Perhaps no market is currently more competitive and fast paced than the hybrid in-ear space and as such, manufacturers must keep pace to stay on top of the pack. Oriveti are a company that achieved no shortage of acclaim with their Primacy triple driver in-ear, and for good reason, it was an incredibly balanced, smooth listen with class-leading ergonomics. It’s impressive that even without clear reason, Oriveti have already updated their brilliant Primacy and in so doing, I believe they’ve crafted one of the most technically capable earphones around their $300 asking price. I highly suggest reading my Primacy review first as this review will be more of a comparison/extension of that article. Keep reading to find out whether the New Primacy is for you, because as always, sound remains subjective and the New Primacy is probably a little less inoffensive than its predecessor.
I would like to thank Marco from Oriveti very much for providing me with the New Primacy. This unit was received both as a warranty replacment for my Primacy and for the purpose of review. This is technically a personal purchase and I will be as objective as possible when evalutating the New Primacy.
About Me – Some background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases
I generally prefer a slight v-shape to my sound, but still closer to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity, but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound such as that on the X10`s. I prefer a more neutral midrange within a relatively tight tolerance, but I`m probably more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I`m not particularly treble sensitive and can tolerate large amounts without fatigue, though too much ruins the enjoyment. If I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review I will note that and describe the sound changes.
Packaging is very similar to the Primacy with a render on the front and specs/exploded vector on the rear. It’s a very visually stimulating package and subtle relocation of text creates a slightly more premium look.
Orivetti nestle the earphones within the same brilliant cable winder mechanism which allows the cable to straighten out very quickly after unboxing instead of wanting to coil.
Underneath lies a simple sheet with the Oriveti logo and basic wearing instructions. It covers the same array of accessories that were included with the Primacy, which is to say, a lot.
That being said, the stock tips included with the New Primacy are of much higher quality and are no longer transparent. The look when installed on the earphones is more uniform, they also won’t yellow with age. I find I can get a much better seal with these tips than those included with the original Primacy where I had to resort to foams or Spinfits.
The design is mostly identical to the original Primacy with a few tweaks that further improve almost every aspect of their fitment. For reference the New Primacy will be photographed on the left and the original Primacy will be on the right.
The housings are now very slightly larger but also flatter. They are the same shape but the New Primacy is slightly longer. Since the original Primacy was already quite compact, the New Primacy still doesn’t contact my inner ear and actually fits better. The fit is now in-between a Shure/Westone monitor and Phonak style fitment, almost the best of both worlds. Taking them for my usual 6Km run and the earphones stay put much better than the original. They also have a deeper fitment than the Primacy on account of their redesigned nozzle that has a more compact, tapered end.
The nozzle is now completely integrated into the aluminium build whereas the Primacy had an aluminium endcap that was prone to becoming detached. Unfortunately, the new nozzle doesn’t hold tips quite as well due to having less of a lip on the end though it does work fine for the usual spinfits, Sony hybrids and Comply foams and I haven’t had a tip fall off in my ear yet. The angle of the MMCX connectors are also a little more ergonomic contributing to the more stable fitment.
The finish has also been updated, the New Primacy has a more matte texture as opposed to the Primacy which has a smoother finish (though this could be due to usage/wear of the older model). I’m pretty ambivalent about the finish, but the newer matte does look more uniform. There is still a palpable seam through the middle of the earphones but it’s similarly small and undetectable in the ear.
Oriveti have relocated the vent from the MMCX connector up top to the inner surface of the housings. Like before, it doesn’t seem to affect isolation at all and isolation on the New Primacy is actually better due to the deeper fitment. They are now very much comparable to a sealed Shure/Westone monitor in fit stability and isolation, areas where the original Primacy fell slightly behind. What Does concern me somewhat is moisture ingress when using the earphones for exercise (although they weren’t designed for such), since the vent is now in a more open location. I haven’t experienced any difficulties with moisture but time will tell.
