Kevin Deal is known as “uncle Kevvy” to many mail-order customers at his store, Upscale Audio, in Upland, California. He’s an enthusiastic guy, and a bit of a softie, always volunteering to make shoppers a “smokin’ deal.”
His other nickname is “Mr. Tube.” If it has glass and a filament, Deal either stocks it or knows where to get a set. His idea of fun, for example, is to make trips overseas to rummage for classic new-old stock tubes for his most discriminating clients. By his own count, he’s retubed 50,000 components.
Deal was personally hosting Upscale’s exhibit at T.H.E. Show in Newport, bustling between its two rooms, playing music, chatting up customers and, not surprisingly, loudly preaching the religion of tube amplification.
The audio veteran offers a lot of major lines through his retail shop, but he’s really built a following the past few years as the distributor for PrimaLuna tube gear. The company makes its products in China, but Deal has input and says the workmanship and parts quality is unsurpassed for the brand’s reasonable price points.
The circuit design of PrimaLuna gear is interesting. The amps feature a self-biasing feature that is very robust. To make his point, Deal had a PrimaLuna Premium HP integrated ($4,399) set up with eight different tubes — that’s right, eight, count ’em, eight — and nothing was blowing up. For valve-heads out there, the tubes were a KT50, SL6G, KT90, KT120, KT66, EL34, 6550 and KT88.
In the main listening room, Deal was showing a system that included KEF Reference speakers ($19,000 a pair), a PrimaLuna Dialogue Premium preamp ($3,199) and a PrimaLuna Dialogue Premium HP amplifier ($3,899).
The result was a combination of KEF’s and PrimaLuna’s best attributes — the speaker’s detail and neutral tonal balance and PrimaLuna’s tube warmth and emotional connection. This was a very easy system to listen to — one that could have you neglecting your sleep and playing albums deep into the night.
Deal is selling so much of this stuff he is moving to a new 10,000-foot showroom/warehouse. That, in itself, is impressive in the industry’s current state. If you’re an audiophile and especially if you’re gaga about glowing glass, Deal is the kind of uncle you want to have around.