||"... a pair of inexpensive
Infinity Primus P162 Loudspeakers
by Jeff Stockton
smooth midrange and propulsive bass." The P162 "plays surprisingly loud with only a
few watts of power and is free from edginess and smearing, and its bass blooms beautifully
without strain." "Bass wasnt quite seismic, but it eliminated any doubt with
regard to its explosiveness."
carry a 6 1/2" woofer, along with a 3/4" tweeter. Both were designed by Infinity and
employ the company's Metal Matrix Diaphragm driver technology, which Infinity claims produces
low-mass cones of high rigidity by anodizing both sides of an aluminum core to a consistent
thickness." "The speakers frequency response is specd +/-3dB from
49Hz-20kHz, anechoic sensitivity is rated an excellent 90dB, and the impedance is 8
||"I noticed a slight
increase in treble detail with the grilles off, and the P162s handsome presentation
encourages you to leave them off and enjoy the in-studio styling."
||"It would be
difficult to pay less for a pair of speakers and get as much as the Infinity Primus P162
delivers. Put another way, you can definitely pay more for speakers and not get as much
When I sold stereo equipment at an electronics
chain store in the late 1980s, one of the first questions I would ask a customer was,
"How much would you like to spend?" I thought it was a fair question, but many
customers balked, offended at the idea that I was trying to separate them from their
Twenty years later, there are any number of
manufacturers willing to take as much money as you can spend on audio equipment. And
certainly there are sonic benefits to be realized from, say, a pair of cost-no-object
$20,000 or $40,000 speakers. But as engineering and manufacturing technologies have
trickled down, the cost of satisfying hi-fi equipment has actually decreased. Today, when
faced with a pair of inexpensive gems like the Infinity Primus P162 loudspeakers ($318 USD
per pair), the challenge is to put aside prejudices that cause us to believe that we have
to spend a lot to get a lot. The fairer question becomes, "How little would
you be comfortable spending?" The Infinity Primus P162 is a speaker to build a system
around -- its that good.
The Primus series has been designed to serve as
the centerpiece of a home theater, with floorstanding, center-channel and bookshelf models
in the line (the P162 is the largest of the three two-way bookshelf models). Boxed
individually, the first impression the P162 gives is one of bulk. You get used to seeing 5
1/4" woofers in average-sized monitors, but these speakers carry a 6 1/2"
woofer, along with a 3/4" tweeter. Both were designed by Infinity and employ the
company's Metal Matrix Diaphragm driver technology, which Infinity claims produces
low-mass cones of high rigidity by anodizing both sides of an aluminum core to a
consistent thickness. They go on to say that this maximizes transient response, controls
frequency response and improves resolution. The P162's tweeter hands off to the woofer at
The cabinet is a little deeper than is the norm
for minimonitors this size (and in this price range) and measures nearly 15"H x
8"W x 11"D. The P162 weighs 16 pounds. Vinyl black-ash finish has come a long
way as well: The P162 is tightly wrapped and solid, with curved front edges on the cabinet
framing a silver plastic baffle that matches the color of the drivers.
The tweeter is protected by two pieces of plastic
that are bowed in slightly to resemble a pair of chromosomes. Porting in the front
increases your options for positioning the speakers as close to the wall as you need to,
but my listening tests were done in approximately the same spot where my reference
speakers sit, on 20" stands about two feet from the wall. The black fabric grilles
connect in the usual fashion via inserts on the front baffle, but they curve with a
flourish over the top. I noticed a slight increase in treble detail with the grilles off,
and the P162s handsome presentation encourages you to leave them off and enjoy the
Around back, the P162 is finished with
gold-plated five-way binding posts. The speakers frequency response is specd
+/-3dB from 49Hz-20kHz, anechoic sensitivity is rated an excellent 90dB, and the impedance
is 8 ohms.
