Review: Primare DM36 DAC: Elevating Audio Excellence with Seamless Integration

Review: Primare DM36 DAC: Elevating Audio Excellence with Seamless Integration - Discover how the Primare DM36 module enhances sound quality and integrates seamlessly into your audio setup


In high-fidelity audio, advancements in DAC technology are met with great anticipation. Primare, a brand renowned for its dedication to audio enhancement, has introduced the DM36 DAC module. This module promises substantial audio improvements for various Primare (pre)amplifiers. In this in-depth review, we delve into the DM36 and compare it to its predecessor, the DM35, to evaluate the tangible enhancements it brings to the audiophile experience.

The DM36 is a testament to Primare’s commitment to audio excellence, and its compatibility with existing Primare (pre)amplifiers makes it a significant addition to the audiophile landscape. With a transition from the AKM delta-sigma chip to the ESS DAC chip, the DM36 introduces a new dimension to sound quality. This review explores this upgrade’s intricacies, its impact on audio performance, and its seamless integration into the audiophile’s world, offering a richer, more immersive listening experience.

About the company: Primare, a renowned name in high-end audio equipment, has a rich history of delivering innovative and performance-driven audio solutions. With a commitment to audio purity and the pursuit of excellence, Primare has consistently pushed the boundaries of what’s achievable in high-fidelity sound. The brand’s dedication to modular design, allowing for hardware upgrades and adaptability, sets it apart in the industry, providing audiophiles with the means to keep their systems up-to-date without needing complete overhauls. This dedication to sustainability and consumer choice underscores Primare’s customer-centric approach and positions it as a leader in crafting audio components that seamlessly integrating into modern lifestyles. With the introduction of the DM36 DAC module, Primare continues to uphold its reputation as a forward-thinking, quality-focused audio company.


WhatDigital expansion card
Incorporated384 kHz / 32-bit (PCM) en DSD256
Inputs4 x optical, 2 x coaxial, USB class B
Suitable forPrimare I25, I35 and PRE35

DM36 vs. DM35: An Upgrade Worth Considering

In the ever-evolving landscape of high-fidelity audio, the introduction of the DM36 DAC module by Primare is met with a significant buzz. It promises to be a game-changer, raising the bar for audio quality and setting the stage for an immersive listening experience. But how does the DM36 fare against its predecessor, the DM35, and is the upgrade worth considering? Let’s delve into the intricacies of these two modules to decipher the tangible enhancements and decide whether it’s time to make the switch.

DM36: A Shift in DAC Chip Technology
The primary point of distinction between the DM36 and DM35 lies in the core DAC chip technology. With the DM36, Primare has switched from the AKM delta-sigma chip to the ESS DAC chip. This change is pivotal, as DAC chips play a pivotal role in shaping the audio quality. Each chip has unique architecture, tonal characteristics, and emphasis, which can significantly impact the final sound output. The ESS ES9068A chipset featured in the DM36 is a 32-bit stereo chip, representing the pinnacle of what ESS offers. Notably, this chipset is equipped with the Hyperstream II architecture and Quad DAC technology. This transition sets the DM36 toward greater transparency, accuracy, and the ability to reproduce audio with heightened micro-detail. It paves the way for a more analytical yet engaging sound profile, challenging the warmth and intimacy of the previous DM35, albeit without venturing into the realm of clinical neutrality. The shift to the ESS chip represents a step forward in high-fidelity audio, catering to audiophiles seeking greater music transparency and depth.

Craftsmanship, Build Quality, and Design: Exemplifying Elegance and Precision

The Primare DM36 DAC module is a testament to the brand’s unwavering commitment to craftsmanship, build quality and design excellence. With meticulous attention to detail and a focus on both form and function, Primare has created a product that delivers outstanding audio performance and stands as an aesthetic centerpiece within any high-end audio setup.

Meticulous Craftsmanship
Primare’s reputation for superior craftsmanship is unmistakably evident in the construction of the DM36. Each component is crafted with precision and attention to detail, producing a product that exudes quality and durability. The internal components are carefully selected and assembled to exact standards, ensuring the DM36 operates flawlessly and consistently. This level of craftsmanship is a hallmark of Primare’s dedication to creating audio equipment that meets and exceeds audiophiles’ expectations.

Uncompromising Build Quality
Build quality is an area where Primare spares no expense. The DM36 is built to last, constructed from high-quality materials that enhance its longevity and contribute to its overall performance. Using robust materials and rigorous quality control processes guarantees that the DM36 functions reliably over extended periods of use. Audiophiles can have confidence in the module’s durability, knowing that it is designed to withstand the demands of high-fidelity audio playback.

