Nuforce Primo 8: Boundless Mids

Disclaimers: Nuforce provided this Primo 8 to me, free of charge. I took it.

I’m going to nip it in the bud: nuforce’s Primo 8 looks like a blue Giro’s Aspect road bicycle helmet. Nuforce tell me that they’ve got nothing against Giro, but the Aspect wasn’t their muse. They also say it’s not the first time someone has pointed that out.

The Marque

As you know from the DAC80 review, my first Nuforce was the awesome budget NE7 earphone. It had a single driver. Nuforce Primo 8 has four – per side. It goes for 500$, and comes in a package that weighs about as much as a Giro Aspect. And, it comes just as well padded.  

Primo 8 is a flagship product of a company that has just come into its own. From the first time you strip away its cardboard sheath Primo 8, and its accessories, look – and feel – premium.

Cue my first proviso…

‘Authentic’, ’premium’ are mendacities that never should be associated with the name of a product or service- unless that product or service is decidedly shit. Portmanteauing primo and premium into the name of a flagship earphone that costs as much as Primo 8 does isn’t exactly luxury.

The Cable

If the Primo 8 earphone takes design cues from a road bicycle helmet, its cables take cues from a mountain bike. The guides are thick and chunky like a down tube. There’s a nub on each cable that prevents the MMCX cable from rotating away from the ear. Call it a cleat. And like a good, rigid frame, the ear guides amply support the earphone and cable system both on, and off the earphone. The net effect is that Primo 8 is, on paper, easy as hell to use.

Clever use of stress sheaths keeps the cable from fraying near the ear guides. I’ve not had the earphones long enough (nor braved Tokyo’s 36º+ degree weather long enough) to say whether or not the cable will hold up to the sweaty, oily, daily grind. I can say that they boast well-reinforced junctures, and where supplied, come with ample reliefs.

But like the cable that came with the Sleek Audio SA7, I half expect to be able to use it as a fishing rod in half a year. At the y-split, it lacks a sheath, and whitens when folded to stress levels. But I’ve seen worse. The neck cinch reminds me of the one that came with the Shure SE846.

While not unobtrusive, nuforce’s anchoring of the remote in the y-split is sensible, it not completely logical for the constant talker. The microphone is clearest when pinched between two fingers, like the captain of a spaceship from a 1980’s sci-fi movie. Or, like a fashionable cigarette. Take your pick.

The way I see it is this: if you’re paying 500$ for a pair of top-notch earphones, you’re probably more worried about the sound of your music, than the sound of your chit-chats with old blue eyes.

Overall, well done.

The Chassis

For a lad stuck inside due to ridiculously hot weather and the hyperbolic emission of carbon monoxide by lazy locals, it’s a relief to look an an earphone and think of my Marinoni. Rolling the Primo 8 around between my finger tips almost reminds me of racing up and down the clean, clear roads around Rumoi, and Vetlanda, and laughing in the clear air.

Oh Blue Helmet, aka Primo 8, I salute your fresh design.

Primo 8 wouldn’t be a 500$ earphone if it was molded, or carved, out of aluminum. The paint work is beautiful, and the body is robust. It is resistant to scratching, its body is extremely rigid, and its seams are tight.

But as well as Primo 8 is made, it’s its fit that really stands out.

In the ear – as long as you’re not cursed with laterally narrow concha bowls, Primo 8 defines comfortable. I say defines rather than redefines because I have had to rethink what I knew about fit. Evidently, I’ve a way to go. Properly seated, this earphone is super duper comfy. Even my wife, whose ears reject anything but Grado’s beautiful GR10, finds no fault.

Wait, I’m forgetting something: the cable.

As clever as it is, its muscular arms wrested my glasses off the bridge of my nose, and mushed them against my eyebrows. Fact. Away the stock cable. Non-glasses wearers, you may get on with the stock cable, but I wanted to burn it.

A simple change to low-profile Linum cables, and voila! Primo 8 morphed into the comfortableest multi-armature earphone I’ve ever put into my ears. So clad, it sits flat and secure. It has no hard edges, no sharp seems. Its insertion angle is the perfect compromise of security and ergonomics. 

Still not with me? Go to your local candy shoppe and ask for a 1kg bag of liquorice jelly beans. Make sure they’re not Jelly Belly ones. Before sending me the package (I can’t get them in Japan), place the concave foot sideways against your concha. That, my friends, is the Primo 8.

