Old School

The PrimaLuna ProLogue One Integrated

Who knew that almost 20 years ago that this cool little tube amplifier would change my life?

My first assignment for The Absolute Sound was supposed to be a NAD integrated amplifier. But the day I got my copy of Stereophile in the mail with the ProLogue One you see here on the cover, I thought that might be a great piece to review.

As fate would have it, less than an hour later, Robert Harley was on the phone. “The NAD fell through, they didn’t want the new guy at TAS reviewing it. How about the new tube integrated from PrimaLuna?”

I already knew Upscale Audio’s Kevin Deal from the world of cars, so this felt like a slam dunk. The review was a success, cementing the PrimaLuna brand and my audio reviewing career – though I didn’t know it quite yet. When I started TONE (and for years to follow) people would say, “you wrote that PrimaLuna review in TAS, didn’t you?)
Yeah, I did.

Of course I bought the review sample. This amplifier was so good, how could I not? If you’re a fan of the vintage Dynaco and Marantz EL34 amps, the original ProLogue One felt and sounded like a restomodded classic. Not slow, soft, and syrupy like the vintage amps, yet not as clinical as a current ARC, BAT, or VAC amp. And the price was a killer deal. $1,095 in 2005 was insanely inexpensive for a tube integrated amplifier, wired point to point, with this level of fit and finish.

Another point of contention back in 2005 was the “built in China” moniker, but PL principal and lifetime high end audio pro, Herman Van Den Dungen makes sure everything is produce to perfection. The amplifier you see here has been in use since I wrote the original review in TAS, and it’s only had a single tube change.

When I got the ProLogue One back from my (now ex) niece a few years ago, I couldn’t have been more excited to be reunited with this old friend. And it cost me dearly – I had to trade she and her husband a new Simaudio NEO integrated ($3,400), along with some heavy convincing that having a tube amp around the house with a couple of toddlers was a really bad idea. The fatigued tubes were replaced with a new pair of PrimaLuna 12AU7s, a pair of EAT 12AX7s and a mint quad of NOS Siemens EL34 power tubes. Other than a slightly noisy volume control (with a little bit of contact cleaner took care of immediately) the PL One was back rocking with a pair of 1976 vintage Klipsch LaScalas. The sound was glorious, and with the coolio, upgraded tubes, even better than the day I unboxed it for the first time.

Almost 20 years later, PrimaLuna products have only gotten better, and there is now a wider range to choose from.

My ProLogue One no longer gets daily use, but it has the exalted position of being the first component I reviewed professionally. Today, I still use a pair of EVO400 monoblocks as reference amplifers, which produce around 140 watts per channel with 8 EL34s per channel.

I’m sure these will be as highly regarded as classics in 20 years, much like the great amps from ARC, Marantz, CJ and others. Every time I fire the ProLogue One up, it’s my favorite memory in high end audio.