Review - PrimaLuna
EQUIPMENT REPORT
ROBERT DEUTSCH
PrimaLuna ProLogue Pretniutn
INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER
'J
Pri malu na*
megrared ampli£ers are hot. I don't mean in the literal
sense-although having a preampli£er and stereo power
arnpli£er in the same chassis usually results in higher
running temperatures- but in the metaphorical one. Once
\iewed as the rype of component that no serious audiophile
woul consider buying, integrated amps have made a come.· in popularity and prestige. Consider: the October 2006
-Recommended Components" issue of Stereophile listed 29
: regrated amps, whereas the October 2011 issue lists 40.
· a.'Pizili! s 2010 Ampli£cation Component of the Year award
I
went to an integrated amp, the Audio Research VSi60, beating
out a host of heavy-hitter preamps and power amps. The 2012
Stereophile Buyer's Guide lists 400 integrateds.
What accounts for the renewed popularity of this product category? Cost is certainly a facto~ but it's not the only one. You could
buy a separate preamp and power amp for the cost of some integrated amps. I suspect that a ~or patt of the appeal is the desire
for simplicity: one box instead of two (o~ in the case of monoblock power amps, three) cluttering up the living/listening room,
and fewer power cables and interconnects-another cost saving.
SPECIFICATIONS
:•c< · ;:>'i0n Tubed, remotecontrolled, stereo integrated
amplifier. Tube complement:
four 12AU7, four EL34 or
KT88. Inputs: 4 pairs RCA,
1 pair HT bypass. Outputs:
4 and 8 ohm transformer
taps. Maximum output
power: 35Wpc with EL34s
(15.6dBW), 40Wpc with
o:-':-:: - e.::- • June 2012
KT88s (15.9dBW). Frequency
response: 20H z-30kHz,
± O.SdB. THD: <1% at full
power. Signal/noise: 89dB.
Input sensitivity: 300mV.
Power Consumption: 300W.
Dimensions 14.5" (370mm)
W by 8" (205mm) H by 15.5"
(400mm) D. Weight: 46.3
lbs (21kg).
Serial Number of Un1t
Revicwf'd 10044978
(auditioning); 10115729
(measuring).
Price $2299. Approximate
number of dealers: 35.
Manufacturer
Durob Audio BV,
PO Box 109,
5250 AC Vl ijmen,
The Netherl ands.
Tel: (31) 73-511-25-55.
www.primaluna.nl.
US distributor: Prima luna
USA, 1042 North Mountain
Avenu e, Suite B, PMB 406,
Upland, CA 91786.
Tel: (909) 931-0219.
www.primaluna-u sa.com.
73
\\ben I consider the selection of produas for review, I don't
co:m.alh· look for ones that are in the state-of-the-art, cost;::
je~ category, but rather ones that promise to offer high
- und quality at a moderate price. Based on my experience
c.:;:h the PrirnaLuna ProLogue 1hree pre.amp and ProLogue
~.-en power .amp (see December 2009, Vol.32 No.12), that
?~cry much describes PrirnaLuna's design philosophy. So when
: rea PrirnaLuna's announcement of the ProLogue Premium- .e best integrated .amp in its class j ust got better"- ! was keen
, check it out.
Description and design
:r- said that an .amplification component's w eight can tell you
;. .or about its quality. Other things being equal, amplifiers that
-,.·eigh more tend to sound better. T wo factors are involved
::ere: transformers and chassis construction. Higher-capacity
;::·eophile .com • June 2012
transformers weigh more and usually result in better sound.
H avin g a more solid chassis helps suppress resonances, which
negatively affect sound.
For a 35Wpc integrated .amplifier, the ProLogue Premium is
surprisingly heavy: 46.3 lbs. The chassis has a very solid feel, and
the fit'n'finish is of a quality that suggests a much more expensive
piece of equipment. The tubes are covered by a cage that can
be easily lifted off rather than requiring a tool to remove it. The
front panel has two knobs: one for volume, the other for source
selection. There is no balance control. Source selection has an
unusual logic: no matter what source you've been listening to,
when the ProLogue Premium is turned off and then turned on
ag.ain, the source defaults to CD. On the left side panel, near the
front, there's a rocker switch for power on/off; and on the right
side another rocker switch allows selection of bias optimized for
EL34 or KT88 power tubes. Accidentally setting this switch to
75
PRIMAlUNA PROLOGUE PREMIUM INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER
a tube type not installed does no harm; in fact, the user manual
suggests that you experiment with the switch position for personal taste. I explored matching/mismatching the tubes and bias
switch positions, and preferred the matched positions.
