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PrimaLuna Integrated 300 vs. 400

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by DryWhiteToast, Apr 6, 2021.

  1. DryWhiteToast

    DryWhiteToast Where's my Ativan Thread Starter

    Hi guys,

    I am really intrigued by both the 300 and 400 integrated tube amps made by PrimaLuna and was wondering what your thoughts are on the comparison.

    I realize that the 400 comes with a higher cost and 4 extra power tubes which seems to be the sole difference as the other features are similar I believe.

    I guess I am wondering what the exact sound signatures are for each of them and is there a wild chance that the 300 might actually sound better than the 400?

    I know there are variables in play as with every new item we buy such as the efficiency of your speakers, the size of room etc. But, let's hypothetically say that the cost is equal between the two amplifiers and you were to choose the better sounding amp, which would it be?

    I ask this because with some brands it seems that less powerful and costly amps can outshine their bigger brothers.

    Thanks

    Cheers
     
    Echoes Myron likes this.
  2. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    When you get down to two finalists you should probably just listen for yourself.

    As general advice say you listen to five $3,000 amplifiers and you like the PL best. Don't assume that the $4000 model will also sound better than other $4,000 amps. As the price goes up the stiffer the competition.
     
    DryWhiteToast likes this.
  3. Mo-Tech

    Mo-Tech Forum Resident

    Location:
    Estonia
    They are great amps, you get a lot of amp for that price. Features that come with amps that can be multiple times of the PL cost.

    On EVO300 vs EVO400 I'd more look what speakers you plan to power.

    If they are lower efficiency speakers (below 90db), I'd definitely look more towards the EVO 400 since 300 may be simply not enough.

    I haven't seen 300 outshine the 400 anywhere in reviews. The Evo 400 is PrimaLuna's top-of-the-line amp, thus they've put the most effort into it.
     
  4. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    The EVO 400 is $5,000 and is a push pull amplifier.

    Personally, I am not a fan of integrated amplifiers when you get past a certain price. The PL amps are fine enough, not my cup of tea, but I think you can go with separates here and get significantly better sound quality and significantly more flexibility.

    Example -
    Audio Note M1 Phono Preamplifier is outstanding and is around $2500 give or take depending on whether you need a phono stage. A much better volume pot than the Alps Blue.

    Now you have $2500 for power amplifiers. On the second-hand market, power amps lose value a lot meaning you can pick up pretty nice power amps that you can now get for 1/3 of their new price. Power amps have no moving parts and so are relatively safe buys compared to a second-hand integrated.

    The weak spot of an integrated is the preamp section and the preamp is more responsible for the resulting sound quality.

    I am currently reviewing the M1 Phono and Wyred4Sound mAmps - the combination is less money than the EVO 400 and is at another level. You do sacrifice the headphone output and the remote control but a much better preamp and far more power. If class D isn't your bag there are all kinds of good tube power amps out there. There are plenty of other good tube preamps too but the M1 is the best affordable one.

    I am not against integrated SET amplifiers - they have certain magic but not higher-priced push-pull. Separates do more for less money.
     
    Glfrancis2 and DryWhiteToast like this.
  5. Mo-Tech

    Mo-Tech Forum Resident

    Location:
    Estonia
    The preamp at least in the EVO400 is superb (EVO300 should be similar). Their transformers plus pre I think is one of their secrets of their exceptional sound, rich and dynamic, bottom end is unbelievable in depth and extension (those custom made toroids really make the difference IMO) - it's an all-tube preamp (many others in similar price class incorporate op-amp based or hybrid designs to save on costs on their integrated amp models). So they've fixed that commonly ocurring problem in integrateds.

    Geting a decent separate preamp is always a good idea, but you must add 1/3 to 1/2 of the price to really get to that sonic advantage starting point, at least twice the price to be really there IMO. I have longer term experience with the previous generation Dialogue Premium HP model (pretty much the same as the current EVO400 model), and I'd say they've put a lot into the architecture IMO that most integrateds in this price class do not put in. HP/EVO400 is a great combination put into a single unit per price, with features it comes with I'd dare to say hard to beat at this price point in fact.

    With the same budget having a separated pre-amp or a second-hand poweramp for the same price will not give you the benefits Primaluna integrated will give - superb sounding toroidal transformes (they are really great), UL/Triode switching (I've found this a fantastic in daily practice of listening the amp, there are tiny few amps that can do this!), an actually working autobias (I personally was really tired of biasing my previous amps, this feature really made tube rolling a breeze to find my ideal sounding combo, I am spoiled now and I will not go back to non-autobias amp ever again), AC offset killer (it's really dead silent, I have not had a tube amp that quiet).

