Reliability of Cary Audio Products

I'm considering adding a second (all tube) system for my home office. Amongst the integrated amps that are being considered is the Cary SLI 80. A friend, who is also a long term retailer of audio products, suggested that Cary has a poor reliability record. He hasn't sold Cary for a long while, and from what I've read on Audiogon, he may be out of touch with Cary products. Comments from Cary owners would be appreciated.

I would disagree. I've owned Cary amps and cd players and I've never had a moment of trouble with any piece of equipment. I would take the comments of any former Cary dealer with a large grain of salt, who knows what axe they may have to grind. I think you'd be thrilled with Cary gear for the office or anywhere else. Good luck!
I've owned 3 different Cary products. 2 never malfunctioned at all. My SLAM-100 monoblocks blew a ton of fuses at which point the dealer changed a resistor or something (for free). A capacitor went after a few years, at which point I upgraded to the previously unavailable copper film caps (nice improvement!). The dealer did that upgrade for pretty cheap. Since then, no malfunctions except the rare blown fuse. And these are on at least 4 - 5 hours a day, sometimes way more. I guess I'd say that if you buy from a dealer you can expect very responsive customer service should it be necessary. I don't know what people's experience is dealing directly with Cary (if they bought used for example).
You'd think that after all these years Dennis Had probably knows how to design tube equipment! If their stuff was that unreliable - and I've heard the charge too - they wouldn't still be around. IMHO.
I too know a former Cary dealer who dropped their line because of reliability issues. However, it sounds like Cary may have corrected a lot of these problems recently.
I have a Cary V12-R with the oil cap upgrade and I have had no issues what so ever! The amp is fantastic.
I have owned a number of Cary products (new and used) since 1996. I have never had a problem requiring service with any of them. Not even a blown fuse.
i own a few cary amps and pre-amp..never have any problem.
I've owned two Cary cd players and the Cary SLI-80 for some time now. I have not had reliability problems, and my research on the net prior to making the purchases did not reveal a pattern of reliability problems.
I had an issue with a bad relay in a SLP-88. However, Cary's turnaround time on fixing the issue was less than 2 weeks, including me shipping it there, and them shipping it back to me. That's pretty good service IMO.
I have owned the amps, and would say the preamps should be pretty reliable as with any tube company mostly hard wired passive components, however I guess CD players are of a different animal and would probably stay away from those.. but the amps I had the only thing ever to go wrong is they burnt out the LED Resistor for some reason and they aknowledge this problem in a lot of their units, but it had nothing to do with sound at all.
I've owned 2 Cary CD players & never had a problem with either of them over a 5 year period. Also owned a Cary tube preamp in the past & currently a SLI-80 w/nary a problem w/either unit. I would not buy a component that was tough to access service-no matter how good it is. That's certainly not the case w/Cary if you ever need them.
i own a pair of cary slm-200 monos. they were built almost 10 years ago and they are still running fine. i'll probably ship them back to cary next year to have a tech upgrade to jensen caps and give a complete check up. only problem i've ever had was blown fuses due to bad tubes which isn't the cary's fault anyways. i bought my amps used from upscale audio and dennis had has always been cordial and honest with me when i've needed advice even though he knows i purchased the amps used.
I think whatever feedback you get here will be close to worthless. The satisfied owners who read this and have had no problems will defend their choices and tell you they are very reliable. Those who had problems and are disgruntled will say they aren't. In any case, the number of owners who answer will be such a small portion of Cary's install base that it will be statically insignificant therefore the results of your poll will be meaningless.

Dealers would have a better idea, but current dealers would never tell you they are unreliable even if they are, and former dealers are more likely to tell you that they are unreliable even if they aren't.

Ask Cary; they know. See what they have to say :>)
Herman....insofar as your analysis is true, it would have to apply to your own comments, thus making them "close to worthless" (to use your own words). Only a very small number of actual audiophiles will reply to any given post, including the Cary post, therefore......
I did have some problems with a Cary unit. Multiple tube failures. Tube supplier said it was bad tubes, replaced some but not others. Had the unit inspected by Cary prior to selling it. They found nothing amiss. Other than the tube drop outs the unit performed well. I use Accuphase SS stuff now. No tubes....
My Cary amps and preamp have always functioned flawlessly and sounded great; the amps are now almost 10 years old.
4+ years with a Cary preamp and never a problem. (Your mileage may vary)
Tarasando, I'm sorry, I don't follow your logic. Either my point was valid or it is not. Either getting a response on reliability from <20 people about a product that has sold in the multi thousands will help to determine the overall reliability or it will not. I say not.

