Primacy is sensitive enough to reveal hiss from most sources. It doesn’t deliver the hiss-from-vacuum the Ultrasone IQ does. But sources dead silent through noise agnostic Ocharaku Kaede II go shhhhh shhhhh in the background.
Primacy’s sensitivity ensures volume. At home, I am most comfortable listening to older recordings from, say, The Smiths, at volumes from 5 – 6 on an iPhone 4s. Newing up the genres to, say, golden-age trance, ensures that 5 is max for me whilst typing away in my hot studio. On the way back from Tokyo, I bump that number up by one or two stops, depending on how close to the last train it is. Primacy’s thick sound tube, coupled with comply tips is a mean isolating machine. The tube goes way, way in – and at a secure angle. Does Primacy block noise as well as a custom earphone? It’s damn close.
It’s also a mildly energetic-sounding earphone. Not quite as contrasty, or mid-high clear-sounding earphone as the Ultrasone IQ. But not far off the mark. After about 10kHz, its frequency falls off precipitously; obviating sound pressure-induced high-frequency peakiness. Still, highs are open, wide. They’re also Primacy’s widest stereo band. Being stereo wide, they recover some of the presence lost by the slow roll off. In fact, upper mid energy combines so well with high frequency stereo detail that Primacy’s high-end roll off is, for many practical purposes, non-existent.
Stereo detail-wise, mids follow suite, but close up ever so slightly. Bass is the most centred of the bunch, positioning thumps firmly between the shoulders. The stereo image it portraits is amorphous and somewhat sticky. There’s no bass smear, but little stereo feel.
The 3D image cast by Primacy is pretty detailed. Lateral edges curve gently back from its deep centre. Vocals provincialise everything from the shoulders and on in. Cymbals, maracas, thigh slapping, etc., start about ten centimetres beyond that. At the fringes are tambourines, sand chimes, and for the trance head, the all-important electronic chime.
Wider stages exist. But most don’t quite position mid and high-frequency stereo elements quite as delicately.
Vocals push front and centre, dry and unaccented. As mids cross over to lows, Primacy’s low-blended stereo image is chalky and reassuring. Bass and mids compete on a relatively flat plane, neither receiving sound pressure much higher than the other in any band. There may be a small dip of several decibels around 5kHz. Primarily, Primacy is neutral voiced. That goes all the way up to 8kHz before gently falling and alternately rising until 10kHz. By 20kHz, the roll off is pretty evident. But again, primacy’s up-front presentation and great high-frequency stereo detail covers that up.
I fully recommend it for people that love open highs, but may not jive with the shrill. If you really like the ER4 or CK10, primacy may sound a little dark. For everyone else with high mids on the brain – myself included – Primacy strikes a great balance. And, its chalky bass resonates gently, obviating most of could annoy me in the Ultrasone IQ.
That said, IQ is just resonantly wetter than Primacy. Its bass is shinier and detailed with more stereo cues. The two are not that far away. They’re also not that close. Frequency-wise, IQ is more contrasty: slightly suppressed mids between a timidly raised bass and highs. IQ isn’t chalky. Primacy is. If you like your music drier and less accented, Primacy is a great option.
It’s still early but I expect Primacy to show its face in 2016’s year end roundup. I expect it from me and others. It’s a great-sounding earphone at a great price that is super comfy, but, whose cable is sub-par. And, thanks to the obtuse angles governing its MMCX arms, it doesn’t stick as flat in the ear as it could.
Still, very well done.