Elegant and Timeless Design
Primare is renowned for its minimalist and elegant design philosophy, exemplified in the DM36. The module’s exterior is a marriage of aesthetics and functionality. The front panel features a clean, uncluttered design with minimalistic controls, creating a discreet and timeless appearance that seamlessly integrates into any audio setup. The brushed steel finish, available in black or silver, adds a touch of luxury and ensures that the DM36 is a visual complement to other high-end audio components. This elegant design approach is part of Primare’s commitment to providing audio equipment that enhances the ambiance of your listening space without dominating it.

Precision in Every Detail
Every aspect of the DM36’s design showcases precision. From the alignment of buttons and connectors to the layout of internal components, Primare’s dedication to exactitude is clear. This precision contributes to the module’s ease of use and eliminates unnecessary operational distractions. It allows audiophiles to focus entirely on their music, safely knowing that the DM36 has been designed with a meticulous eye for detail.

In conclusion, the Primare DM36 DAC module is a harmonious blend of craftsmanship, build quality, and design. Primare’s commitment to meticulous craftsmanship is evident in the precise assembly of internal components, resulting in a product of superior quality and long-lasting durability. The module’s elegant and timeless design reflects Primare’s minimalist philosophy, offering a discreet yet visually pleasing addition to any audio setup. Precision can be found in every detail of the DM36, ensuring that it operates flawlessly and delivers an exceptional listening experience while upholding Primare’s legacy of excellence in audio equipment.

Compatibility and Integration: Seamlessly Enhancing Your Setup

One of the standout features of the Primare DM36 DAC module is its remarkable compatibility and integration capabilities. Primare, as a brand, has always aimed to create audio components that seamlessly fit into various setups, and the DM36 is no exception.

A Modular Approach to Versatility
Primare’s dedication to modularity allows audiophiles to adapt and upgrade their systems without needing a complete overhaul. The DM36 represents the embodiment of this philosophy. While it’s a substantial upgrade for existing Primare (pre)amplifiers, it’s also designed to be a standard component in new versions of the PRE35 preamplifier and the I25 and I35 integrated amplifiers. This means that whether you’re considering an entirely new setup or seeking to enhance your current one, the DM36 is ready to take its place, ensuring you can experience its audio improvements without hassle. The DM36 card fits seamlessly into its designated slots, making it a user-friendly upgrade that doesn’t require extensive technical expertise.

Digital Inputs for Versatile Connectivity
One of the notable features of the DM36 is its extensive collection of digital inputs. It offers a wide array of connectivity options with four optical inputs, two coaxial inputs, and a USB class B port. The USB port, in particular, allows for transmitting PCM audio up to 384 kHz/32-bit or DSD streams up to 11.2 MHz (DSD256), catering to audiophiles with high-resolution audio sources. This versatility ensures that the DM36 can seamlessly integrate into a range of setups, from those relying on optical connections to USB-based sources, giving you the flexibility to adapt it to your specific needs.

Streamlining Analog Devices for Digital Sources
The DM36’s digital inputs provide an interesting capability. Incorporating the DM36 into a primarily analog device prepares your amplifier for digital sources such as CD players or external streamers. If you have analog equipment in your setup, the DM36 is a bridge to the digital world, allowing you to enjoy the best of both analog and digital audio. This harmonious integration extends the life and versatility of your existing analog equipment, ensuring they remain relevant in a digital audio landscape.

In conclusion, the DM36’s compatibility and integration features showcase Primare’s commitment to enhancing the audiophile experience while offering flexibility and ease of use. Its modular design and diverse connectivity options ensure it seamlessly fits into various setups, allowing audiophiles to upgrade their systems without the complexities of a complete overhaul. Whether considering a new Primare setup or enhancing your existing one, the DM36’s user-friendly design and comprehensive digital inputs make it a valuable addition to high-fidelity audio.

Seamless Upgrade Process: Elevating Your Audio Setup with the DM36

Upgrading your audio system is often seen as daunting, involving complex procedures and potential compatibility issues. However, the Primare DM36 DAC module redefines the upgrade process by offering a seamless transition that enhances your audio setup with ease and efficiency.

User-Friendly Installation
Its user-friendly installation is one of the most impressive aspects of the DM36 upgrade process. Primare has designed the module to be accessible to a wide range of users, whether experienced audiophiles or those new to high-fidelity audio. The process is straightforward: ensure your device is fully updated, disconnect it from power, and follow the simple steps to replace the existing DAC card with the DM36. The module has internal guidance mechanisms that make it nearly impossible to install incorrectly. This means you can upgrade without professional assistance, saving time and effort. The DM36’s installation process is efficient and empowers users to take control of their audio system’s enhancement.