TI1e rear panel sports five pairs of RCA jacks for inputs,
one pair labeled HT (for Home Theater). This is not just unity
gain, but actually bypasses the preamp section, and allows
volume to be controlled by a surround processor/receiver.
The ProLogue Premium normally comes with EL34 output
tubes, but can also accommodate KT88s, a set of which was
included with the review sample. Except as noted, I did my
listening with the EL34s. There are connections for speakers
with nominal impedances of 4 and 8 ohms. The ProLogue
Premium is available with an internal moving-magnet phono
stage ($199), but the review sample didn't include this option.
The ProLogue Premium was designed in Holland by a team
headed by H erman van den Dungen, and, like most audio
products these days, it's manufactured in China. According to
Kevin Deal of Upscale Audio and PrimaLuna USA, PrimaLuna's
North American distributor, the engineering of the Premium
began with a circuit design in which nothing was taken for
granted, and the components selected are of a quality not
normally seen in cost-conscious designs. These include:
• Nichicon and Solen polystyrene and tin-foil capacitors
• Alps motorized potentiometer (said to be 10 times the
cost oflesser parts)
• toroidal power transformer, manufactured in-house
• capacitor-plus-choke power supply, designed to eliminate
both low-frequency ripples and high-frequency hash
• custom-designed output transformers, manufactured in-house
• heavy-gauge, ventilated chassis with a five-coat flnish
• construction by hand and point-to-point wiring
The tubes supplied with the ProLogue Premium are SilverLabel, according to Upscale Audio's classilication, and are said to
T
o take these measurements, I
used Stereophile's loan sample
of the top-of-the-line Audio
Precision SYS2722 system (see
t he January 2008 "As We See It," www.
stereophile.com/asweseeit/108awsi/
index.html, and www.ap.com). The unit
shipped to me for measurement-serial
no.10115729, a different sample from the
one auditioned by Robert Deutsch-was
f itted with EL34 output tubes; I made
sure t he bias switch on the amplifier's
left side panel was set to the appropriate
bias position for that tube.
M aximum voltage gain into 8 ohms was
on the low side for an integrated amplifier,
at 36d B from the 8 ohm output transformer tap and 34dB from the 4 ohm tap,
but this shouldn't be an issue with modern
line-level source components. The ProLogue Premium preserved absolute polarity and the input impedance was 35k ohms
across the audioband, dropping to 30k
ohms at 20kHz. Though these figures are
around half the specified 68k ohms, they
s:e·eophile.com • June 2012
be already "special" compared to standard tubes on the market.
Other tubes, including cryogenically treated ones, are available
from Upscale.
The ProLogue Premium has a number of specific, trademarked circuits designed to optimize performance and prevent
damage to the amplifier in the event of a malfunction:
• Adaptive AutoBias (AAB) monitors and adjusts bias constantly. AAB was present in previous PrimaLuna amplifiers,
but the latest version is said to include more extended outputstage protection circuitry, to safeguard the output transformers,
resistors, and high-voltage power supply in case a tube fails.
• Bad Tube Indicator (BTl) is what PrimaLuna calls the red
LED next to each output tube, though BTl is not quite what
its name implies. A lit BTl LED indicates that the tube is
drawing m ore power than it should; however, this condition may
be only temporary, and not necessarily indicate a bad tube. If
the BTl comes on, you're advised to turn off the ProLogue
Premium, wait a few minutes, and turn it on again. If no BTl
LEDs light up, you're fine. It's only when the indicator stays
on that the cause is likely a bad tube, which must then be replaced. During the review period, there were a few instances
of a BTl coming on, but each time, turning the amplifier off
and then on again fixed the problem.
• Power Transformer Protection (PTP) is a thermal switch
built into the AC transformer. If the internal temperature
gets too high, the AC is switched off autom atically, coming
back on again when the problem is resolved. This never
happened during the review period.
• Output Transformer Protection (OTP) protects the output
transformers from high-voltage transients. Power in my system
is supplied by a PS Audio PerfectWave Power Plant 5, which is
designed to protect against transients of this sort; in any case, there
were no problems in this area.
• SoftStart is yet another protection circuit, designed to
will result in no practical consequences.
I assess an amplifier's output impedance by comparing the output voltages
when it is loaded down with 8 and 4
ohms with the voltage when it is loaded
only by the Audio Precision's 100k ohms.
Things went smoothly with the 4 ohm
tap, which measured 1.7 ohms across the
audioband. However, when I tried to measure the impedance of the 8 ohm tap, the
:~~ .
