ProLogue Premium’s Sound
I was grateful that the ProLogue Premium I picked up was already broken in by another reviewer. All I had to do was unpack it, set it up, drop in a CD and listen. The first thing I played was Dead Can Dance’s live album “Toward the Within“ and in the absence of my better half I had the opportunity to run the unit through its paces at a high volume. I quickly noticed the large sense of space. Of course the associate equipment helps portray the stage, but the depth, warmth and fleshiness of the performance sounded fantastic. The drums and percussions circling the two singers, the echoes of Lisa Gerrard’s voice off the side walls of the hall, the sounds made by the musicians or stage hands in the back ground in between songs were all easily audible. It was all there and it was very 3 dimensional and incredibly captivating. What got my attention most on this first listening session was the mid range dynamics. Lisa Gerrard and Brandon Perry’s voices were so palpable I thought I could feel the heat off Brandon’s every utterance and the cold precision and sorrow from Lisa’s presentation. In fact Lisa’s vocals came out of the speakers and pushed so hard against my face, penetrating into my eyes on every breath or inflection, I sat stunned in my chair. I couldn’t move. There was more force and life from that amplifier/speaker combo than from my wife during an argument.
(Editor’s Note: As it turns out, Adam has many, many more faults than he ever could have imagined but the amp is more forceful still. )
Over the next couple months I came to some general conclusions about the PrimaLuna. After playing a variety of music: pop, jazz, classical, rock and electronica, I think it is safe to say the amplifier does a great many things well. Tonally the ProLogue Premuim is rich and musical. Violins and other strings have both good harshness or wood body texture provided it’s in the recording. Drums are large, punchy, and resonance is audible but slightly drowsy in the lower region. Guitars, both acoustic and electric sound informationally conveying , but the amp focuses on a more opulent overall sound. For example, with Jeff Buckely’s version of “Hallelujah” off the album “Grace“, the spring reverb in his amplifier is fatter in the mids and lows and slightly less articulated than with other amplifiers that have a concise and less luscious low end. Cymbals have sheen and a natural decay without being harsh or grating. I listen to a lot of “God Speed You Black Emperor“, and the crashing of two drummers banging on cymbals and high pitched experimental electrical guitar was clearly apparent but never over powering and fatiguing. I could play this amplifier all day long at high volumes and never feel drained.
While utilizing the EL34 tubes, the lows have a moody sound rather than being overly prompt and impatient. This might irk some folks who prefer a faster and tighter low end, but I rather enjoyed the persona and mood the amplifier was able to evoke. I also noticed that the top end was slightly rolled of in such a way that gave CDs a more natural, less digitized sound. To test this I spent a couple days using the Audio Note DAC1 Sig – a very harsh and abrasive DAC in my humble opinion – and sound from the ProLogue Premium was more forward and aggressive, the digital and fatiguing glare was almost completely absent.
If the music has a stage presence, it’s easy to discern. There are no gaps or holes and each instrument leaves individual space cues. Conversely though, if the recording is less than optimal, the ProLogue Premium lets you know, but only in a way a grandmother would ‘tisk’ you for wearing your hat at the dinner table. It is not so over-analytical that it will make you regret having purchased half your CD or vinyl collection.
I’m tempted to say the amplifier is a good rocking amplifier, but it isn’t. It isn’t filled with the excitement of skinned knees and bloody noses that youthful aggression has brought to rock. At least not with the EL34 tubes in. The ProLogue Premium has a sense of values, a fair amount of seductiveness, and a sense of restraint. It acts more like a classic rocker, someone how has been there, done that, and really just want to have a good, fun, clean time at this point. Somewhere between the lines of Lynyrd Skynnyrd and the Allman Brothers, all grown up. Maybe a tweed jacket, blue jeans and cowboy boots. And this is what I liked best about the ProLogue Premium because I could play it so damn loud. It wasn’t abrasive at these higher volumes, it was just fun.
At lower volumes the amplifier acts more like a mood setter much in the way a smoldering fireplace warms the room but doesn’t disrupt the continuity of a good conversation with friends over dinner. It isn’t intrusive like that. Which means at lower volumes it could be seen as less energetic and invasive. Late night listening might not be as emotionally satisfying as letting loose without the fear of disturbing friends and family.