Both sound very, very good. I dont think you can go wrong with either. Both come with remote and are single ended.
The cary is a little more colorful (in a good way)with incredible dynamics and bass. The Audible illusions is a little more netural ( doesnt quite have the bottom end of the cary)
Here are some points to consider:
The L2 requires 2- 6922/7308 tubes. The way the unit is designed it is very, very hard on them. Premium tubes for this unit are in short supply and $$$. A nice pair from a reliable seller can easily go for $200-$300 a pair, if not more. The unit is very traditional looking. Customer service can be very slow or difficult if a repair is needed.
The carys in regards to tube rolling is much easier ( I forgot the different tubes - but premiums are easy to find and not expensive). There are also cap upgrades and a phono can be added if you wish. The unit does not have a traditional look - either you will like it or hate it. Customer service is excellent.
Mike, Judging by your response to Stumpie apparently you are a big fan of Cary. However let me correct your comments regarding the L2.
Be advised that, as of this date, we have now manufactured over 200 of these units and none have experienced premature tube failure. As for someone paying $200-300 for premium tubes, we never heard of this. We, and several of our dealers, offer excellent-reliable tubes for this unit that are reasonably priced.
Regards, Jerry Cusmano/AI Service Mgr.
I'm glad Jerry spoke up about the tubes. I have an L-2 and have never had a tube failure. The Audible preamps allow you to readily hear the differences in tubes but I too have never heard of $300 tubes for this preamp.
I have owned an AI preamp for a number of years(M3A and L-1) and have never had tube problems with any of them. In fact, I have a pair of 10 year old Sovtek's I pulled from a used M3a with about 3000 hours on them that sound wonderful. I have bought from AI, Upscale Audio and others and the tubes run about $70 for the pair in most cases. Exotic tubes are not required for this preamp to sound good.
Look at the AI web site for recommendations on tubes.
For a comparison, I have never heard the Cary pre. However, I did read a couple of reviews that seem to indicate it was not necessarily neutral which the L-2 is. If neutral is not what you're after, stay away from the L-2.
"As for someone paying $200-300 for premium tubes, we never heard of this."
Recently a pair of Holland "pinched waist" 6922s went for $800 on this site.
I, too have seen 7308, 6dj8, 6922 tubes getting costly.
The really primo ones are expensive, and tough (but not impossible) to get from reputable sources. I remember back when I was doing the Cary SLI-80/ Rogue Tempest shootout, I was having a tough time finding choice 6922 tubes under $100 each- although the ones that I did get my hands on were glorious. Dekay even donated a pair of USN/CEP Amperex 7308s, that I graciously returned to him when the Cary went on its way. What a Guy!!!
I remember from my research that the pinched waist tubes mentioned above are regarded by many as the "best" sounding, although it seems that different circuits would sound different with these tubes- also rumored to be rarer still because they are inherently microphonic for some reason. That price is too high for my blood, although many of our members have an insane amount of disposable income.
I can't imagine ever going that high for a set of line-tubes (maybe for a matched octet of great old 6550-kt88s...)
Stumpie, you have listened to the Cary in your system and liked the sound that you heard, and until you are able to audition the the AI L2 in your system, you will not be able to make a true evaluation between the two preamps.
Could the Audible Iliusions L2 be superior sounding over the Cary...you will have to be the judge. If you dont have a dealer near you, think about buying used and if you dont like what your hearing with the L2,you can sell it for little or no loss. This is just a thought.
From everything that I have read about the AI preamps, is that they are very hard on tubes..... execellent sounding but costly on tubes..... good luck on your quest.
As I mentioned, I have never heard of someone using $300 tubes in THIS PREAMP. Most of the "Exotic" tubes will not hold up and are therefore left for other preamps. It's like everything else, you can pay a wad and it not perform any better---just different. Some enjoy the bloom of certain tubes. I didn't say they weren't multiple hundred dollar tubes available. This preamp is hard on some vintage tubes because it cuts through all the BS circuits. The AI web site warns you of this. They're not trying to hide anything and I'm trying to be realistic.
Hey man, I didn't remember until just now who was behind the Bigtee moniker.
I hope all is well in the lowcountry.
Joe, good to see you back. It has finally started raining again. Hadn't rained in so long the ocean was going down! Audiowill is selling his Spendors---that's you---right. By the way, know of a good attorney? Audiowill sold me a bum CD player!
I just remembered last night that bigdaddyaudiowill had some Spendors after reading a review in an old Listener.
I can probably scare up an attorney... or 248.
I hope it wasn't the CAL- I liked that thing...
Did Dale let him shoehorn some Soundlabs into the house??
Maggie 3.6?? Wilsons??
He's looking at Maggies. The cd player came from Audio Warehouse---had a few nuts and bolts rattling around inside. The BIG dog got me another one.
Going to be interesting how he slips those babies by Dale if you know what I mean!
I have owned both and I still have the Cary. There is no comparison. The Cary will remain in my system for a long time. I have had BAT, Audiable Ill. and Audio Researh preamps and the Cary does one thing that these don't. It sounds like live music. It presents a lifelike soundstage with unbelievable depth. the only other preamp to conside would be the CJ17ls2