Cary SLI80 Signature F1 Edition Review

Category: Amplifiers

What a fantastic amplifier this box is....I have been in the industry for 15 years and heard it all. I purchased the fully upgraded version SLI80 Signature F1 Edition with Jensen oil and copper capacitors, WBT speaker terminals, CD input wired with Kimber Kable, Hexfreds in the power supply, and the Grayhill Selector switch. I have a small audio only dedicated room where Arcam FMJ36 is used as a source and Reference 3A Veena speakers. For the interconnect I use the Purist Audio Elementa Advance Presato Revision and the speaker cabling is achieved by a pair of Cardas Quadlink 5c in bi-wiring configuration. The cardas cross power cord is used with Cary amp and Cardas Twinlink is used with CD player.
I listen to variety of music material including Miles Davis, Jan Garbarek, Bill Evans, Diana Krall, Madeleine Peyroux, Cassandra Willson, Dino Saluzzi, as well as Genessis, Mark Knopfler, Dire Straits, Led Zeppelin and much,much more...
After years of experimentation with different equipment I finally found perfect combination that let me listen to the music for hours, days sometimes without the fatigue...SLI80 is simply amazing on so many levels - first, it is very well priced and you can get used one if you decide to , and its!!! What a soundstage!!! I have never heard anything like that from any Solid state gear including Mark Levinson 33H that drove B&W silver signatures.....Yes, the imaging could be a tad better but one cannot expect perfection in every aspect from the piece that cost $3K....there are always compromises. I have been using this amp for two years now with Electro-harmonix set of KT88 tubes and pair of Electro-harmonix 6922s.....I played with various tubes including NOS and I have to tell you that it was a waste of time and money.....SLI80 sounds great with current production tubes that I usually get from Upscale Audio when needed. The most important issue is to chose the right speakers to work with Cary. Remember, tube amps have huge input impedance (100KOhms) so they will accent any imperfection with speakers frequency response. In other words if you chose speakers that treble characteristic is accented, the amp might sound bright!!! Not many speakers are suitable enough to be used effectively with Tube amps. That is why I hardly recommend the Reference 3A products.....I can guaranty you will be amazed....The mid-range sweetness is simply unlivable...I used to own Creek Destiny amp that hurt my ears so badly that I sold it right away...

You can't go wrong with this amp.....choose your speakers wisely and you have system for life!!!!
Love the sli-80 with my merlin tsm`s.
I just got my Cary SLI80 back from the repair shop (2 bad KT88's blew a capacitor). I had them replace all with Cardas caps. Going through burn-in again is a wonderful experience as I experience the midrange opening up. I listen mainly to vinyl, but, this tube amp has rekindled my interest in CDs once more. Warm, pronounced midrange, great soundstage and increased clarity. I use ClearDay shotgun speaker cables (silver core).
I also have an SLI-80F1 and use 5AR4's (Sovtek) in the rectifier position much better IMO to the 5U4's. They make the amp much more transparent and improve the bass response. As for other tubes I have nos Amperex 7308's with nos Sylvania 6sn7wgta's and Genelex kt-88 reissues. This amp in absolutely beautiful sounding and a real bargain for the performance.