Speakers are the voice of your audio system, and
at entry-level pricing its not unreasonable to look and listen for a reasonable
facsimile of the best sound thats available. In many important respects, this is
exactly what the Infinity Primus P162 offers. It plays surprisingly loud with only a few
watts of power and is free from edginess and smearing, and its bass blooms beautifully
Ryan Adams Heartbreaker (Bloodshot
71) offers guitar rock, mandolin-driven mountain ballads, and rootsy country. "To Be
Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)" kicks things off with a holler, and the P162s
delineated the jangly guitars from the cracking drums while letting the music loosen up
without slackening or unspooling out of its grip. Adams collaborators on this date
were David Rawlings and Gillian Welch, who in their own music play and sing with the
spirit of their old-timey forebears. On lesser equipment, Ive occasionally been
confused by the backing vocals on "Bartering Lines." Welch sometimes sounds like
Rawlings, the voice recessed too far to reveal itself fully. Through the P162s, there was
no doubt it was Gillian Welch. Each voice coming through the speakers had its own musical
character and identity, most tellingly on "Oh My Sweet Carolina," where the
P162s were able to explore every subtle crack in Adams delivery. When Emmylou Harris
came in on the chorus, the separation and lucidity were startling.
Loudspeakers Axiom M22, Athena
Technologies AS-B 2.2.
Integrated amplifier NAD
Digital Oppo DV-970HD universal
Interconnects Monster Cable
Speaker cables Element Cable Double
Beginning his career as a session musician and
gradually gaining more attention as a sideman for Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller has
released his own solo records, each characterized by the guitarists crystalline
production style, with an entrancing depth of field and clear separation of instruments.
On Universal United House of Prayer (New West 6063), Millers vocals come to
the fore to lead a band filled with gospel fervor. On "Worry Too Much," the
P162s accurately conveyed the ominously predatory Hammond B-3 and the nightmarish squeal
of Tammy Rogers fiddle that surround Millers hotly recorded vocals, deftly
handling his range from secretive speech to banshee wail. For "Shelter Me,"
Millers voice cried out in the foreground while his background singers held their
ground in back, then darted to the front and in from the sides, like wind rushing through
cracks in an old cabin. "Wide River to Cross," a duet with Emmylou Harris, was
filled with authentic world-weariness and stark honesty -- both of which the P162s readily
Bad Company may have had the hits, but Free had
bassist Andy Fraser, and Paul Rodgers' vocals were never to be as strong and soulful as
they were out in front of Fraser, guitarist Paul Kossoff, and drummer Simon Kirke. On the Millennium
Collection (Universal 490735), "Fire and Water" possesses a tremendous drum
sound, and the P162s established the songs steady foundation with impressive punch
and emphatic slam throughout. On the upper end, Kossoffs guitar stung with pure
electricity on "Im a Mover," yet the P162s were able to deal with the more
subtle dynamics of Rodgers piano on "Catch a Train." The speakers were
even able to refresh and resuscitate "All Right Now," a song Ive heard a
thousand times. The P162s reminded me of what makes this a great song: full bubbling bass,
guitar jabs that seem to float, and a snappy British blues beat, all presented with
By now, Id begun to give in to the Infinity
P162s' seductively smooth midrange and propulsive bass. It proved to be a wonderful
speaker for reggae, reproducing Burning Spears Marcus Garvey (Mango
539377) and its miasma of Robbie Shakespeare and Ashton "Family Man"
Barretts bass playing, as Earl "Chinna" Smiths skanking guitar chops
and Winston Rodneys keening, incantatory vocals cut through the smoky haze. Rodney
doesnt sing so much as chant, and on the title track, the P162s accurately conveyed
the loping rhythm and lyrical repetition of his phrasing, its audible nuances intact. On
"Slavery Days," Rodneys lead was presented in sharply detailed contrast to
Rupert Willingtons and Delroy Hinds more mellifluous supporting voices, all in
three-dimensional fashion. But I kept coming back to Jack Rubys production, as if
the CD had been mixed on the antique, idiosyncratic, patched-together analog gear in Lee
Perrys Black Ark Studio. The P162s presented a ripeness that gave the sound an
overall warmth, but without being smeared or mushy. Bass wasnt quite seismic, but it
eliminated any doubt with regard to its explosiveness.
