Volumio Primo


Reviewer at hxosplus
Volumio Primo Review
Pros: + Great audio performance
+ Neutral and balanced
+ Musical and engaging
+ Crystal clear and transparent
+ Expansive soundstage
+ Lifetime subscription to Volumio OS
+ Reliable and stable
+ Excellent file and streaming services support
+ Easy setup and use
+ Compact size
+ Excellent build quality
Cons: - No coaxial digital input
- No headphone amplifier
- No power switch
- A little lean texture
- A little unforgiving

Everyone who is streaming music should be familiar with the Volumio OS as it is one of the most popular and widespread operating systems with thousands of installations in various streamers. Not only is it free to download and install but it is also used by many well known audio manufacturers as the basis for developing their own software.

Volumio Primo

Volumio is the company behind the Volumio OS and what most people don't know is that they also make their own streaming audio devices.

Volumio uses sophisticated hardware with high quality internal parts and the retail price of each product includes a lifetime subscription to the premium version of the Volumio OS as well as dedicated and personalized support.

The current product line consists of the Rivo (a dedicated steamer without internal DAC), the Integro (a steaming integrated amplifier) and the Primo (a streaming DAC). All three devices are designed and assembled by hand in Florence, Italy.


The Volumio Primo combines a music network streamer and a high quality DAC under the same hood. The decoding is assigned to a single ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip in differential configuration connected in I2S to the digital input section for direct signal transmission in order to minimize jitter and noise. The internal board is neat and clean with short signal paths as you can see in the following photo.

At the heart of the Primo lies a highly performant quad-core processor, making Primo achieve first-class efficiency and speed for audio reproduction. The latest Amlogic Quad Core CPU is running at 1.9GHz and is combined with 2GB of fast DDR4 RAM to effortlessly run the Volumio OS.


Analogue audio outputs are available in both balanced XLR and single-ended RCA formats. There is also a digital SPDIF coaxial output to use the Primo as a standalone streamer to an external DAC plus one HDMI port for connecting an external monitor, two USB ports and a micro SD card reader.

Network connectivity includes Gigabit LAN port and wireless Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac with 2X2 MIMO antennas. Bluetooth 5.0 is also supported for convenience when the network is not available. WiFi and Bluetooth can be turned off when not in use in order to avoid causing electromagnetic interference to the wired connection.

Plenty of inputs and outputs but it would be even better if the Primo included a coaxial digital input for connecting a source like a CD transport. Some other competitive devices also come with a headphone amplifier but the truth is that none of them is as compact sized as the Primo.

The Primo is powered by an external switching power adapter (5V/3A) and strangely enough it doesn't have a power on/off button at the back so it is always in standby mode.


The latest Red Dot Award winner, Design Narratives Ltd, has designed the Primo around a chassis made of high quality antimagnetic aluminum. The front panel has a classy dark wood texture and a power button at the center which has a status indicator LED that can be dimmed or switched off. The Volumio Primo is well made, beautiful looking and compact enough to fit nearly everywhere.


The Volumio Primo lets you stream from all favorite music services or bring content from local or network-attached drives and play internet radio. Most music services are embedded in the Volumio application, you just have to enter your credentials in order to gain full access to your content. The Volumio Primo is also Roon Ready certified, allowing seamless integration with Roon.

Native supported services are Airplay via Shairport Sync, Spotify & Spotify Connect, TIDAL & TIDAL Connect and QOBUZ. Available free plugins include Youtube, Squeezelite, Radio Paradise, Podcasts, Pandora, Fusion DSP, Roon Bridge, Soundcloud and Mixcloud.

The Volumio Primo supports bit-perfect playback up to 192kHz/24bit under all file types like DSD, WAV, FLAC, Alac, AAC, Vorbis, Cue, Mp3 and others. The Primo is also UPNP/DLNA renderer with open home support.

Setting up the Volumio Primo is an easy task, the only thing you have to do is to install the official Volumio application (available for both iOS and Android) and follow the on-screen instructions for wired or wireless connectivity. There is also the option to control the device via a browser or even connect it to an external monitor.

The Volumio OS is extremely stable, fast and easy to use with a well designed graphic interface. It regularly updates to fix minor issues and after two months of continuous use, it never crashed, not even a single time.

The Volumio app includes an AI-powered search function that searches content simultaneously in all active music services. Other notable features of the application include enabling/disabling the digital coaxial output, hardware or software volume control so you can use the Primo as a preamplifier, upsampling, a powerful DSP plug-in etc. Something missing though, is the ability to download and read the information PDF booklets that are available in Qobuz.

The Volumio premium OS allows full customization and personalization of the Primo with many useful options.


Audio Stuff

The Volumio Primo was tested as streamer and as all-in-one streamer and DAC both with headphones and in a 2-channel system.

The sound quality of the Volumio Primo is surprisingly good and far better than expected for the category. This is a DAC with great sonic performance that can rival much more expensive competitors by well established brands.

The Primo combines musicality and plenty of engagement with competitive technical performance. The sound is crystal clear and transparent, as expected from the ES9038Q2M DAC chip, with extension at both ends of the frequency range and mid-range transparency.

The bass is impactful and dynamic, tight and controlled with precise timing and great laying. It is not that full bodied and weighty, it is rather lean and maybe dry but it compensates with its very descriptive and well defined texture.

The mid-range has fluidity, richness and top class resolution. The timbre is natural and realistic with plenty of harmonic variety and good overall weight. The sound is not warm but not cool either, it is rather neutral with low digital artificiality. The user doesn't have the option to select one of the factory embedded digital filters of the chip but it seems that Volumio has done an excellent job in implementing their own one that sounds the most lifelike and natural.

The extended treble has a joyful, luminous and energetic character with top notch clarity and airiness. The high frequencies can sound a little sharp and a tad bright, depending on the recording, but by no means piercing, harsh or fatiguing. You can listen for hours long because of the finesse and the absence of harassing digital artifacts.

I have reviewed many DACs with single or dual ES9038Q2M DAC chips and the Primo is among the least clinical and artificial sounding. It has timbre and textural consistency from the deep lows up to the highs without exhibiting loss of coherency. It is not as technically proficient as some offerings by brands like SMSL or Topping but it is definitely more musical and less sterile.

The soundstage of the Primo is really glorious, especially if you upgrade the power supply, and this is something that gets very noticeable in a speaker system. It is dimensional and grand, open and spacious with sharp and accurate imaging. The sound reaches out of the speaker boundaries and the only thing that is lacking, when compared to higher-end offerings, is the relative lack of holography and the rather low communication of the recording ambience.


Volumio doesn't only make one of the best operating systems in the business but they also design really good sounding audio devices with streaming capabilities.

The Volumio Primo combines a powerful and easy to use streamer with a high quality DAC. Audio performance is really fantastic, far exceeding all expectations, thus making it an excellent all-in-one solution with an overall price to performance ratio that is hard to beat.

The Volumio Primo was loaned to me for the purpose of this review.

The price of the Volumio Primo is €799 and you can buy it from here.

More comprehensive version of the review is available in my website.
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Excellent review! I'd love to hear your opinion on if the dac holds up to the likes of Denafrips Ares or Schitt Bifrost 2/64. I understand you're getting a steamer with roon like services but I'm more interested in the dac. Thanks!
Thank you. Don't know about the Bifrost. The Ares II, that I have reviewed, is typical R2R, weightier sound, organic texture, fuller and warmer. Definitely more holographic but also slightly rolled treble, not that crystalline, less technical, not as sharp and well defined.