Cary SLI-80 capacitor problem questions

Apologies in advance for the length of this request.

I have a Cary Sli-80 F1 integrated that I've enjoyed for several years. Recently there was a sudden intermittent popping noise in the left channel and the EL34 tube in position 2 was flashing in time to the popping. Foolishly, I assumed it was a tube failure and put in another set of output tubes. On power-up the KT-77 tube in #2 began to heat up and glow dramatically so I shut off the power immediately.

Trying to avoid the cost and damage risk of shipping the amp back to Cary I took it to a local shop which is an authorized Mcintosh repair facility. The diagnosis is, "A shorted capacitor is causing the amplifier to blow the 2nd output tube." I'm assuming their diagnosis is accurate but they seem not to be familiar with Cary amps and I'm not thrilled with the two repair options they offer. One is to replace all the coupling capacitors with generic polypropylene caps or order the Jensen oil-in -copper caps from Cary at a cost of $600 for the caps, plus labor. They're also insisting that I supply a complete set of new tubes if they're going to warranty the repair.

So the questions are, can I source the four caps myself and what would be your recommendation for caps? I had a recommendation a couple of years ago from my dealer in Seattle to replace the Jensens with Cardas but they're no longer in production. I've found opinions online that either Mundorf or V-Caps would be a good option.

And, is it reasonable to consider replacing the caps myself? I've done a fair amount of DIY soldering and think I could probably figure that part out, but what do I need to do to ensure I don't zap myself if I decide to go ahead with doing the work myself?

-thanks in advance for your advice and help. Apologies for cross posting to audioasylum hoping I can find someone who has advice about this obscure issue.
Happen to have a stash (16) of Jensens 630V 1uf Copper film oil in paper silver lead out - make an offer for 4 pieces. They were pulled form a preamp where I replaced coupling caps with CAST for a customer. I can match them for you if you need.

Good listening

I had a similar issue and sent the unit back to Cary only to find out that it was a blown capacitor along with a diode. I sent the tubes along with the unit no need to buy new tubes and Cary checked the tubes and confirmed they were fine. My point is if the shop you took it to is unfamiliar with the unit they could miss something costing you more in the long run. And Cary has the proper parts to fix the unit as well as offer upgrades.
Peter - thanks for your kind offer. From what I've been able to determine with some online research the Jensen caps are .22uF 1000V but I will retrieve the amp tomorrow, open it up and get the numbers off the caps.

Czbbcl - yes, thanks, I agree with you that the safe course would be to send the unit back to Cary and I've had good experience with them with a very minor service issue when I first bought the amp. I'm still exploring options and will sort things out in a few days. Fortunately I have another amp I can use in the interim.
FWIW, I second the idea of sending it back to Cary for repair. No matter how well intentioned the local shop may be, and notwithstanding your own DIY skills, even if it works you will never trust it the way you once did. I suspect we will see it here on Audiogon for much less than you have invested. Seriously, bite the bullet and send it to Cary for repair using OEM parts. You'll be glad you did!
Since yours is an F1, as is my SLP98P, I have another suggestion for you; make sure you have all of the upgrades that you are supposed to have. I would check with the local shop first, but don't have them remove anything.

I bought an maxxed out SLP from Upscale in 2008. It didn't work out of the box and went immeadiatly back to Cary, where they fixed it, and sent it back. I have always loved the way it sounds. I had to send it back to have a tube socket replaced in about 2010, no problem, they did great work.

This year I switched all the other gear out in my system, and I was having some issues. A friend told me to check that I hadn't burned out a capacitor, so I talked to Cary on the phone, and then sent them a picture of the inside of the preamp, and he sent me back a picture with labels on what to look for.

My unit was supposed to be loaded:

AudioOne Caps
Jensen Copper Oil Filled Caps
Home Theater Bypass
Direct Coupled

That's what the my box said, that's what I bought for a very large premium, but it was not Direct Coupled, and did not have the very expensive Jensen Caps.

I was pretty ticked off. Although it's been almost 6 years, Kevin at Upscale was helpful and told me that the Jensen Caps and Direct Coupled were mutually exclusive. It was one or the other, and all of the units with HT Bypass should have been Direct Coupled.

