NOTE: Primo is sensitive. You won’t need to set your player or amp very high before its volume ramps up crazily. Combine this with above-average isolation and Primo 8 really kicks it. Be careful. It’s also not the hardest earphone to drive for resolution. A good player, or amp, will net you a great experience.
Primo 8’s got mids out the wazoo. But they’re anything but whack. They’re anything but schmaltzy. Primo 8’s mids anything are spacious, clear, forward, lovely. Wait, let me back up a bit- mids are so perfectly clear and spacious that, while defining the earphone’s sound, they basically disappear. So often, mid-forward earphones come away sounding hot, bothered, bloomy, blurred, thick, or strident.
Primo just melts in front of the music.
Mr. T says it better than ever I could in his excellent Primo 8 review. Here’s what he says:
From my experience with other “phase-coherent” earphones such as the JH Audio FreqPhase demos and CustomArt’s Harmony 8, the large and transparent center image is most certainly assisted by the technical achievement that Nuforce have been able to attain with the Primo 8. Nuforce has been pretty obvious about letting enthusiasts know that they’ve put a lot of work into the crossover arrangement of the Primo 8, and that they’ve achieved flat phase coherence with their Butterworth filter design.
If you’re in the no-know re: Butterworth filters, worry not, Wikipedia’s got you covered.
Essentially, mids melt into all the right crannies and nooks. Their meltyness extends high, and wide, and relatively low. They never, ever, bump against bass, and they jive perfectly with highs. Vocal regions are the furthest forward, followed by percussion. It’s a lounge-style live sound, but you’re rocking out in the sweet spot, and the venue is set for three-hundred people.
King Britt, Bono, John Denver, Perfecto, just for you. If you’re the world’s biggest fan of a certain musician/artist, you won’t get closer to your object of desire outside of a messy love affair. But again, Primo 8 eschews the messy for the intoxicating and rich. And it’s not a one-time thing.
My first listen had me swallowing more saliva than usual. Vocals were clearer – or is it more clearly forward? – than I had ever heard in an earphone. Still I’m horking. I’ve got 50 gigs of music on my iPad mini, that, paired with a CLAS Solo and a Vorzüge PURE II, just screams for another go with the Primo 8.
James Hetfield has never, ever, filled my head like he has through Primo 8. It’s like my brain’s been scooped out and all that’s left is James. The formerly angry dude’s voice just rolls from corner to corner of my skull, filling all but the bits aft my saliva glands. Cymbals crash in below and to the sides, guitars slide easily between.
Speaking of, guitars are clean, open, smooth, balanced, and so on. They are neither what I would call meaty, nor are they aggressive, they are sweet, limber, and graceful. They do not grate. If you are a fan of folk, blue grass, Swedish fiddle music, say hello to Primo 8.
It’s not just guitars; everything in the midrange expands laterally, with a somewhat fat blip around vocals. Mean, fast bass buttresses it all up.
And again, Primo puts you in the centre, and wraps you in your favorite music in a way that is quite unique among universal earphones. The veil, my friends, has been torn.
From top to bottom.
The mean, fast bass I mentioned above hangs generally around your earlobes. I have a feeling that bass-heads might call it ‘light’. They’d be wrong. Functionally, bass weight and spread ring in north of neutral. But, like every other frequency band, bass is functionally excellent.
I’ve got this funny feeling that the disgruntled Etymotic ER4 user will fall in love at first listen. She wanted a neutral-sounding earphone, but with Etymotic, got more upper midrange clang and scratch than she bargained for.
With the ER4, never did I finish Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” with a smile borne of pleasure. After pulling the phones from my ears, I’d be like, well that was a revealing, clean listen. With Primo 8, I’m left howling and tapping, and forgetting everything around me. And, after I go back to shooting speakers, or making dinner, I realize something.
That was a revealing, clean listen.
The difference is that through Primo 8, clean and revealing are beautiful.
If Primo 8 had that scratchy ER4 thing going on in the highs, it still would be better than the ER4. But I’d not be singing its praises as I am. Highs, like bass, do their thing, then let the mids do theirs. They exist to buttress Primo 8’s incredible, wide, addictive, intimate midrange. And they do it perfectly.
That is- they do it perfectly for rock, for jazz, for live, for symphonies. They do concert hall recordings great. It’s about the intimate, yet lively atmosphere spat out by Nuforce’s phase-coherent drivers.
But trance, IDM, and hip-hop, are not genres at which Primo 8 excels in rendering. Every trance fan loves a good rave. Every hip-hop fan loves a good grind. 99 times out of one hundred, live electronic music and the scene around it is better than the CD. But when you’re pounding out reviews at Soka coffee shop in Otaka no Mori, and you’ve got MC Solaar, or Jay-Z, or Perfecto on the brain, there’s not enough table to hide that imaginary grind that you just put on that fine, imaginary honey. Neither genre really metes out its best through Primo 8’s super duper wide, forward midrange. Even when doing its best with genres to which it is best suited, Primo 8 demands a longer introduction. I didn’t immediately in love with it. That took several days. Weeks later I discovered just how rich was the experience the Primo 8 delivered.
Getting into Primo 8 takes a little longer than getting into some other earphones. But the getting into is, in the longer run, more worth it. And while it may bear a passing resemblance to my favorite Shure SE846, its super-duper wide, airy midrange isn’t Shure’s forte. Outside of Primo 8, it may be no one’s thing.