Shootout-- Primaluna Dialog HP Integrated/Carver Crimson 275/Elekit 300B


Hey All, 

I'm involved in my own personal shootout between these three amps.  Because I don't have a separate preamp on hand (I'm building one similar to SP14/Don Sachs), I can only accommodate digital across all three units right now.  My Manley Chinook cannot be hooked up to the Carver yet. 

The system will be: 
  • Source -  Tidal -> Roon Nuc Endpoint 
  • DAC - Doge Audio 7 DAC (all tube).  If you'r not familiar with this DAC, you may want to read up on it or watch this : https://youtu.be/DWLXFLcgLy8
  • Loudspeakers - Klipsch Cornwall IV
  • Power -- Torus Tot Power
  • Cabling -- Analysis Plus power/ Chord Single Ended RCAs
[When I get the preamp done, the Vinyl end is: Technics 1200 GAE, Kiseki Purpleheart, Manley Chinook]

I had to try this shootout/personal review because there are simply too few reviews of the Carver 275.  

This is going to be a great ride!  Each one of these amps is impressive in its own right.  I'm eager to learn of differences.  When I'm done I'm going to sell one of the three amps and keep the best two for my needs.  Stay tuned!


jbhiller
@jjss49 , yes you are exactly right.  First, the PL always felt like it could be a super amp.  It's Godzilla in size--well nearly.  It's bold and refined.  But, it wasn't that resolving--or at least with my stuff. It has always been thoroughly enjoyable. 

I swapped out dozens of tubes with the PL.  I spent too much.  

As to triode v. ultralinear, I enjoyed both.  I always wanted a variable dial that I could turn up/down to adjust feedback or bias. Having the UL/TR button was a gift. While I spent too much time debating which one I liked better, it was nice to have the switch as I sometimes simply used it as a "Loudness Button"--a la 1974.  It just sounded lovely at low volumes in UL. 

The Carver is running Tung Sol KT 120s--the only maker. The driver tubes are basic Electro Harmonix, 12AT7, and gain tube is 12AX7, Tung Sol.  No fooling. Nothing special. 

And to your point, can the Carver drive speakers with much higher demands than Cornwall IVs?   I'd be more cautious as sensitivity drops as well as impedance.  I would question that this thing could drive a medium plus load in a good size room.  But, who what do I know?  If I was in a smallish room I'd try this amp with any loudspeaker within reason....just to see because it's a sweet little amp that begs to be auditioned with all sorts of equipment.  

Finally, yes, I think the Carver is more resolving than the PL.  Mainly, I think the Carver has more texture and open space, while not sounding too airy, or something bloated.  
@jbhiller

thank you!

the carver stays on my ’to try’ list... one of these days...

i am a sucker for featherweight tube amps that bring the goods with decent output

right now i am so happy with my lta zotl40 ref i am feeling zero urge to try others... as yet... :)
Interesting read.

Carver is one of the  brands never or rarely mentioned as having a bland/boring sound.

Is it safe to say this reinforces all the PL hype of value-cost/build/performance?

Yes, the Carver sound is not bland or boring here.  It is, however, well behaved at all times.  I haven't experienced any harshness.  There's a special smoothness on the whole spectrum that sounds very sophisticated.  That would be a turnoff if the amp didn't have such a high boogie factor to round that out.  Marry those two together and it's a beguiling sound that romances me.  

My sense is that Bob Carver really knows how to voice an amplifier.   His amp really won me over with soundstage, imaging, and texture.  Those three things come together in a holographic picture that I love.  

Honestly, I cannot knock Prima Luna.  It is such a wonderful product.  Personally, I don't think that I need to pay for that build quality because I wouldn't keep the amp for 20-30 years.  I'll also note, my only real knock on PL is subjective--I think their casework is strong and well thought out but not attractive. Personally, if I want to love a product for the super long haul, it has to have compelling/charming aesthetics.  The PL just looks like a big boring black box to me.  It feels and operates great.  In the looks category I'd give it a solid B or B-.   Again, this is my own subjective view. 

I buy hifi from anywhere it is made.  But, it's nice to know though that Bob Carver has his amps made in California--likely at the Wyred 4 Sound facility.  

JJSS49's point about my speakers is a fantastic one--they are super easy loads.  It would be interesting to hear the Carver with more difficult loads/less efficient offerings.  The PL shines in that department.  It can drive anything.  I just don't know what the Carver can do in that area.  



"Round", "smooth", "clean", "party", etc. I read this as all three being bad amps. For some reason people like to call lack of dynamics "smooth", "laid-back", etc, as if it's a matter of taste between positive traits and not simply that it sucks. I keep hearing disappointing comments about PL.