Sonus Faber, primarily an Italian brand, has launched their first and solid attempt at a nice sounding headphone with their Pryma. When I’d first heard their announcement of a future headphone release, I was a bit skeptical to say the very least. Unwarranted concerns, now that I’ve had a chance to put this headphone through trial by fire and ice…
Depending on what model you opt for that range from $499-$549, you’ll either get some carbon fiber, copper or a mix of steel and aluminum exteriors. Sonus Faber sent me the black and gold version, which sells for $499. When the box arrived, I dived in and giggled at the awesome desk drawer style box that required me to pull a tab and remove the headphone components from inside. Really, the box was so uniquely designed that I raised an eyebrow and couldn’t help myself from cracking a smile and how slick of an idea that was.
That smile instantly turned to dread when I saw the first of the two earcups detached from the headband completely. I almost cried, as I’d thought the box and headphone were damaged and cracked. Thankfully, that is just how things worked with this headphone after I realized both earcups are meant to detach completely via a belt buckle style headband attachment system and I’d immediately went out for a drink at a sports tavern to de-stress from that scare. Pretty cool stuff, I’ve never seen anything like this belt system before. Both earcups are secured to the headband via a metal locking mechanism that works on the same principals of belts for your pants.
The piano key black/reflective finish of the central portion of the earcup is the stuff of dreams, exuding a highly lacquered appearance and then some. Of course, if you know a bit about me, you should be fully aware that I’ve got a thing for lacquer-looking designs like this. Each earcup has a very soft and high-quality leather material used for pads, as well as a detachable 2.5mm mono cable of its own. The opposing end of the cable is adorned with a standard 3.5mm mic enabled straight adapter, Sonus Faber also includes a 3.5mm right angle adapter that feels solid as well. The headband is real leather that comes in a few color options, so you’ll be able to mix and match earcups styles with headband styles and end up with a unique end result if you so choose at checkout.
Surprisingly, the Pryma has excellent build quality and easily rates among the best in class for build quality. Top to bottom, it has exceeded my expectations. Everything feels immensely solid and of a high standard, nothing feels cheap. To my delight, even the belt buckle style metal latches on the headband feel fantastic. I think Sonus Faber did a marvelous job here and they deserve high marks for designing a fancy and posh looking headphone that also offers some of the best builds I’ve seen in a portable in recent times. Not quite on the level of the Audeze Sine, which costs the a little less at $449, but still excellent quality parts all around.
Earpads – A Gripe
I forsee a problem for taller folk, or those who have larger ears and who want to purchase The Pryma: the stock cups are relatively small and just hardly fit over my ears. I’m a short guy at 5’5 tall, so I’m well under the average ear size compared to most others, yet the Pryma cups only just fit over my ears with a very small amount of clearance. I can see those with bigger ears and heads having fit issues and having to tuck their ears into the innards of the earcups just to get a sealed fit. Plenty comfortable for me, but I think the odds are very good that larger folk won’t receive a good fit.
By world standards in the Hifi community, the bass experience of this headphone is good. But, by recent standards, and compared to Audeze’s latest release, the Sine, the bass of the Pryma is relatively lacking. If I toss the Sine out of the equation, the bar gets lowered and I can freely compare the Pryma to all headphones before the release of the Audeze Sine. In doing so, the value goes up and I can score things much higher than if I were to direct compare to the Sine. The reason for this is that the Sine annihilated every portable ever made with regard to bass quality before it.
The overall tone and texture of the Pryma are un-exaggerated and of a more natural flavoring, something not boosted feeling or not very dense, but something that puts out a more purist type of a flare. Physical impact level is moderate, so I feel comfortable and happy in stating that this headphone is neither harsh nor overly subdued in engaging factor, slam and the literal and physical amount of kick. That impact level, combined with the also very moderate level of quantity, makes for a good experience all around. Nothing to gripe about in the slightest, as clarity is good for the price.
This is a solid performer down below, but this headphone was clearly not intended for bassy genre usage and those who might enjoy Dubstep, Deep Minstep or really anything with exceptionally plentiful bass levels should be shopping elsewhere. Instead, those who want a good, middle ground performer for most genres will be relatively happy here with the Pryma. This headphone tends to feel shaky when paired with very bassy tracks that are intended to reach insanely low, or that have perhaps too much bass quantity. This is not a dense bass experience, so don’t expect guttural bass level quantity or performance, but also don’t expect something too bass light. Middle ground is the name of the game with this headphone, especially so on the low end: not too much bass, not too little, not too thin, not too thick.
The midrange of the headphone is relatively forward sounding, more so than my Edition M from Ultrasone ($1100) and roughly the same in overall quality. There is definitely a midrange bloom effect (pronounced vocals) and plentiful quantity in this area of the spectrum, more so than the bass and treble regions and enough to notice that well-rounded bubble in the center. This Pryma is very good for vocals and offers a vividly upfront engaging factor that I personally enjoy greatly. I am not fond of recessive tendencies in my audio equipment, but I know some people do enjoy that V-shape sound.
