Does The Prime Live Up To The Meridian Name?
First I tried the Prime as an Amp/Dac combo (with PSU) and I immediately loved the sound from this demo unit: Enormous Clarity, great detail retrieval from bass to treble, top precision and dynamic sound. All presented with just the right amount of air between the instruments. Musical and detailed sound with a superb flow. The Prime sounds fast and is neutrally tuned but the best solid state kind there is. Maybe it is just slightly forward sounding, but not that much.
Bass is tight, goes deep, is well layered and has a lot of detail but doesn’t have the big body of say the Beyerdynamic A20 amplifier (but it has far better quality). The Prime is a linear tuned unit and I find the bass to be perfect (and that’s an understatement) with the Audeze and Hifiman headphones but more on those later.
The Prime’s mids are slightly more forward sounding, especially the vocals, but they are not bright. Don’t get me wrong on that because they sound incredibly good: perfect separation, great timbre, heaps of detail but never over-analytical and always musical and dynamic.
Treble is extended and detailed but never harsh sounding. I do like my treble and the Prime does a splendid job for my taste. Treble is on the same level as the mids and bass: clarity, detail and sparkle.
The Prime’s sound stage is wide and deep with a perfect balance and 3-dimensionality. I fell in love with the Prime’s sound as a DAC/Amp unit. For me this is top audiophile sound.
As I briefly touched before, the Audeze LCD-2, Hifiman HE-560 (review next week) and Audeze LCD-XC work incredibly well with the Prime. The Prime, as a solid state desktop amp(/dac), is one of the best sounding amps I have heard the Orthos with. You wouldn’t have expected it when looking at the output numbers but it actually has more than enough power to drive two units together at the same time. The clarity, spaciousness and detail are enormous. I’m very selective when it comes to SS amps and orthodynamic headphones but the Prime certainly goes on my wall of fame (together with the Violectric V200 and Bakoon HPA-21 using the Current Out and the portable CypherLabs Theorem). The Prime makes the Planar Technology headphones shine. Period.
So it is clear the Prime likes the low impedance orthos but does it also likes the low impedance dynamic headphones? The answer is yes. 32Ohm Beyers like the DT770, T51P or the NAD VISO HP50 simply sound awesome. The only headphones I don’t enjoy as much are the higher impedance dynamics like the HD600 and HD650. Those sound so much better on a full bodied OTL tube amp resulting in thicker mids and bigger bass. The bass on the HD650 when using the Prime didn’t have a lot of body or impact and that’s exactly what’s so great about the HD650. That does mean that people who find the HD650 too dark and bassy might find this AMP/DAC to be the perfect solution. 250Ohm headphones like the Beyerdynamic Tesla T70 and T90 are sounding good but they, as most of you who have read my previous reviews know, sound so much better on an OTL tube amp in my opinion.
The Prime comes with a dedicated 3.5mm out for IEMs and I have to say it works its magic with my Cosmic Ears CE6E. The output is dead silent with all my (C)IEMs to begin with. Actually this is the best I have heard the CE6E and 1964Ears V6S sound. Yes, I can honestly say this is my favorite desktop amp so far for my IEM collection.
The Prime can also be used as a DAC and Pre Amp in combination with a power amp, headphone amp or active speakers. Go to the next page to read all about that setup