Records just sound better this way

May 22, 2024
3 mins read


PrimaLuna EVO 100 Tube Phono Preamplifier

GRANT FAMILTON auditions a phono preamp that raises the bar for tube-based gear, and he just can’t stop listening.


I will admit to coveting PrimaLuna products, and when PQ Imports offered the opportunity to review the acclaimed amp manufacturer’s new phono preamplifier, my anticipation was palpable.

PrimaLuna was established in 2003 and set out to produce affordable, reliable and musical tube-based products. The EVO 100 Tube Phono Preamplifier is the latest addition to their EVO 100 range and features both moving magnet and moving coil capabilities. One of the main design objectives was to lower noise levels and PrimaLuna believe this can be achieved by using tubes correctly. The EVO 100 range includes a tube DAC, preamp, power amp and integrated amp.

On receiving the EVO 100 Phono the first thing I note is the weight. At 16kg I was envisioning exceptional build quality and materials, and I was right on the money. The EVO 100 Phono ships double-boxed. The outer box was wrapped in cellophane and both outer and inner consist of thick cardboard. There are also cardboard spacers between the boxes to further dampen any damaging knocks. Delving deeper you are presented with a pair of white gloves to carefully remove the EVO 100 Phono from the internal plastic protection, and you’re also warned to remove any watches and rings to eliminate the possibility of creating any annoying scratches. Included is a standard power cord, four rubber spacers and two spare fuses.

The EVO 100 Phono’s case design resembles that of the current range and will display nicely with any of PrimaLuna’s products. The front panel has five MC selections for resistive loading so you can select the correct load (ranging from 50 to 1000 ohms) required for your chosen cartridge and has a second selector for three MC gain options, low 52db, medium 56db and high at 60db. For MM enthusiasts the unit applies 40db of gain and there is a side switch for setting 47pF or 100pF capacitance loading. This will help you tune the higher frequencies if you find that necessary. The back panel houses the RCA input and outputs and a ground terminal.


Now to the tubes. The unit has two EL34s to dampen the alternating current power supply at 100hz and supply low noise power to two 5AR4 rectifiers. These diode rectifiers, one per channel, convert alternating current which periodically reverses direction to direct current. Four shielded 12AX7s provide RIAA decoding and amplification. RIAA equalisation is a specification to help standardise phono playback. The main standards were to permit greater recording times and improve sound quality. To achieve this during the recording process,  higher frequencies are boosted and bass frequencies limited. This allows more information to be recorded on a side of vinyl as less surface area is needed. Bass frequencies require more wiggle room in your record groove and therefore take up more space. Phono stages are then required to reverse these recorded frequencies for playback and are extremely well decoded by the EVO 100 Phono.

Enough about tubes you say? But wait there’s more! There are two 6922s in a separated Faraday cage to provide extra gain for the moving coil phono stage. What’s a Faraday cage,  you ask? Sounds technical, right? It’s simply an enclosure or shield used to block electromagnetic fields. Now before I Google ‘What’s an electromagnetic field,’ let’s jump into what the EVO 100 Phono sounds like.

I cabled the EVO 100 Phono with Tchernov power and interconnects to my Yarland tube amp. My Harbeth Compact 7 speakers are also connected with Tchernov cables. I notice it takes about 45 seconds to power on and I select Peter Gabriel’s 1982 Deutsches album. I purchased a new copy last year and have had it stashed for a special listening occasion. The first impression I get is the clarity. The drums are perfectly separated and I can hear much more inside the composition. I remember listening to this album and always finding the heavy drumming parts muddled and compacted together. With the EVO 100 Phono this is not the case, as everything is magnified and presented in a neutral tone. This isn’t a specifically “tubey” sound. In fact, the unit could marry suitably with solid state amplification while also adding a bit of hi-fi bling. It sounds clean, clear and quiet, and I definitely need to turn it up.

Well, 45:27 passed in the blink of an eye, meaning that the EVO 100 Phono makes time disappear. Time for something a little more recent. My best friend sent me a copy of Adam McGrath’s 2022 Dear Companions album. On ‘Sam And Adam’s Blues’ the piano sounds like it’s right beside me in my listening position. Wonderful sound staging, no overblown tube-like bass. Actually, I secretly like bass bloom, but there’s none from this precise preamplifier.

I can’t believe that’s another album finished. This unit is a timewaster, but not a waste of time! I did find one fault: my amplifier ran out of steam as I kept turning it up while I was enjoying myself immensely.

If you are looking for a world-class tube phono preamplifier with time travel abilities, then look no further. A high-quality product from a high-quality company.





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Grant suffers from Neophilia, his self diagnosed condition leads him to explore the worlds of music, painting and writing. In his natural environment he can often be observed seated in a listening position, enjoying coffee.

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