·•
- ~n
10 20
50 100200 500 11<. 21<.
5k 101<.201<. 50k. 2001<.
"'
Fig.l Prima luna Prologue Premium, 8 ohm tap,
frequency res ponse at 2.83V into: simulated loudspeaker load (gray), 8 ohms (left channel blue,
right red), 4 ohms (left cyan, right magenta),
2 ohms (green) (1dB/vertical div.).
amplifier went into runaway ultrasonic
oscillation when not loaded down, causing the Prologue to mute its output and
illuminate one or more of the Bad Tube
Indicator (BTl) LEOs. Normal service was
restored when I left the amplifier turned
off for a few minutes, then turned it back
on, but Prologue Premium owners must
take care never to disconnect their speakers
when the amplifier is powered up.
-10
10 20
50 100200 500 1k 2k
'
~
Sk 101<.201<. 50k 2001<.
"'
Fig.2 Prima luna Prologue Premium, 4 ohm tap,
frequency response at 2.83V into: simulated loudspeaker load (gray), 8 ohms (left channel blue,
right red), 4 ohms (left cyan, right magenta),
2 ohms (green) (ldB/vertical div.).
77
~ !.
PRIMALUNA PROLOGUE PREMIUM INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER
The tube cover has glass side panels.
extend the life of sensitive components and reduce the chance
of tube failure from thermal shock.
The basic design of the ProLogue Premium follows triedand-true principles: the output stage runs in Ultralinear mode,
and tubes run well below their maximum ratings. Like other
products in PrimaLuna's Premium range, the ProLogue uses
double 12AU7s in each channel rather than the earlier combination of 12AX7 and 12AU7. This is said to result in much
lower distortion in the first stage.
The ProLogue Premium includes a solidly built remote
control that also controls the basic functions ofPrimaLuna
CD players. I found the remote to work extremely well to
set the desired volume: a very brief depression of the Up or
Down button resulted in a correspondingly minimal change
in volume, with no overshoot. Like most remotes, this one
has buttons of identical shape and size. Since there are only six
buttons, remembering the most frequently used ones, Up/
Down/Mute, is not that difficult, but I wish they'd made the
Up and Down buttons differently shaped or sized from the
others, so that they could be identi£ed by touch.
The impedance of the 8 ohm tap
appeared to be around 2 ohms, which
gave rise to audible ±1.8dB variations in
the amplifier's response when connected
to our standard simulated loudspeaker
(fig.1, gray t race). There were some slight
variations in response even into purely
resistive loads, but more important, at the
200kHz upper limit of this graph can be
seen a large resonant peak whose height
Setup
Setting up an integrated amp like the ProLogue Premium
should be pretty straightforward: connect the source interconnects, speaker cables, and, last, the power cord; make sure
the volume control is turned all the way down; turn it on.
Sounds simple enough, but I ran into a problem at the very
first stage: plugging in the interconnects from the CD player.
The ProLogue Premium's RCA jacks have plastic covers on
them, and I had a difficult time trying to remove the ones over
the CD input pair. (The user's manual makes no reference to
these protective covers; they may have been a late addition.)
Pulling on them didn't seem to work, so I started twisting one
of them-and then I felt it give, and the entire input jack started
turning! Not good-I'd inadvertently broken the internal connection to the CD input jacks. To repair the damage, with Kevin
Deal's approval, I engaged the services of a highly experienced
audio technician, Roger Sherman, who carne to my home and
was able to resolder the connection without difficulty. I eventually found out that there's a trick to removing the protective caps.
There's a part that provides for a grip (it was facing the bottom,
so I didn't see it); once you take hold of that, you can easily pull
the cover off. This problem solved-and both channels of the CD
input working properly-I was ready to do some listening.
According to the folks who view measured electrical performance as the only criterion for the assessment of an amplifier,
once an amplifier's internal components have reached operating
temperature, the amplifier is performing as well as it's ever going
to perform: "break-in" and "warm-up" (beyond a minute or so)
are simply myths.