Oh, and you can keep that bean. 

Sound impressions on next page:

Nuforce Primo 8: Boundless Mids
4.6 (91.25%) 32 votes

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Back before he became the main photographer for bunches of audio magazines and stuff, Nathan was fiddling with pretty cool audio gear all day long at TouchMyApps. He loves Depeche Mode, trance, colonial hip-hop, and raisins. Sometimes, he gets to listening. Sometimes, he gets to shooting. Usually he's got a smile on his face. Always, he's got a whisky in his prehensile grip.

28 Comments

  • Reply August 5, 2014

    Fabio_Rocks

    Hi, Which one is better, this or Earsonics sm64?

    • Reply August 6, 2014

      ohm image

      That is a very difficult question. SM64 has more low/high contrast, which is more of a typical sound. Primo 8 attacks from the clear, detailed, wide, natural and lovely midrange. I’ve not heard its like before in to universal earphones.

      Both are really nice and comfortable, though the edge goes to the Primo 8 for fit/cable.

      You need to decide what sound you prefer, then make a decision. Primo 8: from the clear, wide, amazing mids; SM64: from a beautiful contrast between frequencies.

      What is more important to you?

      • Reply August 7, 2014

        Fabio_Rocks

        Basically the primo 8 is more a mid-centric sound-signature than the sm64 that is more balanced with a warm tilt.

        My choice will be the sm64 at this point. Forward mids are too polarizing for me.

        What about you Nathan?

        I put a gun to your head forcing to choose one, which one? 🙂

        • Reply August 7, 2014

          ohm image

          I’ve been thinking of how to answer this question. First, if you held a gun to my head and told me to choose one, I’d probably try to kick you in the nuts. If you had no nuts, I’d probably try something else.

          Then, you’d kill me.

          Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough in my description. Primo 8’s mids are forward, yes; but they are natural, light, open, and very unlike anything you likely have heard. In fact, this earphone sounds much more like an open dynamic earphone than a balanced armature earphone.

          In Japan, the only review of them on kakaku.com calls them “a natural-sounding American earphone”, which I think is cute. But it’s pretty close.

          Still, if it’s the fall and winter and I’m in my trance mood, it’s SM64 all the way. But when it’s spring and summer and I’m listening to folk, beach music, jazz, rock, etc., it’s Primo 8 all the way.

          • Reply August 9, 2014

            lachlanlikesathing

            I think it’s time to get your gun Fabio!!!

            • Reply August 9, 2014

              Fabio_Rocks

              So basically for an Iceland tour the SM64 is better, for a trip in Brazil the Primo8 all the way. Thanks Nathan! LoL
              Lachlan can we trade your Primo8 with my gun? I leave you the dirty job!

            • Reply November 6, 2014

              ohm image

              I don’t like where this is going…

    • Reply November 25, 2015

      Deskolim Cheong

      So, how about these if compare with C6iem? Going confuse to decide these three.

  • Reply August 5, 2014

    Kristian Lindecrantz

    Damned I had my mind all but made up, I was going to go with customs. Maybe some noble audio ones or perhaps cosmic ears… Now I might have to rethink that, or what do you say?

    • Reply August 6, 2014

      ohm image

      Noble Audio and Cosmic Ears both are great. If you are wanting customs, no universal will do it for you, but if you are waffling between the two for various reasons, make a list.

      Why do you want customs? What are the benefits of customs? What about universals? Weigh the list and come back here to discuss. They are two completely different experiences.

  • Reply August 5, 2014

    dalethorn

    How easy and costly is that cable swap?

    • Reply August 6, 2014

      ohm image

      Very easy to swap. It just snaps out and there is so much girth to grab that the cables come off without exerting undue pressure. Costly? Mr. T. of Cymbacavum feels that cheaper cables don’t sound that great with Primo 8. I used PlusSound and Linum, and both sound very nice. Neither are cheap.

      • Reply August 10, 2014

        Creator Viktor

        Granted it is the material, not the price that matters… 🙂

        • Reply August 10, 2014

          ohm image

          Indeed. I tend to purchase cables that are medium-priced, but comfortable. For that reason, the Linum cables are amazing.

