To appreciate what I mean, strap on a pair of Primo 8s and
listen to a recording rich in subtle low-level details and that contains plenty
of ephemeral spatial cues. A good example might be the song ‘Dead Man’s Handle’
from Steve Strauss’ Just Like Love [Stockfisch SACD], where veteran producer
Gunther Pauler deftly uses the tools of his craft to enhance and expand upon
the artist’s musical vision. For the most part, Pauler lets us hear and savour
the natural acoustics of the recording venue, but at select moments in the
track he shifts gears to apply delicate touches of reverb or other types of
sound processing to underscore the importance of certain individual lines or
phrases. In short, Pauler treats acoustics of the recording space as a plastic
medium that he stretches, moulds, and shapes at will to serve the interest of
the artist and his songs.
NuForce Primo 8
The Primo 8s let listeners hear all of this and more, so
that on ‘Dead Man’s Handle’ they are treated not only to a vivid rendition of
Strauss’ voice and guitar, but also are given an up-close-and-personal view of
a master producer at work (and play). My point is that these earphones treat
listeners to musical qualities of vividness, intensity, and yes, intimacy at a
level that precious few in-ear transducers can hope to match.
Finally, we come to what may well be the Primo 8’s signature
characteristic; namely, overarching coherency. What is coherency? I would
suggest that it is the quality that enables us to draw a distinction between
merely ‘good hi-fi’ as opposed to genuinely realistic sound. When we hear real
instruments in play, we perceive in an instant that each element of the
instrument’s sound – including its transient attack and decay characteristics,
dynamics, timbre, tonal colours, and so on – hangs together as an integral
whole, rather than sounding like a disparate collection of pieces and parts.
Coherency, then, involves knitting together various elements of sound to form a
believable whole, and the Primo 8s are the most coherent sounding universal fit
earphones I’ve heard thus far.
NuForce Primo 8
To hear what I mean try putting on Jamey Haddad, Mark
Sherman, and Lenny White’s stupendous percussion recording Explorations in
Space and Time. As you drink in the diverse percussion instrument sounds as
captured on this disc and as reproduced by the NuForces, you may find - as I do
- that those percussion instruments sound almost eerily like the real thing.
Realism is the audiophile’s Holy Grail and it is a rare thing to find at any
price, let alone in a set of $499 earphones.
Speaking critically, I can see only two minor drawbacks in
the Primo 8, and even those feel like shameless nitpicking. The first is the
earphone’s physical size, which might make it a tight fit for those with small
ears, and the second is the fact that the Primo 8 – like all high performance
transducers – needs good source and amplification components to sound its best.
This will typically mean more than just the output of an iOS or Android
smartphone. Apart from these very minor points, there really is nothing not to
NuForce Primo 8
The Primo 8 is quite simply a world-class universal-fit
earphone – one that can equal or surpass the performance of models costing
considerably more. It is an honest, accurate, revealing, and musically coherent
transducer that appeals both to the listener’s intellect and soul. In short,
the Primo 8 helps draw us closer to the music we love best, which is all one
might ask of any fine audio component.
Type: Three-way, quad-driver, phase coherent earphone
Driver complement: A three-way array comprising two balanced
armature-type bass drivers, one balanced armature-type midrange driver, and
one balanced armature-type, connected via a linear-phase, first-order
Butterworth-type crossover network.
Frequency response: 18Hz – 22 kHz
Sensitivity: 118 dB
Impedance: 38 Ohms