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Compact Disc Player


Manufacturer: PRIMARE AB
Price (in Poland): 7490 PLN

Contact: Primare AB
Limstensgatan 7
SE-216 16 Limhamn | SWEDEN


Provided for test by: VOICE

PRIMARE is a Swedish company founded in 1985 by Bo Christensen. It specializes in CD and audio files players and amplifiers. The latest addition to their lineup is a new series with three lines ‘15’, ‘25’ and ‘35’. It features modern technical solutions and special attention was paid to composing the most efficient system consisting of a signal source and an amplifier.

don't know if I read it correctly, but it seems to me that Primare, with the new series 'x5' - '35', '25' and '15', entered the market with new impetus and energy. New ideas, a wide lineup, well-designed functionality - these are the features of the new "opening". The new series is extremely well thought out. It includes integrated amplifiers, digital sources and phono preamplifiers. That's nothing new. What makes a difference is the well thought-out modular design, enabling the connection of amplifiers and digital sources in various ways.

Modules | The element around which everything revolves here is the Prisma module. It's a streaming platform developed by Primare in 2017, compatible with the Roon system, based on Google Chromecast. This is a network card featuring Bluetooth, AirPlay and Spotify Connect. It also offers the multi-room/multi-zone option. It is a small DSP board plugged into either Primare amplifiers or its CD players. A user can therefore choose where the central element of the system is located.

The modular design of this company's devices offers a possibility of equipping them with two elements. It can be a file player and Bluetooth receiver module or a digital-to-analog converter. In the basic configuration we have a classic amplifier and CD transport. If we add a converter to the amplifier, we get an amplifier with a built-in "DAC", and if we mount it in transport, we get a CD player. And finally after adding the Prisma module we get - respectively - an amplifier with a file player and a "DAC", as well as a CD and files player.

Therefore, user can decide where the digital center of this system will be and does not have to buy a device whose advantages will not be fully used. If he equips his amplifier with a DAC, all he needs is a CD transport - DD35 or DD15. In turn, if it moves all "digital" components to the signal source, which results in a CD player combined with a streamer, all he needs is a classic, fully analog integrated amplifier - I35, I25 or I15. Each of these configurations has its advantages and disadvantages, although I personally prefer the version in which all the electronics related to the digital signal processing are in one device, and the amplifier does what it was designed for - it amplifies the signal.

| CD15 Prisma

The Prisma CD15 player is such a device. In its basic configuration it is a CD transport. After adding the Prisma module with a D/A converter, it becomes a complete digital source. Let's add that in this case there is no third option, i.e. no CD player without a streamer module.

The CD15 Prisma differs from the '25' and '35' models in size - it is a 'midi' device, i.e. with a front panel with a width of 3/4 of „standard 'rack' ('rack' - common name for the standard of 19'' cabinets, racks and industrial equipment (48.26 cm) Until recently, companies considered this type, i.e. smaller devices in their offer as less valuable than the "main" offer; Obviously it does not apply to Cyrus and a group of manufacturers for whom small size product are standard ones. A change has occurred recently and gradually, and its cause was, I think, the proliferation of file players from LINN, Auralic, Lumïn and others that have such proportions.

It makes the CD15 Prisma look simply cute, I can't find any other more suitable term. However, this is not a toy sweetness – definitely not... This is the same kind of sweetness that we can find in Vespa scooters, Mini Cooper cars, in small bottles of expensive alcohols. Interestingly, Primare has achieved this effect using solutions known for years, i.e. optically and mechanically separating the front panel from the main body, with a clear, nice OLED display and putting everything on three feet.

The tested device is a CD player and a streamer in one. A Philips slot drive is used to play physical discs, and a Prisma module to play files. The former is controlled by buttons on the front panel and on the remote control, and the latter by the Prisma application for mobile devices. The application is quite nice, although with my iPod 2 mini, which is already an old model, it worked with a slight delay. Files to the player can be sent from an external NAS disk - via Ethernet cable or wirelessly via Wi-Fi - or from a thumb drive. An audio signal can also be sent via Bluetooth.

