Cary SLM-100 amplifîer upgrade question


Longtime reader but first time poster. Current system is Vincent SP-331 amp (150wpc @ 8 ohm, 300wpc @ 4 ohm) and NAD C165BEE preamp- both less than a year old, driving a pair of Martin Logan Aerius speakers. Listening rooms were prewired for speakers using 12 gauge wire pre-construction and the speakers are roughly 25' away from the amplifier. I have a friend selling a pair of Cary SLM-100 monoblocks @ 100wpc vintage 1997, and I'm wondering if I should pull the trigger and get them. Auditioning is not an option due to logistics. What do you guys think? Will it be an upgrade given my set up. Even though the Vincent is a hybrid amplifier this will be my first full-tube amplifier experience and I'm particularly curious about the effect of the (long) distance between the Cary amplifier and the speaker. The current set up sounds excellent and I really don't have much complaints but I'm thinking it could sound even better with a high powered tube amplifier with some good pedigree.

Appreciate input from folks who have experience with these particular Cary amplifiers.


P.S. Anyone has any thoughts on what is a good price for a pair of Cary SLM-100 monoblocks? These are the chrome plated models in excellent condition and my friend bought them new for $4000 back in 1998.

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Sorry, poor choice of wording for the title. I meant to say upgrading to Cary SLM-100 vs. upgrading them.
I’ve never listened to any of the Vincent equipment but that being said I’d be very tempted to buy the Cary’s and later sale the amp you like less. I do know the Aerius well and I bet the full tube magic will be a smart move. I’ve listened to many hybrid amps from ARC and Counterpoints and never been overwhelmed by them; always felt a really good solid state or tube amp always excelled. Part of the fun of this hobby is experimenting with equipment and I think that how one learns about gear. If you can buy the Carys right go for it.

Check to see what retubing the amps will run as well. Upscale Audio can help you on tube cost and them being a Cary dealer can give you an idea of what a fair price is. If it has a fresh or fairly new set of tubes I’d guess $1800 and if you need to buy new tubes subtract that cost or most of it. If he has the original packaging that will add value. Just remember they’ll run warmer so if you live where it’s hot or have a small room that may be an issue and you’ll have tube replacement cost over the years.

I’ve always preferred tubes on the earlier ML speakers so who knows. Shipping cost might bite you so weigh that in as well. They Carys will likely hold their value much better than Vincent hands down. If you do make the move, get longer power cords and keep the amps closer to your speakers if you can. Be warned you may find out your NAD will not be in the same league sonic wise.

Good luck

Thanks for the input. Couple of clarifications on my original post. I have seen and heard the Carys but won't be able to audition them in my own house. Shipping is not an issue since it'll be local pickup. In fact I bought the Aerius speakers from him and he was running them with the amps using an Audible Illusions M3 tube preamp which he's also planning to sell. His set up is completely different though. He had all this equipment crammed in his relatively small basement with low ceilings. My listening/living area is a 20'x20' room with almost 20' high ceiling and I was shocked by how much better the Aerius speakers sounded in my house vs. his basement. I can't say how much of the improvement was due to my room size or my Vincent/NAD combination. That's the dilemma. Finally, it'll be a challenge trying to keep the amps close to the speakers unless I completely rearrange the room and that would require having to make a choice between the amps or the wife! Oh, he mentioned he'd retubed the amps roughly six years ago.

I’ve owned a pair of SLM-100’s for the past 12 years, and have enjoyed them immensely. They are in a different league than Vincent. Of course, your tube choices will greatly influence your presentation. You may already know that the output transformers have different taps for 4 and 8 Ohms, which require soldering to change. You’ll want to try both taps on your 4 Ohm MLs, to find your preference. How loud you like your music will either make or break your success with these amps. Also, the degree that the electrolytics have degraded, over the past 20 or so years. The condition of those in the power supply and the coupling caps, greatly influence the performance. If you like to mod, these are very easy to upgrade and most excellent performers. Something of interest: (http://www.stereophile.com/tubepoweramps/cary_audio_design_slm-100_monoblock_power_amplifier/index.h...)
Best upgrade option might be the wife. ;-) That would allow you to try the most cost effective upgrade which would be to have your current amp near the speakers, run short, better quality speaker cables and then run longer interconnects (ideally balanced if the amp/preamp allow) to preamp. 
Seriously, if you can borrow some cables from a friend you might even try this out and see if it helps much before you decide about any major investments. Then blindfold the wife and beg her to listen to the improvements. 
FWIW, I'd say a fair price for your friends Cary amps would be 25% of MSRP if the current tubes have significant life remaining. If they need replacing, I'd then say split the cost of the tubes 50/50. The biggest downside is that since KT88s have been supplanted by KT120s and now KT150s, more modern amp designs let you take advantage of far superior sounding tubes, so they better be a great bargain or you are getting the short end of the deal. Cheers,
Spencer
Thank you guys for your input. I always thought if I had to make a choice it is better to have longer speaker wires than longer interconnects, of course within similar quality/price window. But that aside, do those of you who are familiar with the SLM-100 think an 18 year old unit will require some major upgrades or it will sound pretty good as is, assuming the tubes are about 6-8 years old and OEM quality? Do you guys also think there's a significant audible difference between 10' and 25' gauge 12 speaker wires? By the way, I upgraded from Adcom amp/preamp combo to the Vincent/NAD and the difference is honestly night and day. I think the Vincent amps are very under appreciated by most people. Bottom line is all other things being equal, I'm not sure if a pair of 18 year old Cary amps could sound as good as a year old hybrid Vincent.
...not a Cary fan......nor a Vincent one.   I agree with sbank (above).  Don't make a move until you can do it with a high degree of success. I've been chasing "The Absolute Sound" and have spent way too much for many years. 

Hi folks - Just wanted to post a quick update. Had a chat with my friend and he's looking to get $1,200 for the pair of his Cary SLM-100s. He'll include a pair of Virtual Dynamics power cords as well but I not sure what model. The Carys are the chrome plated model so they look real sharp. I'd say they are cosmetically 9/10. As said before, shipping is not an issue since I'll pick them up locally.

What do you guys think?  Also, do you folks think the sound quality will suffer dramatically of the amps are about 10' away from the speakers, using 12 gauge speaker wires?


Thanks in advance. 

Why not ask your friend to borrow the amps for a couple of day to see if they work in your system. 
On paper it's not a favorable match to your speakers which are 4 ohm and drop to 2 ohm in the treble which may sound a bit airless.  If the Cary has a dedicated 4 ohm tap, it might be worth a try.  The Cary's are really nice amps but would work better with a different, tube amp friendly speaker.  If you are married to ML's, a tube amp is not the best choice, at least spec wise.