Cary 303/300 or Musical Fidelity A5 with Mac gear?

Looking to upgrade from my Arcam cd player. Looking for a better source to match my Mac MC-207 and C-2200. The Arcam is ok but it isn't the smoothest or the fullest sounding player out there. Does have good detail though. Looking for some insight from other Audiogon members. Have borrowed a Mac MCD-201 and like it. It is better that the Arcam but its fuctions are alittle odd. Went looking for an Ayre CX7e but was told that Ayre isn't producing them currently and will not take orders for any (by my local dealer). I am open minded too, for other options, but top loaders will not work in my system. Any thoughts?? Would like to keep it at or under 4k too. Thanks!
Cary gets my vote.
Used Cary 306/SACD
I prefer the A5 over the Cary. The latter overemphasizes the bass. The tube rectified Modwright Sig.Truth Sony 9100 (which I own) is far better than either: more resolution, dimensionality and extension.

Cary 303/300... a remarkable and highly flexible player.

:) listening,


Was told today by my local Cary dealer that the Rep. had sent back the demo unit and the 303/300 is going to be discontinued. Shocked him too. He wanted me to try a Primare cd pleayer.
MCD 500---it gives you a digital input. That will be very useful if you ever want to input an ipod or Wadia dock or the like. I thought I would never use the one on my Simaudio Supernova...I now use it quite often--it is a plus to have one and the new Mac CD player has one. FWIW.

Hawkeye, I happen to have both the A5 and 303/300 right now, and honestly, I would be happy with either player.

The Cary has the edge in resolution and extension; the A5 provides a bit more cohesive musical picture (if you have any idea of what that might mean!). Both are well built, nice pieces.

If you're obsessive compulsive, know that the Cary has enough flexibility to drive you crazy. Both tube and SS outputs and 5 levels of upsampling that work with both sides. I am a tube guy and am surprised that so far I like the SS side best (hate to admit that!), though I have a few pairs of NOS tubes coming so we'll see how those go. The A5 has no options, which can be a plus.

Good luck.
I am all over the place with this decision. Tonight I was wondering if a good DAC would do the trick? Something like the Benchmark or the PS Audio. Just a thought.

Still playing with the MAC MCD-201. Has good soundstaging and depth and is very smooth. But it doesn't seem to have the speed and detail of the Arcam. Would love the get the Cary in my system just to see how well it works with the rest of the gear. Also have always been into the Musical Fidelity gear. Have there tube buffer and its great. The search is on.

Thanks guys!

I love my Cary 303/300. I'm not familiar with the A5, but have been disappointed with other Musical Fidelity gear.
I didn't like the A5 amp very much but I do like the A5 CDP.

Buying a DAC could certainly be a smart choice, especially if you wanted to try PC-based audio at some point where it would be offer some flexibility. I have a Paradisea that I use in my bedroom set-up.

Like CDPs, different flavors of DAC appeal to different tastes, so no simple decision there either!
I'd go with the Cary. I haven't owned one but every time I've heard a Cary CD player it sounded suprisingly good in the system. I've heard them sound great with Krell. I have Mc gear myself and I'd go with Cary or Rega if I were buying another CD player.
Taking back the Mac MCD-201 tomorrow and my borrow a Primaire cd31. Many odd little issues with the Mac. Curious to see how it sounds. Read a good reivew of it in the absolute sound. But also considering the MF A5. Does anyone with Mac gear have one?


I you search BCD-1 you'll find an old thread where I compared CDPs from Arcam, Rega, Naim, Primaire, Cambridge and Bryston. I found the Arcam to be the most analytical of the bunch. The Primaire struck me as smooth and musical. Highly competent and listenable, but lacking that ultimate extra something. As always, given system synergy, YMMV.
I have a Cary 303/200 and two Cary 306/200's. I find they are much better than my Lavry DA10 DAC which is comparable to the Benchmark. The Cary 303/300 is meant to be even better sounding, but having a digital input is very important to me. I was very excited about the McIntosh MCD500 when I found out that it had digital inputs. I have not heard the MCD500 yet.
If I could make an unconventional recommendation, I'd suggest Onkyo DX-7555. Take a look at the stereophile measurement, and you'll realize that its performance is superior to most CD players mentioned in this thread. The best part is the $400 price tag from If you don't like the sound you can simply return it.
Looked into the Mac MCD500 but it's 6500.00 puts it out of the plan.  Found a used Cary 303/300 for around 2k.  Giving it some serious thought.  It seems like the right piece of gear.  But my heart is pulling me to the MF A5.  Drivng me crazy!

Another suggestion to me was the Marnatz SA11-s1. Most of my music is redbook cd's not SACD so hope it would be equal on both formats. 
Jylee, in what ways is the Onkyo superior? What are its performance characteristics? Have you actually heard the Cary and MF players?

Can you addresss performance aspects like resolution, musicality, tonality, dynamics, smoothness, transient response etc.
I had the Cary 303/300 and it was sweet. I followed that with the Marantz SA11s1. But, the one that REALLY knocked-me-out, is the Primare CD31. Outstanding build and sound. Not just for the price either. Stereophile has it listed in there class "A" componets list. It's speacial. Read the review. I'm using it now and it replaced a Meridian G08 and it spanked it right out of the box. Give it a try if you can, it could'nt hurt. Peace and Good listening, Pat.

I should have said Onkyo's _measured_ performance is superior to most other CD players mentioned in this thread. In that respect it's pretty close to highly regarded Benchmark or Bel Canto DAC. I don't own Onkyo. I have a Linn Unidisk because I need a universal player. But I'm quite surprised that a $400 CD player today has better measured performance than my Unidisk, and other highly rated players of yesteryears. The digital technology has come a long way especially in the last couple of years. If I were to start over again today, I wouldn't recommended any digital front end designed more than a couple of years ago. IMHO.
I have been using a Primare cd31 for six days now and it sounds nice. It is a demo from a local dealer and it is completely run in. But, I'm not connecting with it. What amp, preamp and cables are you using with it?? Almost wonder if it is too laid back for my Mac gear. I have tried running it balanced into my preamp and running it through a Musical Fidelity tube buffer. Sounds better through the tube buffer. But still seems to lack dynamic punch. Any Thoughts?