Cary SLP 03

I noticed that this pre had a price drop by about 1k. I've found two rather luke warm reviews, so I want to get some feedback from actual owners on its performance. How does it compare to other pre's in its price range, like the Rogue gear, for example.

Does it responde well to tube rolling, and in your opinion, is it a much better value at its current price retail price of $1995.

Cary is trying to make the SLP 03 a price leader at it's new lower price point. At $2k this is fantastic deal for both the SLP 03's feature set and superb build quality.

The issue is that the SLP 03 is not very lush it is very clean.

I have one which I do like and I think for its current price is a superb value, I have heard that when tube rolled it really comes alive, I am still waiting to hear myself which tubes to change to which will add a bit more warmth and body to the preamps presentation.

Dealer disclosure
Cary Dealer Disclosure---

As stated above by Audiooracle, the SLP03 at it's current price of $1995 is a fantastic deal.

I've had several customers purchase them and swap in Mullards. They thought that there was a fairly good increase in overall sound quality with these over the stock tubes.
How would the sound of the SLP 03 compare to a CJ ET-3?

Has anyone heard both to compare? Both are at similar

price points.
I have this pre in combination with the new Cary SA 200.2 power amp. I have not tried the pre with other amps, but in combo with the Cary it is stellar. I was really not all that interested in it as it had luke warm reviews and was even beat up a litte bit on the forums. I was looking at integrateds or even more expensive seperates but John at Audio Connection said these two compenants work great toghether so I took his advice and gave them a try. I'm glad I did. Put a Kimber XLR between them and I tube rolled the SLP 03. It responded very well with a live dynmaic and airy sound with the VSA Unifield 3 speakers. The new remote is also excellent. At it's current price it is a great deal for a pre, no doubt about it. I highly suggest pairing it with the SA 200.2. The synergy is great.
I previously owned the SLP 05 not the 03. The output impedance of the 03 is stated to be 500 ohms. There's the possibility that the output impedance could be higher in the lower frequencies. I'd be considering the output impedance of the 03 and the input impedance of the amp I use to avoid roll-off at the frequency extremes.
Thanks for the responses. Ktamura, you pose an interesting question. I've heard the ET-3 and it sounds great. I have not heard the Cary, however.

At 500 ohms, I dont think the matching should be an issue, but how much higher can the impedance go?
I was a bit disappointed with the SLP-03 which I owned for some time. Not so the SLP-05 which I eventually replaced it with.
I really enjoy mine and haven't wanted for anything else since. It offers a great sound stage and channel separation. Plenty of inputs including a cinema bypass. I havent changed the stock tubes yet.
Forgot to mention above that the SLP03 received a 2012 Editors Choice award from The Absolute Sound. Check out the March 2012 issue.
Hi all ! Just last week I bought a new SLP-05 to replace my SLP-03 . I never rolled tubes in the 03 as I thought it sounded OK . Well....then the SLP-05 showed up...freeking nuts ! The 05 is much better than the 03 in every way . I even made a comment to my buddy the 03 does not perform like a $3000 preamp . Therefore IMHO I could not recommend spending more than $1000 for this piece . Sometimes its hard to tell what is good and what is bad w/o changing it .
Bradluke0 the SLP 05 should be much better than the SLP 03 in every way. The 05 has been the top of the Cary preamp line for years and retails for more than twice the cost of the 03. The performance of the 05 which retails for $8500 should be incomparable to the 03 which retails for $3100. Not much good said about the 03 on the net however, so it's likely you're right that it's not even worth the sale price.
I would get the 05, but I can't stand not having input select on the remote. If Cary comes out with a new pre with a remote that has input select that can perform like the 05 then I would be in for that.
Hi all ! Yes , I agree on all points . I was trying to convey that sometimes we dont know how bad or how good something is until we substitute something else in the system . Not trying to compare the two really , just dont think the 03 is worth alot and the 05 was worth every penny .
I also bought an 05 after auditioning an 03. The 03 wasn't offensive, just wasn't impressive though. I wouldn't call the 05 a lush preamp either.
I agree with Mikey8811. The SLP-05 is not a lush pre-amp, at least not with the stock tubes, which I actually prefer to keep in place.
Would anyone consider the 03 "lush." I would consider the CJ ET-3 on the lush side of things, and that is what I'm looking for in order to tone down the treble on some recordings.
Hawk28. You can reach your goal with tube rolling. I just put some Mullards in this week and yes it is a more lush sound.
Thanks for the info, Kclone. How do you like the sound with the Mullards? Do you prefer your sound on the warm, lush side, or do you like more detail?

A general question to all, and not to hijack my own threat, but is it an oxymoron to want a good measure of detail and accuracy, while still wanting the sound to be warm and/or lush?
We run a set of the 12 AU7 Tesla tubes with the Cary SLP03
Cary 200.2 superb combination with the Vandersteen 2CE Sig IIs and 3A Sig IIs system has great extension and clarity.
Hawk28, yes, you shouldn't have to settle for just one or the other. You can have a warmer lush sound with still good extension, detail and clarity. If you have a dry cold harsh sound, something is wrong in your chain unless of course you like that sound.

I like the Mullards a lot actually. I have also used the Mazda 12 AU7 from Upscale Audio and they provide a lot of top end sparkle. It depends on which speakers I have rotated in the system on which tubes I like best. The Mullards warmer sounding.

Do you happen to live in Iowa by chance? Didn't know if "Hawk" was an Iowa Hawkeye reference?
KClone, the sound isn't harsh, but on some recordings the highs get a little bright. A tube pre should take care of that, in my estimation.

No, I don't live in Iowa. Hawk is an old nickname I picked up in my football playing days. :)
You can't have it all guys. If you want tubes to give a warmer, lush, dimensional sound there will be a price to pay in terms of dynamics.
Upon further thought, Kiwi is right. I guess I try and get the best of both worlds with a tubbed pre and solid state amp. Of course there is a lot of variables in this hobby so nothing is really absolute.

Hawk28, good know you are not a hawkeye fan from Iowa. I'm a Cyclone fan!! Go State! :)

As far as harsh recordings, yes tubes can help, but so can speakers and cables ect... I have a lot of pop and rock and yes a lot of them can be bright or harsh. My Fritz Carbon 7s tame the harshness for the most part.
The SS/tube combo is what I seek for the same reasons as you, Kclone. Get the strengths from both types of amplication.

I would prefer to get the tube pre in my system before I start messing around with switching cables in and out.

Cyclone fan, huh? You guys had a big win against Okla State last season and caused a bit of a ruckus in the BCS standings! Good for you!
How does the SLP 98 and 98F1 fit into this discussion? How does it compare to the 03 and 05?
How does the SLP 98 and 98F1 fit into this discussion? How does it compare to the 03 and 05?
SLP98 or 98 F1 does not compare well against the 05. Never heard the 03.
Cary SLP-03 pre-amp is a wonderful pre-amp and sounds very musical! That is the word you need to know, very musical. Differences between tubes can be easily heard through the SLP 03 because it is sensitive enough to reveal that difference; that is a big plus! It is well designed and constructed with a serious power supply. The unit weighs 25 Lbs. For me it replaced an ARC 25 MKII (5500 dollars) and is more musical sounding than the ARC. The ARC weighs a lot less. The Cary needs a good platform along with good footers. Hook up the very best cables that you can afford, Power Cable & Interconnects. It is a balanced component, so to get the very best out of it, it should be used with a balanced amplifier! Synergy is a must in audio !!!!  One more tweak is required; it needs a VPI Brick on top where the transformers are! Happy listening. With good speakers and some tube rolling, you should be in heaven.