Audio Aero Prima vs. Resolution Audio Opus 21

We currently own the Prima, and have heard the Opus 21, though only for a short audition, and not in our home. Just curious what you might think of the differences? We love the warmth and intimacy of the Prima. It could perhaps dig a little deeper for increased dynamics and resolution. We may spend the $150 to try out the Opus 21, but my concern is having a non-tube player. There is a certain thinness and dryness to most digital that I don't care for. We would spend up to $3K as necessary, but are for a number of reasons apprehensive about the modded players.
We prefer the dimensionality and airy sound of the Prima to the pristine accuracy of say, the Audio Note CDP/DAC's.
Any thoughts and/or recommendations? Stick with what we have? Spring for a $1000 interconnect? OK, not so fast!
Just because it doesn't have a tube doesn't mean it will sound thin and dry (I've found the Sony's and Marantz to be that way). I have a Gamut CD1R and find it extremely musical (I thought it was more organic than a full DCS rig)

What are the other components in your system?
A quality preamp is one of the most important components I have found in a system. Also I would address Acoutical treatments to get you that next step before spending money elsewhere.
That's really why I asked, to get suggestions, because I've not heard everything out there, but I know the type of sound that I like, a la the AA Capitole. Can't afford it, however.

We have an integrated 7W 300B SET amp, which is quite musical and engaging. And we have treated our room.
I've not heard the Gamut. Perhaps I'll have to give that unit a listen.

Thank you for the suggestions.
In doing my research (I preferred the 16k Burmester but that was out of the question), I listened to the DCS full stack and it was amazing but a little to analytical (maybe that was just the upsampling), Meridian 508.24 (amazing but not warm but not sterile), Wadia (loved them but found myself focusing on the details), Rega Jupiter 2000 (boring and undetailed), various Arcams (detailed but no soul), Naim (toe tapping musical but not very accurate (only listed as high as the CD5X), and a couple of others. I heard good things about the AA Capitole but at the time they were having reliabiltiy problems in a big way with the Series II and it was way out of my budget.

The Gamut was just plain musical with details but it doesn't cause you to focus on the details like the wadia or ML does. I have the CD1R version there was a later CDS (basically the same) and now the Mark II version (different method of processing so not sure how it sounds..$1500 upgrade that even the factory said wasn't worth it for mine model) The first version is the CD1 that was reviewed with a lack of bass below 40hz, but the CD1R version fixed all of that. The Gamut sounds much better out the balanced than the single ended.

I considered the Aero Prima but couldn't hear it and was really afraid to buy that unit blindly since so few of them were out at the time but I'm sure I would have liked it. I think the warmer sounds other units to look at would be the Electrocompient (can't spell them), Audio Note (3.1x), and there is another that escapes me. If you check out you will get some other reviews of warmer sounding players as I have noticed they tend to review non-mainstream units more often. The Dodsen (or Dodson) is another unit and the Lector CD player is suppose to be another. The Opus is also compared more over on their forums. This and the Lector were not out when I started looking

But since you have a warmer 300B SET that rolls the top and bottom off, (I had a Cary Integrated for a while) a detailed but musical player might be the right compromise since your integrated will impart the warmness you prefer.

The only other thing I could say is pickup a PS Audio Powerplant 300 with Multiwave II and get the optional fan (used for under $800) and run your CD player maybe your intgrated with Tubewave, this will add some more detail to the top and slam on the bottom, a lot of people don't like the extra detail the Powerplant provides but it might be enough to keep what you have! Depending on where you are located someone might be able to loan you theirs for a couple of hours (it's that dramatic) My friend runs his Meridian 508.24 and his ARC VS55i integraded on it and the improvement is huge and he only has Multiwave I, now he wants Multiwave II so he can try Tubewave. I use a Powerplant on my front end and have used balanced conditioners also at times.
Good luck!
Your descriptions of the various players were exactly as I have noted as well. Thank you greatly for all of the excellent advice.

With the PS Audio 300, does the Multiwave II come with the optional fan & Tubewave, or are we talking about two separate $800 units (the 300 + the fan)?

