Prima Luna Dialogue Premium HP Integrated Amplifier Review


This is my first introduction into the world of tube amplification and I was somewhat hesitant at first because I have always been a loyal follower of solid state amplifiers and never thought for once that you would need to use anything else as it seemed to do just fine. I suppose ignorance is bliss but you need to dip your toe in the water from time to time to test other types of kit otherwise you will never learn, and boy what a learning experience this has been for me and what an introduction the Prima Luna Dialogue Premium HP Integrated Amplifier has made

Prima Luna has made its name in the world of tube amplifiers as some of the best and also some of the best value for money, as they are not that expensive when you look at what you are actually buying, also at what the competition has to offer for similar specifications, you do get a highly specified amplifier. The HP Integrated can be had in three different flavors or power ratings which are the different tube configurations which will suit all needs and drive literally any speakers required, this is the beauty of this amplifier and will go into more detail about this in the features section. I feel that this introduction into the world of tube amplifiers has been made all that more easier with Prima Luna as the products are so easy to operate and the functionality of the HP Amplifier is one of the smartest that I have used in my systems for a long time.

Features and Build Quality

The HP Integrated has many features but before I delve into the many features let me speak about the build quality which is extremely good for a product of this kind, it comes well boxed and contained within is the amplifier weighing in at a hefty 30kg it is no light weight. It gives you that reassuring factor that heavy means quality, and that certainly rings true for the Prima Luna. Once you get to the amplifier you see the tubes and each one is encased in foam type sock's which protects each tube. The back of the amp is where the big transformer is kept and it is fully encased by the steel chassis, then at the bottom back plate you have the speaker terminals which have a 4 ohm and 8 ohm taps, all are big WBT type connectors and gold plated. The stereo inputs are all gold plated too and each one has a plastic cap to protect them which is a nice touch and can be used when the connections are not in use. On the front of the amplifier you have two knobs one for the volume and for the selection of each input that the amplifier has. You also have three LED's that indicate when the amp is on and in use it tells you which mode you are in, you can use the Prima Luna in two modes which are, Triode and Ultra Linear mode. What is great about these two modes is that they can be switched on the fly as the remote control has a button to flick between the two modes.

Speaking about the two power modes Ultra Linear and Triode modes, Ultra Linear offers full power and Triode mode drops the power by half but the mid-band becomes more pronounced and the sound becomes more relaxed and offers a warmer more mellow sound, this is something that you can play with as it is done by just pressing the button on the remote and switching between the two modes, so it is something that you can experiment with depending on speakers. 

The main feature of this amplifier is that fact that it is a HP or High Power Amplifier and that you can change the tubes to match your system when needed, the basic model comes with eight EL34 tubes but you can also change the tubes out to KT88/KT120 or even KT150 which offers immense power handling and this is what makes this amplifier so good as it can change as you change your system, you may change your speakers but you do not need to change the amplifier, just add in the different tubes to add more power if needed.

Prima Luna has one very special feature on this amplifier which makes them a real heavy weight in the tube amplifier ring and that is its Adaptive AutoBias this is unique and something that is not found in other amplifiers, it is constantly monitoring the circuitry and adjusting the bias smoothly and instantly, it reduces maintenance on the amplifier. It also comes with a new extensive output protection stage which helps protect resistors, transformers and the huge power supply in case a tube fails, it also has a BTI or Bad Tube Indicator LED next to the tube to show you which tube is faulty.

It can also be used with Headphones as it has a 6mm Headphones socket which is powered by an all tube Headphone Amplifier which can compete with the very best.

The use of TAKMAN Audiophile grade resistors in critical signal paths are used in the HP Amplifier, there is so many more features that the list would go on for a few pages so I would ask you to look at the PDF manual if you would like to read up on all of the features that this amp possess. I have gone through what I feel are some of the most significant for the review and it is such a well built and specified amplifier.


Sound Quality and Performance

For testing I will be using my KEF Reference One Speakers with Transparent Speaker Cables and Crystal Cables interconnects connected to my Chord QuteHD DAC and also connected to my Oppo Blu-Ray Player using BNC Connections. I use my laptop to stream all my music via J River Media server which is superb and I have quite a collection of music on HDD somewhere around 4TB, a lot of that is high resolution and now I am gaining a bigger library of DSD Music, which is streamed via USB to the Chord DAC.

I have modified the Prima Luna HP Integrated Amplifier from its original format which was 8 x EL34 tubes to 8 x KT120 tubes for my listening session as they suit the KEF Reference One Speakers much better, well a lot better in fact.

I Start off my listening session with the brilliant Gregory Porter and his album Liquid Spirit in high resolution 24bit 96Khz, The vocal clarity is just so powerful in fact it is the most visceral sounding amplifier I have had in my room, it just seems to feel effortless in its presentation, then you have the bass from the Double Bass string instruments which set the beat, and the brilliant piano piece which is so well defined by the amplifier, each instrument is separated perfectly and the timing is spot on. Then the brass section comes in with volumes erring on high side this really gets your foot tapping and there is nothing stopping the music flow from the Prima Luna it is just so clean in its presentation.

