Sunday, 22 June 2014

NuForce gets serious about making great headphones

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The new NuForce Primo 8 in-ears are supposed to be awfully good. The Audiophiliac tries them on.

NuForce is primarily known as a high-end electronics manufacturer that also makes outstandingaffordable products. I’ve been a fan for years, and while they’ve offered headphones in the past, the new Primo 8 in-ears aim higher. I liked them from the get-go, so I used the Primo 8 for a few weeks as my everyday, walking-around headphones. The more I listened, the more I liked them. That’s really saying something because when I’m not reviewing an in-ear headphone I use my Jerry Harvey JH13($1,099) custom-molded-to-my-ears ‘phones. Hey, I’m a headphone reviewer and a hard-core audiophile, so I use the best stuff.

Anyway, the Primo 8, which runs $499, didn’t leave me missing the JH13.

The Primo 8′s rated 38 ohm impedance and high sensitivity make it easier to drive than most in-ears, so it can play pretty loudly from your phone. I found the Primo 8′s isolation from noise on the New York subway better than I’ve found in most universal-fit in-ear headphones. NuForce claims it has a proprietary cable and crossover network for the Primo 8′s four balanced armature drivers in each earpiece. The cables are user-replaceable, so when they break, and all headphones cables will eventually fail, you can just buy a new cable and be on your way. The Primo 8 comes with a huge assortment of ear tips, so getting a good, tight seal should be easy.

The Primo 8′s sound is neutral and clear — there’s no boosted bass or exaggerated treble; it just sounds right. The clarity is unforced, and that’s a rare commodity nowadays. Take the Cardas EM8513 in-ears ($425) — they have more bass and overall detail, but switching to the Primo 8, the sound is far more natural. It’s also more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. The Sennheiser IE-800 in-ear headphones are more transparent and open sounding than the Primo 8 or EM8513, but the IE-800 sells for $1,000! Again, the IE-800 succeeds by being even-tempered in its sound; nothing jumps out or annoys — the balance is spot on. Even so, the Primo 8 is more comfortable, and until you compare it with headphones that sell for double the price, the sound is very respectable. The Primo 8 is a true audiophile headphone, and while it’s expensive, you’d have to spend a lot more to get something better.

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