong' with the amp or speaker individually, just a bad match together.The sensitivity is 89 db spl with 2.83 volts/1 meter(this is a 4 ohm load rating)=86db at 8 ohms. The minimum impedance is 3 ohms!It seems this speaker is begging for a higher power SS amplifier.I love tube amplifers but in this case I don`t understand the dealer`s rationale for this suggestion.
Exactly what I meant Charles1dad. Well said.
I have the opportunity to demo the Prima Luna this week. I have Spendor A5's with only 86db sensitivity so it will be interesting to hear if they match up at all.
For the record I think it important that the speaker being 89 Db "efficient" doesn't tell the whole story. There are 89 Db punishing loads whose electrical impedance dips way down despite a nominal 8 Ohm rating. When that happens the speakers need more current and tubes just don't supply current very easily. There are yet other parameters like the reactance and phase angle, which I struggle with understanding, but I am aware of these and still other parameters. So OP perhaps the PL would have sounded more to your liking if you had different speakers. Who is to say?
Kevin knows and sells great tubes, I think your tube rolling was just fine and I am a tube nut.
It appears that a smallish tube amp just isn't right for you, no excuses or apologies should be made. It always comes down to preferences and opinions and you are entitled to have them. However, I am pretty sure if you could have bought an amp with higher output power ($$$) you might have come away from this a much more satisfied and content. I own a small integrated tube amp, a lot like the PL but not as good, and it doesn't come close to sonic experience I have had with my larger amps. Clearly you will be better served with something powerful and SS.
To those still thinking about trying tubes I wouldn't be discouraged by this experience, everyone has their own taste predilictions.
Just one question I thought the Cary V12 came stock with EL-34s didn't it?
A word of advice re the KT-88s. I use the Russian New Sensor Gold Lion KT-88s and really, really like them. I use 2 quads in my Jadis DA-60 and was delighted/ecstatic when I heard them. The Treasures may be good but I would very surprised if they are better sounding to you than the GL "re-issues."
gents... the Primalunas are transparent. Given the low quality that aussiejetpilot described for digital source, he heard exactly what he should have heard, "digititis". And my suspicion is that his Sim Audio purchase included a better DAC section. So the moral of this story is don't buy a Primaluna unless you have quality source; its not going to lie about whats fed it. The power discussion is totally off... I'm running Magneplanars with my Prima Luna integrated which are even less efficicent than the B&W's quoted.
David, the source as well as 'every' component in a system is important. So yes a better DAC will improve the sound.Power is`nt an irrelevant factor for some speakers(and I happen to prefer lower power amplfiers, mine are 8 watts). The amp-speaker pairing does matter a great deal,this particular speaker would benefit from a different type of amplifier for the reasons stated in earlier post.Aussie`s Prima Luna would very likely sound as you describe with the right speaker match IMO.Congratulations with your sucess with the maggies. I supect that even though they have a low sensitivity the maggie has a flat and smoother impedance curve and less phase angle shifts,so easier to drive(sensitivity is`nt the only factor involved here).
Mechans, the Cary V12 does normally come stock with EL 34 tubes, but I ordered mine with KT66s. I also have EL 34 tubes for it. I like the KT66 better, but best in the V12 to my ears is the same Russian NOS 6n3ce I generally use in my Primaluna Dialogue1.
I agree the source is HUGE and in this case lacking. I agree with above post that digititis was in abundance because of the cheap source.
Just for the record, the amplifier went back to the dealer several times and was subjected to listening tests using their source devices, and cabling and speakers (including the B&W CM's). The dealers source devices (and other equipment) were of much higher quality than mine yet my opinion of the sound remained unchanged. The amplifier was given every chance to shine is an appropriate environment but I never found that sound I was looking for.
The SimAudio product does not have a DAC section, it was doing well with my existing inferior setup.