    It's really a complete package, in and out.

    I'd highly recommend testing the EVO400 and compare it with similar integrates if you can. Make your own conclusions.

    Just me 2c.
     
    Stonegarden71 likes this.
  6. Harris11235

    Harris11235 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Minneapolis, MN
    I compared the specs of these two amps closely last fall, but I haven't heard either of them.

    In my reading, I found a number of comments about these amps sounding "polite."

    I ended up at a dealer's shop and had the chance to compare a Rogue Cronus Magnum III to an Evo 100, and I can confirm that the Evo sounded polite compared to the Rogue when connected to a pair of modded Forte IIs in their listening room. The Evo 100 is 40wpc vs Rogue's 100wpc. The Forte IIs are more sensitive than your speakers, at a claimed 99db vs 88-90db for your PSBs.

    I'm not sure how much of the polite sound has to do with the amp's power versus it's voicing, but it may be something for you to keep in mind as you consider the sound you're looking to achieve. I'm also not sure how much of this sound can be altered with tube rolling.

    Good luck in your search. Those Primalunas definitely have a lot to offer, and have many raving fans.
     
    DryWhiteToast likes this.
  7. DryWhiteToast

    DryWhiteToast Where's my Ativan Thread Starter

    Thanks for the input. I have the PSB Imagine T2 speakers with a 90db rating (listening room) and 88db rating (anechoic chamber).
     
  8. Mo-Tech

    Mo-Tech Forum Resident

    Location:
    Estonia
    The recommended wattage range is pretty wide for those speakers (as most speaker manufacturers do to sell them to the widest amp power audience possible) but I'd defitely look more towards Evo400 since a 300W peaking speaker is no slouch at around 88db sensitivity. With Evo300 probably KT120 or KT150 will do the trick with extra wattage but you're not sure if those particular tubes have the sound you personally like. YMMV apples with every different tube, the only way to know is to actually burn them in and test them comparing A/B. But with EVO400 you should get enough power to spark them to full life from EL34 all the way to KT150, so you have huge amount of tube rolling choice if you ever get into that. And with stock EL34s you have a great starting point (stock PL EL34 are great already, and unless you are anal about the personally customized sound, you'll do fine with them, btw)

    Primaluna with perfect autobias and vast tube compatibility is tube roller's Valhalla. Just saying.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2021
    aunitedlemon and DryWhiteToast like this.
  9. Purplerocks

    Purplerocks Forum Resident

    Location:
    IN
    not that it really matters, but I have "similar" speakers Paradigm Studio 60's V5 mated with an EVO100
     
    Stonegarden71 and DryWhiteToast like this.
  10. Evo 300 would be enough for any speaker rated 87db on, unless you have a very big room.

    I've been a happy owner of a dialogue premium integrated (300's older brother) for around 3 years now and I'm very happy.
    It was my first tube amp, that I'd chosen it because of the bad tube indicator feature, and because PL doesn't push tubes too hard and so they can last longer. Actually, I've never blown a tube yet, even if I use mine for 10-12 hours a day (since about a year ago, before that it was 30/40 hours a week, that is still a lot for most of the people).

    I have no idea how it might compare to the 8 power tube model, but this one weights almost the same as the 400. Plus, I've never passed 10 o'clock on my volume pot (speakers are Focal Aria 948), I live in a very hot area and I have a big power tube stash that I've bought over these years, I couldn't have all those different models if I had to buy 8 instead of 4. So, even if I can't compare the two models, I wanted to give you my opinion. At least is a first hand opinion about almost one of the models you have put your eyes on.
     
    Echoes Myron likes this.
  11. jcn3

    jcn3 Forum Resident

    Location:
    NH
    i will say that the 8 tube evo400 puts off A LOT of heat . . . .
     
    Lowgroove likes this.
  12. DryWhiteToast

    DryWhiteToast Where's my Ativan Thread Starter

    Thanks for this. My room is a strange set-up. I sit 10 feet from my speakers and they are toed in facing my "music chair" and behind me is another room but where the speakers point is to me and a half wall behind me...the other half being the other space behind me. I have been thinking about the tube swap benefits too. Just out of curiosity, what tubes do you prefer?

