Primare i30 Amplifier: DAC and Speakers (short) review


New member
Aug 10, 2019
Amplifier Primare i30: Speakers and DAC testing

(This post following the previous post on which several forum members had provided suggestions on getting speakers for an Primare i30 Amplifier. The previous post can be found on: )

This is one of two reviews which come after my long but thankfully recently completed speaker search.

I will try to provide as many details as possible on the various elements I had a chance to try.


I had two amplifiers and wanted to find the speakers that would create the perfect combination with one of them.

Amplifier 1 was Primare i30 and Amplifier 2 was Unison Research Unico P (dealt with in separate review). Both are great amplifiers to my ears so I was rather open-minded to finding the best set of speakers for at least one of them. Design-wise, both amplifiers look great, neat and clean. They provide ample power to listen to music in a decent-size living room. The Unico is well known for its mid-range reproduction, with fabulous voices, while the Primare is a more balanced amp which won many awards in the past. Although being different in style, each was pleasing my ears.

Prior to my search, I was space-constrained and therefore matched the Primare with the great Leema Xero and the AVI Neutron IV. These two bookshelves speakers are impressive and go very well with both amplifiers. I had a chance to try the Arcaydis DM1, which are excellent too. Marginally larger, which didn't fit my bookshelves then. Otherwise, a real keeper on the Primare.

The set-up:

I was using an Arcam r-DAC with the Primare initially. During the speaker testing though, I also tried the newly launched Musical Fidelity M1 DAC, which ended being a perfect match with the Primare. Warmth and punch. The Arcam sounded thinner on this amp (note that the r-DAC works better than the M1 with the Unison Research for me). So I bought the M1 for the rest of my testing on the Primare.

The set-up therefore became:

Hardware: Macbook Pro + USB + Musical Fidelity M1 + Primare i30 + Altas 2.0 or QED Revelation speaker cables .

Software: Itunes, compressed files between 192 and 320 kbps

Songs: Barry White's Just and Eric Clapton's MTV unplugged for the voice, Mozart Opera with four singers for the imaging, Zephyr Song by Red Hot Chilli Peppers for the bass control and everything else. Other albums include Concert at the Park by Simon and Garfunkel Guns and Roses, Guetta's latest album.


The scope of my speaker search was wide, with a few initial constraints: performance and design (good looking, not too big and light colour).

I have tried 7 sets of speakers with this set-up (more bookshelf speakers and floorstanding ones):


- Spendor A5: These speakers have a lot of excellent reviews, which I understand. However the matching with my combo didn't give me any urge to buy these, confirming that matching and personal taste will make you choose one element over an other one.

- B&W CM8: Excellent results. Much better than the previous ones. The sound was very balanced, clear without being bright, and somehow just seemed to work well with the amp.

Bookshelf speakers:

- Haydn: Good speaker, great presence, good weight, although a marginal lack of imaging. There was something very special about these speakers though and would always recommend trying them out.

- Monitor Audio GX50: Very good match with the Primare: clear, without being bright, good bass for its size, really nice on midrange and trebles and excellent imaging. I thought this speaker was a real winner and it the best speaker I tested for less than £1,000. Also, the size would easily allow it to fit on bookshelves or blend into the room without issue (they come in white…).

- Spendor SA 1: On the primare+M1 DAC combo, they came brighter and with less weight than the GX50. Their sound was marginally warmer than the GX50, but I thought that the imaging was not as good. Their added benefit was in their size and in the fact that they can be put against the wall completely as they had no port at the back. However, I wondered whether the brand simply didn't like working with Primare. I wonder whether any other forum member has tested this combination and would have a better experience than mine.

[- Sonus Faber Toy Towers: the combination is good, but somehow not as defined. I put this comment in brackets, as I tested this combination at home, hence not in the same conditions as the other speakers. The Unison research makes the speakers justice (see my other review on the Unison Research). Maybe the Primare is a little to led back for these speakers]

- B&W PM1. When I tried the PM1, something very interesting happened. I didn't want to stop listening. Instead of listening to the first 30 seconds of the Zephyr Song, I would listen to it for more than a minute. I didn't even need to close my eyes to see the Red Hot Chilli Peppers performing in front of me. One could clearly see the four opera signers in their different standing positions, while Barry White's voice was powerful and warm.

I discovered details on the CD, which I hadn't heard before (for example, additional background noises of the Opera recording). Finally, I couldn't believe the amount of bass that these speakers could project… I kept on repeating: "it's amazing… it's amazing…).

I was clearly considering buying them immediately, as they sounded to my ears better than any of the other combinations tested.


- This Primare+M1+PM1 combination is amazing and I would recommend the set-up. Primare and B&W work very well together in general it seems. That was a very pleasant surprise. The difference with equally priced speakers was rather obvious (still to my ears only).

- Matching is key. The difference in sound really matches preference and taste of the listener. I use Whathifi recommendations a lot to reduce the scope of testing, but matching will be as important as the inerrant quality of the individual elements (at equivalent rating and pricing).


- Despite B&W's PM1 being great, I chose to go for the Unicon Research+Arcam rDac+Sonus Faber Toy Towers because the design of the B&W is quite particular: they have a distinctive shape and only come in very dark colours, while "we" needed white at home. They are bookshelf speakers but need to be put on a stand, which also means they use as much space floorstand speakers.

- I was meant to try several other speakers which fellow forum members advised: PMC, Audio Physic Sitara 25, ProAc Studio 140 Mk2, ATC's SCM40 monitors... but I didn't have a chance to arrange their testing unfortunately.

- I would also like to thank both Sevenoaks in Holborn, London and KJ West One in Marylebone, London for helping me out with this search.


Has anyone tried other speakers with the Primare i30 and Musical Fidelity M1 DAC?


Latest posts