PrimaLuna EVO 300 Integrated Amplifier Page 2

Suffice it to say, even if tube swapping was not an option with this amp, I would have no complaints about how generously the EL34-equipped EVO 300 fills the room, even via the diminutive Falcon Acoustics LS3/5As [HFN Dec '18]. Such random thoughts play right into the hands of PrimaLuna, who rightly boast how much you, the listener, are being given control over the sound. Trust me: changing tubes to tweak your amp is infinitely preferable to tone controls, experimenting with cables or, worse, graphic equalisers. (Heaven forbid they should ever be revived…)

Depending on where you source tubes, or if you own a stash, keeping spare quartets of valves is never a wasteful thing. Moreover, PrimaLuna makes much of the amp's warning system that tells you if a tube has failed, so a stock of valves is a practical consideration, while the potential for experimentation is audibly rewarding.

421prima.remPure Sound
But back to the tubes good enough for Arthur Radford and David Hafler. Mickey Katz's recordings for Capitol, Strictly Kosher – The Singles Collection 1950-1962 [Jasmine JASCD 825] and Johnnie Ray's The Singles Collection 1951-61 [Acrobat Music ACQCD7115], same vintage but recorded for Columbia, proved perfect fodder for mono listening, as did The Honeycombs' Have I The Right [RPM QRPMBX548].

Aside from anticipating a perfectly-located, between-the-speakers image, mono recordings remove the trial of listening for stereo imaging, allowing you to focus more on the pure sound. These possess something which seems to have been lost since the early 1970s. It's best described as a silkiness or sheen, and it characterises Capitol, Columbia, RCA, Mercury and Decca recordings of 50-60-plus years ago.

While RCA and Mercury devotees base their love on classical and strings, Katz and Ray were backed by the last vestiges of big bands and both Columbia and Capitol knew how to record brass and, especially for Katz's recordings, clarinet. Both types benefit from the innate sweetness of the EL34, and the EVO 300 added an unexpected bonus, revealed by these vocals.

A Revelation
Allowing for the aging of the components, if not the vintage circuitry of classic amps, the EVO 300's sound was a touch cleaner and more open. This was especially noted with Katz's and Ray's vocals, both having distinctive sounds: Katz's was nasal and jokey, given the comedy nature of parodies, while Ray's was angsty and acrobatic. If you are of the school that values that almost indefinable quality of 'conveying emotion' as much as concrete elements like transient attack, this uncanny realism in the voices will tickle you. And it will also deliver another unforeseen revelation for forensic listeners.


Because these recordings were of the same vintage, with known recording hardware, the transparency of the EVO 300 – categorically not found in vintage amplifiers to this degree – will delight you if you're a student of early record labels. I am not schooled in classical, so I can't tell you which of Mercury, Columbia, Decca or RCA did the best with symphony orchestras, but you will definitely hear the 'Capitol sound' versus 'the Columbia sound'.

It's more complex than studio versus studio, eg, you also have to factor in Mitch Miller versus Nelson Riddle, but the pleasure of discovery is there. The EVO 300, in stock form, was a revelation. But, oh, to have the time to indulge in trying every one of the tubes it can accommodate.

And The Honeycombs? So chunky was the pounding, overegged-by-Joe-Meek drumming on the title track and 'Just A Face In The Crowd' that I suddenly lost the urge to swap out the EL34s for 6550s. For the weight of the drums alone, you can declare that this amp rocks. Whatever the tube.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
By now you've gathered that the PrimaLuna EVO 300 is just the ticket for seasoned audiophiles with under-£4k budgets, and no desire to be constrained. Using it is a blast, especially if you have the will and the skill to try various valve types and (like me) revel in remote switching. The best news? The sound will satisfy anyone who loves vintage tube gear but doesn't want to risk 40-year-old circuitry. It's a triumph!

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