Instant Integration into Your Amplifier
Once the DM36 is in place, it integrates seamlessly into your amplifier without requiring complex configuration or adjustments. The new DAC card becomes an integral part of your system, enhancing its audio capabilities immediately. There’s no need for intricate settings or extensive calibration; the DM36 effortlessly complements your amplifier and allows you to experience its audio improvements without further steps. This instant integration is a testament to Primare’s commitment to user convenience and ensures that your upgraded audio system is ready for action as soon as the installation is complete.

Maintaining System Continuity
Primare’s approach to upgrades is centered around preserving system continuity. By offering modular enhancements like the DM36, the brand ensures you don’t need to overhaul your entire audio setup to enjoy improved performance. Instead, you can build upon your existing equipment, making the upgrade process seamless and cost-effective. This approach aligns with the brand’s commitment to sustainability and user-focused design. You can continue enjoying your preferred audio components using the latest technological advancements.

In summary, the DM36’s seamless upgrade process simplifies the task of enhancing your audio system. Its user-friendly installation, immediate integration into your amplifier, and commitment to maintaining system continuity make it a hassle-free experience. Whether you’re an experienced audiophile or a newcomer to high-fidelity audio, the DM36 empowers you to take control of your system’s upgrade without the complexities typically associated with such enhancements. The result is a technically advanced and user-friendly audio setup, exemplifying Primare’s dedication to delivering an exceptional audio experience.

Connections, Connectivity, and Setup: Seamlessly Integrating the DM36

When upgrading your audio system with the Primare DM36 DAC module, the process involves the physical installation and establishing crucial connections, ensuring seamless connectivity, and optimizing your setup. Primare has designed the DM36 to be versatile, user-friendly, and adaptable to various scenarios, making the entire experience of enhancing your audio system convenient and efficient.

Versatile Digital Inputs
The DM36 has an extensive array of digital inputs, expanding your options for connecting various audio sources. These inputs include four optical ports, two coaxial inputs, and one USB class B port. The USB port connects a computer or other digital audio sources, enabling high-quality audio playback. With the flexibility of these digital inputs, you can effortlessly integrate the DM36 into your existing setup, accommodating different sources, such as CD players, external streamers, or a personal computer. The module’s versatility ensures that it can adapt to your specific audio requirements, whether you’re an avid music enthusiast or a casual listener.

High-Resolution Audio Support
The DM36 is designed to handle high-resolution audio formats, offering an exceptional listening experience. Via the USB class B port, you can stream PCM audio up to 384 kHz with a 32-bit depth or DSD streams up to 11.2 MHz (DSD256). This capability caters to audiophiles seeking the highest audio quality, ensuring that your high-resolution content is faithfully reproduced. Whether you enjoy 24-bit studio-quality recordings or DSD tracks, the DM36 delivers the depth, clarity, and precision necessary to appreciate every nuance in your music. It’s a nod to Primare’s commitment to providing a superior audio experience for discerning listeners.

Easy Integration into Your System
The DM36 seamlessly integrates into your audio system, making it a straightforward addition to your setup. Once installed, it instantly becomes part of your amplifier, ready to enhance your audio experience. There are no complex configurations or settings to worry about. The module complements your amplifier’s existing functionalities, allowing you to enjoy improved audio performance without requiring extensive adjustments. This user-friendly integration streamlines the process of enhancing your audio system and underscores Primare’s dedication to providing convenient solutions for audiophiles.

Customization and Optimization
While the DM36 seamlessly integrates into your system, it also offers a degree of customization and optimization. Within your amplifier’s settings, you can enable or disable the new upsampling option, boosting CD-quality music to 88.2 kHz with a 24-bit depth and audio from 48 kHz to 96 kHz with a 24-bit depth. This feature allows you to tailor your audio setup to your preferences, fine-tuning it to achieve the desired sound quality. It’s a testament to Primare’s commitment to providing both accessibility and flexibility, ensuring that your audio system can be tailored to your specific requirements.

In summary, the DM36’s connections, connectivity, and setup process are designed with versatility, high-resolution audio support, and user-friendliness in mind. The module’s wide range of digital inputs accommodates various sources, while its ability to handle high-resolution audio formats caters to audiophiles. The seamless integration into your system and customization and optimization options make the DM36 a powerful yet adaptable addition to your audio setup. Primare’s commitment to providing versatile and user-friendly solutions is evident in every aspect of the DM36’s connections, connectivity, and setup, ensuring a hassle-free experience for audiophiles seeking to enhance their audio systems.