Cary at first tried to say, I was out of warranty, then that I hadn't returned my warranty card (even though they had repaired the unit twice), then that I had the unit modified somewhere else. Finally they offered to modify it to direct coupled for me, if I paid the bench fee and all shipping!! Really, so you want to charge me again for what I already bought from you??

Finally they agreed to make my unit what I originally bought, but I still paid over $100 in shipping. It was pretty bush league.

I love the equipment they make, but Cary seems unsure about what is in each of these units, and they were not customer focused on fixing what might have been an oversight, but now has made me wonder about their commitment to customers. This stuff is expensive, they should have had no problem making this right.

So, check and make sure your unit is what you think it is.
I don't think it's the coupling cap. It's the cap in the power supply or the connection to the "problem tube location" caused the tube to flash. I had similar problem with rogue amp. Not sure the cary uses wire or printed circuit for connection. Any way, just take all tubes out. Get a meter to probe between ground (any ground trace you can find) and the all the pins of the working tube socket. Write down voltages at each pin. Do the same to the problem socket. One of the pin that controls the current, if not having correct voltage, would cause the tube to light up. Do this first. If you find a different voltage, flip the board or trace the connection to that node and make sure it has the good connection. While having the board flipped, inspect the cap in power supply for leak or any abnormal sign. Worst case is to change a few cap in power supply. BEFORE flipping the board to inspect, make sure you discharge the voltage by having a large resistor 10K (small value may damage resistor if too much current going thru) or so and connect between the ground and the output of power transformer (few hundred volts, use meter to check). Let it discharged. Measure again to make sure it drop to zero volt before working on the board. Good luck.
I'd send it back to Cary. I needed a cold solder joint fixed and they repaired it out of warranty, so I had them put in Cardas caps so I would not have to ship it again in a few more years. It also made the amp sound better. Cary will also run your amp for 24 hours to make sure everything is working before sending it back. Best of luck.
After 10 years of very good service , On my AES Superamp AE-25 signature ( by Cary ) I had problem of brighter tube glow and getting very hot output tubes on left ch only , also sound distortion and very low volume on left ch only .
I tried to solve it through help of Cary through emails , buying circuit diagram , etc. Finally sent the amp to Cary for through repair , service and upgrades . They replaced 4 coupling capacitors ( Jensen 0.22, 1000v copper foil in oil , actually only two had gone bad , but assuming life on other two was limited also , I allowed them to replace all 4 ) , one Solen cap , 6 Hexfrade diodes ( as upgrade) , one Kimber RCA jack that had gone was showing slightly bad , and Nobel volume pot . I got all tubes replaced new . They had ran it for 24 hours . I asked them to check everything that could possibly be replaced including Kibmer silver internal wiring , all other caps , power supply etc. But they said no need as they are fine. Then sent it to me.
For last 3 years I have been thoroughly enjoying this amp and it sounds much better than what original amp what I bought which itself was heavily upgraded .
It did cost me a bit more , but I am very happy with Cary service and I have good faith it will continue to give me problem free service for next 5 years or so.
Sfar , I would recommend to send your amp to Cary and ask for upgrades. If you want to save cost , I would say , you buy 4 numbers of Jensen oil caps ( or Mundorf silver oil or Teflon V cap ) from PartsConnexion or elsewhere and have them replaced yourself as DIY . This will save large cost in your repair. Then send the amp to Cary for service , repair and upgrade .
I recently had a positive experience with Cary's Service Dept. (they added a mod to one of their older AES pre-amps for me, bench-tested it and then 'listen-tested' it for a few more days :) and they have a pretty well-thought-out and -executed RMA system on their website where you can check on repair status, etc..

There's a former Cary tech, Kirk Owens, now works on his own ( who replaced some blown output transformers and did some upgrades to my Cary SLA-70 amp a year or two ago - real nice guy who knows his Cary stuff inside-and-out, though perhaps not as quick a turnaround as Cary (he does his mods/upgrades/repairs as a side-business, I believe).

At least that would be another option that would give you a higher level of confidence on your Cary meter :)
A bad power supply filter cap would not cause one tube to flash or overload. A shorted coupling cap, or one that's leaking DC voltages, will. (
Here is a link to Soundsgood2me, the company run by Kirk Owens that Steveaustin is talking about.
Yes , I do recall meeting Kirk Owens at Cary Audio in year 2000. Actually he built my custom ordered Amp , so had a chance to meet him and Dennis Hud when I went to take the delivery of Amp .
Kirk Owens is very knowledgeable in the field and very nice , helpful guy.
I did not know of his recent activity , so nice to know update of him through this thread . Sure will consider to go to him for his services in future when need arise .