The device has a Chromecast built-in certificate, it is also a so-called "End point" for Roon and supports streaming services compatible with Chromecast, for example Spotify.

| Chromecast built-in

Chromecast from Google is a device introduced on July 24th 2013, that allows the transmission of a streamed signal, for example from a computer or smartphone, to a TV. Currently, this software is called Google Cast, and it is its trade name, used in consumer devices - Chromecast built-in. It allows you to control streaming from mobile devices to audio (and video) players. However, the transfer does come from the control device, but directly from the Internet. Chromecast uses Wi-Fi connectivity.

The device features a stereo analog output with RCA sockets. In the menu, we can determine whether this is a fixed level output or adjustable one. The volume control operates in digital domain in the DAC chip. The CD15 Prisma can therefore be connected directly to active speakers, bypassing an external amplifier. The menu is much more complex - we can set the time after which the device should switch to standby mode, dimming the display, output signal level when turning the device on, maximum level and even balance between channels.

| How we listened to it

The reviewed player was compared to two components: Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition (№1/50) SACD Player and Mytek Brooklyn Bridge streamer and it was powered using the 聖 Hijiri SM2R „Sound Matter”. I listened to Compact Discs and audio files – both from NAS and thumb drive. It was an A/B comparison with A and B known, using short, 2 minutes long musical samples from CDs or files. For most of the test I used LAN (cable) connection.

PRIMARE in “High Fidelity”
  • TEST: Primare I25 | integrated amplifier
  • TEST: Primare I21 | integrated amplifier
  • TEST: Primare R20 | phonostage

  • Recordings used for the test (a selec- tion)

    | CDs
    • Audiophile Reference IV, First Impression Music FIM029 VD, HDCD (2005)
    • Art Pepper, Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, Contemporary Records/JVC VICJ-42524, K2 CD (1957/2006)
    • George Michael, Faith: Special Edition, Epic/Sony Music753202, 2 x CD + DVD (1987/2010)
    • Paul McCartney, Kisses on the Bottom, Universal Music/Universal Music LLC [Japan] UCCO-3038, SHM-CD (2012)
    • Radiohead, OK Computer. OKNOTOK Edition, XL Recordings/Beat Records XLCDJP868, 2 x Ultimate HiQuality CD (1997/2017)
    • Royal Blood, Royal Blood, Warner Music UK/Warner Music Japan WPCR-15889, CD (2014);
    | Files
    • Vangelis, Blade Runner, soundtrack, reż. Ridley Scott, Atlantic Records/Audio Fidelity AFZ 154, „Limited Numbered Edition | No. 2398”, DSD/rip SACD
    • Art Pepper, …the way it was!, Contemporary Records/Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2034, DSD/rip SACD
    • Dead Can Dance, Spiritchaser, 4AD/Beggars Japan WPCB-10078, „Audiophile Edition”, DSD/rip SACD
    • Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms, Vertigo/Mobile Fidelity Labs UDSACD 2099, „Original Master Recording, Special Limited Edition | No. 1808”, DSD/rip SACD
    • Komeda Quintet, Astigmatic, Polskie Nagrania „Muza”/Warner Music Poland 4648860, Master WAV 24/88,2 (1966/2016)
    • Lars Danielsson & Leszek Możdżer, Pasodoble, ACT Music ACT 9458-2, FLAC 24/88,4
    • Nat ‘King’ Cole, Love is the Thing, Capitol/Analogue Productions CAPP 824 SA, DSD/rip SACD
    • Norah Jones, Come Away With Me, Blue Note 7243 5 81880 0 4, FLAC 24/192

    The CD15 Prisma, although small in size, offers a very serious sound. This is an extremely competent player that does not allow you to treat music just as a background for other activities. I mean, sure you can, but be get ready for a temporary suspension of other activities, because every now and then you will hear something interesting that will catch your attention.