Usability and Functionality: Enhancing the Audiophile Experience

The Primare DM36 DAC module offers a seamless and enriching listening experience, and its usability and functionality play a pivotal role. Designed with both audiophiles and music enthusiasts in mind, the DM36 boasts a user-friendly interface and versatile functionality, ensuring that it caters to a wide range of preferences and requirements.

Intuitive Operation
One of the standout features of the DM36 is its intuitive operation. Primare has designed the module with user-friendliness in mind, ensuring that it can be enjoyed by both seasoned audiophiles and those new to the world of high-quality audio. The controls and settings are straightforward to navigate, allowing users to access the module’s features without any steep learning curve. Whether adjusting audio settings, switching between sources, or exploring the module’s capabilities, you’ll find that the DM36’s interface is designed for hassle-free operation. This user-friendliness is crucial, ensuring listeners can focus on the music rather than the technology.

Enhanced Source Versatility
The DM36 extends the versatility of your audio system by providing a wide range of source compatibility. It seamlessly integrates with your amplifier, expanding your audio source options. If you’re an audiophile who values high-resolution audio, the DM36 supports formats like PCM up to 384 kHz with a 32-bit depth, and DSD streams up to 11.2 MHz (DSD256) through its USB input. This flexibility means you can enjoy a broad spectrum of audio content, from standard-resolution audio to the most demanding high-definition formats. The DM36 empowers you to explore your music collection more comprehensively, allowing you to choose the source that suits your mood and preferences.

Versatile Listening Scenarios
Functionality and versatility are central to the DM36’s design. Whether you enjoy a solo listening session, a social gathering, or a critical listening experience, the module adapts to your needs. Its versatility makes it suitable for various listening scenarios, from casual background music to immersive audiophile sessions. You can effortlessly switch between different sources, adjust audio settings to match the genre or recording, and fine-tune your audio experience to create the desired ambiance. This adaptability underscores Primare’s commitment to enhancing the enjoyment of music in diverse contexts.

Upgradability and Future-Proofing
Primare’s dedication to ensuring that your audio system remains relevant and up-to-date is reflected in DM36’s upgradability. You can enhance your audio system without replacing the entire setup as an audiophile. The DM36’s modular design allows for future upgrades, ensuring your system can evolve as your audio needs change. Whether adopting new technologies or staying current with audio advancements, the DM36 provides a path for audiophiles to keep their systems competitive and technologically up-to-date.

In conclusion, the usability and functionality of the Primare DM36 are built on user-friendliness, source versatility, adaptability to different listening scenarios, and future-proofing. The module’s intuitive operation ensures that both seasoned audiophiles and newcomers can enjoy it, while its broad source compatibility empowers users to explore a wide range of audio content. Its versatile design caters to various listening contexts, and its upgradability offers a path to keeping your audio system current and competitive. With the DM36, Primare has prioritized audio excellence and the ease and enjoyment of using the module, making it a valuable addition to any audiophile’s setup.

Sound Quality: Unveiling a World of Audiophile Pleasure

The heart of any DAC module lies in its ability to translate digital signals into rich, immersive, and emotionally engaging audio. The Primare DM36 surpasses expectations in this regard, delivering a sound quality that resonates with audiophile sensibilities. It brings forth an audio experience characterized by clarity, precision, and an undeniable depth that breathes new life into your music collection.

Exquisite Clarity and Transparency
One of the hallmarks of the DM36 is its remarkable ability to unveil intricate details within the music. Listeners are treated to a level of clarity and transparency that allows them to rediscover nuances and subtleties within their favorite tracks. Whether it’s the delicate plucking of guitar strings, a vocalist’s subtle intonations, or an orchestral arrangement’s intricacies, the DM36 captures and presents these elements with exceptional precision.

Impeccable Soundstaging
The DM36 excels in creating a soundstage that stretches beyond the boundaries of physical speakers, offering a spacious and three-dimensional audio landscape. It’s as though the music breathes, filling the room with a sense of presence that envelopes the listener. The precise placement of instruments and vocalists within this expansive stage adds an immersive quality to the listening experience. Each note and voice finds its rightful place, enhancing the feeling of being in the same space as the musicians.

Rich and Nuanced Tonal Balance
The tonal balance achieved by the DM36 is a testament to Primare’s commitment to audio excellence. The module strikes a harmonious balance between different frequency ranges, ensuring that no part of the music spectrum overpowers the others. The bass is controlled and impactful, the midrange is lush and expressive, and the treble is crisp without being overly sharp. This balance lends itself to a versatile listening experience, where the module handles various musical genres equally.