That V-shape, or lacking and distant sounding/feeling midrange, is often found in headphones that are not tuned specifically or intentionally in this or that manner, they are the red flag for lazily put together products, at least in my opinion. Thankfully, the Pryma doesn’t suffer from that problem and it is wonderful to know that the designers were able and willing to develop a forward sounding headphone on their first attempt into the headphone world. It isn’t quite as extremely forward as my Audio Technica ESW11LTD, which is a headphone world regarded for exceptional forwardness in the midrange, but the Pryma is no slouch here. I think Jazz enthusiasts will get off a lot on this headphone, it certainly has enough clarity and engaging factors to do midrange and vocalists tracks justice. Sinatra and Bubble, Lady Ga Ga and similar vocal-centric artists shine with this headphone.
If there is a weak link in the chain, it is the upper end of the Pryma. True, clarity is just fine on it and not at all problematic, but I do detect an artificial flavoring and tonality up top that bugs me a bit. There are times were I feel it is right on the border of being a little potent, but only if the track called for it. The same tracks sounded more comfortable on various other headphones I own, such as the Sine, ESW11LTD, Edition M and even the Sony XB1000, but more often than I felt comfortable with, this Pryma felt a little prone to flashing a little too much treble.
Thankfully, the headphone is sensitive enough to be EQ’ed down without losing quality, so feel free to drop down 2-3dB on the treble if you find it too much. I’ve always been sensitive to treble and in this case of the Pryma, I feel the experience to be just fine in quality, but a step too close to what I consider overly abundant treble on a flat EQ. This isn’t a negative quality to have. As mentioned, the treble seems response enough to be dropped or raised a few dB in either direction before any quality loss can be detected. I’d prefer it to be this way and to have that responsiveness, rather than things being a step down in quantity up top and also unable to be altered. For what it is, it is alright and nothing to worry about. It is still far from plentiful enough in treble quantity for me to consider it problematic or to house a “cold” upper end.
Pretty good imaging in this headphone, she feels aired out and spacious enough for me to score her nicely in the sound staging department. Definitely more spacious than the Audeze Sine and 11LTD from Audio Technica. I think the overall stage depth is the biggest limiting factor with regard to staging properties, but I feel that the Pryma’s height, width, and separation qualities are all within the bounds of being above average.
Sadly, that realism factor isn’t up to par with a few other $500 or so headphones and I can name a few that do a better job in this department, but for the most part, this headphone is more than acceptable in overall sound staging prowess. I think if the company could revise and thicken up the sound signature a bit, this lacking stage depth of field may actually improve. I may be asking too much of it at this price point, though, as it seems more Dynamic driver headphones lately are being produced in the sub $500 range that ends up as real winners in the audio circuits out there. With that in mind, it seems like asking more of an already good headphone isn’t justified, but then again, I am fresh off a few other Dynamic driver headphones recently that have really raised the bar.
This headphone really took me by surprise, I didn’t expect it to be as good as it is. I really don’t have any legitimate gripes revolving around sound quality on an objective level. However, I do have subjective gripes that pertain to the amount of bass: I simply wish it felt denser and more abundant, more responsive to EQ boosting and thicker feeling overall. I’m a bass head, so I feel a bit unsatisfied by the Pryma’s literal quantities of low end and always find myself EQing more and more in hopes of obtaining the sound I prefer. But, I think those who prefer a more balanced sound and something more bass-moderate will be plenty satisfied with what the headphone has to offer.
The Pryma looks very posh and upper class and for the first time, I can recommend a flashy looking headphone to people interested in something that also sounds good too. This is an almost unheard of combination of traits: very fancy design combined with good sound qualities. Sonus Faber has done a very nice job and left me with little negative statements or thoughts to consider about their Pryma. It is a good sounding headphone with very good build quality, it looks snazzy and is well justified in price to performance…I can hardly say that about anything else on the market with a flashy design like this.
Undoubtedly, this headphone is for those who do not want an exaggerated tonality, something a bit more natural or uncolored bass and midrange, something bass moderate in quantity and also something that will grab the attention of pretty much everyone around you. In all honesty, this is the headphone celebrities and models should be showing off on social media and in their selfies. It exudes that high end, fashion runway type of a design but also has the sound quality to back it up. I do wish it had slightly bigger earcups and maybe a very slight retune on the upper end, maybe a little more bass quantity as well. Beyond that, I’ve nothing left to say except that this is a very solid performer at $499. Very nice job, Sonus Faber! I can’t wait to see what else is in store for us in the near future.
- TYPE Circumaural, closed
- TRANSDUCERS 40mm dynamic drivers
- IMPEDANCE 32 ohm at 1 kHz
- FREQUENCY RANGE 10 – 25.000 kHz
- DISTORTION 0,1% at 90dBspl (THD)
- RATED INPUT POWER 120 mW (short term max power)
- SENSITIVITY 118 dB SPL at 1kHz with 1 mW
- INPUTS 2 x jack mono 2,5 mm (on headphones), 1 x jack stereo 3,5 mm (on cable)
- DIMENSIONS 205 x 186 x 76 mm (HxWxD)
- WEIGHT 355 gr
- CABLE LENGTH 1,3 m