I do see your point about most posts. Does A sound better than B, Is X a better match for my Y than Z. These do not have a definitive answer. HOWEVER, this post does have a definitive answer. Either Cary products on average are reliable or they are not. The problem is we are never going to get to the answer in this thread. The only way to get the answer is to poll a statistically significant portion of Cary owners.

We're not talking about opinions here. Either Cary products are reliable or they are not. If my logic is valid then the responses to this post will do nothing to determine if the products are reliable.

I agree with your input, as far as it goes. However, conducting a systematic random sample of Cary users would be very difficult.

As with any potential purchase, I try to gather as much information as possible and weigh the reliability and validity of the information sources. I like the sound of the SLI-80, but when I was told by a somewhat biased friend that Cary had reliability problems, I wanted to gather additional information. One of the difficulties of this hobby, from a cynical perspective, is that many dealers, distributors, and manufactures have a self interested point of view and do not provide trustworthy information. Many end users have a narrow perspective regarding function and form - either a produce works well or it doesn't, and either it meets a subjective ideal or it doesn't. End users are not usually aware of the percentage of product failures. The end result of this is that there is not any way to find good information.

However non-statistical a thread of this nature may be, it does pull together a general feel for a product which I find useful. From what I can glean from the few responses is that the Cary service has been good. This is a plus! Also, out of the 17 responses (not counting the 2 by Herman and one by Tarsando), it appears that most people who responded have not had problems with Cary equipment, some over a long period of time. This is also a plus. One person did have some problems with tubes and sold the amp. Not all of these responses have been about the SLI 80, which narrows the utility a bit. I am a believer in the human capacity to complain, and so few moans (thus far) is, again, a plus for Cary.

Thanks to all who have responded so far.


I have had great experiences with my Cary products. My first Cary products were a used pair of SLM-100's bought from a Cary dealer. When I auditioned the amps, one was blowing fuses. The dealer selling the amps sent both amps back to Cary for service and inspection. After that, I used them for 3 or 4 years with no problems, only replacing the KT-88 tubes once.

I upgraded from the SLM-100's to a used pair of 805C's sold on Audiogon. I have had the 805C's for about 5 years now with no problems whatsoever. I have replaced all the tubes, but only to improve sound, not because they were worn. The people at Cary are always very helpful with their customers whether the products were bought new or used. I have called them seeking advice on everything from the best tubes to associated equipment matching.

With all the good things that I have read about the SLI-80, it's hard to see how you could go wrong.

I purchased the 303/200 CD player, less than a year old here on Audiogon. Unit had a motherboard problem and was returned to Cary for service (still under warrenty).
Been looking at the ad's here for another Cary CD player and noticed approx 10% mention a trip to Cary for service.
My conclusion is they have some minor troubles in the CD player line, not enough to scare me off tho.
I have an SLI50 purchased new in 1996 and have had to replace the power switch (it failed stuck on, wouldn't turn off)and the selector switch that became noisy. I purchased the parts from Cary and performed the repair myself. The switches are on the cheapo side, other than that it has been a very reliable and excellent sounding integrated as well.
I purchased a Rocket via audiogon a year ago - dead tubes, bad fuses, no mA plug. Took a month to sort it out - weird hazy sound, tube swapping inconclusive - finally took it to a local shop and tested all the tubes. This was after a dead reading on the mA scale on a meter (after I bought a plug from Cary). Bad inputs (EL34) and inverters (6922), one output also shot (KT88). Fuses shot, but still looked ok when held up to the light. Changed the two out, plus bought tubes. Much better. And no problems since. Cary was also very helpful through the mess, even though their site says they don't help people who buy used. Easy to work on, and an interesting experience that made me feel more competent, not less like when you go to an audio store with dead equipment. For me it was like the first time you fix your car yourself. It wasn't actually difficult - the amp itself is pretty bomb proof. I suspect that these sorts of stories though are what has given tubes a bad name and one they have had to get out from under with audio mag reviewers. Now if someone would just do the same about the percieved wattage issue...
My Cary SLI-80 Signature has been spot on for years now. No issues and I love the amplifier. I owned a Cary 308 for about 6 months but upgraded. No issues during my ownership. I have several friends with Cary Amps (SEI and a SLI-50) who have had ZERO issues.

