Cary SLI-80 vs Cary 300SEI

I have Silverline Sonatina II's, with REL Strata III, and they seem like long term keepers. I'm also real happy with the Cary family sound, using Cary SLI-80 and Cary 303/100. No sonic need to upgrade, everything sounds great, but hey you know the itch. I did not reach this point by stopping every time things sounded ok, I was always shooting for better. My speakers are 8 ohm and 92 db or 93 db (I forget). How much of an upgrade is Cary 300SEI vs Cary SLI-80, run in triode with KT88's? IS it an upgrade, or just a different mix? My speakers are already warm sounding, would a 300B based integrated be too warm sounding? Please share your experience comparing these two great amps! Cables are a mix of Audience AU24 and Quattrofil.
I had owned your speakers and both Cary amps in the past. I still have a 300SEI amp in my bedroom system.
It will definitely be an upgrade path for you, since your speakers are very easy to drive.

The 300sei will be better in the following ways:

1. Pure Class A design.
2. 300B tubes.

And don't let the 15w fool you, it sounds more powerfull than my 200W HT amp!

Nick T.
Thanks Nick. I understand that the 300SEI is pure class A and uses 300B tubes. I surmise that you found the 300SEI to sound substantially better than the SLI-80, although it seems that you liked both. If you would like to present more detail on the sound comparison that would be great. Of course now you have me curious to know what's in your regular, non-bedroom system!
Hi, Just intereted in how do you get the best out from SLI-80 by chossing the right tubes. I got mine today to drive ProAC2.5. (86db).(which is not so good with CAV50, although CAV50 is so good and I hesitated to replace it with SLI80.). so, if I am not deviated off the topic here. I would like to have your opnions on CAry SLI80 and CAV50 as well. (300B may be not enough for proAC)

Your system is just like mine, 3 years ago I started with Sonatina II and SLI 80 then a year later I added 1 Rel sub (I believed it is series 1) then last year I switched from SLI 80 to 300 SEI LX20, using KR 300 bxls tube, 20 watt/channel, it sounded really great, quiet, powerful and has many details of sound coming out from the speakers, I strongly recommend this changes. Now, I am in the process of adding a tube pre-amp and use my integ. amp as an amplifier and hopefully later on moving to monoblocks and also I've heard adding a s.s. amp to drive the lower freq. will be a big plus, what do you think?
Yes, I recently added the REL sub, and it's a jaw dropping combination : - ) I thought the 300 SEI LX20 was an amp, not an integrated, no? Anyway, great to hear that this change was worthwhile.

As to maximizing sound of SLI-80, I have been playing around with SED KT-88's vs Svetlana EL-34s (love both, actually). I experimented quite a bit with triode vs ultralinear - now I use exclusively triode - and also tried both Ohm setting on the back. I also experimented with various settings on the bias. I now keep it between 75 and 79 ususually. It's amazing how even a small bias drift can affect the sound. I thought sounded soft last week, turned out the bias had drifted to 71. Fixing it tightened up everything. Then there are cables.... I ended up with a mix of Quattrofil and Audience AU24. My old Cardas Golden Ref, which were fantastic with everything I threw at it, seemed a bit too laid back for this already laid back gear.

The "I" at the end of model numbers means "integrated" in Cary products.

I also had the same set up as you a couple of years ago, less the sub. I also had the same questions as you. I just got a Almarro SET today to try vs my sli-80 with Eh-Kt88. I also have 7308 and POPE 6ns7 tubes in the front end of the sli-80 and they make a huge difference. I will be curious to see what you think, I have very little expererience with SET, but 300b amps have never been my fair. I let you know how I get along.
For me the biggest improvement was in the purity of the midrange and the top end extension. Female voices become more life like. Instruments are fuller and bigger. Your sweetspot also become more 3d, and everything has more air around it.
For your information, my main system is:
Wadia 27se transport and dac, w/ reference mods by GNS.
Krell 450 monoblocks
Talon Firebird w/ diamond tweeters.
Mit oracle cables and elrod statement powercords.

Let me know what you think if you do try the 300sei.
Hi Nick, thanks for the information, this is most helpful. I will be on the lookout now for a nice SEI.... Your "main system" sounds awesome in more respects - TALONS are AMAZING in my humble (ha!) opinion, Wadia, MIT.... Krell used to have the reputation of being if anything the opposite of SET sound. How would you describe the sound of your main rig? Did you have trouble deciding whether to go with high powered solid state vs SET in your main rig? I will be facing this decision soon myself, and I anticipate it will be a difficult "apples vs oranges" decision. How has it been for you?
I listened to both at the dealers thru speakers and then with headphones.
The 300sei was the clear winner with the phones.
I bought the Cary 300sei, also bought Shunyata Annaconda Helix power cord because using headphones again, you could hear the improvement in the Annaconda over the Python.
I drove a pair of Meadowlark Heron i easily and now A pair of Tannoy Ardens.
I never felt the need for more power and I have a larger than average room.
Cables and speaker wire sonics , especially with the Ardens, are very easy to distinguish.
So far 20 guage solid core copper are the answer.
The 300sei has qualities that are more like real instruments and not like hifi components.More subtle.
Thanks Lacee. I've been meaning to revisit this issue.

How is treble detail and bass control? Those are where there WOULD be weaknesses, if any.

I have used the Cary on a pair of Heron i and no problem with bass or treble.
I now use a pair of Tannoy Ardens and the results are very good.More than enough bottom and pristine, non fatiguing highs.
Buy the Cary and find some old Tannoy concentrics, use silver wire speaker and ic and forgetaboutit.
My time on the merry go round I think is over.