PRIMALUNA Evolution EVO 400

MJ22.01.2020

Integrated amplifiers

The amplifier's chassis is simple and not different from PrimaLuna used in the past. However, unlike with many other tube amplifiers, the way the EVO 400 is built gives you a premium feel. Its finish fits well Aston Martin DB5's era and when you try and lift it then you know that it is a hefty amplifier with its 31 kilos.

Function and form

100%
Ease of use
69%
Sound
95%
Appearance

The Evolution EVO 400 premiumizes with hand-soldered connections, Swiss OFC wiring, custom made transformers, low noise Japanese Takman Resistors, adaptive auto-bias, built-in power filters, automatic faulty tube detection, and many other small things that either raise performance or user´s comfort with – the most importantly – keeping the amplifier affordable.

The manufacturer supplies the amp with 6x 12AU7 and 8x EL34 tubes. PrimaLuna is however compatible with any new or NOS tubes should you want to experiment. The bias is adaptive as mentioned plus you can adjust it (low/high) with a switch on the side. Similar switch helps you choose loudspeakers (LS) or headphones (HP) and any of the two tube modes, Ultralinear and Triode.

Bass management

Weight
85
Slam
80
Articulation
79

The Estelon YB loudspeakers are 6-ohms on paper, in reality their impedance oscillates near 4 ohms with 2 ohms minimum. I would say that using 4-ohm taps of the PrimaLuna is a natural choice but the amp surprised me.

Life In A Bubble (Paul Carrack) exhibited rich and tonally saturated sound with the Estelons hooked up to 8-ohm taps. The highs were softly shimmering and mids with bass conjured up a sort of swinging weighty vintage sound. I loved the 80´s feel to this presentation with up-to-date resolving power. The music had drive with low gravity center, it was engaging and let me forget that I am listening to electronics.

On the 4-ohm taps the Estelons remained good on the bass, they became less rich in the lower midrange, however. Seemingly they sounded cleaner and the vocal was projected slightly more forward, yet after while I started missing the colour and analog-like feel of the previous arrangement. Sure, my observation only applied to the here and now system. The take away is that a future owner should experiment and not just rely on what is recommended. And EVO 400 is exceptionally versatile and open to any experimentation.

Clarity & delicacy

Detail
79
Air
73
Transparency
71

The remote controller of the PrimaLuna Evolution EVO 400 is a chunky metal piece with pleasantly tactile buttons. On-the-fly one can use it to switch between the aforementioned Ultralinear and Triode modes. I liked the EVO 400 more in the triode mode – the sound was more relaxed and despite the music became a tad darker it did not lack ambient information. And there was another thing – the air in the room as if became electrically charged and conductive, each molecule vibrating on its travel to your ears. Decays were endless and vocal articulation top notch to the degree I found my lips moving with the vocalist.  I know that triodes can do such a trick and PrimaLuna Evolution EVO 400 takes an advantage of it. The listening was utterly beautiful and very engaging, as if the amplifier invited me “Please, sit down and close your eyes…”. This way it was easy to forget that I should had been actually evaluating a piece of electronics and the task was replace by listening, the mission of the hi-fi business accomplished.

Don’t get the wrong impression that the Evolution EVO 400 beautified the music- not at all, it could highlight differences between recording techniques and some recordings, like Pink Floyd’s What Do You Want From Me (from otherwise excellent Division Bell) certainly showed their sound limits.

Tonal accuracy

Timbre
79
Dynamics
71
Temporal resolution
68

The inexpensive tubed amplifier like the EVO 400 could not deliver such a deep insight on what’s happening on strings played by Meccore Quartet (Souvenirs de Florence by Tchaikovsky). So I only heard a hint of friction of bows and string resonances, the sound was somewhat fluid and smooth and less resolved. Still, the harmonies were beautiful and tonally correct. Organ Postludium of Leos Janacek was amazing through the PrimaLuna, however. The organ is not about nuances, it asks for size, power and extension. Here the PrimaLuna excelled and I found myself fiddling with the Ultralinear and Triode modes to identify whether I preferred more monumental Triode or better controlled Ultralinear. Both were highly addictive.

Spatial resolution

Holography
95
Soundstage width
95
Soundstage depth
95

There is one thing that does not need to be discussed in the case of PrimaLuna: dimensionality. The soundstage was wide and deep, and especially in the Triode mode the instruments and voices were holographic. The background canvas was not pitch black as the tubes let you know their presence, yet the sounds had nice contrast to it and be it plucked strings or fascinating vocal of Torun Eriksen in Shopping on a Rainy Day (Jazzland Recordings) I was constantly lured into the world of the EVO 400.

There was a moment I started to weigh up whether I needed another amplifier or not. Not because that I needed it but because I wanted to have an alternative to listen to my favourite music in a different – more engaging- way. If I make this decision one day, the PrimaLuna Evolution EVO 400 will be a hot candidate.

Price as reviewed:127 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

Navrátil Audio, Havířov, +420 737 821 360

Associated components

  • Sources: Accuphase DP-560
  • Loudspeakers: Estelon YB
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Crystal Cable Silver Gold
  • Power conditioning: AudioQuest Hurricane

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