Out of curiosity did you try both output taps or did you just assume that the tap closest to the nominal impedence of your speakers was the right one to use. I ask because it can make a huge difference, especially if you are experiencing harsh highs. Often folks think the 4ohm tap is going to be best because usually it will increase bass output, but I have found that often the increase in bass is accompanied by uneven highs. Right up there with tubes selection/matching in importance I think. FWIW.
Yeah, there is just something wrong here, doesn't sound like your typical Primaluna integrated at all.
Yes I switched between the 4 and 8 ohm taps on a regular basis.
I used to own the Primaluna Dialogue 2 a few years back. I bought it brand new from Kevin. I paired it with my Legacy Classic which are 4 ohms and it didn't sound right. I changed the speaker wires at the amp end to 8 ohms and it was better. I sold the amp a few mths later.
From what I remember, it threw a huge soundstage and it was very fast and extended at the frequency extremes. I didn't like the fact there was no density to the images. There was some sort of sparkle to the images that was only appreciated at the outer ridge of the soundstage.
To be fair, I never experimented with different tubes. Also, that was my second tube amp and if i'm not mistaken I did not try to tweak my system. Its been five years or more since that experience. I would do things differently now.
I found the 4 ohm taps sounded worse with the MG 1.7's... mushy. Does sounds like you got a lemon...which is why I always insist on auditioning in the showroom to be sure my expectations are set by equipment that is broken in and known to be good.
Your comment ''This was my first foray into tube amplifiers'' is indicative of many ''first-timer'' experiences with glass. However as you are a non-audiophile and avid lover of compressed music like Greenday and LinkinPark, the Simaudio is a ok choice for this type of music. You would probably also get satisfaction (and probably better sound) from less-expensive amplification.
I have owned a Primaluna Dialogue II for several years. The stock tubes -- throw them out. Yes, very harsh. I replaced all stock tubes with NOS tubes -- Mazda and Telefunken in the front end and 5992s in the power tubes. I am powering Sonus Faber Cremona Auditors -- very power hungry. Now, the sound stage, bass, mids, highs, all excellent. Just added Kimber Kable Monocle XL speaker cables -- wow. My next integrated amp as a step up will be the Ayon (Orion or Spirit). Anyway, get rid of the stock tubes. Kevin Deal will sell you some nice NOS tubes.
I know this is for a Dialogue 2 review, but I want to chime in here with my experience on the Dialogue Premium power amp, which is connected directly to my PS Audio DirectStream DAC.
First off, we can all agree that my source is not a problem here. I've enjoyed this source with several other amplifiers, with the same speakers in my system. I have successfully ruled out the possibility of undesirable effects from those areas. The DS Dac is an absolutely fantastic DAC that sounds as close to analog as I've ever heard in my system. In fact, so much so, I am literally "getting out of vinyl" because of it.
With that aside, I haven't been able to settle into the sound of the Dialogue Premium. With some super-smooth mullard NOS 12au7's on the input tubes, and using the stock EL34, I find the sound is decent. However, the second I drop in *any* KT88, 6550, or KT120s, the sound becomes extremely harsh, and I experience listening fatigue within 10 minutes. Of course music like classical and acoustic tends to be easier on the ears, but my old amp (Prologue Two) is a much more listenable amp IMO. I like the increased dynamic slam and bass extension of the Dialogue Premium, but the trade offs are too great. It really is a shame because ultimately the components inside the Dialogue are better, and lead to greater transparency, but the overall sound is just too aggressive.
I don't mean to denigrate your observation and by no means do I intend to disrespect you or your opinion .
But , I have received a new Dialog Premium also . I ordered it with the Tung Sol KT-120's . After initial breakin I do not hear the same results that you do . I am using a Granite CD player and a Music Hall 5.1 turntable with a Hagerman Coronet phono stage and the stock MM cartridge .
While I find the midrange of the 120's lacking the top and bottom are extended & clean , not harsh and do not display any listening fatigue . I have rolled many of the popular small tubes (thanks Bigshutterbug !) and did not find the NOS Mullards to be a nice compliment to the 120's in this amp . However Amperex tubes in the input section were quite nice but this could be just an individual listener preference . I have not settled on the driver substitutes as yet .
