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NuForce Primo 8 Quad-Speaker Earphones Review (Part 2)

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Obviously, the Primo 8 appears to be ‘dressed for success,’ but how does it actually sound in practice? The answer, in a nutshell, is that it sounds pretty darned great – sometimes breathtakingly so – as I will explain in this review.

To my ears, the Primo 8s offer three defining sonic characteristics: neutral tonal balance, focus, and coherency. As I submit these descriptors for your consideration, there is one additional point I need to emphasise. The performance of the Primo 8 is so compelling that these earphones not only fare well in comparison with other universal-fit models, but also invite comparisons with expensive full-size headphones and even high-end loudspeakers. In other words, the Primo 8 in many respects transcends the perceived limits of its own product category, meaning this is no ordinary earphone.

NuForce Primo 8 unbox

NuForce Primo 8 unbox

When I say that the Primo 8 offers neutral tonal balance, I mean that it offers smooth, evenly balanced frequency response with excellent extension at both the high and lowfrequency extremes of the audio spectrum. This is, first and foremost, an accurate transducer whose primary emphasis is on showing you exactly how your favourite recordings actually sound with as few colourations as possible. Just bear in mind that the Primo 8s will not replace sonic qualities that recording engineers have left out, nor will they compensate for sonic excesses in which the mixing/mastering engineers might have indulged.

With this design, what you hear is what you get. At same time, let’s acknowledge that tonal neutrality is one of those qualities we card-carrying audiophiles are supposed to crave, but that some listeners actually do not much appreciate in practice (“Would you like some tasteful euphonic colourations to go with those earphones, sir?”). For this reason, some earphone makers give their products touches of bass lift and/or small dabs of treble roll-off – voicing modifications implemented in the name of making the sound more ‘pleasant’ or ‘accessible’. If you favour (or require) these sorts of gentle, deliberate colourations, then the Primo 8 might not be for you.

NuForce Primo 8 jack

NuForce Primo 8 jack

I suspect listeners accustomed to earphones that incorporate artificial bass enrichment or trimmed-back highs might not initially know what to make of the Primo 8’s unexaggerated and neutral-sounding bass, or of its revealing, wide-bandwidth highs. Realistically, both of these characteristics mean that the Primo 8s can at times expose the flaws in mediocre – and especially imbalanced-sounding – recordings for what they are. However, once you listen carefully and with discernment to these NuForce earphones, you will soon discover they are capable of terrific bass power and extension and also of reproducing the natural warmth and full-bodied tonal colours so characteristic of live music. The trick, though, is that the Primo 8s deliver these favourable sonic qualities only when they are actually present in the music being played.

Personally, I found the Primo 8’s tonal neutrality to be its own reward, so that the more I listened through the earphones the better I liked them. For those drawn to musical transducers that are as honest as the day is long, the Primo 8s would make a fine choice.

The Primo 8s deliver these favourable sonic qualities only when they are actually present in the music being played

The Primo 8s deliver these favourable sonic qualities only when they are actually present in the music being played

Next, let’s consider Primo 8’s uncanny and impressive quality of focus, which in my book is a highly desirable thing. As we listen to various audio products most of us unconsciously file away our memories of the sounds we have heard in a sort of good-better-best rank order file. I can’t speak for you, but in my experience today’s better high-end universal fit earphones are very good in terms of focus, but top-tier full-size headphones are, as a general rule, better still. The Primo 8, however, proves a dramatic exception to this rule in that its powers of resolution and focus quite seriously invite comparisons to extremely expensive headphones carrying steep, four-figure price tags.

What exactly do I mean by the term ‘focus’? I would define it as a component’s ability to reproduce even the subtlest and most nuanced of low-level musical details in a convincing way, so that sonic images – much like high quality photographic images – suddenly snap into place, becoming sharp and clear. More so than any other universalfit earphones I have heard to date, the Primo 8s exhibit this quality of focus in spades.

 

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