PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium line preamplifier Page 2

The next day, I played this LP through this system for one of my measurements-oriented audiophile friends. At the end of the concerto, he looked at me and said, "That's not an amp!" To my quizzical expression he responded, "That's a second-harmonic generator!" Sheepishly, I admitted that the sound might be a little rich in even-order harmonics, but then asked him, "What else could sort and display this complex music in such a tactile, spacious, satisfying way?" Timpani were far back but completely fleshed out, still weighty and accurately toned. Piano was front right, solid, and frantic, all in just the right amounts. Wind instruments were anchored, and the preamp exposed the counterpoint of percussion and piano. Rhythms were precise and kept my attention flowing forward. Unlike my visitor, I could not have been more pleased.

I asked Mr. Objectivity how he thought his system would play this giant, rattling Bartók disc. "Terribly!" he mumbled. "But far more accurately!"

To further torture my guest, I put on the Kronos Quartet's recording of John Adams's smart, frolicking John's Book of Alleged Dances (CD, Nonesuch 79465-2). We listened to this fun bit of art music through my Integra DPPS-7.2 DVD-A player (used as a disc transport) and Schiit Audio's Yggdrasil DAC ($2200). Mr. O cringed as I pulled out the CD. When he spotted the Schiit, he rolled his eyes. But when he recognized the veracity, true tones, and vivid textures of David Harrington and John Sherba's fiendishly dancing violins, he didn't cringe and his eyes didn't roll.

I can speak only for my taste, but I swear: Listening to these Alleged Dances through this trio of real-world components gave me levels of robust joy and musical satisfaction that would be hard to match at several times their price. (I was using the $8400/pair DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 speakers and moderately priced AudioQuest cables and interconnects.)


Late one night, a suave and cultured audio friend, François Saint-Gérand of Mighty Cala Sound, turned me on to a ridiculously hip recording from 1969: Comme à la Radio, by France's most talented avant-garde chanteuse, Brigitte Fontaine (LP, Superior Viaduct SV042). Fontaine (b. 1939) is a novelist, actress, playwright, and poet whose main career has been singing her own art songs and musically collaborating with the likes of Stereolab, Gotan Project, Sonic Youth, Grace Jones, Noir Désir, Archie Shepp, Arno—and, on this album, the Art Ensemble of Chicago and her future husband, Areski Belkacem (b. 1940).

It took only a few seconds of Comme à la Radio for me to realize that Fontaine would become my latest French obsession, following Bardot, Piaf, and Debussy. The way this vivid multi-mono album is constructed puts Fontaine's voice right up close to her microphone. Likewise Areski's melodic recitations and accompaniment on sitar and guitar. This is art and music to die for, and the PrimaLuna preamp made each surprising track sound intense and freshly recorded. This album, recorded 48 years ago, sounded so vivid and exposed that I thought I could sense the magnetic tape passing over the recording heads.

Whatever kind of distortion Mr. O thought the PrimaLuna gear was generating, I couldn't hear any of it. The ProLogue Premium preamplifier let me play this record much louder than I usually would, and still feel relaxed and focused while listening. It also let the music sparkle and scintillate at late-night whisper levels.

After I'd substituted Rogue Audio's RP-1 tubed preamplifier ($1695) for the ProLogue Premium, instrumental tones and piano notes felt abbreviated. Attacks seemed minutely suppressed, and decays were attenuated. Perhaps because of this, the Rogue was more intense in boogie factor, which in turn let beats and rhythms hold my attention longer.

The Rogue's "shorter" sound made bass feel more taut and muscular—but because of the reduction in harmonics and the attenuation of decays, there seemed to be less of it. Instrumental colors and midrange textures sounded more fully developed through the PrimaLuna. Because of this, the RP-1 was less beautiful in its transparency, and sometimes even noticeably gray. Through the Rogue, details were more finely drawn but seemed to emerge from a drier, shallower space. Conceivably, I'm describing the absence (Rogue) vs the presence (PrimaLuna) of Mr. O's second-order harmonic distortion.

Overall, the Rogue RP-1 felt more masculine and declarative, always marching and battling its way through difficult music. The RP-1 drove like a '69 Camaro Z28. In contrast, the PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium drove like a 1962 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider. It seemed more feminine and seductive. It danced, laughed uncontrollably, and sang. It guzzled French wine by the bottle, and would, after enough wine, kiss me full on the lips.

