The thing that always strikes me about PrimaLuna, without singling out any particular product, is how good of performance it offers in relation to how much it cost. If you’ve ever been interested in getting into valve based amplification (and CD players for that matter) – then look no further than PrimaLuna; this company makes owning a tube amplifier as easy as owning a solid-state amp.
For those of us who have speakers that are more on the difficult side to drive, and/or who just like to have extra power on hand for whenever it’s needed, and/or want a single box that can perform all your amplification needs (excluding DAC capabilities) then you may just want to check out the DiaLogue Premium HP Integrated Amplifier (£2,998). If you are a vinyl junkie like me, then you might want to consider the upgrade option of getting an integral phono stage at an extra £250. However, there are a lot of external phono stages out there which preform very good at that price point. But if a one box solution is your desired goal – then the integral phono stage is pretty damn good and should be kept in close consideration when investigating/auditioning the Premium HP Integrated.
For all you headphone-lovers out there, the Premium HP Integrated offers an all-valve headphone amp as part of the integrated amplifier. And let me be the one to verify, it has a very lush sound that is better than most stand-alone headphone amps sub-£500. Defiantly worth a listen if you like using cans. But this isn’t the only feature that you get when you decide to invest in kit made by PrimaLuna.
All their amplifiers (pre, power, and integrated) all have their Adaptive AutoBias – which I’ve been told is not in the critical signal path, so this will not have any influence on the sound quality. No longer do you have to bias your valves to get them to perform at their best. PrimaLuna doesn’t run their tubs hard, do you’ll get the very best for the longest possible time. Other features that come standard include: Bad Tube Indicator (BTI) circuitry which allows the end user to know when a valve needs replacing; Power Transformer Protection (PTP) circuitry kicks in when the amplifier is overheated to help keep your valuable transformers from being damaged; Output Transformer Protection (OTP) circuitry will keep your output transformers safe in the rare case of massive tube failure or user error; SmartWatts Design which could help extend your tubes life up to ten years, SuperQuiet Line Inputs that use relays to give your source signals the best connection possible with the least amount of noise; Alps Blue Velvet volume control which is much more stable and helps define the stereo imaging; Custom Wide-Bandwidth Output Transformers which are made in-house only for use in PrimaLuna kit.
In addition to their standard features PrimaLuna decided to really up their game when it came to their flagship DiaLogue Premium range. Some of the other features include: Point to Point wiring with Swiss made cabling, this is a silver-plated oxygen-free continuous crystal (OCC) copper with Teflon dielectric; TAKMAN resistors are also included in the build and are known for their exceptionally high quality, low noise, and wonderful musicality; SCR Tinfoil Caps made in France might be expensive but PrimaLuna has included them in critical signal paths; AC Offset Killer which helps keep the AC transformer exceptionally quiet; Remote Control Triode/Ultra-linear Switching allows you to sit comfortably and go between the two listening options on the fly; and the list of features goes on, but what does all this mean in level of performance and musicality? In short, it means a lot…
The truth is simple – PrimaLuna amplification has a sound all its own. It’s not that classic valve/tube sound that presents itself on the “warmer” side and is characteristically “laid-back.” No, this is a modern valve sound which I would say takes the best of both solid-state amps and valve amps of yesteryear. The detailing you get from the Premium HP Integrated has to be one of the best I’ve ever heard at this price point. The dynamic range it is able to replicate is exceptional and it seems to do it without ever losing itself. While the soundstage is deep and wide, the HP Integrated is also able to bring the music to life by adding dimensionality to where each musician is located within the sound stage. Violins sound rich and full, while the bass cords have amazingly accurate timbre. High-hats and cymbals don’t sound artificial, splashy, or harsh; rather they sound clean, precise, and delicate (when the percussionist so desired that affect). This amplifier has musicality for days…
Where the extra power (the HP stands for High Power) came in handy during my time with the HP Integrated was in the low frequency reproductions. Before going any further, I must make it clear that I preferred the sound of the Premium HP Integrated (and the non-HP version) in their triode mode. I felt that the sound was slightly more seductive and inviting. The midrange vocals were very life-like and presented with such ease that I couldn’t help but smile when focusing on that aspect of the frequency spectrum. The high frequencies were also astonishingly good and not pushed forward, but left to sound very natural to my ears; no harsh or splashy cymbals to make note of. And now back to the low frequency reproduction…
Using my Harbeth SHL5plus when comparing the DiaLogue Premium Integrated and the HP variant (in triode mode) gave me an opportunity to hear where the extra power becomes vital. I make mention of listening to both in triode mode because in ultra-linear mode, both amplifiers drove my Harbeths without any struggle. However, in triode mode, the differences were quite clear.
Listening to amplifiers in triode mode the power output is nearly cut in half – when using EL34 tubes, the output of the HP version is 70 watts in ultra-linear and 40 watts in triode; while the non-HP version is 36 watts in ultra-linear and 20 watts in triode. Though the sound characteristics of the two amplifiers is very similar in the mid and high frequencies – the low frequencies reproduction is where I noticed the biggest difference.
With the HP version, the bass was snappy and full of weight and authority. It held a firm grip on the SHL5plus without any thought and never once did I feel that it wasn’t being handled correctly. However, going to the non-HP version I heard a slight bit of wooliness to the bass that wouldn’t disappear until I switched back into ultra-linear mode; the extra 16 watts was enough to take away any “muffling” and controlled the drive unit, but I lost the preferred mids and highs I was hearing in triode mode.
For me, both the HP and non-HP versions of the DiaLogue Premium Integrated Amplifier are miles better than their price tag suggests. If you have fairly high efficient speakers and don’t think you’ll ever have a more demanding speaker, then there really isn’t a reason to go for the HP version – However, if you are like me any have speakers that are medium to low on the efficiency scale, then the HP version is more than likely going to work best for you. Either way, if you are looking for an integrated amplifier up to £3,000, even if you’ve never thought of owning valve based amplification, I cannot recommend having a listen to the PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium HP (and non-HP) Integrated Amplifier, its musical charm might just be what you’ve been hoping to hear.
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For availability of the DiaLogue Premium HP Integrated Amplifier click HERE