Anyone who streams music from their phone knows just how quick it is to get some tunes playing. Most folks stick with Bluetooth because it’s so simple, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Playing music over the Wi-Fi network can be just as easy, but in that case you’ll need a better solution for streaming.
For those on a budget, the tiny Wiim Mini or the slightly better Wiim Pro are great choices if you’re looking to improve your listening experience. However, it’s also possible to get even better sound out of your speakers with a superior network player that’s just as easy to set up and use.
Primare’s newest network player, the NP5 Prisma MK2, doesn’t have any more buttons or knobs than a Wiim Pro, in fact, it’s just as compact and straightforward to use. Anyone willing to a pay the extra cost, however, will get better sound from Primare’s network player.
The new MK2 version features a new digital circuit from Texas Instruments, replacing its predecessor’s AKM processor. It also includes support for DSD128 for those who need it, and it supports the Roon client which is widely popular for streaming music.
The NP5 Prisma MK2 also offers support for MQA files used by Tidal, but this is only available when connected to a separate – or built-in DAC – with MQA support. There aren’t any analog outputs, only optical and coaxial digital outputs, thus you will only get sound if the NP5 Prisma MK2 is connected to a DAC.
As with many other compact network players, the NP5 Prisma MK2 is also built based on the Google universe. Meaning you set it up with the Google Home app, which is also used to control which room you want sound from if you have multiple Chromecast-supported products in your home. It also supports AirPlay 2, providing multiroom functionality for Apple users, who of course can also make use of the Google Home app.
You can stream music via Bluetooth, but we recommend WiFi or Ethernet to get the most out of your music.
Primare Prisma app
There is, of course, a Primare app where you can select your preferred streaming service, and the list in the app includes Tidal Connect, Spotify Connect, Qobuz, Deezer, Google Play Music, TuneIn radio, and SoundCloud.
Music stored on a hard drive or memory stick can be streamed over the network or connected to the USB input on the back and controlled from the Primare app. In the same app, you can set the NP5 Prisma MK2 to output up to 192 kHz from the digital outputs, and if you control the volume from an amplifier, the outputs can be set to fixed instead of variable.
The Primare streamer supports most audio formats out there, and there is actually an RS232 connector and accompanying cable for the NP5 Prisma MK2, which you use if you want to control an older Primare product.
Tidal Hi-Fi Master
If you’re a Tidal user, it’s likely because you want to play music in the highest resolution available, in which case you might have a Tidal Hi-Fi subscription. With the Prisma streamer, Master files are currently limited to 16-bit; 44.1 kHz when streaming over Airplay, or 24-bit 96 kHz when streaming from a Roon client over Chromecast.
Primare states that they are planning a software update that will support 24-bit 192kHz with Qobuz, while Tidal users are currently limited to 24-bit 48kHz, but only if they use a third-party app like BubbleUpNP for DLNA.
Dynamic and powerful
While you might not have thought that such a small and simple streamer could play so well, the Primare streamer proves that it’s always worth paying a bit more for better sound.
It might not be on par with an Auralic Altair 1.1 or a Naim ND5 XS2, but when connected to a decent DAC, you’ll find that it has a bigger, more open and more dynamic soundstage than the cheaper Wiim Pro.
Hooked up to the DAC of a Hegel H190, the scales of Brad Mehldau and Pat Metheny’s Summer Day expand, while there’s more depth to the sound of the piano. The guitar resonates wider, the sound is warmer and fuller, and there’s better dynamic contrast with the Primare streamer.
Which also reproduces The Hard Way with PNAU and Khalid with more potent and tighter bass. These aren’t massive differences, but for anyone who is very particular about sound, they’re significant enough to make the Primare streamer preferable.
This is also noticeable on Miley Cyrus’ Flowers, where the bass drum packs more punch, and when I turn on Short Story by the Arild Andersen group, the percussion and small details like cymbal crashes are rendered with improved clarity.
Where the Wiim streamer obscures some of the finer nuances in the soundstage, the Primare streamer manages to bring out more of the subtler nuances, and the small details are clearer in definition.
The Primare NP5 Prisma MK2 is a solid upgrade from the cheapest network players, and a significant upgrade over most lower-end amplifiers and receivers. Anyone looking to improve their music streaming experience should definitely put the Primare streamer on their wishlist. It might lack certain features found in more expensive streamers, such as analog outputs and a remote control, but the sound is still top-notch. And as we all know, that’s what matters the most.