Let’s be brutally honest about high-end audio; sometimes it’s a bit full of itself. The combination of ever-soaring prices and elaborate and often exaggerated claims can sometimes make even the most enthusiastic supporter of high-end audio shout ‘Stop The Insanity!’. Fortunately, there are a few brands that seem to share the desire to create products that perform well without recourse to making outlandish claims or creating eye-watering price tags. PrimaLuna is one such brand.
However, as a consequence to this BS-free approach to product design and manufacture, the products didn’t change that often. The ProLogue and DiaLogue models from the brand were mainstays of affordable valve-based high-end audio for some time, and the company didn’t run through endless cycles of hyped-up micro-changes in product design. This isn’t just ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, but a more honest approach that admitted at first principles that there are only a finite number of ways of making an amplifier circuit, and few people are legitimately reinventing the wheel every few years; more like, tinkering with a circuit design that’s old enough to draw a pension.
So, when PrimaLuna announced a whole new range replacing the ProLogue and DiaLogue, interest was piqued. Was the company bowing to pressure and simply changing a couple of component values and proclaiming it the Second Coming of the Tube Amp, or will the Evolution range really live up to the name? The range launched recently with four series, each comprising integrated amp, line preamp, and stereo power amp that turns mono literally at the flick of a switch. These are, respectively, the Evo 100, 200, 300, and 400 series. There is also a single DAC in the range; the Evo 100. This sports a clever tube clock circuit, but that’s another story!
Even though we picked the Evo 300 preamp and stereo power amp, it’s worth running through the range, to set them in context. Evo 100 is the entry point, but already it features point-to-point wiring, relay-switched ‘super-quiet’ inputs, is a dual mono, valve regulated design with the company’s adaptive auto bias circuit and ‘Bad Tube Indicator’, has ALPS Blue Velvet potentiometers as volume controls in the preamp and integrated, and the integrated and power amp allow a degree of tube-rolling if the stock quartet of EL34s aren’t your bag. The Evo 200 adds a home cinema bypass, larger transformers, and the option to include KT150s in your tube-rolling quest. Evo 300 tested here adds a special ‘AC Offset Killer’ circuit that reduces transformer self-noise, upgrades the internal wiring to custom Swiss made cabling (in point-to-point designs, upgrading the internal wiring loom makes a huge difference), upgrading to Takman resistors and DuRoch tinfoil capacitors. The preamp and integrated get a bigger, better remote, and the power amp includes remotely-controlled triode/ultralinear switching, XLR inputs, and the beefiest transformers the company provides. Finally, the Evo 400 models bring XLR inputs to the preamplifier, and double the number of output valves, raising the power from a healthy 44W per channel in the Evo 300 amp tested here to 70W, or a potential 140W if used in bridged mono mode.