          • Reply August 10, 2014

            L.

            Which we will review soon here btw 😉

  • Reply August 6, 2014

    Anthony Kimball

    Fantastic review. These are probably going to the top of my in ear list….dang, this is an expensive hobby.

    I was just curious about your impressions with the bass. As far as Hip Hop & EDM (“Neither genre really metes out its best through Primo 8’s super duper wide, forward midrange.”) Did you find the impact(?), slam(?) lacking or did it sound unnatural with those genres? I wasn’t sure what it was you found objectionable…thanks again!!

    • Reply August 6, 2014

      ohm image

      Hip hop: I need to clarify this portion. Bass slam and impact are in no way the problem. The really expansive mids, however, are the focus, and hiphop always sounds better with a higher bass/mid ratio.

      IDM: I find that wide midsections lessen the trance effect, which relies a bit more on contrast between lows and highs. Wide mid sections generally are too hot for Trance. That said, Primo 8’s wide mid section isn’t hot, but it is the most prevalent portion of the music.

      With that proviso in place, and if you can adapt to the sound, Primo 8 really are ready to do anythings else.

  • Reply August 11, 2014

    Andy Q

    Pardon my ignorance but when you say “wide” mids, are you referring to soundstage or frequency band or something else altogether?
    Also in more conventional terms, how is the bass and treble extension? From the sounds of it treble is smooth but is it still well extended? Does the bass have a decent weight and slam?
    Would they be good for say listening to Top 40 pop? Thanks.

    • Reply August 17, 2014

      ohm image

      I mean wide band. Mids are extremely detailed and, yes, soundstage in the mids is huge, but the are wide, forward, but in an airy way that isn’t at all like the traditional balanced armature earphone.

  • Reply August 15, 2014

    Pete

    Which Linum cable did you use? And have you tried the “musical”/”vocal”/”bax” versions?

    • Reply August 17, 2014

      ohm image

      I have tried both vocal and bax. They are both excellent. I’ve not fully tested each for impedance, etc., but I’m a big fan for general use. They sound good, feel great, but don’t support earphones quite as well as they are so damn thin.

  • Reply December 21, 2014

    Miguel Garcia-Guzman

    I am searching for an upgrade of my Ety E4RP (that I like a lot) and based on your reviews I am considering the NuForce Primo, the Grado GR10 and perhaps the Shure SE846. I like clarity and neutrality, with extended high frequencies that are not too aggressive or sibilant, but not rolled off. Basically I love something that is an improvement over the Etys in soundstage and musicality perhaps a bit more bass presence, but without affecting clarify of kids as long as it is fast with excellent PRaT and clarity. Which IEM would you advise me to get?

    • Reply January 6, 2015

      ohm image

      I’m sorry this is late: The GR10 is probably tonally, the closest to your ER4s, whilst presenting larger, but still detailed bass. Highs are definitely smoother, but not at the expense of clarity. If you want something completely different, try the PRIMO. They are amazing.

  • Reply July 22, 2015

    willy vlyminck

    How does the primp do with progressive rock, and or bass loaded rock like Primus, Rage against the machine, classic Yes, Crimson, magma,etc?

  • Reply October 26, 2015

    BigC

    Thanks for your very entertaining and informative review. I have a pair of these iem’s arriving in the courier this week. I hope to drive them with a HRT Microstreamer but want to consider other under $400 USD desktop DAC/amp options like the Fostex hp-a4 or JDS Element if there’s an improvement in sound quality over the Microstreamer. I’d consider portable options in the same price range but assume desktop rigs would offer better sound quality. Any thoughts you have on these previous mentioned devices or other pairings you would recommend would be much appreciated.

    • Reply October 26, 2015

      dalethorn

      If it happens to sound the least bit bright or harsh (after burn-in), you could attach a tube amp to the Microstreamer – that’s what I do sometimes.

      • Reply October 28, 2015

        BigC

        Thanks Dale for the reply. I’m listening to them right now straight out of the box through my microstreamer and they sound a little all over the place. What’s the best way to burn these iem’s in?

        • Reply October 28, 2015

          dalethorn

          You could use one of the classic ‘helicopter’ tracks, or use Grado’s advice and just burn-in as you go (don’t let them play by themselves). Those are the two extremes, and I do both. But be careful of the volume on the first one.

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