Assembling a set of audio equipment is a very long and interesting process, which for many lovers of good sound almost never stops. But there is another philosophy of building audio systems: choose a universal device and acoustics, turn it on and it works and makes you happy with minimum time and effort. The hero of today’s review – Primare I15 Prisma – offers just such an opportunity.
Following the manufacturer, we call it an amplifier, but it would be more correct to speak about a compact home audio system, since besides the two-channel integrated amplifier itself, the device is equipped with its own network player and a 24-bit digital-to-analog converter AKM AK4490 with a sampling rate up to 192 kHz. So it can act as an amplifier, as a streamer, as an external DAC for a PC… And it supports the most popular functions: from Bluetooth connection and the ability to play music files from USB drives to AirPlay 2, Roon, Spotify Connect, as well as Chromecast. All in all, everything you need in one package – all you have to do is add speakers.
|Power output||2×60 W at 8 ohms, 2×100 W at 4 ohms|
|Frequency range.||20 Hz – 20 kHz (-0.5 dB)|
|Distortion (THD + N)||<0.05% (20 Hz – 20 kHz, 10 W at 8 ohms)|
|Signal to Noise Ratio||digital: > 90 dB
analog: > 80 dB
|Analog Outputs||Preamp output: 1 × RCA (150 ohms)|
|Digital Outputs||1 × RCA|
|Playback from a USB flash drive||available|
|Connecting to the network||Ethernet, Wi-Fi|
|Wi-Fi||802.11n (2.4 and 5 GHz)|
|Bluetooth||is (SBC codec)|
|Cost||200 thousand rubles at the time of publication of the review|
Packaging and bundling
The amplifier is shipped in a modest cardboard box with the manufacturer’s logo, brief specifications and technology icons on it.
The package includes the device itself, documentation, power cord, trigger cable, antennas for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, remote control with two C25 batteries, as well as a voltage detector.
The power detector looks like a pen, the presence of a phase is signaled by the glow of a bright red LED on the bottom white part of the case.
The presence of such a device may surprise some of our readers. That’s why let’s just quote the Primare I15 Prisma manual:
“The phase of the AC source can significantly affect the sound. Use the supplied voltage detector to check which output is energized on your power cord. Make sure that the live pin of the power cable is connected to the left pin of the power connector when viewed from the rear panel side.”
The design of the case is made in the best traditions of the “Scandinavian style” – everything is very strict and laconic, no unnecessary decorative elements. There are two variants of the case design: black and gray, we had the first one for testing.
The device looks solid and even massive, a huge contribution to such an impression is made by a slightly forward-moving metal front panel 8 mm thick. When looking from the side you can clearly see how it is positioned.
On the back are two antennas for wireless, plus a panel of connectors.
The antennas are removable, and the number of connectors is quite large – listing them one by one would be long and pointless. It should be noted at once that the device is able to provide its owner with content on its own, nevertheless you can connect to it both CD-transport, and vinyl player through an external phono stage, and TV… In general, the device is quite versatile and can perform several tasks at once.
To describe the contents of the back panel, let’s just use the illustration from the manual, where each connector is clearly shown and signed.
The case is matte and not prone to soiling. There is a three-dimensional logo on the top cover. There you can also see the fasteners, which do not spoil the appearance at all, on the contrary – give it a little originality.
On the bottom of the case there are three legs with rubber pads. There are no questions about the stability of Primare I15 Prisma – the legs are relatively large, and the weight of the device is considerable and is more than 6 kg.
There are only four buttons on the front panel: power, source selection and sound control. There is also a relatively small, but informative display.
The display can show the selected input, the volume, the operating mode, the name of the playing track… Let’s look at some of the indication now, and then we’ll come back to it a little later.
Let’s take a look inside the amplifier, too, by all means. The top cover is easy to remove, the quality of the assembly of everything under it is at the level that we expect from a device of such class.
First, let’s take a look at the boards from above to present the overall picture. And then let’s talk a little bit about the different components. First of all we should mention the amplification section UCD102 of the Dutch company Hypex, whose products have recently become almost an “industry standard” for high-end audio equipment.
Power supply of its own design with a pulse source and relatively large capacitors for such a device. Nearby we see the JRC NJM78M00 linear stabilizers.
The same Libre LS9AD-AC11DBT module that we already saw on the Primare NP5 Prisma player is responsible for streaming functions: from communication via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to decoding of music files of different formats and Airplay support, Chromecast.
The DAC and ADC section is two-tiered. As the DAC is used very “advanced” and just extremely popular AKM AK4490 by Japanese company Asahi Kasei, which can be found in a number of deservedly popular devices.