Thank you again. This is a big help.
Best regards,

If you can stretch your budget by a couple hundred dollars you could get a pre-owned or demo Audio Aero Prima DAC, which is the same DAC section as in the Capitole II. I'm using one with a cheapo Denon 2200 as the transport with great results.
Howard, I'm not having that shortcoming with my Prima as far as bass extension. I don't know what the rest of your system consists of, but if you're leaning toward the Prima, maybe you should try a pair of Harmonix Golden Performance ICs. When I upgraded to them from the Cardas Golden Ref (no slouch in the IC department) it was as if I gave my Prima a shot of steroids, opening the sound up top to bottom. And I mean: open. I started with their power cords and flipped. Had to do the ICs. Unbelievable, and less costly than the big boys. I know a few audiophools, who have traded in their Valhallas for the Harmonix.. Go figure...peace, warren
Boa I heard the Prima DAC of 1Markr, its very musical.
The PS Audio Powerplant with Multiwave II comes with Tubewave (this is a function inside of the Multiwave II), the Fan is optional, but you don't need it right away. My CD player and preamp only pull 90 together, but my friends Rogue tube preamp pulled 200watts, my other friends ARC VS55i and Meridian CD player pulls 150watts. The unit maxes out at ~230watts. so if you can see what the required voltage for you SET amp is and your CD player (my cd player manual listed a higher value than it actually used). Don't buy a PS Audio powerplant 300 without Multiwave II the upgrade cost is too much versus buying on already with it. The fan kit is $100 if you need it, depends on if you are able to run your integrated and cd player.

1markr: made a good suggestion about the Audio Aero Prima Dac as an option but later a good transport makes a huge difference in my experience.

fee free to email me through agon if you have questions abou t the ps audio.
You may want to try an Audio Magic Mini Digital for your front end. Worked for me, until the Audio Magic Eclipse. Now, it works even better.
You are going to find that the Audio Aero Cd players get the most votes hereabouts on most comparisons of Cd players in the same league.
The Prima DAC's don't come up used very often, but it sounds like that would be ideal. In the meantime, maybe I need to try out a few of your other excellent suggestions like the Harmonix, Audio Magic, PS Audio, etc. It's all just a matter of budget and sonics, right?

Thank you all for the input. It's very helpful.

Budget, isn't that always the deal? I would like to know more about your electronics, speakers, present ICs, power cords, before coming up with the conclusion that it is your Prima that needs changing. I can't see it. The Prima, drop dead, amazes me on every listen. For the sound and the $$...give us your system; and we'll give you the world (oops), I mean give you enough to drive you crazy...
All you hear about the AA Prima is correct.
I had one and traded for the Capitole MKI,but I'll tell you the Prima is a very compelling player for 1/4 the price of the Capitole.Now that being said I also eliminated my preamp cause I am single sourced.As for conditioning it is a must and Audio Magic's are amazing and also the Z-Squared Cube for a lot less money.
I also agree with Cytocycle about the other player descriptions,I can't believe his descriptions are exactly as I heard them.Really it must be like a mind meld or something.
Oh ya I still kick myself in the ass for not keeping the Prima as a spare unit .
First off, I have never heard the Prima, so I will not comment on its sound. Based on those who have, it seems to be pretty darned good though!

However, I do own the Opus 21, and I love it. My friend upon hearing mine, immediate went out and bought one, and he too loves it. He compared it to his Theta and quickly sold his Theta. He even bought a Esoteric DV-50 thnking it would beat the Opus, and sold the DV-50 after comparing it. (I will point out that both my friend and I are both primarily into analog, so we were both looking for a good redbook player that sounded close to the analog sound. We feel we found it in the Opus 21.)

So I highly recommend the Opus 21. If you can afford to buy it new from Resolution Audio, do so, I doubt you would regret it. (By the way, Jeff, the owner of R.A., is a great guy, and an asset to the audio community!)
However, if funds are low, then buy a used Opus 21, and if you like it keep it. (If not, sell it and be out almost nothing, since the used market is pretty hot for them.) There is one for sale right now on Audiogon for $2,500 including shipping, which is a pretty good price.
(By the way, the current price is $3,500 and the restocking fee is 5%, so that works out to $175, plus shipping, not the $150, you stated. It used to be $150 when the price was $3,000.)

Good Luck in your search!
You know, after I put my Michael Wolff source cord on my CD player, it readjusted my standards for drawing conclusions about the sonic signature and capability of a component. Just when I thought I knew the player's limits,
the stunning effect on the dimensionality and dynamics of the music forced me to a new appreciation that I would have previously considered impossible.

The rest of the components:
Audion 7W 300B SET integrated (one source input & attenuator knob, is all) with WE300B/Siemens CCa 6922 tubes.
Klipsch La Scala's (the most transparent, you-are-there speaker I've yet heard, save perhaps the Avantgarde's)
Z-Squared Au/Au IC
Quicksilver pure silver speaker cables
Wolff PC's on both the CDP & amp

Every power conditioner I've tried thus far only veils the transparency of the horns. I've not tried the Audio Magic or Z-Squared Cube. Also, we live in a rental, so dedicated lines are not currently (CURRENT-ly, get it?) a possibility.

