I have not had any experience with PS Audio components other than their Power Plants. However, I do own Cary products and can vouch for their quality and sound. I think you would be very happy with them. If you can swing it you may want to see if you can find a good deal on a used Rocket 88 (there are a couple on AGon right now) or take a look at Cary's sister company Audio Electronic Supply. These products are excellent values for the money. On the pre-amp side, if you can find an SLP-88 or SLP-94 you may want to consider them.
Wow, you're looking at a pretty big difference in types of gear. Why did you settle on the PS Audio, and the Cary gear?
Ultimately I'd say the two are in a similar range of products, but don't have a lot in common. My experience with the PS Audio is in a poor room with lots of folks milling around so I don't know how much validity my comments would have, but given the two main choices and assuming you cannot audition them in your room, I would prefer the Cary's. Do they have an auto bias feature, or are you going to have to learn the little ins and outs of tube gear?
I must say before getting too far that I am not a fan of digital amps, so take that into consideration when weighing my comments.
I don't think you will be making a bad choice regardless of which two you choose, but you will have a bunch of people coming along and recommending thier favorite gear which you hadn't even considered, or have already decided against. Good luck, try to stay sane throughout the process.
Thanks Nrchy and Clio,
I know very little about tube gear other than the rave reviews this equipment gets on Audiogon. I am considering the tube products because the JmLabs are a tad bright and I wanted to match them with warmer components. In addition, the speakers are effiecient and will not need a great deal of power to drive them.
The Cary's you're looking at are pretty low maintenance. They would also be a good intro to tube gear without a large investment. If you move up to a Rocket and SLP then you really are making a committment (albeit at still a small investment) to tubes that should be done with conviction. Tubes are not for everyone. Your thoughts on mellowing out the JmLabs is a good one, but I'm sure there is a lot of equipment out there that will work well with them - ss and tube.
I am a bit biased towards Cary, but in your price range you may also want to consider Anthem, Jolida, Golden Tube, and perhaps some of the Chinese manufacturers that will provide more bang for the buck at perhaps the expense of reliability.
I dont have any experience with ps audio,but i can tell you that cary make great gears for the money.I would take clio09 advice on the slp 88/94 pre over the 308..I am currently using cary 2a3 with slp98 and it s a match made in heaven..good luck with your system..
I have heard Cary, Bryston and Proceed. While they are good, I think you can do better new and on Audiogon for the money. You might want to consider an Ayre amp. For soundstage and air I don't think you can beat a V-3 amp for $1000-1200 used. If you can afford it, Ayre's new stuff is a huge step up though. I believe a simple A-B test with an Ayre amp vs any of the equipment you listed will show Ayre's strengths. I have also heard many pre/pros. Arcam and Anthem stood out over Cary and Bryston in my system.
What are your plans for interconnects, speaker wire, source, ect? Cary products have served me well. I have not had one reliability problem and the tubes last forever. Have you considered an integrated amp like the SLI80? This would save you the price of one set of interconnects and the amp gets rave reviews on Agon. IMO, it will take a complete package to get the sound you want. The front end affects the final result. Take your time and listen to all you can before you take the plunge.
I have owned both. 2 HCA2s & 1 PCA2 the PCA2 is a great preamp for the $$ I still have it. The amp is just ok I had to tried it twice to figure that out. As for Cary the rocket 88 is pretty good had one for 2 years. If you can swing it a ARC 150.2 is a Great amp for $$. I have a ARC 150M & it is world class. It is the Best SS amp I have had the plesure of owning.
I started out with Chorus floorstanders and then upgraded to Cobalt 816s a few years later. Very happy with them, and of course the Electras sound even better. If you like the Chorus then you might want to consider the Cobalts when you eventually upgrade. I'm a big fan of the JMLab sound.
Anyhow, as for what electronics to use, I'd probably favor the Cary even though I haven't heard it. Since the JMLabs are on the lean side they pair very well with tube gear in my experience. I'm using a Conrad Johnson PV-10B pre with a B&K ST125.2 amp and I'm very pleased with the results. At about $500-600 used, I'd consider the PV-10B a bargain and definitely a very good match for your speakers.
Just to throw it out there, the Audio Refinement integrated amp sounds great with the Chorus and Cobalt. Its amazingly smooth for solid state and even though its only 50 watts it will drive the speakers very, very loud. It's a real giant killer. You can get it used for around $500. I don't know what your budget is, but buying an Audio Refinement integrated and then putting the rest of the money into a cdp or saving it for an eventual speaker upgrade could be something to consider.
I have a Rocket which I really like. I agree Arcam is great, but it's solid state - Cary makes a CD/DAC that is twice the price and probably worth it if you aren't a vinyl guy, plus it's got 12AX7's and capacitors on the output. But you could get a Bel Canto DAC2 for $1200. or the DAC1 for about $500. on 'gon that would be (about) as good. I also like the fact that Cary amps/pre's are point to point, no circuit boards at all. Big difference to the ears, much more linear sounding, and has to be done right. Otherwise you get large variances between individual pieces that should be the same. The Rocket can be had for about a thousand bucks here on the 'gon if you don't mind rolling tubes and upgrading capacitors as needed, and $1000. is hard to beat. I agree the SLI-80 is a good choice as well especially if you might run an outboard DAC with more than one input on it, or a multi-in step-up like an EAR MC3 or 4, since the SLI-80 only has 3 inputs. However, you do get a headphone jack and a remote. Also you get the extra reach of the KT88's. If you don't care about KT88 beefy-ness and if you're worried about bright - what about a Manley Stingray? It has tiny runs of wire and bulletproof EL34's. Both the Manley and the Cary would mate well with almost any speaker. If $2200.-$2400. is too steep, Wright Sound makes great stuff, and if you suddenly get rich you could have two or three different amps using the George Wright stuff that wouldn't look as snazzy but would be quality.
Another vote for Cary Audio ANYTHING. I use all Cary gear for my Home Theater electronics which sounded so good with music that became my full time 2 channel rig as well.
Shinanole,what kind of music do you listen to?