But most audiophiles and manufacturers of audiophile equipment know that break-in and warm-up phenomena are real,
and that amplifiers vary in these characteristics. In discussing the
effect of replacing tubes, PrimaLuna notes that "break-in yields
improvements." In the case of the ProLogue Premium, I found
that over a period of several weeks, with the amplifier ori 9-10
and frequency increased with increasing
load impedance. With the lOOk ohm input
impedance of the Audio Precision test
system, the amplifier became unstable
and went into oscillation at the frequency
of this peak. Th.is ultrasonic peak was
better-damped from the 4 ohm tap (fig.2),
when the variations in response with our
simulated loudspeaker were a less-audible
±1dB (gray trace). But the ultrasonic
resonance resulted in
and ringing with the Prima luna driving a
10kHz squarewave into 8 ohms from the 8
ohm tap (fig.3). Even from the 4 ohm tap,
some overshoot can be seen with a 1kHz
squarewave (fig.4), though the flat tops of
this waveform are a testament to the ProLogue Premium's extended low frequencies. These four graphs were taken with
the volume control set to its maximum.
+DE
2
[
-20 b
I
~
>
e~--~----1-~--+-~--+-1
r=
-
~
-<of-F----+----+----------+---
~
'
0
"
1-·2
00
r---1 -
I
I
1.0
1.5
20
200
"'
Fig.3 Prima l una Prologue Premium, 8 ohm tap,
small-signal 10kHz squarewave .into 8 ohms.
stereoph ile.com • June 2012
Fig.4 Prima luna Prologue Premium, 4 ohm tap,
small-signallkHz squarewave into 8 ohms.
Fig.S Primaluna Prologue Premium, 8 ohm tap,
spectrum of noise floor ref. 1W into 8 ohms, DC-1kHz
(left channe.l blue, right red; linear frequency scale).
79
PRIMALUNA PROLOGUE PREMIUM INTEGRATED AMP LIF IER
hours a day and playing music 3-4 hours a day (I leave the CD
player on all the rime), there was an improvem ent: the music
sounded more detailed, and somehow more "relaxed" and freeflowing. It also seem ed to m e that, playing music each day for
several hours, there was a similar sonic improvement, suggesting
a warm-up effect beyond the few minutes it takes the tubes to
reach their normal operating temperature. I noted these effects
while using the Avantgarde Uno Nano speakers; the warm-up
effect was also apparent with the GoldenEar Triton Twos. I
decided to evaluate it in a more systematic way.
First, with the GoldenEar Triton Twos in the system , I turned
on the ProLogue Premium, waited five minutes, and played track
3 of the C hesky Records Jazz Sampler & Audiophile Test OJmpad
Disc, vol.t (C hesky JD37). I listened carefully, noting all the little
sonic details, stopped the CD, and lefi: the room for an hour. I
then went back to the listening room- where the system had
been on all this rime, but without playing music-and listened to
the same track again. (The volume control was not touched.) My
conclusion- which those who want double-blind controls are free
co ignore-was that there was indeed an improvement, and of the
son that I'd previously noted more informally. What I thought
\Yas interesting was that the improvement did not depend on the
speakers playing during the warm-up period. It's possible that
playing the speakers would result in a further improvement in
the sound, but it would require some additional comparisons to
determine if this is the case.
Sound: Take One
I used the ProLogue Premium with three speakers: my reference
Avantgarde Acoustic Uno Nanos (reviewed in July 2009),
the GoldenEar Triton Twos (February 2012), and, briefly, the
M arti.nLogan Monti.ses (soon to be reviewed) . These speakers
represent a wide range of design approaches, and sound quite
different from each other.
First up were the Avantgardes. With these speakers, I always
experience a degree of trepidation when I turn on the system
afi:er installing a new amplifier. Never mind an y subtleties of
sound quality- is there noise (hum or buzz) at a level that's
likely to interfere with my e1~oyment of the music? Whatever
noise there is at the output of the
amplifier, the Avantgardes, with
their +1OOdB sensitivity, will let
m e hear it. I can try to "listen past
the noise," but I don't like having
to do so. With the last amplifier
I reviewed, the otherwise admirable Conrad-Johnson LP125M
(December 2011), I had to go to
all kinds of trouble-grounding/
ungrounding different parts of the
system and dressing the interconnects-before the noise abated to
the point where it was negligible.
Turning on the system with the
ProLogue-Avantgarde combination for the first rime, I was much
relieved to find it dead quiet. With
the volume turned way up but
no music playing, no sound carne
from the speakers; it was as if the system were not on at all. Very
impressive-and it boded well for the rime I w as about to spend
with the ProLogue. The Avantgardes are known to present a
high-impedance load, so I connected them to the Premium's 8
ohm tap s; a brief comparison using the 4 ohm taps showed only
a marginal difference, one in favor of the 8 ohm connection.