    This device has no clearly defined character. Its sound is characteristic, it can be described, but it does not have a "character" in the sense that it does not force it on recordings it plays, it does not reduce them to a common denominator. Its sound combines several tendencies usually found separately in different devices.

    An element I should point out right from the start is the well-captured tonality. It is flat, without clearly emphasizing any narrow sub-ranges or broader bands. After a few discs we will hear features such as strong treble and lots of energy in the upper bass. But it will still be a "feature" rather than a "coloration". This is a feature that is very nice in CD15 Prisma. We get a strong treble, clear metal cymbals, there is a beat and the sound is very open. But it is not sharp nor bright. Because the treble attack is rounded.

    In a case of a different device, we would say that what I've just described means that the sound gets warmed up - but not here. Because Primare does it in its own way. The player's sound is therefore strong and open, which makes jazz compositions from the Audiophile Reference IV and Art Pepper's from Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, rock from Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits, and electronics - it was especially spectacular! - from the Blade Runner, have all this power and energy, but at the same time the presentation was slightly sweet.

    The other sub-ranges could be described in a similar way, but attention should be paid to the great bass energy. It does not go as low as in Mytek, not to mention Ayon, but it has a nice color and compactness. The scale of the Vangelis electronic landscapes was easily conveyed, the recordings from George Michael's Faith were well reproduced, without brightening them on one side, but with a good bass foundation on the other.

    The device is not the most resolving digital source in the world, but in its price category it is really fine. Its differentiation allows one to notice different ways of recording vocals on the Kisses on the Bottom by Paul McCartney, as well as different sampling frequencies. What's more - switching from 24/96 to 24/192 files (we are talking about the same recording), and even from DSD64 to DSD128, resulted in noticeable changes in the sound. The higher the resolution of the file, the more relaxed the sound, more natural and more vibrant.

    With hi-res files we also get something else - a beautiful, wide and deep sound stage. The CD was not bad in this respect, but the hi-res files surprised me with their momentum. I got something with them that doesn't happen so often with files - credibility. There was something good, powerful in this sound, something that allowed me to explore NAS resources and play them from USB Flash cards. The sound was not as resolving as from CDs, but the difference was smaller than what I can usually hear - especially when using devices that are not top high-end.

    In turn, the Compact Disc was more precise, richer in the middle of the band, and had a better extended band in both directions. Both ways of playing music shared some features - on the one hand they round the treble attack, which resulted in a "golden" glow, and on the other a slight hardening of the upper bass, which introduced an element of rhythm to the sound. But it is certain that it is the physical medium that offers something more - precision, density, dynamics.

    The thing to consider in both cases are reduced reverberation and room acoustics, and focusing listener's attention on the foreground. The Primare doesn't bring artists closer, it doesn't push them in front of the line connecting the speakers. It does something different - it extinguishes what behind the basic sounds, which makes them the most important for us. We get music composed of many sounds, but without a strong "background". So do not expect fireworks in this area.

    | Summary

    The CD15 Prisma is a device that plays virtually any music in an equally immersive way. It does it thanks to the combination of smoothness and "golden" treble, rich midrange and rhythmic, strong bass. It's an accurate, good sound that works with both CDs and files. Don't expect high resolution, but selectivity can surprise you. The device features a solid mechanical design, nice electronics and handy control. It's a rare combination of several features, offering a really nice sound and it's fun to use too - bravo!

    It is mentioned in every review of Primare devices, so I have to include it too: they are built extremely robust and with taste. The housing is made of thick, bent steel sheets painted black, and the front is separated from the main body by a narrowing, in which the electronics controlling the display and the buttons are located. The front is available in one of two colors - black or titanium; we're testing the latter. The device features three aluminum feet, with two in the front.