Many thanks to all of you for taking the time to give me the benefit of your technical expertise and sometimes hard-won experience. I learned a lot that has helped me get to a tentative decision about how to deal with the amp problem.

I had a great conversation yesterday with John at Audio Connection, the Cary dealer in Seattle. I’d had good dealings with them when I lived there and knew he is very knowledgeable about Cary amps since they not only sell them but repair them, as well.

Unless there is some problem beyond a shorted capacitor they can replace all the caps in the amp, not just the coupling capacitors, for about the same price as the local place was going to charge for just the four generic caps. They have a stock of the discontinued Cardas caps and recommend them very highly based on other replacements they’ve done. Shipping charges will be a factor, of course, but the costs would seem to be very reasonable compared to the alternatives and I do have some confidence in their work based on past experience.

I’ll update with results within a few weeks, I hope.

Thanks again
I would still suggest to go for Jensen copper foil oil caps as coupling caps rather than Cardas .

Can you elaborate on why you recommend the Jensen caps rather than Cardas?

Everything I've heard from other owners and the dealers I've contacted has been that the Jensen caps are good sounding but very unreliable whereas I've seen nothing but good recommendations for the Cardas caps.

-thanks for your input
I purchased the SLI-80 in 2007 and upgraded the caps from the original Audio 1 to teflon V-caps in 2008. I sent it to Cary for the upgrade; they did other upgrades as well (direct couple, Kimber wire for the cd input). Cary's service was excellent. I don't have any experience with the Jensens, but the Vcaps were amazing, lightyears better than the original Audio 1, which sounded soupy and thick. The Vcap's break-in took several months, though, but eventually made the sound become extremely transparent, open, and 3-dimensional, while maintaining the orginal classic tube sonic signature. Without the upgrade I would not have kept it.
Ltodd - thanks for the response.

Yes, your and other recommendation for the V-caps were pretty persuasive and I was tempted to do the upgrade myself using them.

I opted to send the amp to a Cary dealer I'd dealt with before and whom I trust. He's very big on the Cardas caps and others have had good experience with them so I'm going with that for now.

I do love the amp and wish I had taken his advice earlier to replace the Jensen caps, it would have been a lot less expensive than shipping it to him for the work now.
I promised an update to all of you who offered such good advice and experience.

After looking at all the advice and options I sent the amp to John Zimmerman at Audio Connection, the Cary dealer in Seattle, based on my previous experience with him and a couple of reassuring and informative phone conversations.

I had been reluctant to take the risk of shipping but the local shop’s analysis of the problem and especially their estimates of the cost of the repair, seemed completely crazy.

The bottom line is that John replaced all the capacitors in the amp, including installing four Cardas Golden Ratio caps, for a price, including two-way shipping, that was one fourth the price of the local shop’s estimate to replace the Jensen caps, and their insistence I had to buy a complete new set of new stock tubes if I wanted any kind of warranty.

The irony, as I noted earlier, is that a couple of years ago when I took a friend into John’s shop to listen to some speakers and we were talking about my system, John recommended that I replace the Jensen copper-in-oil capacitors because they have such a high failure rate. I didn’t do it then and should have. It would have saved me considerable money and aggravation.

I got the amp back last night, fired it up this morning and it sounds fantastic. It has been an expensive but interesting lesson.

Find the good dealers out there and trust them to do right by you.
Thanks for the update. I'm glad that everything worked out for you. Now you can enjoy your "new" amp all over again!!
Sfar, I'm having an issue with my SLI-80 similar to the one you described. Care to share a ballpark figure on the cost of your repair?
Fpeel - I can't put my hands on the receipts right now but if I recall correctly it was less than $600 to replace all eight capacitors including shipping both ways. The amp is heavy so the shipping isn't insignificant but the repair price was great compared to having it done locally or sending it to Cary.

Definitely call John Zimmerman at Audio Connections in Seattle. He's a straight-up guy who'll treat you well, based on my experiences with him.
I appreciate the response, Sfar. Am reviewing options and will post the results here afterwards for the next victim. ;-) Thanks again.