Pulled MMCX connector on my original Primacy
Oriveti have also fortified the MMCX connectors. The connectors on my original Primacy actually started pulling out of the housing though, like the nozzle, the connectors on the New Primacy looks to be much better integrated into the housings. One thing that I never experienced with the original was driver flex which is now quite prevalent on the New Primacy (strange since the earphones are vented). I never experienced any on the Primacy but get quite a lot in the left earpiece of the New Primacy. As always, this didn’t affect performance or function during testing but is a concern for longevity.
To sum it up, the build quality remains just as great, various features such as the plastic nozzle and off angle connector are all addressed and the small vent on the body barely affects isolation if at all. Fitment is also deeper and a lot more stable, increasing passive noise isolation while remaining just as comfortable, great job Oriveti.
The cable is also a highlight of the New Primacy. It’s much improved over the original in both build and ergonomics. The new 8-core braided cable is slightly thicker, has a smoother texture (though it is still rubbery) than the original and is suppler, resisting tangles much better as a result. I find it much more compliant when coiling for storage and also more comfortable to wear as it isn’t as blocky as the original, it feels smoother against the top of the ear.
Of note, the looser braid soaks up microphonics like no other and these earphones have very minimal cable noise even when compared to other over-ear earphones. When combined with the stable fitment and outstanding noise isolation, the New Primacy is pretty great for activity should you choose to use them for such. Oriveti have also fixed the static issue I experienced with the Primacy.
In addition, the right angle plug is a big plus for portable users and I’m much more comfortable stuffing the New Primacy into my pocket than before. While the jack housing is no longer metal, it’s grippy texture is easier to unplug and the strain-releif is much improved. The connector is also perfectly case friendly with a very slim protruding gold-plated connector.
Render from Oriveti
Utilising the same triple driver setup comprising of an 8mm dynamic driver mated to two armatures, the New Primacy relatively similar to the original with a few very meaningful tweaks that make it a considerably more technically capable earphone, but not necessarily one that is superior to the original. Actually, those who prefer a slightly more vivid sound will likely prefer the original for its increased sub-bass slam and slightly brighter midrange/lower treble. The New Primacy is more linear all around, more refined and more textured though it is essentially the same beast. Again, I come back to the W30 vs W40 debate, the New Primacy being the W40. Whilst the W40 is slightly more balanced than the W30, slightly more detailed and more coherent in the lower frequencies, the W30 has more clarity, more punch and is generally more dynamic. In the pursuit of balance and precision, we often forget that our subjective projection of perfection will rarely match that of someone else, or similarly, a machine’s objective measurements. Keep reading to see if the New Primacy is for you whether you are new to audio or perhaps looking to upgrade from the original Primacy.
I would like to note that I could only achieve a decent fit on the original Primacy with Spinfits and foams, even the tips from the New Primacy didn’t give me a proper seal due to the wider nozzle. But even considering the inconsistencies with tip choice, the New Primacy is definitely an upgrade over its predecessor, itself a very nice sounding earphone. To my ear, the New Primacy sounds more balanced than the original overall, especially in regards to bass and treble. Sub-bass is now about neutral whilst lower and mid bass have slight emphasis. The New Primacy is devoid of the overly boosted sub/lower bass response of the Primacy and sounds less muddy and bloated sounding as a result. Upper bass is neutral and the midrange is very linear. Lower mids are slightly more full-bodied than neutral but apart from that they are very balanced. Compared to the original Primacy, lower mids are more forward so the earphones end up sounding less bright and more natural. Treble is also more linear, they still have a little bump for clarity but roll off less after that, I find myself enjoying the high-end response a lot more than the Primacy. So overall, though they are not perfectly neutral, they are pretty darn close.
Tip Choices –
Sony Hybrid Isolation:
These are practically Sony hybrid tips with a foam insert than increases isolation. Usually I love these tips, they’re comfortable and isolate almost as much as foams whilst being as easy to insert/remove as regular tips. Unfortunately, due to the rubber ring that surrounds the soundtube, the tips didn’t fit on the Primacy’s nozzle. Regular Hybrids do fit though the sound is not ideal.
