Amplifier considerations, PrmaLuna EVO 400 versus ARC Reference 160 S. Is ARC worth it?

Greetings all. I own a pair of PrimaLuna EVO 400’s paired with an a first generation ARC Ref 6 and Ref 3 Phono. This was done because I could not afford a pair of 160 M’s and wanted something to tie me over until I could afford them or another option came along. I have been taking a hard look at the Reference 160 S, However, the performance of the EVO 400 is so damn good. I am not sure I would gain anything. In fact, I would lose a lot of customizability and am not a fan of how the ARC amps are built with mounting the sockets for those big ass kT-150 onto the circuit board.

Here is an overview of how I set up the EVO 400’s. They are set up as Mono-bocks. and retubed with KT-150s. The preamp section are retubed with BLACK SABLE JJ ECC82 / 12AU7. A less colored and cleaner sounding tube over the stock Chinese made one. With this configuration I get a sonic signature that has a bit of bite on the top and tight controlled bass that is snappy and authoritative. Specifications change from 140 watts to 192 watts. The music I listen to is a lot of Classical, Gothic Metal, Rock, Jazz, Blues, Pop, and EDM. A lot of my favorite recording are bass heavy with heavy dynamics. Speaker used are 4 Ohm - 95 db efficient - with a frequency response of 18HZ-30KHZ.

The 160s I am considering is $24K has power rating of 140 watts. It is a cleaner sounding amp that does not have much voicing. Offering a more accurate presentation, with more inner detail. That may prove to have better sysnergy with the ARC gear I already own. Also, the case work and overall appearance of the product is top notch. Hence the interest in it.,

Contrasted to PL what I lose is... some musicality, the EVO 400 has more richness in the mids and vocals are more pronounced and have a greater sense of presence within the listening room. Again, the tube sockets are bolted onto the chassis. They do not use a cooling assist fan. I have the advantage of a Monoblock solution, that is easier to handle weight wise and offers better isolation of the signal between the two channels.

Where the PL Cheaps out, is the finish and the balanced inputs. I am not a fan of the battleship grey paint and hodgepodge just slapped together Chi-Fi look that the components have. Nor do I like the cheap ass balanced connectors they use. There is a big difference in quality between them and the ones on my Ref 6.

Any thoughts or opinions are welcome.

Many thanks for your time and trouble.


Re: Primaluna Monobloc. I have an EVO 400 power amp which I have been running for about 6 months now and am considering adding another to monobloc. (The preamp is also an EVO400.)

My question is, did you listen to your system for any length of time in stereo mode? If so, what was the difference between the two modes?

Prima Luna is Chinese junk and the worst amps I ever heard. Line magnetic was better for chi fi.

audio research is junk for American tubes and cheaply made as well. 
look into VAC and VTL.


That's a great point and one I hadn't considered. I wrongly assumed that an arc owner would most often send it back to the manufacturer. I was not aware that they were open to sharing the schematics, many manufacturers will not. Pennfootball71

I am surprised to hear you say that PL was the worst you have ever heard. I understand that these amplifiers can be polarizing and that they are made in China. Sound wise I found them to be very detailed, able to handle every single speaker I threw at them, surprisingly powerful in that they punched way above their weight, all while being dead quiet.

"worst amps I ever heard" LMAO 😂

This is a great example of why Audiogon forum's are going down to the sewers. 🤮

Bald white xenophobe. Typing his response on a junk china made phone or laptop as he listens to speed-metal on a system made of 60 to 80% Asian sourced component’s. Football is quite the opinionated chap.

Prima Luna is Chinese junk and the worst amps I ever heard. Line magnetic was better for chi fi.

audio research is junk for American tubes and cheaply made as well.
look into VAC and VTL.