Looking under the first level of the unit, we see the STM32F103VCT6 ARM microcontroller, also familiar to us from the NP5 Prisma.
Connecting the Primare I15 Prisma is a very simple process. Screw the removable antennas, if you plan to use Wi-Fi – without them the quality of communication will be extremely low even in the immediate vicinity of the router. Or connect the Ethernet cable to the connector on the rear panel. When switching on the amplifier for the first time it will “ask” which type of connection we prefer. All that remains is to plug in the unit, and connect the speakers with the clamp terminals or Banana-type connectors. The rest is optional, as noted above, there is a number of digital and even one analog input – you can connect even a CD player, even vinyl or even some vintage cassette deck.
Since the same Libre LS9AD-AC11DBT module that we saw in the Primare NP5 Prisma player is responsible for streaming functions and communication, the specifics of their work will be exactly the same. In his review we talked in detail about connection to the network and about playing music from different sources – there is no point in repeating all this information, let us dwell only on a couple of points. And we strongly recommend our readers to watch the review of the player to get an idea of how streaming works.
Earlier we showed two connection options: the basic one via Wi-Fi from the Primare Prisma app and the one using Chromecast, which provides much more interesting features. This time it was decided not to experiment and immediately use it. The ability to stream content on Primare I15 Prisma appeared immediately in all the applications we use: from Yandex.Music and Tidal to the relatively little-known, but very interesting podcast player Podcast Addict.
When streaming, the screen on the front panel shows the volume level, the name of the track, its author, and the time elapsed since the start of playback.
The contents of the home screen are pretty much the same as the NP5 Prisma. The only thing added is a selection of active inputs, each of which can be assigned its own name. There is also the possibility to exclude one or another source from the list of activated – very convenient. The amplifier can turn on and activate an input when it receives a signal; options on how exactly to do this are also available in the settings menu.
The Primare I15 Prisma can be controlled using either the app, the front panel keys, or the remote control. We dealt with the keys on the panel a little bit above – thank God there are not many of them. But everything is much more interesting with the remote control. To avoid going into a long description, we will use the picture from the manual again:
As you can see, the remote is able to control not only the amplifier in question, but also other components of the set. When streaming content over the network the pause/play button works, but flipping tracks is not always. But, to be honest, there is no particular need for this. The buttons are pressed with a very pleasant click, the quality of operation is excellent – on the whole the remote control is great, it’s comfortable to use.
About streaming you can read in the review already mentioned above. The built-in player supports WAV, LPCM, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, MP3, MP4, AAC, WMA, OGG. Due to the limitation of bitrate through digital inputs streams up to 192 kHz / 24 bit are played, the built-in player plays files up to 192 kHz / 24 bit and DSD128 from USB drives. Well, when connected to a PC, 768 kHz / 32 bit and DSD256 are already available. Primare I15 Prisma is detected by the sound card without any additional efforts and after that it works quite correctly, but the manufacturer offers to download from the off-site and install the audio driver Primare XMOS – you can do that.
Connecting via Bluetooth is unlikely to be used too often – the amplifier is clearly designed for other types of connections, of which there are quite a few. That is why only one codec is supported – SBC, which we checked with the Bluetooth Tweaker utility.
Universal devices involuntarily begin to suspect the presence of some kind of compromises, first and foremost – in terms of sound quality. In this case, their fears were not justified at all. Primare I15 Prisma sounds much better than we expected. We tried to listen to it both with compact shelf speakers and with big floor-standing “monsters” – the device is quite able to “rock” them as well.
The peculiarities of the connected acoustics and the played tracks were fully revealed: somewhere we got fast and accurate bass, somewhere we enjoyed the level of detail of the middle frequencies… In any case Primare I15 Prisma coped well with the task assigned to it, producing accurate and balanced sound. This is not the device which is designed to plunge the listener into ecstasy, its strong point lies rather in the analytical and soft sound, which does not cause fatigue even with many hours of listening.
The streaming community is practically used to quality sound, although there are some “old timers” who do not recognize anything but analog sources. The use of streaming has recently become more complicated, but is still quite possible. Both positions have the right to exist, but that’s not the point. The next step is to admit that it is not necessary to have at least three or four devices in a rack with equipment – one, but a universal one, may be quite enough. The Primare I15 Prisma is a good way to test this statement in practice. On the one hand, it will give maximum convenience due to access to streaming services and network functions, on the other – it will provide high-quality sound, which is quite on par with its price segment. And if the user decides to add other components to the set, it will make it easy and comfortable to do so.