Recently I saw Kevin’s updated bio (as well as mine) pass by in my waterfall of incoming emails and thought that this could be nice material for our blogs. So, here I start with The Heart And Soul Of … And the first one is Kevin Deal. It also means that the next one is … me. Glad I don’t have to write that one myself :-).
He often shudders at the words but many in the audio industry refer to Kevin Deal as the “Tube Guru”. Unquestionably, he ranks as one of the foremost experts in vacuum tubes so it is little wonder that PrimaLuna’s Herman van den Dungen sought his friend’s advice in designing the company’s first components. Deal brings nearly 30 years of experience to the PrimaLuna team and his counsel—in design and distribution—has proved invaluable.
The track that brought Deal into the world of high fidelity was created by three pivotal events that unfolded before he was ten. Entranced by his neighbor’s oscilloscope, then five-year old Kevin proclaimed he wanted to grow up to be an electronics technician. At nine, he launched his first business venture, buying Hot Wheels directly from Mattel then selling them to his friends for a dollar; even at such a young age, he was providing rare new models, value, and savings to his classmate-customers. A year later, the sounds of Hendrix, The Doors, and Cream bewitched him to the degree that he dreamed of nothing but music. Three pivotal events that ultimately married technical expertise, business acumen and passion under the umbrella of high fidelity music.
Born in 1958, Deal’s formal introduction to audio occurred when he was 18 and began selling for Mission Electronics. Two years later, he stepped up to store manager for Cal Stereo. He then shifted to the Federated Group during their hi-end heyday before finally landing at Rogersound Labs, where his “tube epiphany” occurred. “I realized that my shoulders dropped and my head grooved whenever I listened to tube gear, so I started experimenting,” Deal recalls. “I was obsessed with how two similar tubes could create such a vastly different sound and I set out to learn everything I could.”
Deal studied intensely, digesting not only the internal construction of tubes but their history as well. He scoured shops for the unusual, curious as to how they would sound. During one of his overseas hunts, he came across a massive cache of rare, highly-sought tubes and borrowed against every credit card he had to buy them. With the profits, Deal launched Upscale Audio in 1994, providing primarily tube upgrades while selling a select group of prestigious product lines. By the end of the decade, Deal had built Upscale Audio into one of the premier retail establishments in the country.
A year later, Deal was approached by van den Dungen (the premier audio entrepreneur in Europe), seeking advice on designing and distributing a new line of tubed audio components. Sharing similar business philosophies (exceptional design, value and customer service), Deal assisted in the creation of PrimaLuna and assumed North American distribution. PrimaLuna’s first offering, the ProLogue Series, was an immediate success with consumers and critics across the globe.
Spurred by that initial triumph, PrimaLuna, has methodically scaled up their product lines, each garnering greater praise and more awards than one can count. With superb construction, incredible sound, aggressive marketing, an infinitesimal defect rate, and a price point that attracts audiophiles and those new to high-end, PrimaLuna has become the David to the industry’s Goliaths.
Deal maintains his love of tubes and scours the hinterlands of Europe and Asia for those rare finds. But his time is occupied primarily by his two businesses and their success reinforces Deal’s reputation as one high-end audio’s most notable figures.