Category Power Amplifier
The 36Wpc vacuum tubepowered ProLogue 5 sounds more authoritative than its rating would lead you to expect, and offers a warm, rich sound, yet really does not sound “tubey” in any traditional sense, producing clean, deep, tight bass and grand soundstaging. A synergistic match with the companion ProLogue 3 preamp.
Reviewed by SR, Issue 156
These beautifully built, affordable, and “hassle-free” 70Wpc monoblocks will alter your preconceptions about tube gear. Indeed, their transientquickness and ability to drive difficult loads may fool you into thinking you’re listening to a very good hybrid. Yet with four very musical EL34s per chassis, they still have that wonderful tube magic.
Reviewed by JH, Issue 169
The 70W (40W in triode mode) PrimaLuna Dialogue Seven monoblock employs a unique output stage—two discrete amplifier channels are paralleled at the loudspeaker terminals. This technique preserves the purity of a low-powered design while imbuing the amplifier with higher current capability. “No tube amplifier I’ve auditioned comes close to its performance for anywhere near its modest price,” said Jim Hannon. Reviewed by JH, Issue 199
Category Integrated Amplifiers
The sweet and affordable ProLogue One features a 12AX7, 12AU7, and a pair of EL-34s per channel in a very simple circuit. In classic EL-34 style, the ProLogue throws a very wide and deep soundstage, and has a wonderful midrange without sounding gooey like a Dynaco Stereo 70 or other vintage design. Very neutral with little signature of its own.
Reviewed by JD, Issue 151
The first product in PrimaLuna’s higher-performance line of tube units is a real honey, surpassing the ProLogue Two across the board. Rated at only 38 watts in Ultralinear mode, it sounds much more powerful due to its outstanding transformers, but requires speakers that are at least moderately efficient.
Reviewed by JH, Issue 195
The vacuum-tube-powered ProLogue 3 preamp makes an ideal companion to PrimaLuna’s ProLogue 5 tube power amp. Like the power amp, the preamp combines tube warmth and richness with a clear, crisp, precise presentation reminiscent of the best solid-state designs. Bass, too, is taut and clear.
Reviewed by SR, Issue 156
Category CD Players
An amazing value with a unique tube-based clock. At its best, with the board upgrade, the Eight closes in on even the most expensive competition. It’s blessed with plenty of boogie factor, superb clarity, sensuous mids, and lovely harmonic bloom. Its portrayal of the soundstage is wonderfully transparent. Out of the box, upper octaves are a bit grainy and bright. Tube dampers help significantly, as do vintage preamp tubes.Welcome to the 2011 edition of The Absolute Sound’s Editors’ Choice Awards, our annual Recommended Products list. On the following pages we present the gear that our editors and writers have selected as most worthy of your consideration. These are the components we ourselves would buy—or recommend to friends and family. Each product category is divided into price ranges, with components listed in order of ascending cost (though a few items, like cables and accessories, are listed alphabetically for clarity’s sake). Each recommendation is also accompanied by a capsule review, the original reviewer’s name or initials, and the issue the review appeared in. Note that in a few cases a product may have been reviewed in one of our sister publications, Playback or AVguide.com, or the review may be pending publication, or the product may not have been formally reviewed but earns a recommendation based on one or more writer’s extensive experience with it.
Given that this is the high end, where components generally have long lifespans, some of our recommendations look back several years. At the same time, in an effort to be as selective and up-to-date as possible, we have dropped some components that appeared on last year’s list, usually because they have been discontinued but sometimes because fresh competition has caused us to reconsider the choice.
TAS founder Harry Pearson’s selections can be found in this issue’s HP’s Workshop.