Review: PrimaLuna Dialogue 2

There are not many user reviews for the PrimaLuna Dialogue 2 integrated amplifier online so I offer this perspective for those that may be considering this integrated.

First Things First.

My equipment:

– B&W CM9 Full range speakers
– NAD T775 receiver (doing duty as the DAC)
– Samsung BluRay player (nothing special, HDMI output)
– LogiTech Squeezebox (coax output)
– Dialogue 2 (Of course)

My taste in music:

Rock and alternative, heavy is preferred. My playlists include the likes of Volbeat, Halestorm, GreenDay, LinkinPark, Offspring, DragonForce, Coheed and Cambria.

What I do not listen to: Classical, Jazz, Easy listening, country.

Source Music Quality:

CD, DVD Audio (Rush-Moving Pictures), MP4A, AIFF, 24/92 from HDTracks.

* I was new to tubes with this amplifier.

Unpacking it:

The first thing you will notice about the Dialogue 2 is that it is bloody heavy, it does weigh every bit of that 70+ pound shipping weight. It comes double boxed. Upon opening you will find the “white gloves” at the top layer for tube wrangling later on.

The dialogue 2 is built like a tank (see my comment about its weight). PrimaLuna encourages you to open it up and take a look at the workmanship internally, I did, it is very tidy in there.

The remote is built from machined aluminum, it is hefty and in a pinch could be used for home defense. Opening up the remote (as you will have to do to change batteries) reveals cheap Chinese internals, my first remote arrived with the buttons running around inside the remote. The remote has rubber O-rings around each end to save your furniture from being damaged, expect to visit the hardware store yearly to replace these as they degrade quickly, especially if left in a sunny spot.

The Amplifier comes with the tubes (PrimaLuna branded KT-88) installed and all you have to do to get it going is remove the sleeves surrounding the tubes, wrangle the protectors off the single ended RCA style connector for the source of your choice (they are on there tight!), add power and speakers and you are in business.

Operation:

The amplifier is simple enough to use, turn it on, wait for the tubes to warm up and you’ll be listening to music in 15-30 seconds. During the warm up period none of the functions work, so you can’t select your source until the amplifier is ready to go.

The amplifier offers a Home Theater pass through source selection, this source by-passes the pre-amplifier section (12AX7 and 12AU7 tubes) and feeds straight to the power amplifier section. My thoughts on this feature; as you have to physically turn the amplifier on you will be up there waiting for the amplifier to warm up and listening to the wife complain because it doesn’t respond to a remote control. Sure the HT pass through helps it fit in with the home theater but it still needs special attention, some thing the wife will let you hear about.

The sound:

This was my first foray into tube amplifiers, I was left dazed and confused!

From the beginning the Dialogue presented very clear and focused vocals and well controlled bass, I kept waiting for the “full midrange” that tubes are said to have to kick in as the tubes burned in, I never found the full sound I was looking for.

I found the high frequencies to be sharp and hash, several songs I listened to, Coheed and Cambria’s “welcome home” for example were so harsh I was sent running for the remote to turn down the volume.

Another sensation I experienced with this amplifier was no matter what the volume was set at, I always felt like if I just turned the volume up a little more I might find the sound I was looking for, I never did. In most cases after thirty minutes of listening I felt fatigued and would walk away from it.

I did try EL-34 tubes in it, the EL-34’s seemed to move the frequency response up a little bit, I still had harsh high frequencys, the bass response was tight but reduced a little and the mid range seemed to respond a little more but not what I was looking for. Changing out the 12AX7 pre-amp tube did not make a significant difference either.

I did use the Demo download from HDTracks that has a couple of classical tracks included, the amplifier did well with these.

Customer Support:

A quick email to the PrimaLuna-USA website may or may not yield a response. If you complain in the right places you will probably end up talking to either or both of the two main people in the company, Herman in Holland and Kevin in the USA, what other company, hi-fi or otherwise can you say that about?

My dealer was as helpful as they could be but they had no one knowledgeable in tubes, trying to make a decision about which tubes would meet my musical tastes was frustrating to say the least.

Summary:

To be fair, I am not the audiophiles audiophile, both my equipment and music/quality tastes and choices probably did not showcase this amplifier in its best light.

The Dialogue 2 is very well built and with care should last a lifetime, although I have my doubts about the longevity of the remotes internals. From my limited experiences the PrimaLuna KT-88 tubes seem to be of similar quality to most of the new manufacture tubes available on the market. One of my KT-88’s burned out at about eight months, they are warranted for six months …

For a heavy rock and roller with average source material I found the sound to be harsh and fatiguing and generally lacking in the fullness (low-mid range?), what it lacked in “fullness” it offset with razor sharp vocals (I don’t know what range contributes to this but it was there). The bass is very tight and controlled. I imagine that this amplifier is much better suited to Jazz and Classical.

The home theater pass through lets you use the Dialogue 2 as part of a home theater, I found this function to be of limited value as I always had to travel physically to the amplifier to turn it off and on.

If you are a newby to tubes definately take a demo model home before you commit, if the sound is not what you are looking for you will be on your own “tube rolling” to get that sound unless of course your dealer has some very experienced people on staff. Tube rolling my be fun when you are feeling experimental, when you are looking for a certain sound, the lack of information on the sound qualities of various tubes make it just expensive and frustrating.

So how did I finally get the sound I was looking for? My dealer let me trade the Dialogue 2 for a SimAudio product and I’ve never been happier.

username Aussiejetpilot

3 thoughts on “Review: PrimaLuna Dialogue 2

  1. Brandee says:

    As a heavy metal audiophile, i find this review useful. I will say i am familiar with tube sound and its reputation for the sound being warm and more suited for jazz & classical. With that said, i contemplated going tube due to the numerous audiophiles raving about the sound quality over solid state. I know my music taste do not match the warm tube sound, but since so many talked highly of them, i figured it would work for me also. After reading this review and relying on my prior knowledge i can conclude tubes are not for me as my main system. On the other hand, may suit well in a bookshelf secondary system if i choose to verge into the likes of jazz and classical.

  2. Scaggness says:

    I took the leap into tubes last summer with the Mystere ca21 preamp. The same company that makes the Prima Luna makes this unit. When I wired it into the system it took about three days for the change to happen. Before, the sound stage was very narrow and the mid range a little harsh. But once the system cooked in it was more then I expected. The mids became so real and lifelike thatย tunes I had heard a million times had new music in them. I do listen to jazz and classical. The combo of tubes and solid state may make the difference, I don’t klnow. But a tube pre amp made all the difference in the world to me.

  3. Glen says:

    Telling review, tubes of course are not everyone. And the sound is not always the “magic” one often reads about. Type of tubes may indeed change the flavor so to speak. Good to know that the gear is made to a high standard, if not the taste of everyone.

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