Power Amplifiers

Primare A30.7 Seven-Channel Class D Power Amplifier

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction

I tend to think of Primare as a very new company. So I was a little surprised to find that they have been around for over 25 years having opened their doors in 1985. Primare started producing high quality products from the very beginning. These products made a strong audible and visual statement. So much so that in 1986 the Primare 928 series of components went on display in the Copenhagen Museum of Industrial Art. The Primare 928 series components remain the only high fidelity components to be displayed in this museum.

Primare was later taken over by Lars Pedersen of Xena Audio of Sweden. The year was 1996 and Primare was moved the Sweden where Pedersen and Bent Nielsen of Primare began a collaborative design, manufacturing, marketing, sales and distribution effort that has been quite successful. In the late 1990's, designer and engineer Björn Holmqvist came on board to further the brand's development and growth.

The Primare A30.7 amp is an all-new seven-channel Class D power amplifier. It is rated to deliver 150 watts per channel with all channels driven. I like the idea of Class D amps. They are efficient which saves energy and holds the promise of being able to deliver the rated power to all channels simultaneously. Still, most Class D amps have left me cold when it comes down to the harmonic character of their sound. The Primare A30.7 amplifier, on the other hand, was designed exclusively by Primare to incorporate important advancements that would accentuate the positive attributes of the Class D architecture while mitigating the most challenging shortcomings of the technology.

Specifications

  • Design: Seven-Channel Power Amplfier; Class D
  • Power: 150 Watts RMS into 8 Ohms, All Channels Driven
  • Inputs: 7x RCA or 7x XLR Switchable, RS232 and 12 V Trigger
  • Input Impedance: RCA 15 kOhms, XLR 3.7 kOhms
  • Output Impedance: 0.3 Ohm at 1 kHz
  • Gain: 26 dB
  • MFR: 20 Hz - 20 kHz, -0.1 dB
  • S/N: 94 dB Unweighted; 20 Hz - 20 kHz
  • THD + N: < 0.009% (1 kHz, 100W, 8 Ohms)
  • Dimensions: 5.6" H x 16.9" W x 15.6" D
  • Weight: 28.7 Pounds
  • Color Options: Black or Titanium
  • MSRP: $3,995 USA
  • Primare

Design and Setup

The Primare design philosophy is pure Swedish in that their primary aim is to provide high quality products that are easy for the end user to set up and use. Their surround processors, for example, don't contain a dizzying array of features with complicated settings and highly nested on-screen menus. You won't get every conceivable bell and whistle. Instead, Primare focuses on quality design, manufacturing and pure performance. I like that.

For better or worse, this philosophy carries over to the Primare A30.7 in a number of ways. I'll start with the "worse" part of that equation. The A30.7 doesn't have a front-panel standby button. There is a master power switch on the back panel. Also on the back panel are 12 volt trigger ins and outs. The obvious intent is for the installer to connect the Primare to your pre-pro's 12V trigger out and the unit's power on/off cycle would be controlled by your pre-pro. So this is an elegant solution for most installations. But as a reviewer, I like to mate products like this with all sorts of control amplifiers, some of which do not have triggers so that the absence of a front-panel power control is perplexing to me.

The other "worse" part is that the Primare A30.7 has three feet on the bottom of the unit. I thought this was a really great idea at first. You just need three feet to hold the unit in a stable position. The only problem was the single foot in the back of the unit caused it to teeter around quite a bit when I pulled the A30.7 out from the shelf to change out the cabling. This is also predominately a reviewer's quibble as most folks would set it up once and leave the unit installed for a long time. They wouldn't typically be changing out cables and interconnects the way a reviewer does.

Now on to the "better" part of this design equation. The Primare A30.7 has irrefutably excellent build quality. This baby is really put together. The cassis is heavy gauge alloy steel. The front panel logo is precision CNC milled. The audio connections are top quality gold-plated connectors; the unit is selectable unbalanced RCA or balanced XLR. The toggle selectors for the inputs are high grade. The A30.7 has heavy duty binding posts. And the unit shipped with a high quality power cord as well. All in all, the Primare A30.7 is a total class act, just like Primare's other products.

