In the last few years, Primare have been successful in creating a niche market for their products getting accolades from critics in audio circles. In the late 90’s audio engineer, Michael Bladelius formerly of Pass Labs and Threshold, joined Primare and as a result new product line was developed in 10, 20 and 30 series components. In fact, this particular amplifier, Primare A30.1, is an award winning design from the same era.
INTEGRATED VERSUS SEPARATES
Having heard many integrated and pre/power combos, I have concluded, and it is only my opinion, that integrated amplifiers at x price can be most of the times better than a pre/power combo selling for same price. On rare occasions, integrated amplifiers can even embarrass a pre/power combo costing twice as much. The key lies in the design and execution of the amplifier in question. There are some classics out there with this kind of trait; one that immediately comes to mind is the legendary NAD 3020. This amplifier, most audio enthusiast agree, was almost a perfect budget integrated amplifier ever produced. It still amazes many who would not like to part with it. It had the magic which was unmatched by any at the price point. It also put to shame some of the expensive pre/power combos in terms of it capability for faithful reproduction of the musical content.
FEATURES ON OFFER
Primare 30.1 is more of a straightforward and simple amplifier design. It does not have any tone controls nor the balance control knob on the front facia. That is because the volume control is a very high precision unit that not only maintains excellent balance between channels at any volume, but increases or decreases the volume in very small increments, an excellent feature especially if the speakers have high efficiency drivers.
The front facia has two very small round windows on either side of the volume knob at about 5 and 7 o’clock position. One gives you the indication of the volume level (0-79) and the other is the window for receiving remote signals. There are in all three solid looking rotary knobs, appear to be extruded aluminium and in single piece, dead centre on the facia is the volume knob, to the right is Stand-by knob and to the left source selector. On the right of the volume knob is the phase toggle button (0/180 Deg), to the left of the volume knob is the monitor button (tape selector). The three large knobs are rotary in the truest sense of the word; they continue to rotate in either direction freely having no detents or markings giving a very clean look.
The back of the amplifier has 6 line level inputs, 2 XLR inputs, speaker terminals and pre-outs to the extreme left and right respectively, detachable three prong AC plug socket and a sole ground terminal.
The unit comes with a remote control, which can operate not only the amplifier, but any other Primare unit attached to it, for example their CD player. Via remote control, one can adjust the balance of left and right output by going into the menu and getting the reading off the front panel small window, which normally gives the level of volume.
The knob on the front panel is only for switching the system on from its standby position and is not a power on/off switch. The power switch is neatly tucked away at the bottom left of the unit and not is not visible, the idea being that the unit should be left on in standby mode rather than going through a cold start and wasting time for the unit to get warmed up before any listening session.
The power output is 100 watts at 8 Ohms and at 4 Ohms a very respectable 180 watts. This is a true high current design amplifier and dishes out a whooping +/- 40A of current when called upon to do so by current hungry speakers, likes of the 4 Ohm Kef’s.
MUSIC USED FOR EVALUATION:
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade; Stravinsky: Song of the Nightingale (RCA Living Stereo)
Eleanor McEvoy – Yola
Sting – Sacred Love
Casino Royale (Original Soundtrack)
Roxy Music – Avalon
Pablo de Sarasate-Zigeunerweisen op 20 (from Carmen Fantasy) Anne Sophie Mutter with Weiner Philharmoniker
Dave Grusin – Gershwin Connection
Patricia Barber – Cafe Blue
Cassandra Wilson-New Moon Daughter
Dominic Miller – Shapes
Ella Fitzgerald - Gold
Keb Mo – Slow Down
Tracy Chapman –First Album
Strunz and Farah – Primal Magic
Alan Stivell – Harpes du Novel Age, Renaissance of the Celtic Harp
Branford Marsalis - Trio Jeepy
Tiger Okoshi - Two sides to every story (JVC XRCD)
Eric Clapton - Crossroads Guitar Festival
Roger Waters – In The Flesh
Riverdance – Live in New York City
Diana Krall – Live in Paris
Eagles – Hell Freezes Over
James Taylor – Live at the Beacon Theatre
SPEAKERS USED FOR EVALUATION:
Chartwell LS3/5a (15 Ohm Version)
Rogers LS3/5a (11 Ohm Version)
Celestian SL6 (8 Ohms)
Kef Reference 2 (4 Ohms)Main Speakers
Rel Strata III
THE HEART OF THE MATTER (SOUND QUALITY)
Primare A30.1 maybe a 100-watt amp but when driven hard gives one an impression of the amplifier being a lot more powerful that what the specs would suggest. From my experience I have always noted this with amplifiers of high current designs. This type of design is excellent in dealing with music having very high dynamic range likes of Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade, Pablo de Sarasate-Zigeunerweisen op 20 (from Carmen Fantasy) Anne Sophie Mutter with Weiner Philharmoniker and Patricia Barber – Cafe Blue particularly the track “Nardis”. The grip and control that this amplifier exhibited was truly outstanding. I never noticed during the entire passages any sign of compression or distorted sound. Just for the information and record I found the volume level if set at 60 did full justice to the reproduction on my Kef’s. Never during the session, I increased or decreased the volume, as it would defeat the very purpose of evaluating the extent of the dynamic range that the amplifier was capable of achieving.