    Take Care

     
    Stonegarden71 likes this.
  13. DryWhiteToast

    DryWhiteToast Where's my Ativan Thread Starter

    Hi, thanks for the input...are you using the EL34's?
    Cheers
     
  14. WildPhydeaux

    WildPhydeaux Picture withheld by The Authorities

    Location:
    A Parade in Dallas
    I'll chip in my impressions, which don't speak to the 300/400 query, but may provide a data point or two.

    To my ears, the sound signature of the Dialogue Premium HP integrated vs. the Evo400 Power amp with Evo400 Preamp was virtually indistinguishable. I did have several months with the former before upgrading to the Evo pair. Actually I introduced and used the preamp connected to the integrated in power amp mode (via its HT input) for several months before swapping in the Evo400 power amp. I had been advised by PrimaLuna that the sonic differences between the Dialogue HP integrated and the Evo400 integrated were roughly nil, so the above was not surprising to me. Note that I'm not saying the integrated is "as good" as the separates. I'm saying power section of the HP Integrated seemed interchangeable with the Evo400 Power amp.

    As to the power "quantity" I found them to have the same attributes as well. When driving my Revel F52 (87.5dB sensitivity and 6.5ohm) they provided all the power I ever needed for my 16'x22' room, and I do listen quite loudly at times. In UL mode I never felt they were breaking a sweat. In triode mode, however, there were times when I sensed the amp was working hard and exhibiting a sense of strain. This was rare and only when I was pushing unreasonable volume, but very real. Clicking to UL mode provided immediate relief. In day to day use, I normally ran triode mode and rarely switched to UL.

    Oddly, if I was making my buying decision again, I would likely go with the Evo300 power amp and pair it with more efficient speakers and/or put more powerful power tubes in it. The eight power tubes that the 400 takes is a lot of heat and a lot of money to swap. While I agree that swapping power tubes also changes the sound, I think rolling different 12AU7 in the preamp section is a more effective way of tailoring the sound to taste, and substantially less costly.

    Anyway, that's just my mostly unrelated musing for the day.

    Cheers,
    Robert
     
  15. DryWhiteToast

    DryWhiteToast Where's my Ativan Thread Starter

    Thanks Robert,
    I really appreciate the time and effort and your thoughts.

    Take Care


     
  16. Mo-Tech

    Mo-Tech Forum Resident

    Location:
    Estonia
    In Triode you'll lose nearly half of the power vs UL indeed. This is another reason going for 400 route if you like the sound in Triode more. I have 85db efficient speakers and I clearly hear my HP with KT88 tubes will start to suffer at around 60-70% volume level. Fortunately I don't listen loudly often and 80% of my listening is in UL with fully fledged power, around 20% in Triode mode.

    The only thing I find against 400 is the tube rolling cost 8 tubes vs 4 tubes. But as you say, the main sonic difference will come changing the two driver 12au7 tubes in the front end. I've tried three sets - from stock to Brimar long plates and settled on Psvane 12au7-s, they provided the most "depth" to my ear.

    Actually to my surprise the autobias keeps the tubes in low dissipation "cruising" mode - they emit less heat that the tubes say in 4X configuration. I have ampermeter connected to my HP (same power as EVO400) and I've measured it consumes around 300 watts from mains on normal listening levels. At max power listening it can go peaking near to 400W maybe even a bit over (autobias will react and puts the tubes in higher gear accordingly) but this is at clearly abusing levels of volumes I wouldn't dare going to even 0.01% of my listening time. PrimaLuna spec says it close to 500W with 8x KT88, but as said in reality it only consumes around 300W from mains on normal listenig levels. For me having a decent 300W heater is perfect in my northern climate - it's switched on most of the day. :)

    From that mains amp measurement those tubes will last VERY long time if that smart autobias puts them in comfortible "cruising" mode in 8x configuration (HP/Evo400). I am pretty sure they push the tubes way more in the 4x configuration (more "stressed" tubes) so the tubes probably do not last as long as in 8x configuration.