Nevertheless . . .
The ProLogue Premium has a high input impedance of 100k ohms and delivers a fixed gain of 12dB, which is just slightly on the low side of normal. I've been driving the PrimaLuna preamp just perfectly with Schiit's Yggdrasil and Mytek's Brooklyn DACs and a variety of phono stages: the Tavish Design Adagio, Parasound Halo JC 3+, and Lounge Audio LCR Mk.III. Gain-wise, no matter which amp or source I connected it to, the ProLogue's volume control always ended up in that optimal range of 10am–2pm.

Like all tubed preamplifiers without cathode-follower outputs, the ProLogue Premium's specified output impedance is high: 2800 ohms. This means it will sound its lively, detailed, frequency-extended best only if you connect it to a power amp with an input impedance of greater than 28k ohms. Barring unusual circumstances, a properly quiet and dynamic source-preamp match should not be difficult to achieve.

That accomplished, you should sense a new, nearly invisible, but tangibly luminous presence in every recording you play. Punch and drive should be obvious, but not overly or solid-state aggressive. You'll notice a feeling of ease and refined forward propulsion. Bass response will feel enjoyably strong, but maybe not as detailed as you're used to with solid-state amplification. Most of all, you should notice the ProLogue Premium's liquid transparency.


I have experienced many of the best and most expensive preamps, and none has been perfectly invisible. Surprisingly few have been more invisible than the PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium. With its stock tubes, the ProLogue Premium seemed about 80% invisible, with a forecast of 15% sunny and 5% cloudy skies. Humidity was above 50%. The absolute best tubed or solid-state preamps I've heard have never been more than 90% invisible—or cost less than $10,000.

In nearly two years of use, the ProLogue's stock tubes behaved perfectly: 100% dead quiet and grain-free. Exchanging them for new old stock (NOS) tubes from Amperex, RCA, Mullard, Brimar, or Telefunken will be unlikely to add any invisibleness, but they will adjust, in varying subjective amounts, the sonic weather factors mentioned above. NOS valves might also add force, shimmer, or texture to the sound. Although I didn't experiment with alternate brands of tube, the ProLogue Premium's chassis-mounted tube sockets clearly indicate that it was designed to accommodate this kind of fun, and PrimaLuna devotes a webpage to the subject:

In the end
I've listened to the PrimaLuna ProLogue Premium preamplifier at great length and carefully studied its construction. I've installed the review sample in my system many times and removed it just as often—it's been banged about. So I can say, without doubt, that it's built to last and is musically effective. Its combination of beguiling transparency and dynamic authority reproduces complex music and recordings with ease and élan. In even a very expensive system, it will not set limits on musical enjoyment. As I concluded my review of PrimaLuna's ProLogue Premium power amp: Class A sound at a Class C price.

Durob Audio BV
US: PrimaLuna USA
2058 Wright Avenue
La Verne, CA 91750
(909) 931-0219

tonykaz's picture

This is a remarkable review!

Every single reviewer seems to love this Brand of gear, probably for darn good reasons, none of the other reviewers have such intricate prose, not even Keven Deal.

The 12AU7 Glass Tubes are the actual amplifiers leading me to conclude that this review is a review of Prima Luna 12AU7s & the chassis mounted support circuits, which 'Begs" the question of how this chassis performs with the myriad of other 12AU7s that Mr. Deal specializes in providing. ( I understand that Upscale is the Biggest, Best and most reputable source for Audio Tubes in the entire USA, probably the entire World ).

Mr. Deal is also the Importer for PrimaLuna's sister Brand: Mystere, which seems to be nearly identical ( perhaps a bit older ) to PrimaLuna.

A descriptive essay on 'rolling' could be an accompanying Story that hardly anyone else is attempting, which I wouldn't bother to suggest except for Mr. HR's gift for words and phrases.

Mr. HR has the 'Ideal' test Laboratory to probe the mysteries of Valves and the skill to share his discoveries with the World, doesn't he?, his Editor might find this a useful concept to explore.