Technically, the Axiom M22 ($470 per pair) falls
under the company's "bookshelf" category, the third step up from more commonly
sized two-way models in Axioms line. The M22s are unconventionally tall, standing
20"H x 7"W x 8"D, with each having a 1" tweeter and two 5 1/4"
midwoofers. Picture a standard bookshelf speaker as the upper two-thirds, sitting on top
of an extra midrange/woofer. At 16 pounds, the M22 and P162 are equally heavy, but the
similarities really end there. The M22 is half a head taller, and the P162 is 3"
deeper. The latter is a true two-way, while the former looks like a three-way. Its
50% more expensive, as well.
My M22s, while fundamentally neutral, proved to
be airier and slightly more articulate than the P162s and had an easier time separating
the crisp, sterling highs of Greg Browns solo-acoustic guitar from his irresistible
baritone voice recorded live In the Hills of California (Red House Records
RHR-180). While the P162s conveyed all the wistfulness and resigned optimism in
Browns phrasing on "China" and were perfectly suited to Browns
anxious plea to let his daughter get better soon on "Say a Little Prayer," the
M22s were more adept at dealing with the undercurrent of silence suspended in these
performances. Their ability to focus the ears on details and subtleties previously
unrevealed across a vast dynamic range was superior to the P162s, as if through the Axiom
speakers the music were allowed to hover slightly above the soundstage.
Because the Infinity speakers are priced to be a
true entry-level choice and because the Axiom M22 is not, I also compared the P162s to a
pair of Athena Technologies AS-B 2.2 speakers, a discontinued model of almost equivalent
size, engineering and suggested retail price ($249 per pair when available). While the
'2.2 was a similarly engineered two-way monitor, it lacks the P162s sturdiness, the
cabinet sounding a bit more hollow when you knock on it, and the music it makes is looser
and woollier, almost tubelike.
With the Athena '2.2s, as Chris Whitleys
high falsetto on "Indian Summer" from Dirt Floor (Messenger 4) changes
from reassuring baritone to anxious tenor on "Indian Summer," it was not as
tightly defined and delineated as through the P162s. Through the P162s, the stomp of
"Scrapyard Lullaby" was believably realistic, and the wistful mood of
Whitleys National Steel guitar and gentle vocal were liquid and soothingly
reassuring. Back to "Indian Summer," for the Athenas the track didnt quite
retain its bluesy relentlessness, and it lost a bit in airiness and clarity, as
Whitleys slide squeaked up and down the neck of his instrument.
All speakers around $300 per pair make sonic
compromises -- or perhaps better stated, sonic choices. The Athena speakers err
decidedly on the warm side, while the Infinity speakers accentuate the bass in a palpable
way, defining and delineating throughout their range. Thus, these $300 speakers couldn't
sound more different.
There are some reviewers who argue in favor of
the source as the most important link in the audio chain. Amplification has its
supporters, as well, and a strong case can be made for making a good integrated amp or
high-quality separates the heart of your system. The vast majority of opinion, however,
favors the speakers as the most critical choice to be made when building a system, and
even if your budget is limited there still are many fine choices available from
manufacturers with solid reputations and years of research and development in the crowded
"bookshelf" category. PSB, Paradigm, Axiom, Energy, and Polk all come to mind.
It would be difficult to pay less for a pair of
speakers and get as much as the Infinity Primus P162 delivers. Put another way, you can
definitely pay more for speakers and not get as much high-fidelity sound. The P162 is
forceful without being overbearing, and even at near-uncomfortable volume levels, this
sensitive performer remained revealing, detailed and grain-free while sounding
uncompressed and uncongested.
You could spend twice as much, or ten times as
much, but neither guarantees freedom from buyers remorse. Neither does the purchase
of a pair of P162s, but you can guarantee yourself naturalness, vibrancy and dynamism, as
long as youre willing to put your faith in the idea that bargains still exist, and
sometimes you get more than you pay for.
|Infinity Primus P162 Loudspeakers
Price: $318 USD per pair.
Warranty: Five years parts and labor.
250 Crossways Park Drive
Woodbury, New York 11797
Phone: (800) 553-3332