So Much For So Little - PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium Preamplifier

It is said that the preamplifier is the brains behind any system – I tend to agree with this manner of thinking. However, it is also the one component that can be a fool’s golden nugget. What do I mean by this? Well, I’ve come across some preamplifiers in my time that when you look beyond the fancy casework, it doesn’t seem to be much to it and looks like very little thought and even worse, money went into creating it – but yet they sell for top-dollar, as we say in the states. But then you come across a preamplifier that not only has a well-made exterior, but when the casing is removed, has an even better interior with high quality parts and components – for example, two massive toroidal power transformers that look like they should be part of a power amplifier, not a preamp. The workmanship is executed with skill and care, and in weight alone feels like a million bucks at 23.8 kilos. And then when you hear it, it simply takes your breath away…

All this for under £3,000? Yes, even under £2,500. And so enter PrimaLuna’s flagship preamplifier, the DiaLogue Premium Preamplifier. The list of features on this preamplifier could honestly fill pages and pages. Some of which include, dual mono design, Adaptive AutoBias, TAKMAN Resistors, SCR Tinfoil Caps, AC Offset Killer, Point-to-Point wiring using high-end silver plated OCC copper with Teflon dielectric, ALPS Blue Velvet volume control, etc., etc. Instead of going through all of the features I would rather select a few to mention briefly that I feel are key to setting this preamplifier apart from others without regards to price.

The first feature I would like to mention is the use of not one, but two 5A4R tube/valve rectifiers (one per channel). For many hi-fi enthusiasts that prefer valve amplification, the use of a tube rectifier is essential for any great valve based preamplifier. What the rectifiers do is transform the AC voltage into DC voltage for the preamp/output tubes.  Most tube/valve based preamplifiers today use solid-state rectifiers – the valve variant is expensive but PrimaLuna believes it’s worth it. For me, it simply the end result that makes me thankful that PrimaLuna decided to continue with this design choice.  

Another feature, is how overall gain is 10dB instead of say 20dB+ that 99% of preamplifiers are out there are set to. Why does this matter – well if you’ve ever owned a pre/power combo and/or integrated amplifier that seemed to have an overtly sensitive volume control – you probably couldn’t ever get it past 9:00 without sounding of alarms internally and externally. A lower gain preamp will naturally produce a better signal to noise ratio; and, the adjustment of the volume will have a much larger range than other preamps with higher gain and let the listener finely tune the volume level to their liking without worry of an overly sensitive volume pot. 

The last feature I would like to mention is for those out there wondering why PrimaLuna did not include balanced outputs for connecting a power amplifier. There is a long standing debate, which type of interconnect and amplification topology is better – balanced or unbalanced – and I’m not about to get into to here, but traditionally balanced cables were used in the pro-market because they run “hot” and help a signal travel from point A to B when a cable run is longer than a few metres. So to have the ability to run a long single ended cable over a few metres long without degrading the signal PrimaLuna has come up with a clever design.

The six 12AU7 tubes, three per channel, are designed where the first inner tube is the first gain stage, then the middle tube is the second gain stage, while the third (outer) tube is the cathode follower – what does all this mean? By using the third 12AU7 as a cathode follower allows the DiaLogue Premium Preamplifier to produce a super low output impedance of 256 ohms, and in doing so allows the end-user to use longer than normal cable runs even with single ended RCA based cables. And in turn, you are able to place your power amplifiers close to your speakers if you so wish. I have tested a one-metre versus a four-meter cable, with absolutely no auditable differences.

So how does this preamplifier sound?

In short, better than it should at its price point. If I’d listened to it without knowing how much it cost, I honestly would’ve thought it came in around £5,500 to £7,000.  It definitely competes with those preamplifiers in that price point and for the most part dominates (in my opinion) the preamplifier market in the sub-£4,000 region.

Over the last few years I’ve used the DiaLogue Premium Preamplifier with a variety of power amplifiers and its proven itself worthy to be part of almost every high-end system I stuck it in with. For me, it’s exactly what a valve based pre should emulate – transparency, incredibly massive/defined/detailed soundstage, a fatigue free listening atmosphere, accurately reproduces instruments’ timbre, realistic vocals, and a feeling that your present in the recording studio/concert hall/church/etc. Never once did I feel that the DiaLogue Premium Preamplifier held back the power amplifier. Using it as the “brain” of your system, the performance throughout the entire frequency spectrum is beyond reproach.

If you are in the market for a new preamplifier sub-£4,000, I highly recommend giving the DiaLogue Premium Preamplifier a listen – it truly is something special. 

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