These are the words of Dick Olsher, one of the world's leading audio critics and tube audio experts, who for decades has written not only reviews but technical articles on high fidelity.
Here's a dirty little secret: Preamps have become a high-profit center for manufacturers. They won’t like that we tell you this, but it’s true. Power amps are expensive because they require big power and output transformers, which are the single biggest cost in building anything. An overpriced preamp is cheap to make, but first make sure it has a big box and pretty face plate. Then add one little transformer (not even toroidal!) that costs a few bucks, a tube or two mounted on a printed circuit board, a $2.50 chip as a volume control. Next, make up some lofty story about the design that has nothing to do with substance, and you’re done. How does anybody justify charging $5,000 for box of average parts that weighs 13 lbs? Don’t be impressed by name brands. They count on that. You're best friend is Google images. Use it to look inside and compare.
If you look at the finest cost-no-object tube preamps, ones costing $10,000, $20,000, even $30,000, you will see several things in common: The best tube preamps will be dual mono, meaning discreet circuits for the left and right channel with no shared parts. They will be tube rectified; meaning pure tube throughout. They will have point to point wiring; no printed circuit boards. They will use an analogue volume control, not a chip. They will have multiple tubes in each channel instead of resorting to negative feedback or cheaper hybrid designs. And finally, they will weigh something instead of being an empty box.
You get all this and more with the DiaLogue Premium Preamplifier at just $3,199.
Remember: Industry experts, reviewers, and speaker manufacturers use the DiaLogue Premium Preamplifier as their personal reference; writing reviews, personal listening, even making the records you buy. The price is not an issue to them. It’s their work, and they want the best.
AC Offset Killer - A PrimaLuna Exclusive
DiaLogue Premium is about goose bumps. The ones you get when music comes out of a background so quiet, you may say to yourself “Just how is this possible?” PrimaLuna custom-winds their own massive toroidal power transformers that are low in hum and EMI. But they wanted more. Their engineers designed the AC Offset Killer to lower transformer noise to a place no other manufacturer dreams of going, regardless of how bad your electricity is. The result? Sense of space. Texture. The resonance of an acoustic guitar or violin string that seems to trail on forever. The AC Offset Killer will amaze you.
If you bought a lesser amplifier, you would pay hundreds to make this upgrade. Easy to identify through their pink color, these premium resistors from Japan are popular with those who rebuild and upgrade their gear. "Modders" love TAKMAN for their low noise, linearity, and musicality.
SCR Tinfoil Capacitors
Made in France, these capacitors are used in the critical signal paths and while they are expensive, the PrimaLuna team felt they could not be left out after careful listening comparisons with many different types.
Dual Toroidal Power Transformers
Why? For the lowest noise. The #1 reason for having an outboard power supply on a preamp is to isolate sensitive small signals from EMI and hum radiated from the typical EI transformers used by many companies. The best cure for this problem is to use toroidal transformers, as they don't radiate EMI outside the core. Transformers are the single most expensive part in audio equipment, and that usually means cutting corners. Toroidal transformers cost much much more than typical EI core, because they take a long time to wind. Instead of a machine making many at the same time, the best quality ones like they use at PrimaLuna are made one at a time in-house. They are massive, resulting in a preamp weighing a substantial 53 pounds.
Tube rectified, dual mono design
In the world of preamps, experts agree that tube rectification offers the most natural, textured, vibrant presentation. That's why you find it in the best, top of the line models. Finding a preamp using one rectifier tube is sweet. But PrimaLuna uses two 5AR4 rectifier tubes in their dual-mono design.
Look at the interior photos and you will see that all PrimaLuna preamps are actually two preamps in one chassis. The result is obvious. Better imaging...like no other. That's where the weight comes from.
SuperQuiet Line Inputs
Input selector switches mounted on the front panel requires long wires to run from the switch in the front to the rear RCA jacks, and they invite stray noise like RF and EMI.
PrimaLuna has a better way. Instead of a switch, input selection is done using premium quality sealed relays mounted in the rear where you plug in your components. When an input is selected, that relay closes giving you the best connection possible. All the other relays are left open, so noise and signals from other sources can’t leak in. The signal path is now almost non-existent, so there are no wires to pick up noise.
New Front-End Circuitry
The DiaLogue Premium uses three 12AU7 tubes per channel. The result is even lower distortion and increased bandwidth. The change in dynamic range is stunning! Distortion levels in the first stage have dropped by a factor of five at low levels, and at least 20 at higher levels, above one volt. The four 12AU7’s on the outside are driver tubes. By using four instead of two, they can swing more voltage. The two tubes in the center are the input tubes, and that’s where you want to have fun later if you wish by experimenting with different tube brands.
Point to Point Wiring
You spend a lot of money on interconnects. So why have the signal go right from the RCA jacks or speaker terminals into circuit boards with copper traces so thin you can hardly see them? What’s high-end about that?
PrimaLuna employs Point to Point Wiring on all products. The entire signal path, including resistors and capacitors, is painstakingly hand wired with heavy-gauge cable by craftsman.
A preamplifier is typically not required to add any gain to your system when you are using it. It is usually lowering gain from the source you are listening to. The number one complaint from audiophiles about preamp performance is noise. So why is it that so many manufacturers design preamps with 20 to 27dB of gain? And you wonder why there is "hiss", and why tubes go noisy or microphonic? PrimaLuna preamps use SmartGain. With a gain specification of only 10dB, you will find your PrimaLuna preamp is as quiet as a church mouse. If tubes are less than perfect, you may never know it because they are not amplifying as "loud". High efficiency speaker owner's rejoice!
RCA Input Impedance
Each input has a circuit designed to present a perfect 100K ohm input impedance to the components you are plugging in, assuring you that every piece of gear you listen to will sound its best.