I am now breaking in some Black Treasure 6CA7's . Again , I don't hear any of the characteristics that you mention and I am using the stock small tubes for the break in process .
I am listening to classic rock , contemporary blues , and others .
My previous amp was also a Prologue II ! I find the Dialogue Premium to be the Prologue II on steroids !
Have you tried your Dialogue with different sources ? Your turntable perhaps ? I ask this because even my cable box does not sound as you describe . Is it possible that there could be a connection problem or maybe even an equipment mismatch ?
It really boils down to equipment mismatch.
Charles1dad hit the nail on the head. Definitely a mismatch of equipment. Case in point I borrowed a buddies Pass Labs X250 and didn't care for it at all. My ears were bleeding from the midrange energy. The bass was killer and some probably the best bass I have heard in my system back then. However, overall the amp was too cool sounding for my taste with my speakers. They needed a warmer amp for my listening tastes. Doesn't mean it was a bad amp because its not. Just not a good fit for my needs.
I’ve owned the prologue two as well as the dialogue two. I sold both due to to upper frequency harshness. It did not matter what type of tube or speakers I used. However, the Prologue Three pre-amp is excellent. Recently I paired it with the Prologue Four and found excellent synergy with no harshness after experimenting with different tubes (really like the winged 6550c). I believe the upgraded components you get with the Prologue Two and Dialogue Two is the problem.
I tend to agree that KT88 and KT120 do NOT sound good in the Premium. I even put in NOS Mullard 12AU7 to tame the sound and wasn't satisfied at all. I have found Gold Lion KT77 and Mullard re-issue EL34 sound the best along with the Mullard 12AU7 in the rear slots and I picked up a set of Psvane 12AU7 and they sound very good. Once you get the tone you like from the power tubes then work on the 12AU7's and you should be able to dial it in.
Lots of good points have been made in this thread regarding synergy, source components, tube types, etc., so I won’t repeat them.
As a happy owner of a DiaLogue One for over 6 years, and a heavy/extreme metal lover, I can relate to some of the points made in the original post, but one of the facts that needs to be mentioned (and seems to have been overlooked) is the quality of the recordings themselves. In short, most metal and related genre releases sound terrible. It really is that simple. Harsh, bass-heavy or bass-shy, flat, compressed, shrieking, etc, etc... I know, since I own at least 3000 genre CDs (anything from Burzum to Maiden to Emperor to Heaven Shall Burn to Satyricon to Anathema to My Dying Bride to Goblin to Blind Guardian to Opeth to In The Woods to DragonForce to Rhapsody to... you get the idea!). I LOVE this type of music, but the reality is that most of that stuff is not meant to be reproduced on a hi-end audio system, and the Prima Luna is actually quite revealing for a tube integrated. Garbage in, garbage out. You are better off playing this sort of thing in the car, frankly. I know I tend to enjoy it more there.
There ARE many decent recordings in the genre, however, and in those cases the amp will shine, but it is true that you may be better off with a different unit if your tastes are 90% metal. I do listen to a lot of classical and soundtracks as well, and I mostly love what I hear from the PrimaLuna. I did try out many different tubes, etc., but I found this to be an expensive exercise in nitpicking and settled on the tried-and-true Gold Lion KT-88 re-issue, and after trying a couple of Telefunkens, EH, etc, put the stock smaller tubes back. To my ears, this combination sounds right 90% of the time.
For the record, I drive a pair of Sonus faber Elipsas SE’s with the DiaLogue One, with no issues. Source is an Oppo 105 connected to a 2TB drive. Cables are all Nordost. Analog is humbler: a Pro-Ject RM 5.1 with a Dynavector 10X5. But I mostly listen to digital these days.
absolutely correct ! beyonddarkness has illuminated our path and returned us back to... the quality of the recording itself.