In the self-besotted age of various iProducts, a feast of personal audio gear has brought an embarrassment of headphone riches. Snappy looking but mediocre sounding, Beats by Dre started the trend 8 years ago, and since then the market has seen a steady rise of ever-more beautifully made and sonically rewarding speakers you wear on your head. The latest entry to the field is perhaps the overachiever of the bunch, the exotically named Pryma (pronounced pree-mah).
These are essentially supermodel Mensa members, a combination which isn’t really fair to the competition. They have conversation-stopping looks, are wonderful travelling companions, and perform brilliantly. There’s also a kinship to certain Italian sports cars—say the Alfa Romeo—in the sense of being an object of beauty that the user generously offers to onlookers while inside the machine. Others get to ogle the fluid form while you bathe in the sound of the music, or the voice of the V-8 engine in the case of the automobile. In truth, they also share a sense of confinement with many high end coupes: the Pryma’s earcups are designed for attractively normal-sized ears the way the cockpit of an Alfa is built for drivers of average proportions.
If you want to know what the Pryma looks like in its usual context, i.e. framing a fabulous face, Beyonce can be seen listening ecstatically through a pair of special edition Carbon Masala Prymas on her “visual album” Lemonade. Developed by Sonus faber, a luxury lifestyle group comprised of several world-renowned audio brands, Prymas are handmade in Italy by Sonus Faber, the legendary audiophile manufacturer. Each headphone features an interchangeable headband made of luxury handbag manufacture leather, die-cast brushed aluminum ear cup body and copper and stainless steel buckles. The headphones are available in five distinct designs (Coffee & Cream, Pure Black, Heavy Gold, Rose Gold and Dark Grey and Carbon Marsala). In addition, all headphones will come with a three-month trial to TIDAL, the subscription-based global music and entertainment platform. TIDAL is a Jay-Z project, another reason to be sure Beyonce got her pair free.
At $499-$550, the Pryma is unreasonably affordable—just compare the cost of a Bottega Veneta wallet whose only music is ka-ching! In an overhyped, overpriced world, this product is luxury at its most thoughtful. It starts with the packaging, a hard box that opens like a travel valise. Inside, two earpads lie under a layer of foam insulation, the separate headband placed above. The other side of the “valise” contains a drawer that you pull to discover several soft-cloth tied pouches that hold a selection of headphone jack adapters and the cable. Emblematic of the care with which the Pryma was designed, the cable is thin and light to make extended listening sessions more comfortable, but they are substantial where it counts: the insides are 99.99% oxygen-free copper, which makes them superb sound conductors of sound.
How do they sound? I’m happy to report this is the rare triple-A product that aces packaging, design and build, and musical performance. Sonus Faber built the drivers to emulate their universally lauded speakers. The response is not flat, but “curated” to emphasize frequencies south of 100 hertz. They are midrange and lower-midrange rich, but transient attack is sharp, microdetail is in abundance, and treble is liquid.
All in all, the Pryma is in a class of its own. Fashionistas love them, but so do audiophiles. WOM and Sonus Faber has given music lovers a chance for total beauty, from the exquisite outside to the mellifluous inside. Warmly recommended.
The headphones are now available for pre-order at www.PRYMA.com and can be found at high-end stores such as Barneys New York.