My friend who is a audio technician works on cary stuff I would never buy one. One of the intrgrated amps (I don't rember what one) he was working was self destructing due to the fact the wire gauge was way to small & some other design trouble.He told the guy the unit was not worth fixing & if he wanted it fixed to send it back to Cary. If you open one & look at it, it looks like a big mess of wire, not a neat job at all lots of IC's too. This may not be true to all of there stuff Im shur there is many happy Cary owners out there.
Problems with a Cary amp some years ago, output tube failures and bias resistor failures. I had some service issues as well. Hopefully they've improved since then.
I bought a used Cary SLI-80 here on Audiogon about a year ago. I've had a 308T cd player for about 6 mos. I've used both pretty much daily with zero problems, plus they sound great!
Krellm7...Have YOU looked inside a Cary?

I just purchased the 303/300 (3 months ago) after owning the /200, both trouble free...obviously the /300 is an infant.

The inside of both chasises is a work of art, beautifully laid looks as though EXTRA care as gone in to the "guts" of their gear.

Cary is also homegrown...made in the USA. That still means something to me...and their customer service is excellent with the ability, if you need repairs, to ship the product and get it fixed domestically.*

That said, I've never had an issue with Cary products.


I DO own many foreign products and enjoy them...including sound gear...B&W, Denon, Mitsubishi, and I'm not bashing overseas products...just happy to support an excellent American company.
Had my AES Sixpacs and AE-3 DJH for 2 years now, and have put on a fair number of hours on both pieces. No problems at all.
"If you open one & look at it, it looks like a big mess of wire"

well, duh! their amps are point to point wired. no circuit boards anywhere inside my cary amps. after living with point to point wired cary amps, a point to point wired supratek preamp, and a minimalist designed 47 labs souce, i understand what all the fuss is about when it comes to circuit design and implementation of short signal paths.
Ok - I could complain about a radio shack choke in my Rocket - but let's be honest - all chokes suck. All chokes should be easily replaceable in a couple of hours, because eventually they all fail.

"A mess of wire and not worth working on" though to me equals someone who is not familiar with tubes or point to point wiring philosophies and is NOT someone you want working on your three thousand dollar amp. Not seeing green boards and then saying "what a mess" is a sure sign you have the wrong technician. Most amps use smaller guage wire than you might think (most speakers use larger guage 18/16/14 and bigger caps) - usually 19 or 22amg - the Cary's use top o' the line 22amg Kimber and that's about $8. a foot (versus maybe I dunno $.20?), plus ceramic tube sockets and Kimber caps to start with.

A bad resistor is a classic story but not a bad one, and considering there are only about two dozen (high quality) ones in the whole amp, if you have an eletrical meter, which you should, just like it says in the manual, even if you are slow it can't take you more than half an hour to check all of them, and its almost always the one at the input tubes. It's a well known engineers very old way of protecting equipment: a resistor designed to fail that shuts down the amp during a power surge even when the fuses don't pop.
Kgturner nailed it. Some people just don't realize that the best of breed configuration of internal connections is point to point. To the untrained eye, colored circuit boards are awful impressive. Not to mention cheaper to manufacture and assemble. Well said..

My Cinema 11 has several problems with it's basic operation and it's only 2 years old. I know something about electronics. I've sold electronics and installed "high-end" home theater systems. I'm a 45 year old guy w/ a degree. Cary has treated me like I just fell of the turnip truck.

The people at the Cary service center are nice but have flat-out failed to recognize the problems with the C11. Denial? It's a lemon people.

I sent the unit back to them and they ignored the problems and sent it back to me saying it tested fine and I needed to check for ground loops.

Ground loops don't cause the volume control knob to fail, the remote to fail, popping noises when switching between inputs, and the unit strangely switching into 5.1 mode when removing your headphone jack. The service tech actually suggested I open the unit up and fix the volume control pot myself. It's under warranty!

I will not buy another Cary product. And I would recommend you stay away from the C11. The bugs may have been addressed with the C11a - I really don't know. Not going to chance it.
Ok, so the comment is from 5 years ago but it still deserves to be bashed

but let's be honest - all chokes suck.

A choke is nothing but a coil of wire wrapped around a core. They are one of the basic building blocks of passive electronic circuits. The choke provides inductance and the other 2 are resistance and capacitance.

Claiming they all suck is to be perfectly blunt....ridiculous.

