Primare CD32 review

A massively detailed player, but not sufficiently engaging for us Tested at £2200

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The CD32 is massively detailed, but isn’t quite the engaging listen we’d hoped for


  • +

    Clear, open and crisp sound

  • +

    elegant appearance

  • +

    fantastic display


  • -

    Analysis-first sound won’t suit all

  • -

    limited file compatibility

  • -

    some finish issues

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

We rarely use much review space talking about displays, and rightly so. However,
the display on the Primare CD32 is lovely. It’s OLED – based and is quite possible the crispest we’ve seen on dedicated hi-fi kit.

On the whole, the rest of the CD32’s exterior keeps up the good work, too.

The design is minimalist and elegant in Primare’s usual way, and general standards of build and finish are high, bar some slightly rough edges to the lid and base
at the back.

It could be argued that once the player is in a rack, no one will see
these cosmetic flaws, but we’d rather a £2200 CD player needed no excuses.

There’s less need for that kind of thing when it comes to sound quality. Whether it’s working via balanced or unbalanced RCA, this is an impressive sounding player. Its presentation is open, clean and detailed.

The CD32 can unravel difficult to render music like Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring with real power and punch, and is subtle when it needs to be too, as a spin of PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake shows.

This album has a lovely sense of naturalness that the Primare exposes to full effect.

Best with subtle detail retrieval
However, all isn’t perfect. For all the detail analysis on offer the Primare doesn’t quite manage to tie it all together as cohesively as the best at the price.

The result is a loss of drive with rhythm-driven music such as Massive Attack’s Babel and a reduction of impact with Eric Bibb’s Flood Water.

The CD32 accepts music files through a rear-mounted USB input. While that nice display makes searching content easy, the player will only handle MP3 and WMA files.

The sound is generally good for the formats, but not up to CD level, and the player won’t accept a stream from a computer, either.

Still, there’s no denying that the CD32 is a polished performer, particularly with CDs. If an information-over-entertainment balance appeals, give it a listen.

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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