For my preferences, the New Primacy actually sounded slightly flat out of the box and I personally prefer the sound when paired with the Spinfit CP100’s. They give the New Primacy a slightly more u-shaped sound with a little extra sub-bass and sparkle, the soundstage also improved as the drivers are furthered from your ears. I think the vast majority of buyers will enjoy them stock and pretty much everyone else will enjoy them paired with Spinfits, it’s subtle but just what they needed to my ears, the New Primacy is off to a good start. The Spinfits do touch the midrange more than I would like and vocals do sound slightly diffuse at times, more on this below.
JVC Spiral Dots:
After some extensive ABing, I’ve decided that the JVC Spiral Dots have the greatest synergy with the New Primacy for my tastes. They are just as comfortable as the Spinfits but fit a little deeper and thus are slightly more stable and isolating. They bring out the treble response, more so than the Spinfits, whilst providing a similar kind of bass boost. However, they do this without touching the midrange, in particular, the Spinfits made upper mids slightly less coherent. The New Primacy’s sound gorgeous with the JVC Spiral dots, it provides that extra level of airiness and openness over the stock sound without sibilance or hollowness though they don’t expand the soundstage quite as much as Spinfits.
Bass is the most improved frequency range over the Primacy and is a strong performer regardless of price. The New Primacy has slightly less bass than the original Primacy, it’s relatively neutral, mid-bass is punchy and lower/sub-bass is well extended and slightly accentuated. Extension might actually be slightly worse than the Primacy due to the vent but is still better than pretty much any conventional balanced armature earphone. Sub-bass is softer and subtly portrays rumble without the outright slam of the original. But that being said, the quality is outstanding! Oriveti have really tightened up the sub-bass and bass in general, producing much more definition than the original Primacy. They have a similarly textured bass response as the better armature-based earphones out there such as the Westone UM 50 Pro’s, perhaps the originals had a crossover issue that sapped that last bit of definition. So the slight loss of sub-bass slam in comparison to the originals is definitely warranted, bass quality is much improved.
In more general comparison, bass is definitely one of the most textured I’ve heard from an iem, especially impressive since these are hardly a lean-sounding earphone. If you’re looking for a slightly punchier earphone that retains the raw definition of balanced armature earphones like the Etymotic ER-4, the New Primacy is pretty spot on. It resolves intricacies in the low end that the original Primacy couldn’t even glimpse. To put performance into perspective, the Sennheiser ie800 resolves only slightly more texture even if it has more extension and slam, it also costs about 3 times as much and has far less passive noise isolation. The UM 50 Pro is far more coloured as well, but being an armature earphone, has slightly less extension and deep rumble than the New Primacy. The New Primacy also has similar bass resolution and texture to the UM 50 Pro while remaining far more neutral for home listening. So overall, the New Primacy holds up very well to these far more expensive earphones and are a very solid upgrade over their predecessors in the low end. I definitely think it’s a stronger performer quality wise than the similarly priced W30 but some may prefer the W30’s punchier mid-bass.
The midrange also receives slight revisions to tuning though the differences are not as pronounced as the changes to the bass. The midrange now sounds slightly more linear and mids are in better coordination with the bass. The New Primacy definitely sounds more mid-forward but this character is well balanced by the slight bass and lower treble bumps so in the grand scheme of things, they are quite neutral. They also avoid sounding over bearing as both lower and especially upper mids have more body. Lower mids in particular, are less scooped and upper mids are smoother with a extra body, but both are otherwise mostly comparable. Both upper and lower mids are clearer than on the Primacy, they both have more clarity despite being smoother. Detail retrieval is just as good and just as forward, and due to the more linear treble, the New Primacy does pick up more micro-detail. Female vocals no longer sound so aggressive due to the added body, thinner female vocals are much more flattered and male vocals lie in better balance with the rest of the sound. One aspect that does suffer is separation, which is slightly worse than the Primacy due to the more intimate midrange. So the midrange is much like the Primacy but tweaked to bring more balance whilst retaining clarity and sense of detail. And while the newer Primacy does sound clearer than the Primacy, it’s technically not as bright due to the more forward lower midrange.
