For those of us living with limited shelf space and ever-tightening budgets there is no more egalitarian audio component than the DVD/CD receiver. It offers a multitude of features, sufficient power, and construction quality consistent with prices that are often heavily discounted. Value-laden? You bet. Goosebump-inducing? Umm, not so much. But since nature abhors a vacuum, Primare of Sweden has seized the opportunity to fill that void with the DVDI10—a DVD-receiver that bridges the gap between a work-ethic blue-collar component and a hot-rodded high-end one.
Every square inch of the DVDI10 bespeaks class and quality, from the understated brushed aluminum casework to the discrete top-mount controls to the trio of isolation footers to the nicely laid-out remote control. However, beneath the handsome look is a multi-tasker of substance. Power output is rated at 75Wpc, thanks to cool-running, space-saving Class D amplifier topology. The audio section provides three analog audio inputs, a pre-out, and a Low-Frequency Effects (LFE) jack for driving a subwoofer. There’s an onboard A/D converter that allows all line-level sources to be outputted via the optical or coax digital outputs to a digital recorder or an external surround processor. The back panel also houses a fifteen-pin connector for iPod use and for exporting all of the player’s metadata to the Primare’s front panel via the remote control. In the video department, there are component, composite, and S-video outputs. The HDMI output features an Analog Devices video DAC and 1080p upscaling from a Genesis FLI2300 video processor. While I don’t have the facilities to measure DVD video performance, HDMI connectivity went without a hitch and to these eyes rendered images that were smoothly film-like and free from obvious video artifacts.
Functionally the Primare sometimes speaks its own language. And using it is a bit like adventuring abroad where you adapt to that country’s rhythms by immersing yourself in its world. For example, to mute the volume you press the Volume Up/Down buttons on the front panel simultaneously. Weirdly, you can’t mute from the remote control. Other remote logical oddities include a Play button that piggybacks with Pause, and a Stop button that doubles up with Open/Close. The monochromatic on-screen display is old school graphically, but functional. Time to bring on the vivid full-color graphics of today’s current GUIs. But competitors should take note of the front-panel display that enlarges the size of the volume indicator each time the volume button is pushed. Once set it returns to its original size—a boon for middle-age peepers. Aside from source switching that’s on the sluggish side, the Primare has functioned flawlessly over the last few months—important when one box is juggling all these apples.
The sonic performance of the DVDI10 is easily at the upper limits of this product type. Its pace and timing were appealing. The DVDI10’s midrange tonal balance was neutral, veering neither towards the warmly romantic nor the coolly clinical. Its treble is relaxed, growing slightly shaded and opaque as it ascends. Transient speed is natural, neither strident nor subdued. One of the Primare’s strongest points is the attention it pays to the more delicate low-level textural and timbral aspects of acoustic music. Joan Baez’s latest album Day After Tomorrow [Razor & Tie] is filled with the rich resonances of guitar, acoustic bass, mandolin, and mandola. During songs like “Rose of Sharon” or “The Lower Road,” the Primare sensitively reproduces some of the subtlest details and defines each instrument’s unique timbre and character.
The Primare’s balance and dynamic envelope is decidedly midrange-accented, which is probably fitting for its moderate power output and the fact that many users will take advantage of the LFE output and let a powered subwoofer do the deep-bass power-lifting. There’s also a slight truncation of upper treble air that leaves the impression of a lowered acoustic ceiling—an almost subliminal feeling that your room’s boundaries have closed in somewhat, losing some height.
It’s not dinging the Primare unfairly when I add that speaker matching is of greater consequence with combi-integrateds in general. Rather I’m making the larger point that amp/speaker matchups are just like engines and cars. When you take a perky but tiny engine and slip it into an Escalade it’ll barely get that behemoth off the line. But put that same engine in a Ford Fiesta and you’ll have it chirping its tires in every gear. So many fine speaker choices are available from various companies that there really is no need to unduly challenge the Primare’s innards by asking it to drive a speaker of less than average sensitivity. And to that end when I used the Paradigm Monitor 9, a four-transducer floorstander with frisky 96dB sensitivity, the Primare exploded to life. The percussive and rhythmic fireworks of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” [Columbia] created electric bass guitar pulses that vibrated floorboards, and the energy of the brass section as it jumped an octave seemed to rise in the room like a sudden tide.
In order to isolate the quality of the DVD/CD player’s audio performance I kept a couple of other line-level sources on hand including the superior Esoteric X-05 CD/SACD player—a recipient of a Golden Ear Award in this issue. What this comparison revealed was that the Primare CD section was sweet, dynamically engaging, but not quite a match for the standard of resolution set by the amplifier. The soundstage could be more open and dimensional in my opinion. There’s a subtractive quality in the reproduction of the ambient complexities in acoustic venues. For example, during Ann Sophie Mutter’s performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto [DG] there was less reverberation from the boundaries of the hall. Also, Mutter’s violin was not as warmly resonant and its upper register introduced a light glaze that diminished resolution in the violin’s top register—an issue raised in TAS’s Class D amplifier survey a few years ago.
In a segment not always taken especially seriously by audiophiles the Primare DVDI10 offers a superior single-box solution that’s elegant, understated, and versatile. Given appropriate speaker matching (and a vivid 1080p display) it will perform at levels certain to raise a few eyebrows among audiophiles and videophiles alike. Come to think of it, about the only thing this multi-tasking Swede won’t do is supply the meatballs.
SPECS & PRICING
Primare DVDI10 DVD/CD Receiver
Power output: 75Wpc
Inputs: Three RCA, one iPod control with meta data display
Video outputs: One HDMI, one component, one S-Video, one composite
Audio outputs: One optical, one coaxial, one stereo preamp, one LFE
Dimensions: 17.5" x 13.75" x 4"
Weight: 17 lbs.