So there you have it. I think I'm probably just getting too fussy about this, because actually it sounds rather amazing. Bad tweaker!

I forgot to add that we are also getting an ACI Titan sub as well. Because even though my wife recently decided that she wanted to consolidate two systems back into one, her love for Tool has not waned.

Thanks for the comments. As I said, I only heard the Opus 21 for a short period. I would like to have more time with the player, and may buy a used one in order to have that opportunity. As you say, they are in demand on the used market so reselling it is quick and easy.
I appreciate the assessment of the Opus 21. I do love the Prima, but much of the fun of this for me is to hear the music on different equipment.
All the best,
The Opus is a phenomenal player at any price. Hands down a winner, however if you need warmth and a full lush sound, the Opus may not totally deliver. It will deliver musicality, great PRAT, openness, detail, literally everything you could ever want except lushness. To some extent warmth and detail are at two ends of a spectrum and to have both is almost impossible, however some heavy dollar players come close to this. My recc is to get the Opus for everything it does right, then add a tubed preamp or amp to get you lushness, a true delight and will be your best bet, IMO. You can also tweak with the right cables. I don't think the Prima will give you the depth, detail, dynamics, imaging etc, etc that the opus can provide.
Thank you as well for the comments. I think I'll just have to hear one side by side with the Prima. Incidentally, lush is exactly the word that escaped me in terms of how I would describe the Prima. And that's
what I fear losing in some other players. Still, I won't rule out the merits of any player without hearing it for myself.

In order to use the internal preamp on the Opus 21, is it true that you must use the DIN output? Please excuse me if I'm not wording this correctly, but I'm referring to connecting the Opus 21 directly to an amp, without the use of an additional preamp.
Thank you,

No, actually that is the exact opposite.
In order to avoid the internal volume control, the DIN output will bypass it. (FYI, this is exactly what I do. I use a Ayre K-1X preamp, and had an Audience Au24 DIN-XLR cable made just for that purpose.)

Both the RCA output and the XLR output will go through the volume control, if you wish to connect directly to your amp.

Good Luck!
Thank you for clarifying that, Kurt_tank.
Kurt is right, you bypass the analog control stage by using the DIN output and using a DIN-RCA (or DIN-XLR if you wish) connector (the Audience DIN-RCA and DIN-XLR cables are in MHO the best). If you are using a preamp, I think it is a well worth while investment. Not a night and day difference, but ever so slightly better dynamics and authority through the DIN. Don't get me wrong the output through the standard RCA or XLR is quite phenomenal itself.
Fatcat or Ktank,
Could you expand on the Opus21 DIN output to a preamp? As I see it, the Opus has a single DIN output. This may be a dumb question, but how do you connect to the right and left XLR or RCA inputs on a preamp?
A DIN-RCA or XLR connector simply has the single DIN on one side, then splits into two RCAs or XLRs.
The DIN handles both the left and the right channel in one connection. (It has five individual wired connectors.) My cable connection that I had specially built by Audience is actually a "Y" cable. (It has one DIN connector, and two XLR connectors at the other ends.)

Hope that helps!
Fatcat and Kurt_tank,

Thanks much for the helpful replies.
Just to clarify this, if I ran the standard RCA or XLR on the Opus 21 into a preamp, would I have any issue with the volume control on the unit--since I have not bypassed it with the DIN connector?
I believe the answer is no. You would set the volume on the Opus to max and use your pre for volume control.
Mijknarf is correct. It is no problem.

Using the DIN output just removes one more device from the sound chain, and since I use a preamp anyway, it just makes more sense (for me anyway) to avoid going through the volume control.
All clear now.
Thank you both.
FWIW, I know two Opus 21 owners who prefer using the RCA output over the DIN output.
Ironically, I think that the RCA's sound better on my Prima than do the XLR's. They are tighter, slightly more focused. The XLR's sound a bit vague to my ear. Always worth a try either way.
Thanks, Phil.
Phil, the RCAs do sound better on the Prima than the XLRs. go figure...
Warren, my Prima man!
How the heck are you?
Just bought the Stealth Mini Digital to give that a try in
my system. Thanks again for the recommendation.
That the RCAs sound better than the XLR on the Audio Aero might have more to do with what is downstream from your Cd player. Perhaps your amp has a preferance for RCAs as my McIntosh 2102 is an unbalanced amp and the XLRs add juat another circuit.
don't mean to hi-jack this thread, but anyone out there heard the RA Opus 21, compared to an EMC-1UP SE?
Howard, give that baby a long break in with an electric heater or something that has high amperage. You're going to love it. Your cdp is about to be awakened. let me know how much you love it...sorry for the thread hi-jack..
Hi-jack away, 'goners.
I'll even do it myself. Here goes:

Just put an Electraglide Mini Khan Plus on my Prima.
I know, swearing isn't allowed, but Holy $($(#!
Two other members recommended them, and they were not kidding. I'm getting imaging dimensionally around the notes, not only at the front. I actually heard Richard Buckner's microphone buzz just a second ago. Awesome cord!

