Primare CD31

Product Review by Björn Törnroth
Date: 2 October 2006
Copyright © Björn Törnroth 2006
Additionally licensed for the exclusive use of Ari Laine at Hifi Mesta
Primare's home page

Primare CD31
QUIBBLES

Drawer sounds like a troll eating gravel for breakfast.

To open the drawer you have to press the stop button for a while. Whoever thought this up - I curse you to hell!

Occasionally a high pitched whirring noise can be heard.

Refuses to play CD's with Copy Control.

Refuses to play 3 other CD's for unknown reasons.

When asked to handle the CD, the remote's volume won't work on the amp. Silly - or should I RTFM?

Regardless of settings, the remote control's DIM button controls both the CD-player's and the amp's display. Odd.

SYSTEM

Amp: Primare I30
Speakers: Sonus Faber Electa
Subwoofer: REL Strata III
Filter: Isotek MiniSub GII
Interconnects: Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval
Speaker cables: Analysis Plus Solo Crystal Oval 8
Mains cables: LAT AC-2, Russ Andrews The Reference

That's More Like It!

After reviewing a bunch of players and getting just a tad desperate, it felt good to hook up the Primare CD 31. Even the warm-up disc on very low volume made me happy.

There was an immediate sense of ease. It sounded effortless, agile and nimble, almost liquid. It made the other players sound like they were trying too hard or had to push themselves. The combination of sounding pleasant and mesmerizing at the same time is a curious one. It's the same with the Primare CD31's ability to sound detailed and powerful at very low listening levels as well as refraining from sounding harsh and over-powering at high listening levels.

There was a surprising amount of detail, air, spaciousness and three-dimensionality, however without sounding fake, artificial or analytical. I thought it wasn't possible to be this detailed and yet to have such a delicate touch. The soundstage is huge but refrains from being in your face, although special effects seem to leap around you effortlessly.

The treble is extended and detailed as well as sweet as honey. This is what I've been waiting to hear all this time!

The midband is pure yet rich in timbre, allowing me to hear nuances like never before. There's none of that hard and cold thinness I think is described as "neutrality". Violins and cellos sound delicious with strings of steel and bodies of wood. Cymbals sizzle and crash with both crispness and brassiness. Voices are full with delicate phrasing, vocalists sounding more present, more human and happier somehow.

Bass goes very deep with great power, but it's always tuneful and agile. Bass lines are easy to follow and bass players somehow seem like better musicians than before. Bass is more expressive with a sense of texture. It's juicy rather than dry. I've never before heard such rich bass timbre, making it easy to distinguish between different kinds of bass. (Seems like there are steps of players's bass capabilities: 1. There is bass present. 2. There's enough of it. 3. You can hear what it's doing. 4. You can hear what kind it is.)

There's something funny with the transients. It feels like the Primare CD31 sacrifices the last bit of attack for a greater degree of resolution in the time domain. Like if there would be more R's in the strrrrrumming of a guitar. It makes the Primare CD31 seem deceptively slow, but I think that's just because things happening very fast concurrentyl are so easy to discern. (Again I find myself wondering if it's possible that some players over-emphasize transients...) I apologize for my ramblings, but I'm finding this particular trait difficult to describe.

The high resolution transients, subjective slowness, tuneful bass, rich timbre and sweet treble together with the overall effortlessness make the Primare CD31 very easy and pleasant to listen to. One would assume this means a tendency to be boring, but this is not so. Groovy music cooks like never before and death metal pushes like a bull with a chilli up its bottom. My foot hasn't been tapping this much since my last sojourn with vinyl, so I think the Primare CD31 must have good timing too.

The Primare CD31 had me spellbound from the word go and has now also passed the long term test with flying colours. So far I haven't heard a single sound I didn't like.

Conclusion

The Primare CD31 is the best CD player I've auditioned so far. It seems like a genuine jack of all trades, from classic to metal, acoustic to electronic. It has a tremendous sense of ease in its presentation. Frequency range goes from rock bottom to sky high, with a powerful yet tuneful bass, a rich midband and a sweet yet extended treble. It makes for an easy yet a mesmerizing and highly engaging listen. This could be the one.

Björn Törnroth
bjorn.tornroth.net
bjorn at tornroth dot net