    Just me 2c.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021
  17. Well, I've tried a bunch of stuff from the smaller 6L6 to the bigger KT120. I didn't bother with KT150´s, because my impression, is that PL amps can handle all the tubes they mention they could, but they only shine with EL34´s, and KT88´s, but KT88 only if you put softer preamp tubes, because I find them quite aggressive, again, my opinion. So my favourite tubes for these amps would be EL34´s, being a close second if properly voiced, KT88´s. Among El34´s, I would recommend Winged C´s, though they are not made anymore and so they are starting to get expensive. Also I've been reading about a lot of failures among people that buy them nowadays, cause, you know, it's the bottom of the jar. For current production tubes, I'd stick to Mullard, those are the nicest and smoothest current production EL34 from the ones I've tried.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021
  18. Yes indeed! That's what happened to me.
    Also, I think that when someone is saying a power tube is better than another one, and supposing we will all agree and have the same taste (that of course is not true), that could totally change with a swapping in the preamp 12AU7 pair of tubes.
     
  19. jcn3

    jcn3 Forum Resident

    Location:
    NH
    i tried the evo400 at home, hoping to really like it. it sounded great, but i was really surprised by the heat put off by the stock el34 tubes. it would heat up my 10'x15' rather quickly.
     
    DryWhiteToast likes this.
  20. thegage

    thegage Forum Currency Nerd

    Pretty much mirrors my experience with tube rolling in my EVO 300 amp. I have tried the KT 150s, and while they are a really nice tube, I don’t need their power, and find that I missed that EL34 sound. I’d also add the current Tung Sol EL34b as a nice option, or NOS RFT EL34 which have surprisingly good bass. Finally, I did have an HP power amp and don’t think the extra tubes make that much difference (apart from the heat and cost of tube replacement) unless you really need the power.

    JohnK
     
    Stonegarden71 likes this.
  21. Max

    Max Forum Resident

    Location:
    Moscow, Russia
    I bought Dialogue Premium right when it was first introduced in 2013. I loved it so much that I bought Dialogue Premium HP after it was first introduced in 2015, i guess. So I had both of them side by side. The reason I bought HP was I was not sure the regular model was powerful enough to drive my 89 db speakers. I was wrong. From the additional 4 tubes I gained absolutely nothing but additional expense on NOS tubes. The HP model seemed to sound kind of rougher and less sublime than the 4 tube model. Otherwise I heard no difference at all. I sold both models since and had various amps including an AN Oto in between. After the new 300 int evolution was issued, I gladly bought it and it is my main amp now.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021
  22. DryWhiteToast

    DryWhiteToast Where's my Ativan Thread Starter

    To everyone, I really appreciate your points of view and the time you took to help me out on this quest.

    From your responses, I have been thinking about it a lot and want to add a bit more to the story.

    I love vinyl. (or should I say records....don't hate....lol)
    I play around 65% records(there....changed it up ;-) and 35% streaming with my Node2i.
    Currently, I have a Pro-Ject Tube Box S Phonostage coupled with a Hana EL.

    If I saved the money on the 300 vs. 400 and put the savings into a new phonostage....do you think that would provide a better sound overall and what would you choose for a pre?

    Thanks again.
     
  23. Harris11235

    Harris11235 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Minneapolis, MN
    I use a Hana SH, and until recently I ran it through a Tube Box DS with some Tung Sol tubes. Pretty dang close to your setup. I upgraded the Tube Box to a Herron VTPH-2A. The difference was not subtle. The amp was the CMIII I mentioned earlier in the thread.

    For the price difference between the 300 and 400, you could grab a Lehmann Black Cube SE II, which was recommended to me by people here that I trust. If you wanted to stick with tubes, you’re in striking distance to a Decware ZP3, which was near the top of my list.

    I would venture a guess that the 300+phono stage combo will get you further than the 400 and your current phono stage for your vinyl playback.
     
    aunitedlemon and DryWhiteToast like this.
  24. DryWhiteToast

    DryWhiteToast Where's my Ativan Thread Starter

    Thanks Harris,
    I will check out your Decware suggestion. I have also forever, lol, heard great things about the Lenmann Black Cube.
    Your comment about the 300 + phonostage upgrade was really what I was wondering about and I appreciate it.

    BTW. When I was a kid, Mary Tyler Moore was my parents' favourite show on tv. I would watch it with them and I became a huge fan of the Vikings because of Lou Grant and his support of them and always thought I would like to visit the city.
    Kind of reminds me of a northerly, snowy Canadian town.

    Take Care and all the best!



     
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  25. Harris11235

    Harris11235 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Minneapolis, MN
    You should definitely visit sometime! I’ve met some Canadians from Winnipeg and Thunder Bay who have come to Minneapolis for concerts. They said our city reminds them of a Canadian town too. Your parents would appreciate this statue downtown.
    [​IMG]
     

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