Glass tubes are not at all expensive compared to buying a whole new Amplifier, probably cheap compared to the range of Wires and other misc. stuff Audiophiles search out. It kinda opens a world of exploration for our intrepid group of "Seekers for Prefect Sound Reproduction". The headphone group have already begun exploring Tubes with their Schiit Valhalla, Lyr, Garage 1217, Bottlehead, Feliks headphone amps. Why not the Big Box guys? ( are headphones better resolvers than Box Speakers? )

a hopeful Tony in Michigan

ps. Every one of Herb Reichert's writings have left me wanting more, I'm hopeful of JA doubling Mr. HR's word budget, I'll double my Subscription!

malosuerte's picture

I have this pre matched with the Primaluna Dialogue Premium amp and I couldn't be happier. It may not be the most accurate, but it more than makes up for that in feeling. My Project xtension 10 feeds into an EAR 834, and the results are breathtaking in anything from Classical to Punk.

The PL offers tremendous bang for the buck, and this review encapsulates everything that makes it special.

As for rolling, I have really enjoyed playing with various tubes and the good people at upscale have really helped me fine tune things.

Again, great review.

mrkaic's picture

I don't understand how anyone can like this product. This is a preamp and should be accurate. The THD of 0.2% at 1V is way too large!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but we still strive for high fidelity, don't we?

tonykaz's picture

It's probably not too high a distortion, depending on your point of view.

Audiophile stuff is purchased on perceived Sound Quality, not on specs.

Still, I can easily understand your point of view. On principals, you can rely on SS stuff to present very good specs.

In practice, the Recording Engineers are pretty much 100% SS as are the Mixers and Mastering folks. However the performers will use a Tube Microphone Amp to improve their singing voice. ( they'll overlook distortions to get their "Sound" ).

If accuracy were of greatest importance, we consumers would migrate to loudspeakers like JBL 4311 Studio Monitors instead of the Great sounding loudspeakers we seem to own, doncha think? Gear would only need JA to do a measurement test for us to decide which Amp to buy, we wouldn't need or value subjective opinions of reviewers like HR ( why bother ? ).

I, for my part, have been a SS Amp guy since the mid 1980s when I discovered Electrocompainet. I now own a Schiit Asgard 2 ( Class A SS design ). I'm pleased by SS gear, I enjoy it's consistent performance but I've also heard the Schiit Valhalla 2 ( tube ) Amp/pre-amp, which I ( and a great number of fellow listeners ) felt had a much superior Sound Quality, it had a superb set of Russian Tubes. The down side of the Tube stuff is it's short life before needing another replacement set ( an ongoing cost problem ). So I've contented my self with the lesser ( but consistent ) performance of SS.

B.H.King, the famous electronics designer, says : he doesn't know or understand why Tubes sound good, they just do. ( I'm having to agree with him ).

There are some darn good sounding SS designs out there but be prepared to pay an "Arm & a Leg" for em, they don't come cheap anymore.

Funny how the Tube stuff is the Cheap stuff nowadays.

Tony in Michigan

mrkaic's picture

I actually like tube gear, but it has to be honest tube gear. In the old days manufacturers would strive to achieve the lowest technologically possible THD and IMD. That was true for both tube and SS gear. If you read old tube amp commercials/manuals, you see that they prided themselves on low distortion (and good specs in general). In the old days, good specs were perceived as good sound quality.

Modern audiophiles have forgotten all that, they just love "the sound of tubes". They think that sloppy sounding tube amps are the bees knees and that sound quality and specs are two different things. They are not. I don't know why we have regressed to this sorry state, but I have a few theories: (i) denial/denigration of science in the society at large; (ii) the domination of audio publications by individuals who have no engineering education, but a strong desire to be perceived as refined and relevant; (iii) the need by customers to feel special when buying gear (impossible if you have to admit that all competent amps sound the same); (iv) other, depending on how I feel at the moment :)).

Finally, as to your point: "Gear would only need JA to do a measurement test for us to decide which Amp to buy, we wouldn't need or value subjective opinions of reviewers like HR ( why bother ? )."

My point exactly, read the measurements, skip the rest -- subjective reviews are worthless.

ToeJam's picture

I enjoyed the review for all its glorious subjectivity and it compels me to consider a PL audition.

