Primare I32 (£2200)

The new Primare integrated introduces a bespoke class D module

Sweden’s Primare company is renowned for its chic ‘designer’ components with immaculate alloy fascias and classy stainless steel controls. This I32 integrated is more than just a makeover of an existing design, however, as it employs the latest generation of Class D switching modules introduced in Primare’s multichannel AV amps in 2008 – dubbed ‘Ultra Fast Power Device’.
   The I32’s preamplifier section has a dedicated power supply and is isolated as far as possible from the two UFPD modules. As high efficiency is a given with Class D designs, here is an eco-friendly amp you needn’t feel guilty about leaving in standby, as it draws just 0.2W. Power consumption is only 24W when fully switched on.
   Also new for the I32 is an organic electro-luminescent (OEL) function/status display that is simply gorgeous. It’s dimmable/defeatable. Moreover, each of the inputs can be named and individually trimmed for both level and balance via a simple menu system. At the rear is a blanking plate for a forthcoming media input module that will give the I32 an on-board DAC, with S/PDIF, Ethernet, USB and iPod connectivity.

Sounding crisp and squeaky-clean, the I32 delivered startling clarity that was captivating. Forget any preconceptions about Class D switching amps having impressive bass delivery but offering grainy high frequencies.
   This Primare sounded tight and grippy along with a highly explicit treble that made the percussion of Brand X’s Morris Pert and Chuck Burgi (‘The Ghost Of Mayfield Lodge’ from 1978’s Masques album – Charisma VJCP-68785) sound uncannily real, the ringing of cymbals struck by wooden sticks entirely palpable. And the bass was impressive: extended, powerful and highly descriptive.
   The Primare digs deeply into the minutiae of recordings, highlighting for example the artificially created acoustic halo around Tori Amos’ voice in ‘Cornflake Girl’ [East West, 7567-85688-2]. There was no softening of the piano here, yet neither was the edgy sound of the dense production uncomfortable. The sound was open, the pristine clarity allowing one to hear individual layers of the recording.
   The brightly-lit recording of James Brown’s ‘Give It Up Or Turn It A-Loose’ from his 1970 album for King Records, It’s A New Day – Let A Man Come In [Japanese re-master on Polydor, POCP-1856] was full of space and atmosphere too. The Primare I32 seemed to tighten the rather boxy bass, allowing the notes to be pitched more clearly, where a cheaper amplifier might tend to honk a one-note bass line.
   An audiophile recording of Liszt’s First Piano Concerto with soloist Todd Crow, recorded in the mid- 1990s in a 500-seat theatre [First Impressions Music FIMCD 006, a compilation disc], was spectacular in its three-dimensionality and explosive dynamic swings, and the space of the recording venue was clearly resolved.

Allowing microscopic analysis of the recording engineer’s art, Primare’s I32 is a fine example of modern industrial design that looks a million dollars. And its variable-brightness OEL display is simply gorgeous, as is the ability to name and configure its inputs. Moreover, the promise of its forthcoming ‘media module’ plug-in board is tantalising indeed.

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Originally published in the Yearbook 2011