The preamp and power amp that I've found to work most
optimally with the Ava.ntgarde Uno Nanos are Convergent
Audio Technology's SL-1 Renaissance and Audiopax's Model88
Most
audiophiles and
manufacturers
of audiophile
equipment
know that
break-in
and warm-up
phenomena
are real, and
that amplifiers
vary in these
characteristics.
measurements, continued
Commendably, here was no change in the
response · the volume control set to
ter positions and the channel balance
excellent
el separation (not shown)
, a > 70d B in both direction
z, but just SO dB at 20kHz. I
--'E£ a 1 possibl e ways of connecting
·-e gro nd of the Prima luna ampli·
"e :o hat of the Audio Precision test
, includi ng running a separate
. -•e om the Prologue Premium's
grounding post on its rear terminal to
the AP's chassis, but whatever I tried,
the wideband, unweighted signal/noise
ratio, taken with the input shorted and the
volume control at its maximum and ref.
lW into 8 ohms from the 8 ohm tap, was
a disappointing 57.3dB in the left channel,
63.1dB in the right. As shown by fig.S, this
was because some low-level hum was
present at the AC supply frequency and
its harmonics. Switching an A-weighting
filter into circuit improved the measured
ratios to 76.8 and 77.7dB, left/right,
respectively, which gives a closer estima·
tion of the audibility of this noise. Even so,
I note that RD had no noise problems w ith
his sensitive Avantgarde horn speakers,
so perhaps his sample of the Prologue
Premium was quieter than mine. What I
did find with my sample was that it was
mildly microphonic. If I banged the top
of the transformer cover-even with the
input shorted-I could generate a ringing
tone with a frequency of around 250Hz
10
10
%
%
~=--~
500m
1
2
5
10
20
501 00
w
----------------------------~
~""-..tuna
;s ·<Hz
Prologue Premium, 8 ohm tap, distorconti nuous output power into 8 ohms.
0 .5
0.5
0.2
02 -
0 1
01
100m200m
500m
5
1
10
20
50 100
w
Fig.7 Primaluna Prologue Premium, 4 ohm tap, distorlion(%) vs 1kHz continuous output power into 8 ohms.
100m200m
~-
SOOm
5
1
10
20
50 100
w
Fig.S Primaluna Prologue Premium, 4 ohm tap, distorlion (%) vs 1kHz continuous output power into 4 ohms.
'
. ;,:: · = :o n • Jun e 2012
81
..:; ··
PRIMALUN A PROLOGUE PREMIUM INTEGRATED AMPLI FIER
Mk.II. The 30Wpc of the Audiopax is more than enough to run
the Avantgardes to high levels, and the combination provides a
near-ideal mix of timbral accuracy, detail, and dynamics. Changing from the CAT-Audiopax to the ProLogue Premium might
be expected to have produced a sense of disappointment, but
my feeling was one of excitement: this integrated amp, costing
a mere fraction of the CAT-Audiopax combo ($32,000 with the
latter in its current, Mk.III form), was
able
to produce sound that was faithful
Turning on
to the source, musically involving, and
the system
altogether very listenable. Like other
tube preampli£ers and ampli£ers that
with the
I have experience with, the ProLogue
ProLoguePremium had a special way with
Avantgarde voices, reproducing them in a way that
combination had a more "human" quality than with
even topnotch solid-state products like
for the
the Simaudio Moon Evolution W-7
power ampli£er.
first time,
more ctitically, comparI was much ingListening
the ProLogue Premium with the
relieved
CAT-Audiopax at matched levels, I
heard some differences. With the CATto find it
the sound was more condead quiet. Audiopax,
vincingly three-dimensional, with more
"air" around voices and instruments; the
highs were more detailed without becoming overly bright; and it
was easier to follow the music's subtle ebb and flow. These differences-apparent when I was wearing my "sharpener'' hat-are to
be expected, given the price difference. People who have $18,000
to spend on speakers like the Avantgarde Uno Nanos can usually afford to spend more than $2299 on an integrated amp, and
probably should, to get the most from their speakers. Howeve~; if
you've picked up a used pair ofUno Nanos (or Unos or Duos)
and a level of 30mV RMS. I doubt that
this will be a problem in normal use.
With the amplifier's output transformer tap matched to the load, the
Prima luna Prologue Premium just met
its specified power of 35Wpc (15.6dBW).
Fig.6 shows how the THD+noise percentage present in the 8 ohm output changes
with power into 8 ohms. The THD+N
reaches 1%, our standard definition of
clipping, at 35Wpc. Figs. 7 and 8 show
·o
- ·~
T
:~r
50
100
200
500
1k
Sound: In the Real World
The Avantgarde Uno Nano is a rare bird: ultra-high efficiency,
horn-loaded midrange and tweeter, powered subwoofer.