It is predictable, but never the less fascinating, that someone will in a public forum proclaim to be the arbiter of merit and truth. Worthless is my objective valuation of such proclamations.

mrkaic's picture

I stand for objective standards -- measurements, and science. That old school stuff that gave us the standard of living we enjoy today. :))

What we have in audio these days, is a sad case of emperor's new clothes. Too many individuals with little or no engineering education who "review" audio equipment and write soapy articles in trade magazines. It is BS on par with wine tasting.

Those who care about truth in audio should begin by reading the following:

ToeJam's picture

Since you put it that way, I completely see it your way. You are rather convincing. So much so that I don't feel the need to follow the link you provided.

mrkaic's picture

I disagree with you about audio, but I like your sense of humor. Well done.

tonykaz's picture

Is there anything about Music that's Objective?

Nearly everything we humans do is based on Subjective.

We chose things we subjectively like and enjoy, don't we?

The entire music recording chain is based on making the music more appealing, subjectively.

We've had Scientific methods for about the last 500 of our 10,000 years of civilized history, we're new at it and were still learning.

Objectively, we could eat a Dog Food mix based on our nutritional needs and get by nicely, we don't need good tasting food, do we?

We could get by with only one Car Color, what good are all those color choices?, they're needless expense that don't add value. White tests best.

Women's fancy clothes and makeup are nonsense, we don't need that sort of thing, no matter what the testing shows. Lets have only one "approved" garment for women and get rid of all that Sizzle the Shopping Malls sell.

Fusion Jazz is a harmonic disaster, it's horrible and tests badly.

What on earth do we need Wine Tasting for, lets just have $5 Vodka to get our buzz. Booze tests results are among the worst, that stuff will kill .

More Dentists recommend Chesterfield Cigarettes, the MDs prefer Lucky Strikes, who's right? Lets do some testing and get to the bottom of all that.

An Objective person will look at our Subjective World and simply accept it.

A Neurotic person will look at our Subjective World and not like it one bit.

A Psychotic person will look at our Subjective World and see it differently each time.

Tony in Michigan

mrkaic's picture

Dear Tony,

the question is quite simple -- do audiophiles still want high fidelity audio equipment? Achieving good measured performance was the mainstay of audio industry during its "golden age". Then something happened and now audiophiles don't care about fidelity anymore, they prefer equipment that editorializes and is not necessarily faithful to the recorded music. I don't care if audiophiles like equipment that distorts, but such gear should not be called hi-fi.

As a paradoxical aside: the same audiophiles who prefer sloppy equipment, reject equalizers, filters, etc., because they want "as few things as possible in the signal path". Well, I hate to tell you, but using a sloppy/distorting (but subjectively preferred) amplifier is EXACTLY like using a nonlinear filter on your music and then pushing the filtered music through an accurate amplifier. [If you know enough math, you can actually write a piece of code, that will filter digital music to achieve this effect, e.g. the sound of tubes.] So "purist" audiophiles effectively like a lot of crap in the signal path, they are just not aware of it. :))

tonykaz's picture

I use an equalizer and understand that all stages of the Recording Process alter the original sound.

"Audiophiles" pursue gear that they enjoy the sound of, gives them status among their peers and probably a few other reasons. I owned and operated a High-End Salon ( Esoteric Audio in Farmington Frills, Mi. c.1985 ) I worked with Audiophiles on a daily basis. ( my wife refered to our cliental as the "Lunatic Fringe").

We at Esoteric stocked only outstanding sounding Loudspeakers that reviewers would pan in favor of their allegiances.

I was mostly a Turntable Arm Phono Cart. outfit, I carried nearly every brand and type of turntable in existence.

Audiophile itself is a Religion, a person needs to be a "True Believer" to go along with much of the rituals involved, especially among the Vinyl group ( in light of digital's outstanding performance abilities ), the Vinyl guys have to defend the ownership and purchase of $50 Vinyls, $15,000 playback gear and all the storage space required to maintain their Fossil Fuel based storage medium. I was a Vinyl guy.

I left the Audio Industry and returned to GM Corp., I'm a retired Manufacturing Trouble-shooter, an Analytical. Since 1985 I haven't maintained or owned a Home Audio System until I happened to encounter Tyll & Steve Gutenberg at a RMAF event of 2011. I subsequently bought and enjoy Sennhieser Headphones and Schiit Electronics. Now, I'm a digital guy.

