I have owned a Cary 303-200 CDP for about 2 years; using it with a Cary SLP-98 pre-amp. They are 2 of the best components I've ever owned. I don't think you can go "wrong" with a 303-200, or almost any Cary gear, for that matter.
When I sold my Cary CD-308, I went with a Quad 99 CDP. It is a very good sounding player and cost the same as the CD-308. I prefer it over the CD-308 as it is a bit more analog sounding and it has 6 digital inputs, so you can add digital sources (DVD, some CATV boxes, some Sat. TV boxes) to it and use the excellent 24bit/192Khz DAC built into the Quad.
There is one just listed on A-goN this evening for $875. No relationship with the seller, but that's a great CD player for the price.
BTW, I've never heard any of the other Cary CD players, so I don't know how they compare.
I use Cary SLI-80 with AU 24 and just upgraded my 303/100 to 303/200. I am very happy with it. I loved the 303/100 but it had just ever so slight hint of grain. That is gone with 303/200. And it's fun to play with over-sampling. Power cords and cabling make a difference of course. Keep that SLI-80 properly biased!
Like several of the above responses, I have owned the Cary 303/200 for several years now, and I couldn't be happier. It is without a doubt the best CD player I have owned and the addition of HDCD is just a plus.
I don't think you could go wrong.
All the best.
Kid, I was seriously thinking of moving on from my Cary 308 ,then I tried a VenHaus flavor 4 PC with it and it came into it's own.All problems with an "in you face presentation " evaporated.It replaced a van den Hul Mainstream.
Thank you all for the great advice!
I looked at that Quad but it has a sale pending. Thank you though! I will see if I can't audition one.
That is a good idea, but I have already sold it. I was using an Audience PowerChord with mine. It is a great player but I wanted to try a higher line model from what I have read. Thanks!
Art, AEW and Steveaudio
Thanks! I think I will seek out a 303/200.
Yep, the Cary 303/200's a keeper. Try Synergistic cables with it (I found this is by far the best match). The Elrod ESP2 Sig is a great power cord match, although pricey: TG Audio's SLVR works well, too (although it provides a different kind of sound)...
Nice Taylor! I have the 814ce with Brazilian Rosewood; I love it. A noticed a Strat in the background as well?
Anyway, I'm in the process of trying out the 303/200 with different cables (you suggested dumping the Straightwire weeks back). I'll keep you posted on the results. If it doesn't work out I'll probably chase down a Naim CD5 or Audio Aero Prima...
What didn't you like about the 308 to make you want to upgrade?
The Cary 303 is built like a tank. The insides look very nice. I opened it up to take pictures just to see!
I had a 303/100 for 2-3 years. A friend has a 303/200. Our view is that it has a dynamic and powerful sound but that it tends to sound a bit grainy and digital. Both of us use relatively neutral tube preamps and non-tube amps. I ended up using my 303 as a transport for a highly modded DAC, for which it did superbly.
Given the build quality of the 303, I am wondering if a SuperClock 3 would be the ticket to make the sound more smooth and analog.
The Quad sounds interesting, esp since it has digital inputs.
Thank you very much! Yes it is a fat strat in the back ground. That's a very nice guitar you own. I liked the 308 a lot but I am always trying new gear. I had an opportunity to sell it so I jumped on it. My wife calls it a "sickness".
I am interested what you think about the CD Player once you get some better suited cables in the mix. I was considering the Naim player as well. Although, I keep hearing great things about the Quad player. Anyway, keep updated on your findings..
I have been a self-defined audiophile for years and have gone through three decades of "progress"! From "Pink Triangle" turntables to Nakamichi Dragon cassette decks.
The quality of music from the same music system can vary depending on ambient noise, ear wax status, and a full stomach.
Not to mention the distortion changes in atmospheric temperature and pressure can produce. People argue about changes in sound quality from merely changing interconnects. So I am sure changing the source, i.e. a CD player can make a profound difference.
All I am saying is, it may be time to challenge conventional wisdom...and instead of first picking the best source money can buy , one may be better off spending that money on quality speakers and amplification equipment (with a standardised CD source). And then for the final link compare different CD players (source) and pick the best value for money.
I've had the both 303/100 and 303/200 liked them a lot, definitely in the same fmaily, but the 200 is an improvement. I've found the bass and dynamics on either to be excellent. Both have a very wide and tall soundstages (though perhaps not as deep as some), excellent detail and resolution, and are very smooth sounding. The Cary 303s have a dynamic and vivid presentation that's quite appealing. Not exactly laid back, but not digital or fatiguing either IMO, at least not the 303/200 in my system (Alon speakers, Herron elctronics, Nordost Quattro Fil ICs).
I've found digital equipment sensitive to power - I use a TG Audio SLVR and plug it into a dedicated line (straight into the wall) - if you're getting grain from the system be sure your other gear is plugged into a separate circuit from your digital. I've found this makes a difference. (My 303/200 is not grainy sounding.) I've also noticed Cary players also take a long time to settle in - break-in when new took over 200 hours. If you;re trying brand new cables or PCs, you need to give everything time to settle in. (Yes, dump the straightwire.)
For $1500 used the 303/200 is a great buy.
Like you, I also have a pair of Grand Piano's driven by a VAC Avatar integrated amp with a Cary 303-100, and have been very happy with it. Wide soundstage, authoratative low end, and the dynamic range really make this player sings. Like some of the responses above, I found it match well with the Synergistic PC, and after trying different interconnects (from Nordost, Audience, Kimber, to Ridge Street), I have settled with the Cardas Golden Reference. Another player that's really close to it is the Ayre CX-7. It actually more detail, but with a slightly narrower soundstage and less dynamic low end. IMHO. Try them both if you have the opportunity.
I don't own a Cary CD player, YET. I do own a Cary SLI-80, which I enjoy very much. I'm chiming in for two reasons:
1. Why would you second guess your purchase decision just because you heard some opinions on the 'Gon that are less than favorable toward the Cary? It's what you like that matters.
2. One tweak that I've use in every digital setup I've owned in the past 5 years is the use of a JPS Labs Digital AC power cable. Last I checked, $300 retail. Check out the JPS website. It eliminates digital nastiness, and improves the sound of every CDP or trans/DAC I ever used it with.