Evaluating an amplifier with this speaker, while useful, doesn't
tell you how the amp will fare with more conventional speakers-and, of course, there's a major mismatch in price. Keeping
these factors in mind, I spent most of my ProLogue Premium
reviewing time using speakers that are less exotic in design and
provide a better price match: the GoldenEar Triton Twos.
The Triton Two is one of my favorite speakers: a floorstanding three-way that sells for $2999/paii; whose sound quality
comfortably exceeds what is normally expected at this price level.
Like the Uno Nano, the Triton Two incorporates a powered
subwoofer. Its claimed sensitivity, confmned by John Atkinson's
measurements, is 91dB--somewhat higher than the norm, but
much lower than the Uno Nano's. JA also noted that "the speaker
will not be too difficult for the partnering ampli£er to drive."
The combination of the Triton Twos and the ProLogue Premium proved particularly synergistic- it was as if each designer
had used the other's speaker to fine-tune the sound of his own.
The speakers sounded good through the ProLogue Premium's
8 ohm connectors, and even better-more dynamic, more "present''-through the 4 ohm taps.
Comparing the ProLogue Premium to the Audiopax 88
Mk.II and the Simaudio W-7, each driven by the CAT SL-1
Renaissance preamp, there were areas of performance in
which each of these high-end references sounded superior.
The Audiopax's m;yor area of superiority was its ability to
present recordings that normally sound a bit harsh in a way
how the THD+N percentage changes
with the 4 ohm tap driving 8 and 4 ohms,
respectively. The Prologue Premium
clips at 21Wpc into 8 ohms (13.2dBW)
and 32W into 4 ohms (12dBW), but the
amplifier does meet its specified power
from this tap at 1.4% THO. I haven't
shown the clipping behavior into 2 ohms
from either tap, as the amplifier switched
itself off and lit one or more BTl LEOs as
the power reached 40Wpc into this load.
As figs. 6-8 make clear, the Prologue
Premium is not a low-distortion design.
I plotted how its THD+N percentage
changes with frequency at 4.8V, a level
equivalent to 2.9W into 8 ohms, where
I could be sure that the distortion was
higher than the noise floor. The results
are shown in figs. 9 (8 ohm tap) and 10
(4 ohm tap). The amplifier is more linear
from its 4 ohm tap, but there are significant rises in distortion at the frequency
+ ~
:: ~FWf+ i7
..
,20
at a bargain price and don't have a lot of money left ove~; the
ProLogue Premium would give you maybe 900fo of what these
speakers are capable of-and outside of an AlB comparison, you
wouldn't know what you were missing.
2k.
Sk
%
10k20k
Tim e in ms
"'
Fig.9 Prima luna Prologue Premium, 8 ohm tap,
Fig.lO Prima luna Prologue Premium, 4 ohm tap,
THD+N (%) vs frequency at 4 .8V into: 8 ohms (left
THD+N (%) vs frequency at 4.8V into: 8 ohms (left
channel blue, right red), 4 ohms (left cyan, right
magenta ), 2 ohms (gray).
channel blue, right red ), 4 ohms (left cyan, right
magenta), 2 ohms (gray).
;:ereophile.com • June 2012
Fig.ll Prima luna Prologue Premium, 4 ohm tap,
1kHz waveform at lW into 4 ohms (top), 0 .1 04%
THD+N; distortion and noise waveform with
fundamental notched out (bottom, not to scale).
83
PRIMALUNA PROLOGUE PREMIUM INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER
that made me think that the recording sounded better than
I'd realized. Come Fly With Me (CD, Capitol CDP 7 48469 2)
catches Frank Sinatra at his confident best, with Billy May's
arrangements and musical direction providing perfect support,
but there's no getting around the fact that the massed strings
have a certain edge, whether from limitations of the 1957
recording technology or the digital transfer. Tbis edge was less
noticeable through the CAT-Audiopax combo than through
the ProLogue Premium.
The Moon W-7 had more of this edge than the ProLogue
Premium-and much more than the Audiopax-but it beat
both tubed amps in its sense of power and dynamics, had
more extended bass, and was able to drive the speakers to a
higher level without strain. The sonic character of the ProLogue Premium was in between the Audiopax and the Moon
W-7. At times, listening to the system with the Audiopax in it,
I thought, Yes, this is the way it's supposed to sound-and then I began to get the feeling that the sound was too smooth, too liquid.
into
impedances.
This amplifier really does need to be used
with speakers with the same nominal imp.edance as the transformer tap or higher.
