Input: Ethernet, 3x Toslink, Coax S/PDIF, USB-A, USB-B, WLAN, Bluetooth
Output: XLR, RCA, Digital (192 kHz), IRout, TRIGout
Dimensions (W x D x H): 430 x 370 x 95 mm
Weight: 8.5 kg
Availability: through Authorized Dealers
What do we want from a network player? The ability to easily stream music from our network attached storage, from a USB drive, perhaps stream from Internet Radio and streaming services, a nice interface via an easy to use app, and of course good sound. Good looks don't hurt either and just add to the ownership experience. The Primare NP30 checks off these boxes and it even adds Bluetooth connectivity for easy streaming from your or your friends and family's smart phones.
The Primare NP30 is based on the company's MM30 media board which can be added to other Primare components including the I32 integrated amplifier and the PRE32 stereo preamplifier. The MM30 is actually based on the Audivo EMAS SeDMP3 network board which delivers the networking functionality. For the NP30, Primare adds a total of nine dedicated power supplies (6 analog and 3 digital), discrete FET output amps, and the Burr-Brown PCM1792 DAC. The NP30 is capable of handling PCM resolutions up to 24/192 via its USB and Coax inputs. The Toslink inputs are limited to 24/96.
The NP30 supports gapless playback and WAV, AIFF, FLAC, MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG, and ALAC file formats. Outputs include RCA and XLR pairs as well as digital Coax S/PDIF. Internet radio is provided via the vTuner service and you can stream from Spotify by using Spotify's REMOTELESS desktop app or their MUSICFLOW app for iOS devices. If I could add anything to the NP30's list of attributes, I'd love to see one of the lossless streaming services like Tidal become available. The NP30 also includes a digital volume control so you can run directly to your amp or powered speakers.
I find the NP30's looks to be handsome if somewhat demure, the chunky feet adding some visual weight along with the unit's 7mm front panel which comes in your choice of silver or black. The somewhat spartan front panel houses an on/off button, a row of white LEDs to indicate the selected input, lock status, and LAN connection, and an input selector button. All of the inputs and outputs are located around back along with the threaded post for the WiFi antennae and the IEC inlet for the included power cord.
The Primare app is available for iOS and Android devices. While I found the app for my iPad a breeze to use, it was a tad slower to respond as compared to some other apps that have come through here including the Auralic Aries app and the recently reviewed Aria music server. I connected to my QNAP NAS which houses my AIFF library and includes some 1200 albums. Switching browse mode to view all Albums took a few seconds for the app to render the thumbnail-sized album covers and related album titles.
The Primare app allows you to view your stored music by Album, All Titles, Artist, Artist Index, Artist/Album, By Folder, Composer, Genre/Album, Genre/Artist/Album, Genre/Song, or Playlists. You can easily create and edit playlists by simply tapping and holding your finger over your selection where you're presented with the option to Clear Queue, Add now, Add end, Add all now, and Add all end. You can also just tap on a song title to play it now. Doing so will also play the remaining tracks of the associated album. While playing a track, you can tap on the Info button to see associated track info including title, artist, album, genre, bitrate, format, and sample rate.
vTuner Radio is also a breeze to use and I was able to find my favorites with just a few taps and some scrolling. If you have more than one Primare network device the app allows you to control them all.
I connected the Primare NP30 to my network via an AudioQuest Diamond Ethernet cable and to my Pass INT-30A via Kimber Kable Select KS 1126 Balanced ICs. The Pass drove my DeVore Fidelity The Nines. I also connected a USB drive to the NP30 and played some tunes from it as well.
Even though the review sample was burned in, I let it run for a few weeks on and off just to be on the safe side. I also threw all manner of music at it from low bit rate internet radio, to Bluetooth, to 24/192 high res files and everything in between. Classical, jazz, industrial, rock, blues, folk, electronica, and more. All kinds, all shapes and sizes. What the NP30 gave back was a rich, full, and natural sound. The NP30 proved to be utterly musical.
I must admit to being a bit surprised by how much I enjoyed listening to the NP30, its way with everything I played through it was in a word captivating. Even more, it was very easy to listen to and very easy to fall into the music. Muddy Waters sounded life-sized, powerful, and present. The NP30 is not a fussy sounding player, it is not overly concerned with detail and edge rather it presents a nice cohesive sound picture with nothing sticking out or calling undue attention to itself.
The overall sound image is expansive in every dimension so that airy records like Julia Holter's Ekstasis sound convincingly spacious and, well, airy. There's plenty of room in and around individual instruments and voices making it easy to follow along with your chosen aspect of the performance. There's also a nice sense of dynamic impact and weight drawing you in to join in the movement.
I found myself enjoying all music sources including NAS-based, USB drive-based, internet radio, bluetooth from my iPhone, CD-quality and high resolution recordings. The NP30 certainly rewards better quality recordings but even lessor fare fared well enough for listening pleasure. This is not always the case for me, especially for internet radio which can sound thin and fragile and irritating but the NP30s way with tone and body made even low bit rate streams sound just fine. I enjoy listening to radio stations like WFMU and WPRB and through the NP30 this enjoyment was even more enjoyable than usual.
I also streamed some music from my MacBook Pro to the NP30 via USB mainly using the Tidal lossless streaming service and found the sound quality to be on par with streaming from my NAS. Afrikan Sciences Circuitous sounding big, nice, fat, and funky. Again, I'd love to see Primare include the Tidal service in its app so you can do away with a PC altogether but connecting via USB is really not a hardship.
By turning up the Pass INT-30A's volume to its max level, I was able to take the NP30's volume control for a spin and I'm happy to report that I did not hear any sonic penalties for doing so. For those listeners looking for a network player to connect directly to their power amp or powered speakers, the NP30 should be considered a serious contender.
I very much enjoyed my time with the Primare NP30 network player and found it be very natural sounding and very easy to listen to for as long as time allowed. Offering a nice variety of music sources including network-attached storage, USB storage, Internet Radio, USB and S/PDIF inputs, and Bluetooth, the NP30 has a lot to offer the well connected audiophile. Highly recommended.