ProAc Response 2: CJ CAV45, Cary SEI 300B, or Cary Rocket 88?


Looking at the amps listed in the title to pair with my newly acquired ProAc Response 2: CJ CAV45, Cary SEI 300B, or Cary Rocket 88

Looking for the best tone and most in-the-room presence possible. Also want tuneful/rhythmic bass vs depth/authority.

Any feedback from those who have heard any of these, especially with ProAc would be appreciated.

Thanks!

leahy

First of all, I think your short list is great... these are really outstanding choices. Any would be great choices. But I think, given the efficiency of the speakers I would go for the Conrad Johnson. All the choices you mention are known for the characteristics you speak. Efficiency points to the CJ.
 

I once owned Cary 300b signature mono block amps and Proac 2.5 speakers. Each component is wounder full, however you need to consider If the Cary SEI 300B is powerfull enough to drive your Proac response 2's to the volume levels you enjoy.  

Only one I have heard is the CAV 45.....it is a great sounding amp. Of those brands I like C-J the most....

Thanks for the replies so far. I currently have a schiit Freya+ and Red Wine Audio Sig 30.2. While this combination really sounds good, I'm comparing it to a setup I heard when the ProAcs were new - Cary monos 300B and Audible Illusions 3. Every track was magic - didn't break down by bass, mids, treble, etc. I was just totally engaged with the music, and I didn't need a lot of volume to get there.

I'm looking to get that same feeling back, but the CAV may get me there with some extra watts to spare!

More feedback is still welcome!

unless the room is pretty small or you like to listen quite softly, 300b is ruled out

cav 45 vs rocket88 a matter of taste, both are on the tubey, rich slow side, treble will be sweet, midrange will be luscious, but bass will be bloomy and little mushy

rocket 88 maybe a touch better in that regard, but cav45 may have better resolution in the treble and mids

Thanks 49 - room is 8X14, and I'm trying to find the best system for lower volume listening.

then sei-300b shd be fine

enjoy

Cary SEI-300B for sure from that group.

From JA Stereophile

"The Response Two is one easy speaker for an amplifier to drive, as can be seen from its plot of impedance magnitude and phase (fig.1), which only drops below 8 ohms in the lower midrange. The double hump in the bass is typical of a reflex design, the saddle between the two peaks indicating the port tuning of 47Hz. That the lower peak has a smaller magnitude than the upper one ties in with the rather overdamped alignment. This is due in part to the array of drinking straws in the port, something that has been a feature of Tyler-designed loudspeakers for well over a decade"

@leahy,

This certainly seems to validate your listening experience with these speakers driven by the 15 watt Cary Audio 300b SET mono blocks. This provided an as you described, a very engaging listening experience and each track was magic. Who wouldn’t want to duplicate that?

It the size of this room and the listening volume levels are similar to your listening space then this seems to be very doable. Two differences to consider,

1 Audible Illusions preamplifier rather than your Freya preamplifier.

2 Cary 300b mono blocks rather than the 300b integrated amplifier you’re considering. From what I gather they seem to use the same EI laminated core output and power transformers (Which is good). Power supply design is similar (If not identical). Different input and driver tubes. Mono blocks (6SL7) and integrated (6SN7).

How much of a sonic difference this makes, I don’t know (Could be rather minor).

How much did the Audible Illusions preamplifier contribute to the overall sound quality compared to what the Freya can do? All things considered I strongly believe that you can achieve that presentation you are seeking. A few details need to be further sorted out.

Based on your comments the 15 watt 300b was certainly sufficient driving the Proac Response 2 in that particular room where you heard them. Based on my direct listening experiences a well implemented 300b SET is superb at providing the tactile-papable presence,tone and rhythmic musical flow/pace you are after. +1 For the Cary Audio SEI 300b given the desired objectives. 👍

Charles

[@Leahy] When your ProAcs were new and you were originally comparing with "Cary 300B "monos" and a separate AI-3 preamp", well... thats a slighty different setup compared to the three amps you listed to pick from now. I bet that first system you heard sounded nice. You got bit by 300b mono tube amps and a very nice preamp. Not easy to forget :)

The good news is the P2s are 8ohms and while any of these amps you selected might do the trick at low listening levels, each will sound different in their own ways.

Hey, are you looking at integrated amps or separates? you’ve listed both types.

fyi, the Cary Rocket 88 is a straight amp, will need a preamp, and a good one to sound its best. What preamp to use there? The Cary SEI 300B and CJ CAV-45 are integrated units with built in preamp/controls; right? When you restated in the 2nd post that you want "authority", none of these amps will give real authority at low listening levels. The original separate mono 300Bs you heard, yes, maybe. If you can tolerate a little plush mush at low listening levels, all three of your listed amps will work and sound nice. Re-read @jjss49 's  description if it helps, similar to my thoughts about the result from each amp you listed. Best of luck.