Fortunately, at low powers into high
impedances, the distortion is strongly
second-harmonic in nature (fig.ll),
which is relatively innocuous. At higher
output currents, the third starts to
develop (fig.12), and even at moderate
powers at low frequencies, a regular
Similarly, when listening to the system through the Moon
W-7, I was impressed with the clarity, definition, and dynamic
swing-Yes, this is more like the real thing. Then my critical
self again reared its head, and I began to feel that the sound
was a bit on the aggressive side, pushing the music toward me
rather than drawing me into it. And whenever I switched over
to the ProLogue Premium, I had the feeling that here was an
amplifier-speaker combination that just "clicked." For an integrated amplifier that costs a mere fraction of these high-end
references, this is remarkable performance.
The ProLogue Premium's Home Theater input bypasses
the preamp section, including the volume control. I did a trial
using this input, connecting it to the output of the CAT preamp, with the Ayre Acoustics CX-7eMP CD player connected
to the CAT preamp's input. In this setup-in which I used the
ProLogue Premium as only a power arnp- I could evaluate the
contribution of the ProLogue's preamp section to the sound.
When I compared the ProLogue Premium with the CDplayer interconnects plugged directly into its CD inputs vs
into one of the CATs line-level inputs, the output of the
CAT driving the ProLogue's amp section directly, the differences were not great but were significant. The tonal balance remained much the same, but with the CAT doing the
preamplification there was a definite improvement in what I
might call finesse-the percussion instruments in track 3 of the
Chesky test CD were clearer and more distinct, but also more
delicate, and with no added edge or harshness. Double-bass
notes were also more clearly defined. Bass drums had greater
weight. Given that the CAT SL-1 Renaissance is widely recognized as one of the world's best preamps, and costs nearly
four times as much as the ProLogue, the fact that it sounded
better than the Premium's preamp section shouldn't come as a
surprise. The real surprise is how close the ProLogue's preamp
section carne to the sound of the reference-quality CAT SL-1.
picket fence of higher-order harmonics appears (fig.13); At the other eQd of
the spectrum, despite theamplifier's
decreasing linearity at high frequencies, the Prima luna did quite well on
the high;:frequency intermodulation
test. At a level about 3dB below visible
waveform clipping on an oscilloscope,
·the second-order difference product at
1kHz resulting from an equal mix of 19
and 20kHz tones was at -56dB (0.15%),
with the n11zner·-or·aer
21kHz lying at -60dB (0.1%) (fig.14).
Primaluna's Prologue Premium measures about as well as I expect from a classic tube design that uses a push-pull pair
of El34 output tubes. Both the hum and
the amplifier's instability when unloaded
probably stem from the compromises
necessary to manufacture a transformercoupled amplifier of this sort that sells for
a relativelyaffordable price.-JohnAtlcinson
-20
-40
-60
-80
-100
10k
15k
"'
Fig.12 Primaluna Prologue Premium, 8 ohm tap,
1kHz waveform at 2W into 4 ohms (top), 0.584%
THD+N; distortion and noise waveform with fundamental notched out (bottom, not to scale).
stereophile.com • June 2012
-~
,.
'!
Fig.13 Primaluna Prologue Premium, 4 ohm tap,
spectrum of 50Hz sinewave, DC-1kHz, at 10W
into 8 o~ms (left channel blue, right red; linear
frequency scale).
Fig.14 Primal una Prologue Premium, 4 ohm
tap, HF intermodulation spectrum, DC-24kHz,
19+20kHz at 13W peak into 8 ohms (left channel
blue, right red; linear frequency scale),
85
PRIMALUNA PROLOGUE PREMIUM INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER
connectors, the combination of ProLogue Premium and MartinLogan Montis became a more-than-credible match, despite
the m~or disparity in their prices.
Conclusions and System Building
The EL34 output tubes can be replaced with KT88s.
Sound: More Exotica
As I neared the end of my time with the ProLogue Premium,
a pair of MartinLogan Montis speakers arrived for review.
The Montis ($10,000/pair) features an electrostatic midrange/
tweeter mated to a powered woofer. Electrostatics are notorious
for presenting a difficult load to amplifiers (the specifications
for the Montis state that its impedance at 20kHz drops to 0.52
ohm), but having a woofer with its own amplifier should help.
Since the ProLogue Premium was the first amplifier I used
with the Montis, I had no background to draw on to determine
if, in fact, the ProLogue was a good match for this speaker,
but it sounded pretty good to me. Mark Aling of Paradigm!