Let's cover the design features that Primare put in to play for the A30.7, their first Class D amplifier. This amplifier uses what Primare terms their Ultra Fast Power Device (UFPD) circuitry. This circuit utilizes proprietary chips that switch at 385 kHz. These may not be the fastest chips out there for Class D amplifiers, but they switch at more than 10x the highest "audible" frequency of 20 kHz and this would generally be considered an adequate switching frequency to cover the rated frequency band while minimizing the quantization error.

So the Primare A30.7 has some very fast switching output devices, but the real crux of the UFPD design lies in the implementation of an age-old design mechanism: global feedback. In the Primare UFPD design, there is a constant 26 db of global feedback. This would be difficult to achieve with conventional Class D amplifiers because of the dead times in the switching of the output transistors. Primare tackled this problem by designing the amplifier where the output stage and the low pass filter are not discrete. Instead, these two elements of the amp are integrated which makes the control of the feedback more immediate and precise. In this way Primare can provide more feedback across the audio band and the amp is more stable into real world speaker loads with their variable impedances throughout the audio band.

In Primare's own words, "This means that UFPD is able to drive any speaker, creating a vividly natural rhythmic sound while keeping power consumption at a fraction of that used by a traditional amplifier. With UFPD, Primare has inspired a new generation of smaller, more powerful hi-fidelity amplifiers, perfect for our environmentally conscious multi-channel age."

Primare also touts the A30.7's isolated PFC (Power Factor Control) power supply. The PFC power supply is said to match the phase of the A30.7 to the phase of your mains voltage so that the power draw of the amp has the least impact on your mains supply. The isolating stage of the converter works in a zero-voltage switching mode so as to reduce the electromagnetic interference in the circuit.

Looking under the hood of a Class D amplifier usually makes me giggle at least a little bit. It is just amazing that an amplifier capable of the type of power output (and, in the case of the Primare A30.7, the quality of sound) could be constructed from such a minimalist amount of parts. The most obvious thing missing from these amps is the huge, heavy and expensive transformer that is typical of conventional amplifiers. The Primare A30.7 did curiously include a forced-air cooling system. I didn't know it was there until I pulled the cover off the amp because it was so incredibly silent in its operation. And I wondered if it ever actually came on at all. The heat sinks were correspondingly small.


In Use

My review unit was not completely broken in when it arrived for evaluation. And I put it in my system after having listened extensively to a pair of excellent Mark Levinson No 531H monoblocks. So the Primare A30.7 started out at a bit of a disadvantage. I must say that my initial impression of the A30.7 was that it had a sort of grainy character to its sound. This graininess slowly diminished to nearly imperceptible levels over a fairly long break in period, but it never worked out completely.

Primare A30.7 7-Channel Class D Amplifier

The first material I reviewed after the Primare's amplifier equalized was the Inception Blu-Ray. As far as I am concerned, you can keep The Matrix now that Inception has been made. Inception is more fun than The Matrix and I found it to be more intellectually stimulating, holding up much better over multiple viewings.

Inception has a high energy DTS HD Master soundtrack and it is on full display with this Blu-Ray disc. Over the Primare A30.7, I got the total impact of the sound loud and clear. Because the A30.7 weighs less than 30 pounds, I felt that it might be lean-sounding. Boy was I wrong about that! This amp was so delightfully punchy and dynamic I could hardly believe it. This amp is a bantamweight that packs a heavy weight punch.

I heard it right from the opening dream sequence. When Saito's house collapses, the sound was nothing short of majestic. Everything about this event sounded "correct" except that the glass breaking was a little on the harsh side. Because of the efficient technology behind the Primare A30.7 its simultaneous multi-channel power output was quite strong.

The music on this disc sounded tremendous from top to bottom, from left to right and from front to back. I did detect a little bit of a clinical antiseptic quality to the sound at times. This was detected in the reproduction of the mids and highs. But the music and ambience were widely distributed beyond the limits of the room. Really.