Still looking for a Resolution Audio just to try it out. There's one for sale here, but we're both standing firm at $25 apart. I just won't pay $2700+ when they've been going for around $2400, and one yesterday sold for $2K. I know because I was second in line!

Swampwalker, I think that member Lousyreeds (it may be Lousyreeds1, I can't remember) auditioned both of those players.

All the best,
Howard, fasten your seatbelt and keep smelling salts beside your listening chair when you hook that Mini Khan Plus up to your AM. I hope you're putting that AM digital into a dedicated outlet. 'tis the only facet left to electric nirvana.....enjoy
You know, we don't have dedicated lines. We're renting, so I wasn't going to mess with it here. Eventually, yes. I know that's the first step, but in our situation it unfortunately can only be the last.
Swamp- I have heard it. In my opinion, the EMC1 UP (not sure if it was the SE?) offers nothing over the Opus. They are both musical players, but the EMC simply does not have the resolution and detail that the Opus has. Actually, I believe you heard the Opus when you demoed the VR4 SEs.....
Actually, that's what I am concerned about. I've been listening to some modded U-players and they are beating the EMC (CD to CD) in terms of resolution, but the EMC is a bit "fuller" if I can use that term. So now I want both!
Swampwalker, Exemplar modded Denon. Having owned both the EMC-1 and the Opus 21 let me say the Exemplar modded CDPs offer what you are looking for.

Just when I'm about to seal the deal on an Opus 21, and you have to go and throw the Exemplar curveball in the mix?
What are you guys doing to me? I'm heading over to the Brittany Spears web site, where I know that I won't be vulnerable to taking anyone's advice.
Relax Howie, you've found greatness. There's just a heck of a lot it around in this audiophoolish world. Enjoy your tunes. You've hot one killer source, there. If you don't already, treat yourself to a pair of killer ICs. That Prima deserves the best. We may have done this rap before. I strongly recommend the Harmonix Golden Performance. Great synergy with the Prima, and probably just about every source it can touch.
Boa2, Warrenh is right. They are ALL good CDPs. I've never heard the Prima but I know a lot of people really like it. Though I'm not using the Opus 21 at the moment I can't part with it because it's a great player and it's size makes it flexible. The Opus 21 also offers flexibility in output options. If increased dynamics and resolution are what you're looking for the Opus 21 should offer that for you. I'm sure you've seen it but the unit is reviewed on (the Exemplar is also reviewed there).
Swamp...take my comments knowing that I am an RA dealer and have an obvious bias. But I'm with Fatcataudio...I strongly prefer the Opus 21 to the EMC-1UP. To my ears, the Opus 21 has a much more natural and balanced sound, whereas the EMC-1UP has a bit of a heavier (thumpier?) sound with less smoothness as you move from deep bass to the midrange.
I will buck up for a fine pair of IC's, Warren. Because when I did for the PC, the difference was astounding. I put in the Mini Khan Plus yesterday. My wife then came home and said as she was walking up the stairs, "What did you do to the stereo? It sounds awesome!" So I'm curious to find out about what a special IC would do for me as well.

Thanks, Drew, for the comments. I'm curious to hear the RA, as I know that it is a wonderful player. My preferences tend to lean more towards the signature of the Prima/Capitole, with their inherent lush and laid back sound. I actually got a little concerned about heading in the direction of the Opus 21 only because I know that you've found a step up in the Audio Note products, and they just don't do anything for me. OK, start throwing the rocks everyone! I've actually spent a lot of time with the DAC 4, and although I would give it a 5/5 star rating for doing everything 'right', it just doesn't take me in like other players do.

So I'll play around some more with what I have, and spray myself for upgrade fleas. Because I got a baaaaaaaaad itch!

Thanks again.


Just when you think you've found greatness...and then...POW!

The Audio Magic digital mini really opens up the spaciousness of the music. The tones are more resolved, and the instrument separation is more distinct, as well as sounding more confident. Is one socket for digital (marked with the diamond?) and the other for the amp?

Thank you,
No! Keep your amp, unless it is digital, outta there. Don't want your analog and digital to get aquainted that way. Keep your eyes open, and when you spot a AM Stealth Mini? Grab it. Your analog will be beholding. How did you break in your AM? How many hours did you put on it? I thought you just purchased it. Maybe broken in already? Used? Inquiring minds want to know. peace, warren