MartinLogan, who helped me set up the Mantises, and who
has heard them in other contexts, indicated that he was pleased
with the sound. Whatever the effect of the low-impedance
load in the high treble, the ProLogue Premium didn't seem
fazed by it- perhaps because there's so little musical content up
there. A test with the CAT-Audiopax quickly revealed that this
was not a good combination: the treble was much softer than
ideal, and the amp ran out of steam at higher-but not roomshaking- levels. The ProLogue Premium fared better; the highs
were still a bit subdued, but to a lesser extent.
As mentioned earlier in the review, my listening throughout
was with the EL34 output tubes. When I had the GoldenEar
Triton Twos in the system, I did a brief trial using the KT88s,
and I much preferred the EL34s' more laid-back sound. The
ProLogue Premium's rated output using the EL34s is 35Wpc,
whereas with the KT88s it's 40Wpc-a difference small enough
that I thought it would be inconsequential. Nevertheless, I
swapped out the EL34s for KT88s (remembering to change the
position of the bias switch), and, whether because of the minor
power difference or other reasons, I preferred the sound with the
KT88s. Unlike with the Triton Two, where the sound with the
KT88s was a bit on the brash side, with the Montis the sound
was tonally better balanced than with the EL34s, with more
extended highs and a more dynamically lively presentation.
My last comparison involving the Montis and the KT88equipped ProLogue Premium involved changing from the 4
ohm to the 8 ohm speaker connectors. The Montis is rated at
4 ohms, but is described as being "compatible with 4, 6, or 8
ohm rated amplifiers." I fully expected that the 4 ohm output
would produce better results, as it had with the Triton Two.
Not so! The sound using the 8 ohm connectors was more
open and better focused.
It just goes to show you that in audio there's little that you
can take for granted. With the KT88s and the 8 ohm speaker
stereophile.com • June 2012
Built to a high standard, the PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium
offers outstanding sound quality at a very reasonable price.
In my listening tests, it combined well with speakers both
conventional and exotic, and gave high-end references more
than a run for their money.
Audiophiles often complain about how expensive this hobby
has become-and not without justification. In apportioning
the job of reporting on amplification components at the 2012
Consumer Electronics Show, Larry Greenhill and Stephen
Mejias set $5000 as the dividing line between "inexpensive"
and "expensive." (Stephen tells me that he would have liked
to set the cutoff at $1000, but there simply wasn't enough at
CES below that price, which would have led to an unequal
division oflabor.J The 2012 Stereophile Buyer's Guide lists 29
integrated amps costing $10,000 or more, including one that
comes in at a cool $100,000. Is this sheer madness?
What tends to be forgotten during the expressions of outrage about high prices is that if you ignore equipment at "crazy
prices"-and, of course, each of us has his or her own idea of
exactly where "craziness" begins-ours is a great age for the costconscious audiophile. If you do your
homework on what's available, read
The
the reviews, and visit dealers who
PrimaLuna
make a point of offering their customers value, you can assemble a system
ProLogue
for a reasonable price that- with attenPremium
tion paid to component matching and
offers
setup-can offer sound quality that
comes close to the cost-no-object.
outstanding
The ProLogue Premium would be
sound
quality
an excellent component around which
to start assembling such a system. I
at avery
found it combined well with speakers
reasonable
as disparate as the Avantgarde Uno
price.
Nano, GoldenEar Triton Two, and
MartinLogan Montis. The ProLogue
Premium also allows some fine-tuning to match the speakers:
there's a choice of output tenninals (8 or 4 ohms), switchable
power-tube bias, and a choice of power tubes (EL34 or KT88).
Playing the system-building game, first with an emphasis
on keeping the total system price down, I would combine the
ProLogue Premium ($2299) with the Marantz CD5004 CD
player ($350), and with something like the Dynaudio Excite
X12 ($1200/pair) or PSB Imagine B ($1100/pair) speakers,
plus some entry-level cables from AudioQuest or Kimber
Kable. At a total price of around $4000-plus another $400 for
a Pro-Ject Debut III turntable and $199 for the PrimaLuna
phono stage to get you into the world of vinyl- you'd have a
musically satisfying system that represents outstanding value.
At the next system price level, the obvious partnering
loudspeaker for the ProLogue Premium is the GoldenEar
Triton Two. Keeping everything else the same, you'd have
a system price of about $6000. Further improvements could
come from upgrading the digital source (I'd first check out
Oppo's BDP-95 SACD/CD player, for $1000)-and consider
getting better cables and a power-line conditioner. For a total
price well under $8000, this system could easily compete
with the typical rig costing $20,000.
Yes, this is a great time to be an audiophile. •
87
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