I ran the PrimaLuna combo into my Theophany M5 Series 2 loudspeakers and started off with the speaker cables plugged into the 4 Ohm speaker sockets on the amp. The aforementioned soft-start process means you can’t just turn on, tune in and drop out man, you have to wait for the amp (or the very slow CD player) to warm up and awaken.
The first impression I got was of a soaring quality to the sound, a larger than life experience. I’ve seen a review of a PrimaLuna amp where the reviewer said that the soundstage was wall to wall. Wall to wall? Forget that! I was wondering where the walls went. In fact, the only wall was the wall of sound as the music reached out into the room and backward well beyond the rear wall. Lovely!
The sonics were warm and inviting but the dynamics seemed compressed and the bass was a little loose and uncontrolled. PrimaLuna advises the following: “Tip: Experiment using the 4 or 8 Ohm positive (+) terminal to find the best match for your speakers. Do not make any assumptions. Trust your ears.” Wow – trust your ears? Don’t assume? Sage advice indeed, if only more of us heeded it. Switching the speaker cables to the 8 Ohm sockets noticeably tightened up the sound, especially through the bottom end.
Detail coming from the combination is excellent and the treble isn’t at all rolled off – bright or harshly recorded cymbals still have a definite edge to them but without making you wish you were at the dentist. The overall sound quality is warm and a tad lush without being cloying or submerging everything in a morass of artificial richness. It’s a different presentation to the dryer tonal balance of the MicroMega pair I reviewed recently or my own system but it’s not olde-worlde, think of it as valves on a shot of absinthe.
The PrimaLuna pair does something special to any harmonics on a recording, and instruments just fade beautifully and realistically away. This adds a sense of space to the sound and it’s particularly appealing on live or acoustic recordings, especially combined with that soundstage depth.
Textures are richly and subtly presented. For example, the guitars on Love is Strange by Jackson Browne, David Lindley and Tino di Geraldo sound and even feel invitingly real and the live recording has a pervasive sense of space and air to it. Horns through the PrimaLunas are especially good, with a gritty edge to them, which is a real treat for Jazz fans (or classic fans or blues fans.)
The PrimaLuna combo threw a serious amount of bass into the room. Not the best damped or most controlled bottom end I’ve heard but it wasn’t boomy either and it really made the M5s blast away. There’s enough valve character through the midrange and treble to keep everything in balance, and enough verve that there’s no way anyone could ever find these sonics harsh and fatiguing OR boring and staid. This combination more than did justice to music like Rodrigo y Gabriela’s guitars and had no trouble with rock tracks from the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd or Wild Beasts.
Imaging is good albeit not hyper precise but that wide and deep soundstage makes up for any deficiencies in this regard and in any event, you may get completely different results with other speakers.
Mixing and Matching
Feeling that some solid state partners might show a different side to the Dutch pair, I swapped the Classic CD for my much loved Marantz SA8260 SACD player and hey presto, more energy and a less relaxed feel to the music. The Prologue Classic’s sound now had great punch and drive, admittedly with reduced warmth; think more air guitar and less armchair and cognac (not that there was too much armchair in the first place).
Checking the other side of the equation, I ran the Classic CD into my Yamaha A-S2000 integrated amp and was rewarded with a more neutral sound than with the Classic feeding the Prologue. This was just right, not too toasty and there was abundant detail with only a sense of slightly restrained dynamics keeping me wondering.
Adding in my Viganoni and Viganoni Sachem monoblock power amps (with the Yamaha as a preamp) made for an even more neutral sound from the Classic CD, with the only black mark being the dynamics again; this isn’t a big deal because it’s not as if the thing is asleep, just that it’s a smidgen restrained but its luscious, detailed sonics compensate for that. I’m an energy and dynamics freak, so when I say it’s not a major problem, believe me that it isn’t. This is a first-rate CD player in its own right, make no mistake about that.
I’d rather have my warmth from wasabi than from slippers, so I prefer energetic hi-fi systems. This valve combo makes for sonics that will excite and cosset in just the right proportions. They’re both built to a standard ahead of much in their price class and they sound great, whether they’re paired together or with the other components I matched them with.
In my book, the Prologue Classic amplifier is the gem of the pair and is one hell of an amp for two and half gorillas. Sure you can get more features for your cash in the solid-state camp, every bell and whistle you can name along with heaps more power but the Prologue Classic just gets on with the business of making music and it does it exceptionally well. Don’t ask it to drive insensitive speakers till your eardrums implode, just be reasonable and consider the power output when choosing speakers.
The Prologue Classic CD is a stunner as well but its price point puts it in a tough space, especially when the CD player is no longer the necessity it once was. When hardcore audiophiles are flogging their high end players and buying music servers instead, you know we live in interesting times. Still if you’re enough of an anachronism to want a four thousand buck CD player, this one should be on your short list. ASHLEY KRAMER