    Front and back | A thick aluminum plate forming the front hosts a CD transport slot and the window under which the OLED display was placed. It is nice, legible and offers a lot of information displayed with signs of different sizes. When it switches to double-line mode, however, they are too small to be read from a distance of more than a meter. Next to the display there are three small polished steel buttons to turn on the power and to control transport. It's a stylish artistic design.

    On the back there are analog RCA (unbalanced) and digital outputs - TOSLink and RCA. There are also Ethernet and USB ports. Connection with home network can be established via an Ethernet cable or via Wi-Fi - two antennas are used for this. With their help, the device also connects via Bluetooth. On the right, next to the IEC power socket with a mechanical switch, there are sockets that facilitate player control in custom systems.

    Inside | One of the novelties, compared to the previously known CD players of this manufacturer, is the use of a switching power supply in the CD15 Prisma. It is placed on a separate circuit board together with a filter for the AC power line - in this case it is more about protecting other devices around, not the player itself - switching power supplies generate a lot of high frequency noise. In standby mode the Primare power supply is completely switched off.

    The device's design is based on several guidelines that the company follows - they have the common name - Practical Design Approach. One of the elements is the shortest possible signal path. This is why Primare primarily uses SMD (surface) mounting, and double-sided printed circuit boards have two or four layers. As we read in the so-called "White paper":

    Ultimately, this results in fewer, higher quality parts for a reduction in associated distortions and an increase in overall electrical efficiency.

    CD15 Prisma Design Brief, accessed: 24.07.2019

    To such a large PCB, two smaller PCBs are plugged in - the Prisma file player and the digital-to-analog converter. There is also a digital output, preceded by a matching transformer, and an analog output with a relay; RCA outputs are not gold plated. The streamer circuit is connected to the main board via multipin sockets. As it turns out, it is a ready-made solution from Libre Wireless Technologies, model LS9AD-AC11DBT. This is a kind of "kit", i.e. a basic set with software that is modified by contractors. In this case, Primare has programmed them themselves.

    The D/A converter circuit is based on the AKM AK4490EQ chip. This is a modern, two-channel 32/768 PCM converter supporting also 11.2 MHz DSD, belonging to the Japanese manufacturer's "Velvet Sound" series. On the analog side, both channels are placed far apart, which helps to achieve low crosstalk. This section is based on chips from three different companies: Burr Brown OPA2134, Texas Instruments LME49990 and Comlinear CLC2059. Next to it you will find Wima capacitors.

    And finally the mechanics. This is a Philips CDM-M10 slot CD transport. To decouple it from external vibrations and prevent it from affecting the electronics and power supply, it was bolted to a steel frame, and the latter, through lossy washers, to the next frame. And only then, the whole was screwed to the bottom of the housing - also by lossy elements.

    Remote | C25 remote control looks good and it is quite handy. I think that ‘start’ and ‘stop’ buttons could be better separated as as they are the can be easily confused with others.

    Technical specifications (according to manufacturer)

    Finishes: black or titanium
    Drive: Philips CDM-M10
    DAC: 1x AKM AK4490
    Output signal: 2.2 V
    Output impedance: 50 Ω
    THD + N (20 Hz – 20 kHz): <0.01%
    Digital outputs: RCA, TOSLink
    Frequency range: 20 Hz – 20 kHz (+0.1/-0.65 dB)
    S/N: >80 dB (AES17)

    Supported files formats:
    WAV, LPCM, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, WMA, OGG: up to 192 kHz/24 bits
    MP3, MP4 (AAC): up to 48 kHz/16 bits, VBR & CBR 320kbps
    DSD: up to DSD128 (5.6 MHz)
    Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth, AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Chromecast built-in, DLNA/UPnP
    WLAN: IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; 2.4/5GHz b, g, n

    Power consumption: standby 0.5 W | operation <10 W
    Dimensions (W x H x D): 350 x 329 x 73 mm
    Weight: 6.6 kg


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