Compared to the ie800 and UM 50 Pro, the New Primacy sounds more balanced. Those earphones are more engaging but are also more V-shaped and I understand that kind of sound is not for everyone. That’s not to say that the New Primacy isn’t engaging since detail retrieval is comparable to these aforementioned models, just presented in a different way. Clarity is also closer to the ie800 than the darker UM 50 Pro and they are still brighter than neutral. I find that they don’t quite sound as open and immersive as these higher priced earphones and even some of the more sculpted earphones around $300 – $400, but technically, they are mostly faultless and are more versatile a result. On a recent venture I had a chance to compare them to the the Westone W40. The New Primacy was immediately more balanced than the slightly darker W40 and the high end resolved more detail, impressive for an earphone that is actually considerably cheaper than the Westone.
I mentioned in my initial impressions that the New Primacy had more treble presence than the Primacy. After some more extensive listening, these assertions are sometimes true, sometimes not. The original Primacy had a spike in the lower treble that gave it extra detail and the impression of a more open sound, the New Primacy does have a little bump, but not to the same extent, and on certain tracks it can even sound slightly darker. But where the Primacy rolled off after the bump, the New Primacy is more linear and extends much further. Very high treble details are much improved on the New Primacy, high hats and cymbals sound more textured and have a more accurate body. They are also more detailed even if those details don’t quite “pop” as much as the Primacy. In the grand scheme of things, the New Primacy is still a relatively natural sounding earphone rather than a sparkly one and treble is forward but also well balanced. They still don’t sound as open as the ie800’s and other more treble forward earphones but are also not nearly as fatiguing. Where I found that treble sounded more one-dimensional on the Primacy, details are nice and crisp in the lower treble but higher details tend to get overshadowed, the New Primacy has that real sense of airiness that the Primacy was missing.
Despite boasting the same 8ohm impedance and FR, the New Primacy is actually little more sensitive than the Primacy, though they are also more prone to hiss. That makes them one of the more sensitive earphones I’ve tested and while they aren’t Shure sensitive, these earphones may have difficulties with a particularly noisy source as there is a moderate amount of noise even from my Oppo HA-2. But from my HTC 10, these are absolutely silent, I suppose the 10 has a lower gain amplifier. As far as amplification goes, the Primacy really doesn’t require much power though it will benefit from a cleaner source. They scale decently with my HA-2 but sound pretty great straight from my phone. As long as your source is relatively clean and has a low output impedance, it should serve the Primacy well.
The soundstage is slightly improved, possibly due to the larger vent. They now sound more rounded, depth is improved but width is slightly reduced and the entire presentation is slightly more intimate (though still quite spacious for an earphone), it’s a fair trade that ends up sounding superior most of the time. This is partly due to imaging which receives the largest upgrade. Where I felt the Primacy had some issues with instrument placement, the New Primacy is universally more accurate and has a stronger centre image. That being said, as the New Primacy is more mid-forward and thus slightly more intimate, separation does suffer slightly, it is simply a by-product of the new tuning. The New Primacy on account of it’s clear midrange, airy high-end very rarely sounds congested but also rarely sounds spacious either. The UM 50 Pro and ie800 both have quite a lot more space and the ie800 is more separated as well. The W30 is probably a more fair comparison, the New Primacy is more spacious and slightly more separated but the W30 images slightly better.
