Get good tubes. I use with NOS CBS-Hytron JAN/CHY 5962 tubes. Expensive but no brightness.
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I own the SLP-88 and it's overall a very good preamp. It's certainly not bright, at least with the stock tubes I use. It has a very full-sounding midrange and reasonable bass. Not the fastest, most detailed preamp, it sits somewhere in the middle in the spectrum of fast/detailed to syrupy/rich.
For jazz and female vocals this preamp is certainly above average. It also works well with chamber music and male vocalists. Guitars, cellos and pianos are particularly well reproduced. It's probably not the best choice for heavy metal, though not terrible, either.
It comes with a very attractive chassis with multiple inputs and 2 separate outputs (useful if you have a sub). And Cary is known for great service, a definite plus.
Good luck in your choice,
The Mc352 is one of the best SS amps I liked from Mcintosh and had good synergy with the Cary. I used the stock tubes and found it just a tad bright at higher volumes, dont know if I could even refer to it as bright but found it less linear than my Audio research ls25 mk1. This was just my opnion, enjoyed both preamps and maybe with a little tweaking with cables or tubes the Cary could have been toned. Both preamps easlily outperfomed the C46 Mcintosh preamp they replaced. Put a Joule LA100 on your wish list too, all 3 preamps are affordable and easy to resell here on the gon. Good luck!
I have the cary coupled with simaudio amplifiers driving alon v mk11 speakers. I am very pleased with the music reproduction. Variations in the quality of the music seems to me to be more a fuction of the quality of the recording rather than the genre of the music. You can always do better, but to my aging ear I am satisifed to the point that my upgrade search is sporadic and nominal.
I use a pair of NOS Tungsol 6sn7 tubes for my SLP-88 and coupled with SLM-100 tube amp monoblocks and a solid state Adcom GFA 5800 amp driving ML Aerius speakers.Tube for the panel (high/mids) and solid state for the lower(woofer).*****Biamping*****and the result is very musical.Very satisfied with the result.