For the high frequency reproduction capability, I relied on my trusty recordings namely; Alan Stivell – Harpes du Novel Age and Renaissance of the Celtic Harp, Strunz and Farah – Primal Magic and Dominic Miller – Shapes. I found this amplifier to be airy and spacious to say the least. Certainly not as airy and spacious as the Mark Levinson 333/Theta Casablanca II driving the B&W Nautilus 801 (which I heard at a friends place a week back) but very good at the price point and certainly superior to my Quad606II/66 combo.
The low end of the spectrum deserves special mention as it is not just authoritative but very controlled. A similar trait I had observed in my own system when being driven by the Perreaux B3150 power amplifier. The only difference was the quantity of power output, 100 verses 300, other than that I did not find any difference. I remember long time ago I had heard the Krell 300i (driving the same Kef), the Primare A30.1’s bass in my opinion is way superior overall despite the fact that it is 50 watts less. I have said it before and I will say it again, Krell 300i has been the greatest disappointment for me when it comes to high-end audio. I never expected such a reputable brand to come up with a unit like that. I am sure if today the two amps were put head to head, Primare A30.1 would beat the Krell in every department not just in low frequency reproduction. I recall a review I had read the title of which was “Krell – What the Hell”
My midrange test disks included Eleanor McEvoy’s album “Yola”, Tracy Chapman’s first album, and a few others from the list provided. The midrange is where I realised the Quad was superior, particularly in terms of resolution. One of the reviewer who had reviewed the Quad 909, went on to say that the Quad 909 was a poor audiophiles Mark Levinson referring to the quality of midrange. Many who use Quad amplifiers and have compared the Quad 606, 707 and 909 state that there is very little difference between the three, the subsequent model being very slightly better overall, the tone quality remaining same.
COMPARISION WITH EXISTING AMPLIFIERS
Having owned many amps in last few years, I must say that the Quad 606II/66 is still unbeatable when it comes to the midrange reproduction. However, The Primare A30.1 was better both in high frequency reproduction, which I found to be airy and low frequency, which I noticed had authority and control. Although I say that the Quad had better midrange resolution but certainly Primare was not really far behind. When we consider a complete package with reference to the reproduction of the entire audio spectrum, Primare A30.1 has an edge over the Quad 606II. When it comes to build quality my vote would go to Quad, this does not certainly mean the build quality of Primare is lacking in any way, it’s just that Quad inspires a bit more confidence in its looks and finish. The reason I am comparing the two is because of the fact that they both are similarly priced, 606II/66 as a combo and Primare as a single integrated unit.
Having compared it to several amps and going through exhaustive listening sessions, all amps sound different and they all have their positive and negative attributes. However, I think that someone who needs an amp with airy top end without being gritty in any way and needs solid and controlled bass this amp does deliver in that respect. The amp I dare not say is particularly suited to any genre of music as it is not the case; this amp is capable of delivering the goods no matter what type of music you listen to – with authority!
Happy listening! Associated gear Click to view my Virtual SystemSimilar products
Audio Analogue, Nad, Krell, Alchemist etc