In the "actually helpful" category, some more impressions:
I fired up one of my favorite tunes, "Mocking Solemnity," from "Flight of the Behemoth" by Sunn ))). This is a song that's from a band that revels in the drone. It's a massive, lugubrious wall of sound that should wash over you. There's a ton of low-frequency content. At its best, this song should make you feel trapped in the listening space. Awesome, in other words.
With my Sony (XA20 ES), this quality was present in spades. The Primare brought the feeling to the level of claustrophobia, in a soundspace that grew wider and deeper. And the windows in the room didn't rattle with the Sony, as they do with the Primare, even though the Sony is better at that "WOOM" sort of midbass that convinces you there's a lot of bass. The Sony didn't rattle the windows.
And yet, because of that "WOOM" business, you might hear the Sony and think that it had more bass. Fascinating.
I also like to use "Pagan Poetry" by Bjork to evaluate, not only because it's a great song, but she's created another little sound world, peopled by a choir, her amazing voice, and about a million chirping, squawking, buzzing little entities. It's just wonderful.
Her voice, as she attacks the lyric "pedaling through," when I've seen her live, has this very throaty sort of "oooo" quality to the last part of the phrase. It's so abundantly clear with the Primare, as to startle. And everything in the soundspace is clear and distinct, but without that compartmentalized feeling that many detailed components give, that separate everything to the point of .... well .... being separate rather than a whole.
Cymbals ring, voices soar, the freestyling Raekwon track "Kids That's Rich," from the remarkable "Vatican Mixtape V.1" has a pace, a rhythm that makes you move. Hip-hop, properly conveyed, should have a "bump" quality to the beats, rather than the flat, lifeless way you often hear it presented by "audiophile" CD players.
Yes, classical is brilliant. But I've found that it's pretty difficult for audiophile stuff to screw up classical. Where it falls short is in the real-world stuff that real folks listen to. Yes, audiophile recordings are going to sound good. Duh. Now put on "The Knell and the World" by (black metal outfit) Dawn, and tell if the vocalist scares you. If he doesn't keep shopping.
The best quality of the Primare, as I've mentioned above, is that "liveness." It's a quality that has a lot of names, such as "air," "presence" and what have you. It's the sense that something is going on. Air is being moved. The killers have that quality. The Sony was very good, but it wasn't a killer. The Primare is.
Now, its perspective is reserved, so if you like a very forward presentation, you might not dig it. It's a huge soundstage, but it's middle-rear of the hall, rather than up front. For you Chicago folks, it's like sitting in the Gallery at Symphony Center (the best seating for sound quality in that hall, frankly).
Anyhow. I don't much believe in breaking in. I think that if something sounds good right out of the box, its qualities will improve over time, but a turd won't become a diamond. This Primare CD21 is a diamond. To Tom6897, buy the CD31. If the big brother of the 21 is even better, you'll be a happy camper.
(Again, putting this up here for folks who might be considering this player, and are wondering what the deal is. Hope it helps someone.)