PRYMA 01 HEAD­PHONES

HEAD­PHONES

Australian HIFI - - CONTENTS -

A new brand? Well, yes… but the com­pany behind it has been around for more than 50 years.

There was a Peanuts car­toon many years ago in which Snoopy is be­rated for wear­ing a fur coat on a warm day. ‘ Some of us,’ he replies sniffily, ‘ pre­fer to sac­ri­fice com­fort for style.’ Is there an el­e­ment of this with the Pryma 01? They’re ex­tra­or­di­nary head­phones, the first prod­uct from a new brand un­der the aus­pices of the McIn­tosh Group, car­ry­ing the hand­craft­ing her­itage of Sonus faber, no less, the de­sign HQ for the group, but for some rea­son McIn­tosh has decided to mar­ket the head­phones un­der the Pryma brand, rather than Sonus faber. Per­haps it wants to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween the two mar­ques, re­serv­ing ‘Sonus faber’ for speak­ers and ‘Pryma’ for head­phones. The choice of ‘Pryma’ is in­ter­est­ing, be­cause it’s Latin. The Ital­ian would be ‘Prima’, which means ‘be­fore’ or ‘first’. When Pryma is used as a child’s name, it means ‘ en­er­getic, charis­matic, am­bi­tious and fo­cused.’

The earshells are branded ‘Pryma 0 |1’ on the out­side, but un­der the ‘belt’ there’s an in­scrip­tion that reads ‘Fatto A Mano Da Sonus faber Italia’ which trans­lates as ‘Made by hand at Sonus faber Italy.’ Each of the earshells con­tains a 40mm My­lar di­aphragm driven by a neodymium mag­net and an ‘over-sized’ voice-coil made from 99.99% oxy­gen-free cop­per, with each voice-coil hav­ing a nom­i­nal (spec­i­fied) im­ped­ance of 32 .

A strong ef­fort has been made to do some­thing dif­fer­ent in de­sign terms. There is no slid­ing head­band, no piv­ot­ing earshells; in­stead the imag­i­na­tive Ital­ians have used what looks like a belt, but which is stitched leather over a metal for­mer, keep­ing it solid and curved, with light pad­ding un­derneath.

Other belt-bands are avail­able as ac­ces­sories—cof­fee, Marsala and grey leather, or black leather with holes lined in ei­ther black, sil­ver or gold. Dif­fer­ent earshells are avail­able too—rose gold, heavy gold, matte black, pure black, and all for $799 ex­cept for the slightly pre­mium priced car­bon-fi­bre fin­ish, which will set you back an ad­di­tional $100. Your pre­ferred bits ac­quired, the head­phones ar­rive deconstructed, head­shells in­di­vid­u­ally packed, the belt-band tucked above. You in­sert the ‘belt’ to the re­quired notch, twist the prong to keep it there (im­part­ing a cer­tain rigid­ity), then in­sert the ca­bles into the earshells us­ing small mi­cro-jacks.

There seem to be no mark­ings to in­di­cate which head­shell is ‘left’ and which one is ‘right’—the earshells and belt are all sym­met­ri­cal, so take your pick—but wait… there’s a red ring on the right cable to re­mind you which is which. In com­fort terms there was a sig­nif­i­cant feel­ing of both in­ward pressure and weight (the Pyrma 01s tip the scales at 355 grams), largely from those solid alu­minium cas­ings used for the earshells, but it’s a unique sys­tem and look, and rich in the Ital­ian love of stitched leather that is also to the fore on Sonus faber’s ar­ti­san loud­speak­ers.

The sound proved in­ter­est­ing too, in that they de­liv­ered a two-level per­for­mance, by far at their best when played fairly loud—above 13, say, of the 20 level notches avail­able from my iPhone con­trol. Any qui­eter than this and the sound be­came some­what flat, chug­ging away nicely-enough but with a lack of dy­namism hold­ing back the mu­si­cal­ity. When I turned up the vol­ume, the 01s came to life, with the high sen­si­tiv­ity (Pryma specs it at 118dBSPL for 1mW) en­sur­ing no lack of level from por­ta­ble de­vices, and demon­strat­ing one of the flat­test re­sponses I can re­call—there’s a lit­tle push down low, per­haps, but there­after not a dip nor peak all the way up the re­sponse curve. Very im­pres­sive.

Oc­ca­sion­ally at those higher lev­els they could force a vo­cal into a honk or an edge, so that I found my­self mov­ing be­tween the two zones of per­for­mance—not loud enough, then too loud, then back. At the price, I must ad­mit to hav­ing sonic favourites else­where. But it’s likely to be the unique styling (or Bey­once wear­ing them in ‘Lemon­ade’) that draws you in, and in that case I very much doubt the sound will ac­tu­ally put you off. And these first Pry­mas most cer­tainly achieve what is in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult in to­day’s head­phone mar­ket—some­thing dif­fer­ent. It’s a sign­post to an in­ter­est­ing fu­ture for this new mar­que. Jez Ford

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