Musical Genocide is a thumping track on the album with a melodic feel singing soul man, the piano and brass section all have their place in the sound stage which is painted so well by the HP Amplifier. It seems to be able to handle complicated sections of music with ease and just throw the sonic image across the sound stage which gets bigger as the music grows and the more music flows in. I always find myself questioning how good can an amplifier actually get and it is times like this when such good music is being played that you realize how good they can get, and that the transducer is not the limiting factor in a lot of the situations but it is the amplifier as I have heard this song so many times but never this good.

When Love Was King is a beautiful track which is a slow jazz song with Gregory Porter's voice sounding so powerful again, which I am finding the Prima Luma loves to be played loud as it does not get fatiguing at all but all that power is put to good use on this gorgeous track. Switching between Triode and Ultra-Linear modes brings an even more relaxing sound as the amp drops in power but the mid-band and vocals become silky smooth in sound. It takes a little while for your ears to adjust to the difference in sound, but you need to have your analytical part of the brain switched in gear and reviewing mode to be focused to maximize on the critical listening.

Next up was a new album by the artist Adele who has a stunning voice and her new album 25 is just superb in every aspect of a listening experience that can be had.

I listened to the first track Hello with a friend on the Prima Luna and I had to just write about this as he been in the HiFibusiness for about 20 odd years or so and we both sat down to listen and turned the volume up on the HP Integrated Amplifier to quite a high volume and we both sat there mesmerized by the sound that was coming out of the KEF Speakers as it sounded stunning, simply sublime. Adele's voice is so powerful and it was the next best experience apart from getting tickets to a live gig with her singing it for us live. My friend said that is some of the best sound he had ever heard and I was in total agreement with him. The Prima Luna really was stretching its legs and showing us what it could do, I am finding that the amplifier has really bedded in now and that the KT120 tubes are the perfect match for the speakers that I have, and that is the beauty about this amplifier, in that you can match it to any speaker and change the the tubes to whatever you like depending on what your set up and system consists of.

It really is a beautiful piece of kit that hits far above its price point and I have listened to many solid state amplifiers that just do not have the immediate sound and dynamics that the Prima Luna is endowed with, it is one powerful integrated amplifier, one of the most powerful sounding amps that I have had the pleasure of listening to at home and am looking forward to putting my new Wilson Audio Speakers on the end of it when they arrive as I expect it should have no problem driving them either.

Last album to listen to and I just received my copy of Lyn Stanley's new album Interludes on SACD so I spin that up on my modified Oppo BDP93 Player and listen to the stereo DSD track on the disc which is superb and the sound is just stunning. It plays via HDMI to my processor and is played as DSD and then out into the Prima Luna HP Integrated Amplifier via its HT Bypass function.

This is Lyn Stanley's third album and I have two of them, Potions on DSD256 and this one which is titled Interludes on SACD and I was extremely pleased to get an early release and signed copy of her album as I am a huge fan of her work as she has a wonderful voice. I find her music perfect material for reviewing as it has everything that is required to show off a good system.

Just One of Those Things is the first track and is a beautifully composed jazzy number which has a wonderful band playing with some excellent percussion, brass, double bass and piano playing and Lyn Stanley's voice sounds silky smooth through the Prima Luna but powerful at the same time. The HP Integrated casts a wonderful sound stage which is very wide and deep allowing you to look into the music that is playing as you hear it. It goes to show that the Prima Luna can be agile and handle all types of music thrown at it as this album is a nice and mellow sound which is perfectly matched with Triode mode and a glass of red wine for a cosy night in.

Whole Lotta Love track six on the album is a funky little number with the guitar playing and the Prima Luna makes it feel so tactile that you feel the strumming of the chords as they are played, you really get to feel the music as it so melodic and tuneful with Lyn's voice being so captivating center stage, wide and deep is the band as they play around her. This is my favorite album that she has done so far and it is certainly the best sounding one and I think that the Prima Luna has had a helping hand in portraying this wonderful title.


Conclusion and Final Thoughts

I have had this amplifier for nearly a couple of months now and it has been an absolute pleasure to have and use, it is literally plug and play. That is part of the beauty about this amplifier in that it is simplistic in terms of use. I was a total newbie when it came to tube amplifiers at the beginning of the review but now I am truly getting to grips with what this amplifier is capable of and in terms of performance it is one of the best Integrated Amplifiers as the HP can be adopted to use an array of tubes and that opens it up to a world of speakers that can be driven by this amplifier. 

The sound quality simply put is quite staggering in terms of performance, I have now heard how good my KEF Reference One Speakers can sound on the end of a quality tube amplifier and it is an eye opener for all those people who are using solid state amplifiers.

For the money this is an amplifier that you would find hard to beat as you just get so much for your money, pure performance and that lovely glow from those tubes is mesmerizing!!

Cost of the Prima Luna Dialogue Premium HP Integrated Amplifier at time of review approx £2,998.

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