If ever there was a set of audio components that best fit the maxim of ‘different paths up the same mountain’, those components are Primare’s entry-level 15 Series of products. We received four elegant and minimalist Primare boxes, knowing damn well that almost all of the actions of two of them could be slimmed down and squeezed into one of the other two. Which, at a cursory glance, makes those two boxes entirely obsolete, or at least exhibit a staggeringly high degree of redundancy. In fact, it exhibits nothing of the sort and instead highlights the sheer flexibility of the product line.
Hence, this is a short review for four different products because their commonality of features and options makes for either a review that reads like a weekend in PowerPoint Hell, or a ‘this is what it does, now read the specs’ review. As is the case here.
Here’s the simple joy of this system. You can configure it in so many ways to reflect so many accents in a system. Think of it this way; you have a number of digital and analogue inputs today – LP, CD, Streaming, possibly some kind of tuner or tape machine, and so on. Some of these will be so pivotal to your musical enjoyment that they deserve taking a more thorough approach, others are more secondary sources and, while you don’t wish to merely pay lip service to the source, neither do you want to spend big money on that source. Then there are sources that hold no interest to you at all. Often, by dint of what is and isn’t included in the amplifier, you might end up either duplicating a much-loved primary source or having to spend more than you’d like on a secondary. Primare’s approach lets you devote as much or as little on each option.
For example, perhaps you are really into vinyl, but have only a passing interest in streaming. Then you choose The I15 Prisma and the R15 Phono Preamp. On the other hand, if you have a turntable but rarely spin it, but you live your musical life flitting between Qobuz and Tidal, then go with the SC15 and the I15 with plug-in MM15 phono stage but no streaming. Or maybe you just want the least number of boxes... then it’s the I15 Prisma with a phono stage. With the exception of the DD15 (which as a CD transport has no duplication on the I15), this is a system of true flexibility for the end user, with little functionality lost between on-board modules and stand-alone boxes (apart from the moving coil input of the R15).
The Prisma concept perhaps best typifies this flexibility of thought. Companies are wont to cherry pick their way through connectivity, pooh-poohing the ones that aren’t added to their new box of joy for a number of (often tenuous) reasons. Prisma just supports all of them, and lets the end user pick their way through the options. There’s no need to ‘big up’ AirPlay or Bluetooth in the hope no-one notices the absence of Chromecast if you include all three. While that makes for some potentially ‘chewy’ moments in selecting your own personal best way to make music happen... it is ultimately your choice, not a choice enforced upon you by the manufacturer’s arbitrary list of sonic friends and foe.
Even this survey of Primare 15 options is incomplete, because alongside the DD15 CD transport, there is a CD15 CD player. And this CD player is configured as a Prisma network streamer in its own right, alongside the SC15 standalone network streamer and the built-in streamer option in the I15 Prisma We opted for the DD15 and I15 without Prisma for simplicity because that’s the difference between creating an almost understandable route-map of Primare’s 15 system and having the same route map painted by Jackson Pollock.