Infinity Primus 150 loudspeaker Page 2

The bass performance of the little Primus 150 excited me. On "Feel No Pain," from Sade's Love Deluxe (CD, Epic EK 53178), although the synth bass drum lacked bottom-end extension, the synth bass lines were natural, fast, and clean, with great authority, dynamics, and clarity. On rock recordings such as Gary Wilson's "When You Walk Into My Dreams," from You Think You Really Know Me (CD, Motel MRCD 007), Fender basses were quick, natural, and forceful. Ray Brown's double-bass solo on "I'm an Old Cowhand," from Sonny Rollins' Way Out West (CD, JVC VICJ-60088), was so natural and vibrant that I had to put my notes down and restrain myself from listening to the whole album. Moreover, Rollins' phrasing was so articulate and organic that I was once again reminded of how much my late father's tenor style was derived from Rollins'.

The 150's ability to resolve detail inspired me to analyze the engineering of such rock recordings as Aimee Mann's Bachelor #2 or The Last Remains of the Dodo (CD, Super Ego SE002). The bass guitar was deep and realistic, especially when I cranked the volume, although at such volumes the high-level dynamic limitations of this small speaker were readily apparent—beyond a certain volume, the 150 simply ceased to get louder. But at no time did instruments sound congested, and Mann's voice never lost its natural richness.

John Rutter's Requiem (CD, Reference RR57-CD) brought out all of the Primus 150's magic. The solo flute passages were extended and airy, the solos blooming ethereally in the acoustic of the naturally reverberant church. With this oft-played recording, I've heard this much room sound only from speakers costing $1000/pair or more. I was able to follow each individual vocal line of the chorus as easily as I have with any speaker. Although the pipe organ's low pedals went missing in action, those that were audible were spot on—and I've played many a church organ in my time.

Jerome Harris' "The Mooche" (CD, Editor's Choice, Stereophile STPH016-2) was another winner. The string bass was natural, the trombone sufficiently blatty, the vibes' transient attacks perfect. I found myself analyzing each individual instrumental line as if staring at a score, but it was also difficult to take notes—I was mesmerized by the music. My final note: "Why doesn't John Atkinson record more jazz?"

The Infinity's realistic vocal reproduction was best demonstrated by well-recorded LPs. On Classic Records' reissue of Crosby, Stills & Nash (LP, Atlantic/Classic SD 8229), the rich three-part vocal blend on "Guinnevere" had a spooky, master tape-like quality I've never heard from my scratchy old Atlantic pressing.

Finally, although I've been harping on the speaker's limitations in high-level dynamics and bass extension, these babies could indeed rock. I cranked up "When the Levee Breaks," from Classic's reissue of Led Zeppelin IV (LP, Atlantic/Classic SD 7028). John Paul Jones' ostinato bass lines rumbled realistically, and Bonzo's bass-drum thwacks shook the room a tad, although there were some limitations to the speaker's ability to convey high-level rock drama.

The competition?
I compared the Primus 150 to the Polk RT25i (discontinued, $319/pair when last offered), the Paradigm Atom ($189/pair), and the NHT SB-3 ($600/pair).

The Polk RT25i seemed a bit lighter in overall presentation—its highs were more extended and articulate—but these frequencies didn't sound as delicate as they did through the Infinity. The Polk's midrange was neutral but did not sound as rich, detailed, or dimensional as the Infinity's, this most noticeable with piano recordings. The Polk's bass performance was a bit more extended and dynamic, although the Polk also suffered, overall, from the same limitations in high-level dynamics as did the Infinity.

The Paradigm Atom's midbass warmth made the reproduction of the bass drum a bit more prominent than through the Infinity, and the Atom has a warm, balanced sound overall. However, the Paradigm didn't approach the Infinity's high-frequency articulation and extension, nor did it resolve as much inner midrange detail. High-level dynamics were also constrained through the Paradigm, though the Infinity had superior low-level dynamic articulation.

The NHT SB-3 was the best of the lot in terms of bass extension and resolution of high-level dynamics. It shared the Paradigm's overall warm and balanced presentation, although the NHT resolved more midrange and high-frequency detail than did the Paradigm. Despite its low price, however, the Infinity exceeded the NHT in the areas of midrange detail resolution and transparency.

The final frontier
I'm tried to avoid writing another Bob Reina foaming-at-the-mouth rave about yet another new benchmark on the affordable speaker front. Oh, what the hell. Sure, a speaker the size and price of the Infinity Primus 150 can't be expected to excel in the areas of bass extension and high-level dynamics, but its shortcomings in this area did not detract one iota from my musical enjoyment. The Primus 150 has achieved a standard of performance at the $200-or-under price point that I didn't think was possible. Moreover, in the area of its greatest strength, its midrange detail and low-level dynamic resolution, it sounded like a $1000/pair speaker. I can't wait to hear what a larger, more expensive speaker in the Primus line sounds like. Infinity, I apologize for staying away so long.

250 Crossways Park Drive
Woodbury, NY 11797
(800) 553-3332