 

 

 

For many years, I owned Response 2.5's which I drove with a Cary CAD-301SE amp.  This was a little-known power amp that they made for a while.  It used a larger chassis than the '300 integrated, but also had a pair of 300Bs.  I think Cary rated it at 14W a channel.  It drove the 2.5's to volumes well above any reasonable limit, and this in medium-sized rooms.  So the little Cary integrated is definitely the way to go.

 

 

Only you can understand what you will hear from these combinations. I’d suggest that if you have the means, or can maybe buy used or with a return policy, get two amps side by side at some point...

I’d suggest the 300b and the El34. Get them when you have a little time to spend with them. In the end you might pay (lose) $300 in shipping or flipping but you have to pay for experience- there is no way around that. The forum is the best alternative and probably the cheapest best way.

Good luck, the Proacs are great. I had the RD2 with a Luxman 550AX years ago and they had weight, were dynamic, and had great presence. That said FWIW I always gravitate back to tubes so not swaying you with that SS comment.

I also owned the RW 30.2 (with a different speaker) and it didn’t give me the brilliance or zest I was looking for. I think you are on the right track. Please post your follow up story.

Thanks for all of the latest thoughts. Decooney - to be more clear, "authority" is not what I need when it comes to bass. I’m looking for acoustic bass that will ebb, flow, and bounce, like it does in person. Basically, an amp that makes anyone in the room feel like getting their groove on, as opposed to equipment where you analyze the sound.

I know the easy answer is get the same components that made the magic back in the late-90s. My concern is with Audible Illusions service as the owner winds down his career. I’m hoping to get most of the Cary monos/AI with a simpler setup.

I’m pretty well set that I will bypass the Rocket 88 as that will require a high-gain preamp to do its thing, and the other two options will more than likely give me more of the "magic".

I have both an SEI and CAV45 in my sights, just waiting on a shipping quote from Canada and an offer made last night on the 45. Whichever one works out I’ll go with, and of course, I’ll probably end up with both here at some point.

I’ll follow up with some impressions once something new gets in the house. By the way, I’m still looking for the appropriate Target R2 stands. If you know of anyone who might have those with a desire to sell, send them my way!

@leahy I've owned a Rocket88 and think eliminating it from your list is a good idea. With Quad USA63s it lacked the transparency and natural timber that you'll get from the others you're considering. 

Though tough to find, one other you might consider is a Berning ZH270 OTL. The proacs are easier to drive and would be a great fit. I found OTLs like this bit better at frequency extremes than the 300B based amps, without sacrificing much in the mids. It does have a volume control built-in, but could also be used w/active pre if you ever decided to add one. Cheers,

Spencer 

Thanks Spencer - I have a CAV45 on the way, but I'll keep an eye out for the Berning too.

@leahy Nice, can't go wrong with that. Its the one I would have picked in your situation and with your particualr speakers. Nice little integrated amp and easy resale later if you choose to upgrade again down the road.    

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Proac usually requires quite a bit of power compared to an efficient speaker at 90db or higher. All the amps you have listed are great camps but they are single ended triode low power amplifiers and they need those 90db plus efficient speakers to shine. I had Cary audio 300b (my favorite set amp ever) monoblocks with Swan Allure speakers sounded amazing for a big full-range speaker with super low power. That system you heard those on that audible Illusions preamp is one of the best kind of like convergent audio technology just about 1/3 of the price the modulus 3A is one of my favorite preamps ever., as far as an amplifier I would recommend a music reference rm9 Mark 2 omg your jaw will drop on floor. My dad has owned brick-and-mortar audio shop in the same location for 42 years I'm only 36 years old but I have had the chance to play around with a lot of nice gear and what I recommended is not cheap but it's not super expensive but it's super amazing

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and experience. I had an RM9 Mk I some years ago, but I did not have a quality preamp paired with it. I'm sure the RM9 II with AI3 would be a great system. Along with the CAV45 on the way, which should be enough power for my small room and listening habits, I'm in negotiations for an M3B. If that comes my way, I'll be on the lookout for the MR amp too!

Charles - now that I'm close to a deal with the AI-M3B, I really want to source a pair of the CAD monos. It will be a lot of fun to audition a few integrateds against some quality separates. 

For anyone who cares, I'll post observations as I acquire different pieces.

Leahy:  Just to confirm what a lot of other responders have said....  I have enjoyed a pair of Cary 805 300B monoblocks for over a decade and I wouldn't swap them out for anything -- and I'm driving some pretty inefficient Cabasse speakers with them.  At 50wpc (as opposed to 15wpc for the integrated), I'm positive you'll be happy both short term and if you ever move the system into a larger room.

Also, I could have sworn I saw a pair of 805 mono's listed for sale here on Agon (or on AudioMart) recently.  Take a look around the usual sites.  You may be able to find a pair of monos for a rational price.