I've been a "follower" of JA since I lived in England, hence I'm now a subscriber of his work at Stereophile, which is as good as Audio journalism gets or ever got.

As an Analytical, I take this distortion stuff with a grain of salt. I don't think we can actually hear distortion lower that 20%. I was at a Audio measurement seminar where a test equipment company demonstrated distortion in 5% increments, the audience couldn't hear or notice distortion until it reached the 25% level. This was an Eye-opener for me and my fellow Auto Industry types who design products on the basis of NVH ( noise, vibration, harshness ). Phew, chasing .1% distortion levels seems like a hoax.

As a Salon Owner, I would take Magnapan stuff in trade, I'd set it up with a Conrad-Johnson MV-45a and let em play music all day long, they'd be sold within a couple of days. The Conrad stuff wouldn't sell worth a shit but it was a magical combination. go figure!

I stocked the entire line of Conrad stuff and the ultra modest Audible Illusion Modulus Preamp, the Modulus sold like crazy from it's sonic attributes, the Conrad stuff collected dust.

I was an Electrocompaniet Dealer, it was the best sounding electronics I had or ever had or ever heard!!! I sold tons of Thiel Loudspeakers with the Electro stuff, but Audiophiles wouldn't touch the Electro because Harry Pierson of TAS didn't like the stuff.

I've had to accept that Audiophiles don't believe their own ears, they desperately need peer approval and Authority blessings from Reviewers.

Having said all the above, I've come to rely and even trust JA, Tyll and HR who seems to agonize over discoveries. These three seem to attract like minded searchers like Bob Katz and many others who make useful contributions to our "civilian" understandings of Audio reproduction.

We're going into a Whole new world of Music accessibility, I'm staying tuned to these lads so that I can keep pace without squandering time and funds on nonsense purchases. ( I'm an impulse buyer that thinks informed decisions are useful ).

I'm here to be informed!

My personal experience is that only a tiny fraction of High-end electronics is magical, I've owned and sold the best performing stuff, it can be either Tubes or Solid-state. Today, the SS stuff is outrageously expensive but if you carefully search out the great tubes ( Keven Deal ), then a modest amp can deliver outstanding musical experiences. What makes great sounding tubes sound so wonderful ????????

I simply accept.

Tony in Michigan

ps. the exception to pricy SS stuff is Schiit stuff.

mrkaic's picture

""Audiophiles" pursue gear that they enjoy the sound of, gives them status among their peers and probably a few other reasons."

Perfectly put! Thank you for this.



ToeJam's picture

an Audiophile by that definition because I care very little about status amongst my peers. And I agree that measurements are useful. However, I don't care how something measures if I like it when I hear it. Thus, I like subjective opinions from experienced reviewers because it broadens my awareness of the market.

Anton's picture

Best 'Manufacturer's Comments' ever on this review.

Kevin Deal hit that ball out of the park.

His reason for high prices on Hi FI gear gives you perfect insight into a place where Kevin lives every day.

Kudos to him and Prima Luna.

Such a great review and comment on this that I gotta figure out where to go next with my system.

pjr300's picture

It's ironic that my first post on this forum is a reply to a local audiophile that I haven't seen in 30 years!

TonyKaz, I hope you are enjoying retirement! I worked with you when you all were building out the store preparing for its open in 1983, and then part time for a few following years until we parted. I do recall those wonderful Electrocompaniet amplifiers.... we sold a few (HP liked the preamp, as far as solid state went, which helped LOL). Tonally they were wonderful... the amp was only 50 watts, but delivered a great tonal and listenable experience. Not the best in depth in solid state of that era, but it has come a long way.

You all brought a lot of cool product out there, like the EAR 509 tube amps (which sucked unless they warmed up) and brought a lot of smiles to folks with the ProAc Tablettes.

I've been out of audio pretty much for 20 years, save a tube amp and Grado headphones. Hard to listen to gear with kids around and a wife blaring TV! But now, as the house empties, I am putting a system back together.

Best wishes...

msommers's picture

Is there any info on DuRoch caps? I cannot find a thing online other than PrimaLuna uses them. Are these rebranded caps?