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PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium Preamplifier Review

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Hi Res, how are you doing?   

On both PCM and DSD hi-res music, the DiaLogue duo was exceptional in presenting a velvety smooth and natural musical flow from song to song. The musical enjoyment I experienced with regular Redbook CDs went up several notches when listening to hi-res files.

On the John Moriarty DSD album So Many Stars, the jazz trio and guest vocalist Bonet covers a Broadway standard “Almost like Being in Love” that was beautifully reproduced with the PrimaLuna duo. Bonet’s expressive interpretations were front and center, and she was singing to an audience of one-me! The upright bass had proper pitch and each note being plucked had the correct flexing action. The piano’s tones were exquisite and the hammers striking individual strings created an illusion that I was hearing a percussive instrument in live space.

The Blue Coast recording of Quiles and Cloud’s “Empty Handed” on their Seminole Star album is a subtle and atmospheric performance, perfect for intimate listening. PrimaLuna captured the subtlety and intimacy really well, with a completely quiet black background and the female singer’s voice with just the correct amount of resolution, making it seem like she was giving me a private performance.

Playing a downloaded DSD 5.6 MHz performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 demonstrated the recording’s natural timbres, tempo, and the very good spatial information transported me away to a different place. The PrimaLuna duo provided an emotional sensory experience that I consider good relaxation therapy.

I still have a bone to pick with the DSD format that I complained about previously in another review, and that is I have to adjust the volume much higher when I switch from PCM to DSD. Whatever the reason, it upsets my comfort level when I forget to lower the volume after I switch back to PCM, and get a sound blast that could be dangerous to my hearing.

 

My two cents

When I’m at a concert my ears naturally pick up the music being played, as well as the reflective and reverberant sounds (if it is an enclosed space) or the environmental sounds (if it is out of doors) of the venue. Trying to capture the ambience of a live performance with your audio equipment, whether the recording is from a live concert or at a recording studio, though is mostly an elusive pursuit. Sometimes, the pursuer catches the prey. For this to happen, each component in the audio chain has to have the correct amount of transparency and resolution, along with the proper room treatment or room configuration. Situations can happen in which  there is too little or too much transparency or resolution, thus upsetting the ambient balance. When the ambient balance is spot on, you will know and hear it.

The ambient cues you hear from a live musical event while you are at the performance and the cues you hear from a recording of that performance are usually quite different. The microphone, depending on how it is placed, can pick up extraneous noise that your ears don’t or choose to ignore. Nevertheless, the ability in each situation to decipher these cues accurately leads to the same result: you relax and become engrossed in the music, rather than listening to the sound and thinking how you can try to improve upon it.

From my experience, PrimaLuna equipment can achieve this goal, provided the other conditions are met. Above all, the PrimaLuna duo of DiaLogue Premium preamp and HP power amp (and some other components I have heard) deliver a musical purity I equate with getting to the heart of a performance, and thus allow me to just enjoy listening without worrying if they satisfy one or another audiophile parameter.

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Some final words  

Does the PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium preamp sound similar to most other tube preamplifiers, especially typical vintage units? The answer is no. In my system, the DiaLogue Premium preamplifier’s tonal linearity and bass control make it sound closer to its high-end solid state brethren, while providing a richness and “liveliness” to the sound which I find most transistors lack. The DiaLogue Premium preamplifier may sound close to linear but the thing has soul, lots of it! This DiaLogue preamplifier works beautifully in tandem with its power amplifier brother. And like its companion HP DiaLogue power amp, this preamplifier offers terrific value. If I was in the market for another preamplifier, this one would be on my shortlist! Until next time, I bid you happy listening.

3 Responses to PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium Preamplifier Review


  1. Jungsoo Park says:

    Thank you for great review, Mr. Mah. How would you compare this PrimaLuna preamp to the preamps from Rogue Audio you’d reviewed before?

  2. Paul Mah says:

    Hi Jungsoo,

    Since I own the Rogue Super Magnum 99 preamp I can compare the two directly. In my system the two preamps sound very similar, with the differences being the Rogue sounding a little darker and slightly more robust or fuller, while the PL sounding a little cleaner and a little more transparent. I think the differences may be attributable to the type of tubes used: Rogue = 6SN7 and PL = 12AU7 and maybe the circuit designs of each. In my opinion, they are both great preamps and it depends
    on what type of sound one prefers.

    Cheers,
    Paul

  3. Tim Oladunni says:

    Thank you once again for the excellent review Mr. Mah. I was wondering how the KT150 compared with the KT120 tubes since it appears that you had the former in hand when you wrote this review.

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