Not all component combinations are predictable. Sometimes you find an amp and speakers that despite coming from different schools of audio thought seem to gel in ways that few would have expected. On this occasion, the amplifier and speaker in question are in the form of the mighty ATC SCM150 ASL, a 'fridge on a stand' scale loudspeaker with a hefty power amplifier on its back. But the preamplifier – though that name is insufficient to describe the wealth of features on offer – is from Scandinavian electronics experts Primare. And as a combo it works with considerable aplomb.
The Primare PRE60 is the company’s flagship preamplifier. It’s built to a very high standard with typically Nordic restraint in the styling department, not that the two tone fascia isn’t striking as a result. The PRE60 has many functions but you have to scroll through the input names in a cool, clean sans serif font to realise how diverse they are. It is an analogue preamplifier with single ended and balanced in- and outputs, it is a digital-to-analogue converter with S/PDIF and USB inputs, and finally it is a network streamer that is controlled by with Primare’s own app for iOS and Android. All you need to add is a NAS drive packed with your favourite tunes and you have a complete front end that is not only formed of one box but is also very nice to operate. You can use either the app or a remote handset to control input selection and volume and the OLED display is so clear that it’s legible across the room.
Setting up the app for the media player (as Primare calls the PRE60) is very easy, it takes two minutes at most once you’ve connected the PRE60 to the network. Initially the volume on the app is a bit odd, but once the knack is learnt, it’s possible to make very small level changes, which is not always the case with such devices. It is one of the benefits of proprietary control software that third party apps can never offer without compromising sound quality. There are a few minor gripes with the app, I would have liked an A-Z listing for artists, albums, etc., but a column of dots works in a similar way. It only displays in portrait mode but that’s hardly disastrous, and the only thing that continues to irk is the speed (or lack thereof) when displaying titles. This might be less of an issue with smaller libraries or with more powerful tablets than an iPad Mini, but it’s not something that other apps do.