I listened to the 303/200 and compared that to the ARC CD-3 several years ago. I didn't buy into the upsampling bit, I thought the Audio Research sounded better directly compared to the Cary. I lived with the Audio Research CD-3 for about a year and was very pleased - my first entry into a high end CD player.
Then I upgraded to the 47 Labs Flatfish/Progression, this was a very large step up. I'm now using the Flatfish feeding the Apogee Digital BigBen digital clock which feeds the Zanden Dac. I'm done with my digital front end - very pleased.
I had a friend over who owns the Burmeister 001 cd player, and he was very impressed with the idea of no upsampling.
A good source will be a major upgrade for you as you will soon find out. Don't under estimate a dac that chooses not to upsample, if done right, it is simply amazing.
I recently auditioned the 303-300 and the Musical Fidelity A5 at the same time (with Pathos TT int. and Audio Physic Tempos). Prefered the A5. It had more air and dimensionality and was just more coherent and musical. The Cary overemphasized the bass and had a less natural tonality. Tried SS & tube outputs with all the upsampling rates. It is a very good player but I found the A5 to be better at $1500 less.
A cd player is never a "good investment", especially if you buy one based on others opinions. All high-end machines have their own unique sound. I own the Cary and have owned ARC, Classe, Wadia, Naim, Rotel, Marantz and heard dozens of others. They all sound very different from one another. Go out and listen first is my advice.
Reb1208, of those players that you tried which, to your ears, was the most analog/warm? I recently tried the 303/200 in my system and was disappointed by how bright it was...
I think the 300 is a different animal from the 200. I much prefer the sound of the 300, not fully broken in, to the 200. Smoother up top and the option to switch between tube and ss ouput, as well as upsample at differing levels makes this one flexible player. YMMV, but to me this is an improvement on the Cary house sound, which I like.
I hope you don't mind me jumping in to answer your question. I've heard all of the players mentioned except the ARC, and found the Resolution Opus 21 to be warmer than any of them, with Naim a close second.
Just my two cents...and back to the Cary matter at hand.
I forgot that I also owned the DV-50----how could I forget???
Anyway, I find almost all cd players sound closed in on top. That is my main problem with them. The only recent cd players that I found to actually sound extended on top to the point of brightness are the new Marantz SA11 (owned that) and the Musical Fidelity A5. It is a false sence of openess, created by a roll off in bass response.
Now I don't find anything warm about analog playback. So I don't equate warm sounding digital to analog. No digital in my experience routinely sounds as open as analog...case closed.
The ARC CD3MK2 is by far the "warmest-darkest-most closed in", the "worst" for me- so there you go.. Naim is also "warw" but has an electronic signature.
The Cary 303/300 is definitely not bright. It has edge definition though, that gives off ambient cues similiar to analog playback. But it still is not open on top like analog. Years ago I heard an ElectroCompaniet at a dealer. I'd say the Cary has a similiar but much more refined sound . The Cary is full bodied, powerful bass, dynamic, large soundstage, sweetly burnished highs. A player that is easy to listen too but not to the point of being too warm and dark.
Hi Reb 1208,
I am interested in your comments and am looking for a new CD player. I hate warm and dark and not extended in the treble.
Could you recommend a few players from your experience that are the opposite of warm and dark i.e. open, clear, fast and extended?
I'd appreciate it!
I heard the Lector Tube player at the show last year and that certainly had extended highs. So did the modified Sony- don't know which one it was. But I thought the bass was tubby on the Lector. The Meridian GO-8 to my ears sounded more extended on top than the Cary. But that I thought sounded mechanical. Probably the Krell SACD Standard is what you should take a listen to. Wide open bandwith top and bottom with low levels of coloration.
wound up getting the cary couldn't be happer the tube output is a bit soft but that is tubes and it does make voices more natural. Glad I can choose between the two.
I went to a delear to audition 3 cd players: The Musical Fidelity A5, Ayre CX7e and the Cary 303/300. I was listenining thru the Vandersteen5A and Cary momo block amps. We first started with the MF and it was very close compared to the tubed output of the Cary. The Cary seemed to be fuller with a bit more meat on the bone. So now we wanted to compare the Cary with the Ayre (the player that I really was looking to buy). Alas the Ayre quit working almost immediately.I then recalled that Sue Kroft went thru three Ayres before she finished her review. The dealer told me that one of his customers had to send his Ayre he had sold a few weeks ago for repair. The dealers Ayre preamp (or amp, I cannot recall) were also back for repairs. I also met Dennis Had the president of Cary and after a brief discussion bought the Cary. Two days in my system the Cary quit. Dennis was extremley helpful and shipped me a replacement the next day. Great guy.Now for the sound of the Cary. First and foremost, switching from the tubed output to the solid state increases the output which always leads to some perception of greater highs.In this case it appears that the player does, compared to the tube output,accentuate the highs and makes it feel that there is more detail.Also the lead vocalist moves a little forward in the sound stage The tube output deepens the stage with a mellow sound. I prefer the solid state output, which makes me wonder why I paid more for the tube output, My system has a SAS Audio 10A (great tube pre amp), Quick Silver V4 Mono Blocks, Quad 988 speakers. A very revealing system. I am going to keep the Cary for the time being, although I am not sure.
Can any 303/300 owners give some input on how the unit sounds direct to amp vs. through a pre? I currently own a 303/200 that I prefer running through an ARC LS-16 MkII, but wouldn't be opposed to going direct if it sounds great. Also, have you done any tube rolling, and if so, what did you find?
I have the feeling you guys who allude to analog have grown accustomed to a particular form of distortion. Using a needle to track waves in vinyl seems archaic. Distortions induced by digital signal processing would seem to pale in comparison. If a microphone is used during recording, the acoutical signal is transduced to an electrical stream. I'm surprised you guys don't object to that intervention, and insist on a cutting lathe driven directly by acoustics. Then you could talk about how open and airy that sounds compared to recordings in which an electrical signal was used. You could sit around with your ear glued to acoustic trumpets -- maybe even two platters and trumpets for stereo -- and exclaim at the purity of sound. So open, so airy, so warm.
Dont hold back Don, tell us how you really feel! =)
I better sell all of my vinyl, according to db it really sucks. Digital rules! NOT!
Tele ECC82 smooth plate - lots of air, very clean, transparent, lots of bloom, very liquid sound, strong sense of palpable image. Nice tall soundstage - the instruments have great bloom.
RCA clear top 12AU7 - very musical and dimensional, but not my favorite in the 303-300
Siemens 1960's ECC82 (called chrome plates, but I think it may be nickel) - shiny plates, very palpable, very textured mid-range, nice holographic soundstage and deep taut bass
Tele ECC802S - my overall favorite, it just does everything right, has the tallest, widest soundstage. All sound and ambient cues just fall in place. The music flows, simply flows.
Valvo E80CC - very liquid bass, mid-bass and mid-range, sounds a bit rolled off from the mids up
Amperex PQ 6085 (E80CC) - wow, these have the nice bass, mids and liquid sound and a nice high end, lacks a little of the soundstaging of the Tele ECC802S, but still very very nice
RT (RadioTechnique French govt/military 1960s) 12AU7 - lots of air, lots of subtle ambient cues, very good sound, these are really nice too
Tube rolling is a must to get the best performance from this player.
Also, I recommend using the balanced outputs if you can.
And yes, bypassing the preamp and driving the amps directly results in a more transparent sound, more immediate/palpable.
Oldvinyl - thanks very much for the input. I'm expecting delivery of my Cary 303/300 shortly and will be trying a few of the tubes you suggested.