Primare A30.7 7-Channel Class D Amplifier

We had a little get together at our home for the Super Bowl this year. I had the Primare A30.7 in my main system for the big game. Just a few nights earlier I had been to see Lady Antebellum at the AT&T Center. The PA system at the AT&T Center really stinks and it seriously detracted from my experience of the concert. They play the system way past its limits and its bass response is challenged in the overly resonant acoustic space of the arena. So it was with great delight that I found the sound of the Super Bowl halftime show over the Primare A30.7 to be revelatory in its clean and intelligible sound. I mean, it really was better than being there. Also, the show with the Black Eyed Peas and their guests was one of the best I've seen. Bravo!

Primare A30.7 7-Channel Class D Amplifier

Now on to some music selections with a new release from virtuoso five-string bass player, Renaud Garcia-Fons. His new CD is titled Mediterranees. This disc takes you on a musical journey around the Mediterranean Sea. You begin at the southernmost tip of Spain, working your way around clockwise and ending close to the point of beginning at the Straits of Gibralter. I listened in Dolby Pro Logic II Music mode.

The perspective on this disc was a little forward, but not distractingly so and after a while, I realized that I could step in to the recording when listening over the Primare A30.7. The amp did at times sound a little brittle on some of these tracks. I also felt that the sound was somewhat clinical again. But I am not sure if this is a negative or not. I now believe that this was nothing more than the Primare amp's adeptness at faithful reproduction combined with a dry character. I misinterpreted these qualities as a clinical sound.

On the plus side, the Primare amp really lit up the room with transients. And the pacing of the music was beyond reproach. The Primare A30.7 drives all channels simultaneously without strain and offers up great dynamic headroom. Take "Las Ramblas" – the percussion had excellent tonal balance from the highest frequency of the attack to the lowest fundamentals of the decay. Or "La Demoiselle De Céret" – the theorbo came through with excellent mid range clarity and purity of tone.

One more great quality of this amp was the way it painted an extremely stable image of the music. Take "Camp D' Argeles" where the plucked 5-string double bass finds Garcia-Fons in his natural element. I was simply transported away to this historic place along the Mediterranean.

Primare A30.7 7-Channel Class D Amplifier

The Low Anthem's third album is entitled Oh My God, Charlie Darwin. I listened to the CD in Dolby Pro Logic II Music mode. The voice reproduction was spectacular, very clean sounding over the Primare A30.7. There was a consistency in the voice reproduction: laid back, natural and eerily realistic. The harmonica was nice and raspy with all the harmonics intact. The physical perspective of instruments and voices was spot on. Many of these songs have a far-off point of view. Most of the time, I felt as if I were in a sparse crowd in a theater someplace. This album was a downright joy through the Primare A30.7.

Primare A30.7 7-Channel Class D Amplifier

I also listened to the Bonobo Black Sands CD which features vocals by Andreya Triana on a number of tracks. The claves and the highs on this disc really shone. The mixed in "static" brought along all its concomitant edginess. I found little to criticize about the sound of this CD over the Primare A30.7 amplifier.

Primare A30.7 7-Channel Class D Amplifier

I closed out my auditioning of the Primare A30.7 amp by watching Jewel, The Essential Songbook Blu-Ray Disc 2. This concert begins with her playing solo acoustic guitar and singing many of her standards as well as some of her lesser-known compositions. Later, she is joined by a small string orchestra.

Jewel writes songs, plays guitar and sings. She is extremely talented. Her voice has a lovely tone and I heard it clear as a bell over the Primare amp. It really was just like I was sitting there in the audience experiencing this concert live. The Primare A30.7 was very musical with a lively sound that created a natural hall ambience in my living room. The orchestra was equally fabulous sounding. By the time the encore came along, I was like a bowl of Jello for this singer, Jewel. She is my cup of tea. By the way, the encore performance of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was simply stunning through the Primare A30.7.


Conclusions

So what are my concluding thoughts about the Primare A30.7 Class D amp? For one, it has a precise quality that really lets the music shine through, particularly in the mids and highs. On movies, it is capable of tremendous power output, even with all channels playing simultaneously. On material of every kind, the Primare A30.7 will fill your room with a solid, dynamic and three-dimensional sound field. It handled everything I threw at it without breaking a sweat and it worked flawlessly the whole time I had it in my system. At just $3,995 MSRP, the Primare A30.7 amplifier deserves serious consideration for any all-purpose, multi-channel system.