The Fifth Element #52 Page 2

Since then, Primare has changed their US distributor to the Sound Organisation of Dallas, Texas, who also import Rega equipment, which must keep them hopping, and Wilson Benesch, which, sad to say, probably doesn't. The good news is that, in the switchover, the US retail price of the DVDI10 dropped from $3000 to $2500.

Even outside—or perhaps especially outside—the boundaries of my little project, the 75Wpc DVDI10 is an immensely attractive product that could be the ideal solution for apartment dwellers or empty-nesters who don't want separate audio and video systems. The DVDI10 has all the video connectivity options you could ask for, as well as a subwoofer output. I think that for many if not most people, two speakers and a sub are all that are needed to enjoy a DVD. However, my project was not to find a DVD solution for empty nesters, but to get the most audio bang for the music lover's buck.

Although the DVDI10 is of standard "component" size, it was obviously designed to be installed out in the open, not in a rack. It's not only that the styling cues extend to the top plate; most of the function buttons and their illuminated indicators are on the front edge of the top as well.

The review sample arrived in handsome casework of gray metal and brushed stainless steel (brushed black rather than stainless is also available). The DVDI10's appearance is coherent, restrained, and classy in the extreme—it's one piece of electronic gear at which interior decorators will not turn up their noses—and the build quality is best of breed.

As the photo shows, the controls (except for the disc drawer's Open/Close button) are found on the front edge of the top plate, toward the right, as are their indicator lights. The buttons are set in a recessed area that extends from the faceplate to the back, so they don't stand proud and are of the same stainless steel as the casework. Primare's logo is milled into the top recess and front panel.

That front panel is very restrained in appearance. A subpanel with rounded ends contains the display window and the front-loading CD tray, which is offset to the left, and the shape of the CD tray's forward edge mimics that of the subpanel. Display elements and function indicators are illuminated in a restful leaf green, with adjustable brightness. The display shows the source, data such as CD track number and time, and the volume setting in a range of 0 to 79. A mini headphone jack on the front panel, under the Open/Close button, does double duty as an input jack for non-iPod MP3 players.

The Play and Standby buttons have two functions, depending on how they're pressed. A brief press of Play starts the disc playing or advances to the next track; a long press stops play. A brief press of Standby puts the unit in standby; a long press turns it off.

The remote control is very classy, made of matte plastic with the feel of suede. While the DVDI10's owner's manual (v.2) claims that the remote has an Open/Close button, on the remote furnished with the review sample that button was marked Setup. This is no big deal; if you want the disc drawer open, you're going to have to get up and go to the machine anyway. As for setup, it's pretty much a nonissue for audio listening—the DVDI10 is not a multichannel device. By the way, the DVDI10 is "smart" enough to close its disc drawer when you press Standby, if the drawer has been left open. However, it won't come out of Standby mode if you press Play, whether on the remote control or on the DVDI10 itself.

The DVDI10's rear panel is very full: an IEC power-cord inlet; a master power switch; good-quality, single-wire, EC-compliant speaker terminals with rounded lugs that won't take a standard wrench; five video-output sets, including HDMI; three line-level analog audio output RCAs (preamp, recording, subwoofer); three sets of RCA analog audio inputs; an iPod connector; optical and S/PDIF digital outputs; RS-232 and IR remote control jacks; and connections for AM and FM antennas.

The chassis has three compliant feet: two in front, one in back. Packing materials and the owner's manual are exemplary. The DVDI10 is a tremendously well-thought-out product from an experienced high-end company.

In my October column, I wrote: "I drove the [Eminent Technology] LFT-16s with Arcam's Solo Music and Solo Mini CD receivers, Primare's new DVDI10 DVD-based one-box receiver, and Carat's I57 one-box. . . . I divided most of my time between the Primare and the Carat. The Primare was ever so slightly lighter in texture and more agile in articulation—or, if you prefer, the Carat was ever so slightly more mellow and cushiony. The Primare was a stainless-steel French Chablis to the Carat's oaky California chardonnay—a bit amusing, in view of Carat's French headquarters (the I57 is built in China). With the Primare, I was happy with the LFT-16s' tweeter jumpers in the Low position; with the Carat, I moved them back to Mid."

Further listening did little other than to reinforce those impressions. For example, playing the Tallis Scholars' recent and excellent remake of Allegri's Miserere (CD, Gimell CDGIM 041), I found the Carat just slightly richer in the midrange of male voices, a difference that remained constant no matter which speakers I was using: the LFT-16s, Fried Compact 7s, GINI's LS3/5as, or Harbeth's HL-3P-ES2s.

Playing Julie London's Time for Love: The Best of Julie London (CD, Rhino R2 70737) through Harbeth's HL-3P-ES-2s, the Primare offered a little too much detail—London's mouth sounds were a bit too present, and there was some chest resonance. Without question, that was a much more detailed, less veiled presentation, but, all things (including money) considered, I preferred—at least with this album—the less expensive, perhaps euphonic combination of the Carat I57 one-box driving the LFT-16s. However, without doubt, London's recording of "I Surrender, Dear" sounded stellar through the Primare-Harbeth combination, which might be just the ticket for you. However, the total price of that combo, including speaker cables and stands, will be closer to $5000 than $3500, and the small Harbeth's lack of deep-bass extension might rankle over time.

The DVDI10, again with the small Harbeths, was slightly more percussive on The Complete Nocturnes of Fauré, in an excellent traversal by pianist Charles Owen (CD, Avie AV 2133, footnote 2). Compared to the Carat, the Primare made me want to listen at slightly softer levels—but someone else would be happier with the Primare's greater dynamics.



Footnote 2: If the solo-piano literature is the major source of your musical nourishment, check out this recording. Owen plays with subtle and poignant poetry (www.charlesowen.net). The CD is an excellent recording job, and the piano itself is well balanced in tone and nicely secure in tune.
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