Musical Authenticity and Emotional Connection
The DM36’s ability to convey the authenticity of musical performances is truly remarkable. It goes beyond technical precision to capture the essence of the music, allowing listeners to forge a deeper emotional connection with their favorite songs. The DM36 doesn’t just play music; it tells a story, evokes feelings, and transports the listener to the heart of the musical narrative.

Comparative Listening Experiences
To truly assess the DM36’s sound quality, it must be compared with its predecessor, the DM35. While the DM35 remains an excellent DAC module, the DM36 introduces subtle yet discernible improvements. The newer ESS chipset enhances micro-detail retrieval and adds an extra layer of spatiality to the soundstage. It doesn’t render the DM35 obsolete but showcases Primare’s commitment to continuous refinement.

When paired with high-quality speakers, such as the Bowers & Wilkins 805 D4 Signatures, the DM36’s prowess becomes even more apparent. It provides the level of audio reproduction that allows the speakers to shine, unveiling their full potential. The meticulous attention to detail in the sound quality ensures that the DM36 is the perfect bridge between your digital music sources and your high-end audio system.

In conclusion, the Primare DM36 DAC module stands as a paragon of sound quality, offering a listening experience marked by exceptional clarity, transparency, sound staging, tonal balance, and musical authenticity. It produces an audio quality that fosters a profound emotional connection with the music. Comparative listening experiences with its predecessor demonstrate the evolution of the DM36, showcasing Primare’s dedication to continuous improvement in pursuit of audiophile perfection.

Conclusion: Elevating the Audiophile Experience

In a world where digital music reigns supreme, the Primare DM36 emerges as a hope for those who refuse to compromise audio quality. This DAC module represents a substantial upgrade over its predecessor, the DM35, and sets a new standard for high-fidelity audio reproduction. Its ability to breathe life into music, revealing intricate details and establishing a captivating soundstage, is astonishing. The DM36 enriches the listening experience, allowing users to forge deeper emotional connections with their music. In the realm of audiophile components, the Primare DM36 is a testament to craftsmanship, precision, and a relentless pursuit of sonic perfection.

For both existing Primare enthusiasts seeking to elevate their systems and newcomers in search of uncompromising sound quality, the DM36 is a worthy investment. It perfectly marries the essence of musical authenticity with the allure of advanced technology. Whether you’re delving into high-resolution audio or rediscovering your treasured music collection, the Primare DM36 opens doors to a world of sonic wonders. With its seamless upgrade process, compatibility, connectivity, and exquisite sound quality, the DM36 serves as a resounding reminder of why the pursuit of audio excellence is both an art and a science.

Why Buy the Primare DM36:

  1. Elevated Sound Quality: The Primare DM36 substantially improves sound quality over its predecessor, the DM35. It enhances audio playback by revealing finer details, offering a more expansive soundstage and a heightened sense of musical realism. If you prioritize audio excellence, this module is a significant upgrade.
  2. Seamless Integration: Primare’s commitment to compatibility and integration ensures that the DM36 effortlessly fits into your existing setup or can be incorporated into new Primare models. The integration process is straightforward, making it an attractive option for current Primare owners and those considering a new system.
  3. Craftsmanship and Design: The DM36 module embodies Primare’s dedication to craftsmanship and design aesthetics. Its elegant appearance and brushed steel front panel add a touch of sophistication to any audio setup. This attention to detail extends beyond aesthetics to the module’s internal construction, reflecting Primare’s commitment to quality.
  4. Flexible Connectivity: With various digital inputs, including USB, optical, and coaxial, the DM36 caters to various audio sources. Its compatibility with high-resolution formats, such as DSD and MQA, offers flexibility for audiophiles seeking the highest-quality audio reproduction.

Why Not Buy the Primare DM36:

  1. Cost: The DM36 represents a significant investment, especially for those new to high-end audio. While its sound quality justifies the price for audiophiles, it may be a deterrent for budget-conscious consumers.
  2. MQA Uncertainty: The presence of MQA technology in the DM36 may be a concern for those skeptical of the format’s future and transparency. The state of MQA in the audio industry remains uncertain, potentially impacting its long-term relevance.
  3. Limited Appeal: The DM36 is primarily designed for audiophiles and enthusiasts seeking the highest level of audio fidelity. If you have more modest audio requirements or prioritize other features over sound quality, this module may be overkill for your needs.

In conclusion, the Primare DM36 is a compelling choice for audiophiles who value impeccable sound quality, craftsmanship, and integration. While its cost and MQA integration may not appeal to all consumers, those seeking a transformative audio experience will find the DM36 a worthy investment.