PrimaLuna EVO 300 Hybrid Integrated Amplifier

hfnoutstandingPrimaLuna's tradition of user-tweakable tube amps continues, this time by 'tweaking' its own EVO 300 model with a solid-state output stage. Welcome, PL's first hybrid...

OK, OK, there are those who think 'hybrid' is a dirty word. If your glass is half-empty, it signifies compromise, or – worse – indecisiveness. If you're a cynic, then it's purely a commercial choice. But if your glass is half-full, then it's a convenient solution to various problems. As PrimaLuna has only ever made all-valve amplifiers, the company's first hybrid needs some explaining. More to the point, at £6198, the PrimaLuna EVO 300 Hybrid – clearly related to the all-tube EVO 300 [HFN Mar '21] – is its costliest product.

I knew Herman van den Dungen long before he launched PrimaLuna in 2003, when he was mainly a high-end distributor, so I know that his rationale for producing an integrated amp with a tube front-end and FET output is driven by this experience. His secret weapon is designer Jan de Groot, who has been working with FETs for over a quarter-century. But now Herman has decided to address, for example, demands for copious power, and has chosen FETs as a far more efficient way of pumping out in excess of 100W/ch than via valves.

Floyd, Not Pink
Herman explained that he's dealing with a mixed bag of issues, one of which is how to use the name 'Floyd' as a separate line or division within PrimaLuna. He hastened to tell me that it's his love for Pink Floyd which led to using it, which is no different than Steve Jobs coming up with 'Apple' because he adored the Beatles.

As for beefy FETs, Herman – as a veteran distributor – knows that the marketplace is full of absurdly hungry or difficult speakers, which benefit from excess power and the promise of limitless headroom. So, before even getting to the SQ section, I can tell you that the EVO 300 Hybrid managed to drive my Wilson Sasha DAWs [HFN Mar '19] and – yes – LS3/5As [HFN Dec '18 and Jul '19] with far greater aplomb than did the EVO 300, and that amp is no slouch. Perhaps I was tipped off by its size and weight that the EVO 300 Hybrid was not gonna be 'all show and no go', with its 385x405mm (wxd) footprint and a heft of 25kg. Yeah, I'm a tyre-kicker, too.


Underneath the EVO 300 Hybrid reveals the bases [bottom] and L/R PSUs [top] for its two input and four 12AU7 driver triodes. The 500VA PSU transformer and Exicon MOSFET-based power amp (on heatsinks) are situated topside

In contemporary fashion, the EVO 300 Hybrid features an all-tube preamp section containing, in this instance, six hand-selected 12AU7s (two for input duties and four as drivers). It provides five line-level inputs, a home theatre bypass, tape and sub outputs and a mono/stereo switch, but only one set of speaker terminals, where the all-tube EVO 300, by necessity, offers a choice of 4 and 8ohm transformer taps.

Bolt-On Phono
The amp will also accommodate an optional £150 MM phono board, pictured on p65 but not fitted to my review sample. Without wishing to underestimate the add-on MM stage, anyone dropping six big ones on an integrated amp is likely to have a pretty good cartridge, probably an MC, so I would start with one of the circa-£500 phono stages from MoFi [HFN Mar '20] or Pro-Ject [HFN Jul '20], which also offer good adjustability.

As for the rest, this is familiar PrimaLuna territory with an on/off rocker on the left and another on the right to mute the speakers if you're using headphones and want the main speakers off. At least PrimaLuna gives you the choice, as opposed to headphone outputs which automatically mute the output.

On the front panel, to the right of the rotary for the five line inputs and AV throughput, is the single-ended 6.35mm headphone socket, conveniently near the aforementioned speaker-off rocker. On the far left is the (motorised) level control, and a nicely-machined remote is supplied, too. Add to it PrimaLuna's rugged enclosure for the main PSU and MOSFET heatsinks, the blue/black chassis finish contrasting with the silver fascia (or black, if you wish), and you have a handsome, confidence-inspiring amplifier ready to fight it out with the big boys.

sqnote Finely FET-Tled
And fight it out it does. Although I am known for a predilection toward valves – tell a lie: I always prefer valves – van den Dungen and de Groot and the rest of the PrimaLuna team have voiced this with a pin-point focus on achieving the best of the two technologies. To answer the most obvious question, yes, this sounds like an EVO 300 on steroids, but it tempers that amplifier's all-tube warmth with a detectable but not intrusive whiff of added incisory precision and detail retrieval.

The Netherlands
Supplied by: Absolute Sounds Ltd
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