@leahy ... I’m sure the RM9 II with AI3 would be a great system...

 

Story: It is a fantastic combo. A really good friend who passed on a few years back had this setup as his very last system. He enjoyed it thoroughly. Same Roger RM MKII and Audible Ilusions Modulus 3 combo you noted, with specific MIT cables and upgraded CD player. Wow it sounded so much higher-end than its total cost.

Paired only with smaller Totem Model One Signature 87db sensitivity speakers on stands, No furniture in the room, just a small chair. Clock and refrigerator unplugged during early a.m listening sessions. Moved it to five diffeent rooms in the house too. He was over the top obsessed, and memorable listening it was. Sound was huge, deep, layered, textured and quite interesting. That little system bested many systems we heard in our area of colleagues and audio stores. We ran around comparing his setup to others for fun.

The Audio Engineering Society (AES) made their rounds back then and awarded him a 4th place award for his system with a nice writeup. There was a comment how it held its own to some systems at 4x the total cost. He managed to nail it with an amazing combo and was very proud of it. 

 

@leahy, 

No doubt that the Audible Illusions played a role in what you originally  heard. Curious as to how you find it compared to the Freya. The sonic difference between the the two preamplifiers could be greater than the Cary 300b mono block versus 300b integrated amplifier differences. 

Charles 

Hi Charles - I don't have the AI yet, but I just accepted a counteroffer to purchase an M3B. My plan is to find a pair of 300B Cary monos with the AI and compare with the CJ45. I'd really prefer a one-box setup, if the sound is close enough. I also think the extra power may be handy when I turn the dial up a bit.

@leahy a friend bought one of my former fully upgraded Cary strapped triode/ultralinear amps (el34s), and right afterwards he sent his other CJ  tube mono amps (6550s) and CJ mosfet ss amp out for full upgrades; selected a real expert master level tech.  Upgraded all caps, resistors, diodes, and more - same as the Cary units had. He just had to know if upgrades really made a difference in the units. Both the Cary units and CJ units were brought to an entirely different level.       

In all cases the fully upgraded preamps and amps won over one brand vs. the other. Another consideration path for your CJ45 if its not already upgraded. I'm a Cary owner myself, if you go 300B Cary's plan on higher sensitivy higher impedence speakers too in order to get the most out of the amps and pricey 300b tubes, fwiw.  Other fleawatt owners may chime in for other references if you go this route.       

@leahy ,

This is going to be an interesting direct comparison you  plan to do. 

1 Active tube preamplifier paired  with a 300b SET circuit  (Class A) DHT output tubes  vs

2 Integrated amplifier with a passive preamplifier section,  push-pull (Class A/B) circuit using pentode el34 output tubes. I have no doubt that you will hear distinct differences between these two. This will be fun and informative. 

Charles 

Agreed, I can't wait to start getting everything in the house!

 

Terrific! Looking forward to your listening impressions and commentary. 

Charles 

@leahy back in the early 90s when that speaker was made we sold a lot of our M-60 amplifiers for use on them- it was the most popular speaker used with that amp at the time. That amp made/makes 60 watts. Unless you are really serious about low level listening I’d look at something with a bit more power. But if its meant to be a smaller system in a smaller room (like a bedroom system) an SET using a 300b should be fine.

Thanks Ralph - I really appreciate that bit of history. I was unaware that the M-60 was so popular with the R2. 

You are on a fun "stop over" on the never ending journey...

I look forward to reading your thoughts on how well what you are wanting to hear materializes. I've had my eye on the SEI-300 for years, just haven't had the resources when I've had the interest, or when I've had the resources, the interest hasn't been there. 
 

I have a Cary SLI-50. This amp had a very short run back in the 90's that I have owned since new.  Not much info out there on this. EL-34, push pull 30w/channel integrated. (Kind of what you would end up with if the Cary SEI-300 and CJ CAV45 hooked up...)

And to follow up on what has already been mentioned above, doing a cap upgrade will 100% take it to the next level! I did a complete recap of mine with higher end caps, and it transformed the amp. Granted, the amp is 30 years old, and the electrolytics needed to be looked after, and I could have replaced the film caps with the same Solen caps it came with, but I'm very happy I went the other direction.

This is a "forever" amp for me. All in one solution that just sounds "right" to me. Other amps have come and gone, and that will continue, but this is here to stay. Guess it's my reference. Hopefully you will find the same enjoyment  with your CAV45. 

Perkri - thanks for sharing. That's something I really appreciate about most tube amps - regardless of age, you can bring them back to like-new or better with new caps/resistors. If someone is handy, they can do the maintenance themselves. Looks like I get to try out the 45 early next week, according to UPS. 

I'm also very interested in hearing what the AI M3B does compared to my Freya +. The AI should also arrive early next week. It's nice to have these distractions with all of the depressing news that is our current reality.

I'll have to look up your amp - I'm pretty sure I've never seen it.