Country of Origin



This review first appeared in January 2020 on fairaudio.de. By request of the manufacturer and permission of the author, it is hereby syndicated to reach a broader audience. All images contained in this piece are the property of fairaudio or Volumio – Ed.

Reviewer: Jörg Dames
Sources: Norma HS-DA1 Pre, Keces S3 DACs; SOtM sMS-200ultra/sPS-500 and Auralic Aries streamers; laptop with JRiver MC
Integrated amp: Abacus Ampino
Preamps: Funk MTX Monitor V3b-4.3.1, Funk LAP-2.V3
Power amp: Bryston 7B³
Loudspeakers: Sehring 913, Spendor D9
Headfi amps: Norma HS-DA1 PRE, Keces S3, Reußenzehn Harmonie III
MobileFi: Onkyo DP-X1, iBasso DX-80
Cables: HMS Armonia, WSS Platin Line LS4, Real Cable BW OFC 400, HMS Fortissimo, Straight Wire Virtuoso, AudioQuest Carbon, Boaacoustic Silver Digital Xeno, BMC Pure USB1, Furutech FP-S022N, Tellurium Q Black, Quantum-Powerchords, Swisscables Reference  
Power delivery: HMS Energia MkII
Rack: Lovan Classic II
Accessories: HMS Energia MkII, AudioQuest Jitterbug
Listening room: 29m², 3.3m ceiling
Review component retail price: €599 in Germany

Hifi can be like soccer. Deep from the left corner flag, a happy pass finds the far edge of the penalty area and more by happenstance than deliberate aim, it shows up perfect on your foot. One volley later it's home in the net's upper corner. Applause. No fuss. Simplicity incarnate. "Cheap shot" opines Yogi Berra? At €600, Volumio's Primo Hifi Edition—job description streaming bridge and network player—is positioned more for regional playoffs than national league. Add plain Jane looks. An unexpected sharpshooter then? Kinda…

Let's retrace our steps. I've never yet hosted plainer kit. It's the proverbial black box, a small one at 17×4.5x12cm, with zero switches or lights. As an Asus Tinkerboard S micro computer with Linux which at idle draws a bare 3 watts from the wall, that was perfectly common. As a hifi component? Not so much.

Connectivity played it less frugal. Ticking of the comm ports, there's 802.11 b/g/n WLAN, Gigabit LAN, Airplay, 4 x USB 2.0 for 32/768 PCM and DSD512 DAC or HDD, 24/192 S/PDIF, 4K HDMI and analog outputs on RCA. File support includes .wav, .flac, .alac, .aac, Ogg Vorbis and MP3. Aside from XLR which in this price/size class weren't expected, I couldn't think of anything useful amiss. Respect.

Primo also hosts an ESS9038Q2M chip to act as network player. Ambitious users might bypass its own converter and use it instead as bridge into a superior DAC they already own. Glancing at my own rig, particularly the latter application had my interest. How would the Italian player dribble against my SOtM sMS-200-ultra and Auralic Aries Femto? I'd obviously also check out its on-board converter.