NuForce Primo 8 Quad-Speaker Earphones Review (Part 3)

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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 guides

NuForce Primo 8 guides

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 kits

NuForce Primo 8 kits

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 like.

NuForce Primo 8 parts

NuForce Primo 8 parts

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.

Technical Specifications

·         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

·         Weight: 19.3g

·         Price: $499


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