Extra note –
I did actually try the original Primacy with the new 8-core cable of the New Primacy and interestingly the sound did change very slightly. Of course, the Primacy didn’t sound identical to the New Primacy, but I feel that the the 8-core cable is slightly brighter sounding than the 4-core cable on the Primacy. Upper mids were clearer and more prominent, bass was a little tighter but still overly emphasized in some frequencies and highs sounded slightly more open. Lower mids remain slightly behind in the mix and the soundstage wasn’t affected in any way; imaging was still slightly off with their usual more width based sound. It was interesting to see the changes but we can safely assume that the cable is just one fragment of the plethora of small sound revisions that have occurred between iterations of Primacy.
Balance seems to be a recurring theme in this review and that’s because balance almost perfectly sums up my experience with the New Primacy. While the Primacy was a relatively neutral earphone, there were some deviations that caused resolution to suffer, most notably the sub-bass/lower bass emphasis and treble roll-off. The New Primacy is almost spot on neutral with a slight accentuation of midrange clarity. Oriveti’s sculpting is very tasteful and the sort of refinement seen here is very rare from an earphone of this price. If you own the Primacy, the upgrades are probably still not worth the trade up, especially if you were able to achieve a great fitment with the original Primacy. But if you are currently looking into the Primacy, the New Primacy is the technically tsuperior earphone, just make sure their neutral sound matches your individual preferences.
I’ve also made plenty of comparison to my personal benchmark, the Sennheiser ie800 which has fantastic sound quality and a very engaging tonality that I personally enjoy. While the New Primacy is rarely better than the ie800 quality wise, it’s not that far off and I could see many taking the New Primacy over the ie800 on behalf of their more linear tonality and ergonomics. In fact, there are occasional songs where the sub-bass on the ie800 does overshadow that last bit of texture whereas the New Primacy never has such issues; it’s a very consistently strong performer due to its neutral nature.
Accessories – 10/10, Copious accessories, silicone tips are now of much better quality. Nice aluminium case is very protective but not the most portable on the market.
Design – 10/10, Although the Primacy also received a 10/10 for design, the New Primacy no doubt offers a superior experience due to their more stable fitment and improved isolation without compromising comfort at all. The the 8-core braided cable is also much improved, it’s more supple, smoother and less abrasive on the ear. The new matte finish feels great.
Bass – 9.25/10, Very impressive bass performance, slightly punchier due to slight lower and mid-bass boost. Very linear, no bloat or flab, tight and much more definition than before. Fantastic texturing matches much higher priced earphones.
Mids – 8.75/10, Heaps of clarity and detail, very linear. Smoother than the original Primacy but more resolving. Nice sense of body. Might sound too mid-forward for some which is not something I would say about the Primacy.
High – 9/10, More linear and slightly more extended than the Primacy. Resolving and clear with accurate body and texture. Still not quite as resolving as high-end Westones but pretty close. More natural tone over outright clarity, still slightly less resolving than I would like but great for the price.
Soundstage, Imaging and Seperation – 8/10, Well rounded soundstage with strong imaging that is still not quite as accurate as armature earphones. Separation is great but slightly worse than the Primacy.
Overall – 9.75/10, The New Primacy is a shockingly brilliant earphone at a very competitive price point. Though the Primacy was a versatile earphone in its own right, the New Primacy is subtly improved in almost every regard. It has no real compromises compared to the much more expensive flagship earphones out there; comfort, isolation and fit stability are all superlative. The sound is very balanced, clearer and more resolving than the Primacy; I’m especially impressed by the bass response which is extremely textured and really outperforms its asking price. I think a few might find them slightly mid-forward and the soundstage isn’t the most spacious around, but the New Primacy remains a highly recommendable product for me. It is probably now the least compromised hybrid earphone out there and almost definitely the most neutral, bucking the trend of the usual hyper contrasty, bassy hybrid earphone sound. After the high of the HD800S, it’s been a pleasure to review a product that provides such a premium performance without the premium price.
Note: Although the New Primacy is listed on Oriveti’s website, units will not ship until 2017 in about a weeks time. Until then, please use this review just to get a feel of the New Primacy and see whether it is for you.