Review of Primare SPA22 and B&W CM8


New member
Aug 10, 2019
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I thought I'd post a quick summary of my new speakers and amp, for those interested or thinking of buying....

Previous system was a Marantz SR5200 with B&W VM-1's in a 5.1 set up.

First up came the amp, a Primare SPA22, with 5 x 120w and a 'true' analogue bypass system. I was interested to see if it could bring anything extra out of the VM1 speakers, and it absolutely did. I would go so far as to say the system sounded 20% better by just replacing the amp (and the Marantz although old was not bad kit in its day!). Clarity of vocals was better, speed of response provided by the extra power meant action scenes were livelier and any musical content immediately stood out as improved.

The VM-1 are a kind of hybrid between a satellite and a small speaker, I would recommend them as a bit of an ebay bargain to anyone who just wants a surround system that doesn't play a lot of serious stereo, hi-fi music. They are very solidly built and look like they would run for another 10 years without issue.

I switched the Primare into analogue bypass mode, and connected my 3 year old Samsung DVD player (to play a CD). The sound was clear and sounded, well much more 'analogue', but the speakers are not able to deliver a good mid-range, and being in a 20ft room the bass was practicaly non-existent. Putting the amp into stereo mode and adding the sub, well just kind of muddied the whole sound so I went off that idea straight away.

1 week later the CM8 fronts and CM centre arrived. I put these to the test with some HD TV, switching between the built in Pro-logic and DTS Cinema modes. I can't say I was particularly impressed by either mode, but I'm now convinced that's just because of the lack of quality in the way pro-logic is decoded, and the signal quality broadcast from both sky and virgin! I might be going deaf but every 5 minutes i have to turn the volume up for speech and the volume down for music and action scenes. I now leave the amp in 'party' mode (stereo to all speakers) for standard TV, it sounds fine.

I switched to DVD and the amp auto-changed to Dolby Digital, what a huge difference, clarity of speech, music and sound effects all increases and sounds much sharper.

Ok, so back to analogue bypass mode and a CD test for the CM8 fronts, at first not too amazed, fairly clear mid-range as stated in most reviews, but not 'stunning' and the bass was a little flat. 2 weeks laters a big difference, a fantastic sound for stereo music, exceptionally clear vocals, plenty of tight bass (glad i didn't go for the CM9's) and the treble from the metallic tweeters is much less harsh. I'm pretty sure in another 2 weeks the speakers will sound better still.

I haven't bi-wired the speakers, as there seems to be no evidence this does anything, but I did swap out the brass connector plate between the top and bottom terminals for a piece of standard speaker wire. I did this on one speaker only, and you can tell there is a small difference between the left and right now. So I would definitely recommend doing this if you own or plan to buy these speakers.

So, in short I would definitely recommend both the amp and the speakers, but only for a serious film/music fan. If you watch standard TV and only listen to the occasional bit of music, you may be better off with an 'off the shelf' Onkyo/Marantz/Pioneer mid-range box. If you like Blu-ray/DVD's for films and enjoy high quality stereo music, and you don't want the hassle of running completely separate TV/Hi-fi systems, this could be a great set up for you!

Next up will be a blu-ray player, I would love to test DTS-Master Audi or PCM. Then perhaps a second hand arcam or marantz cd player, to get a bit more out of my stereo set up.

A bloated and uncoordinated review, but hopefully it helps somebody out there!



Sliced Bread

Well-known member
Good review.

I really like the cm8's, not least their ability to be both detailed and smooth at the same time. Great with vocals and nice tight bass, but I agree that a decent run in is a must :)

Blurry will make a HUGE difference to the sound. You'll be quite surprised


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