I have mostly cary products and have not had any issues, not to discount your issue by the way.
I owned a Cary Cinema 6 AV Processor and i was dissapointed with the digital playback. Very poor. It seems like they have been making improvements on dvd players and ulti-channel power amps.
My Cary experience over many years is rock solid. No problems. 3 cd players and Cary SLI-80.
I recently purchased an SLP3 and a pair of Sixpacs from the Cary dealer in Oman. Fuses have blown regularly. The amp has been to the dealer a number of times for repair. Now a capacitor is on the blink, and a replacement has not been received for almost a month. Cary has been polite, but my equipment has sat in the dealer's workshop for most of the time since the purchase. I have asked for the Sixpacs to be replaced, but I have been informed that they have been discontinued. The dealer has given me a Superamp in the interim, but that is not what I paid for. I have not listened to music to my satisfaction since I purchased the Cary products. My personal experience is at odds with most of the comments here. Reliability issues remain.
Here is my feedback (all Cary system here).

Cary CD306: problems with the CD tray. Would get intermittently stuck, or worse, "eat" some discs (i.e. tray would eject leaving the disc stuck in the transport). Fixed under warranty 3 years ago. Never recurred since.

Cary SLP-05 preamp: Bought from dealer in Australia (240V). Multiple problems with blown fuses and dead indicator lights. Discovered that resistor specified by Cary is good for 220V. Replaced under warranty. Preamp works flawlessly, but indicator lights keep blowing. Have given up replacing indicator lights.

Cary CAD-805AE: 2 years of flawless, faithful service before being replaced by CAD-211AE.

Cary CAD-211AE: Flawless service to date.
Some years back, my local Cary dealer (Upscale Audio) acknowledged reliability issues with some of the Cary CD and/or SACD players. I don't recall him ever mentioning any issues with their electronics. I've had 300B monos for almost a decade and 805 monos for a few years less than that and neither has ever so much as burped. Just very reliable IME.

One design issue might concern you, though. Those elegant toggle switches that Cary uses are somewhat fragile and putting them on the lower back panel (RCA vs XLR switching, IIRC) of the 9 billion pound 805 amp wasn't the wisest choice. Very easy to snap 'em right off when uncrating.

So out of 39 responses, 15 report no issues. 38% reliability based on this very unscientific pole. This is how Consumer Reports does reliability reports on Automobiles. They base their data on reader poles. This is useless data. The only valid data is generally collected by the manufacturers themselves or through some larger, high volume dealers. They are not likely to share their data unless it is really good news. My opinion is: people that have had issues tend to be more vocal. High end audiophile components tend to be low volume, some manual fabrication and manual assembly. That leads to poorer reliability as compared to high volume, automated assembly processes. How many 'goners here have had to send their expensive Swiss watches in for repair one or more times, for example? Product performance and a friendly, responsive Service department are the key factors to consider when buying. We don't like to think our $$$ stuff has built-in flaws, but that is the reality sometimes. Going after top end performance requires some patience at times.
Tonywinsc, point taken re expectations from expensive equipment. However, as you said, the response of the service department is crucial. My monoblocs have been sitting at the dealer's workshop since the second week of November 2010 because parts have not been received from Cary. It takes 4 days to receive stuff from the US sent to my country by FedEx/DHL. Cary knows I have been having problems with these amps. They could have used the courier services mentioned, rather than cumbersome US mail. Commitment to customer satisfaction, cliched though the phrase might be, distinguishes a reliable company from one that is not.
"This is useless data. The only valid data is generally collected by the manufacturers themselves or through some larger, high volume dealers."

Data generally speak for themselves. The sample may be problematic, but unless the respondents are lying, the data (plural, by the way) contain some information. For instance, if 24 respondents report reliability problems, then we are pretty sure that there were at least 24 defective units in the field. The problem comes when we try to extrapolate things like percentages to the population of units in the field. In the case at hand (BTW, the word you are searching for is "poll", which itself does not exactly apply in this case), the sample is biased to unknown extent, so that we can't place much confidence in statistics (like percentages) based on them. We have pretty high confidence that there are at least 24 defective units, and 15 working ones, but there is an awful lot of territory in between those two figures.
I like reading the reviews on Amazon. It is very interesting the varying opinions of a product. I have yet to see any product with a reasonable number of reviews have a perfect, 5 star rating. Some evaluations have to be discounted completely, of course, and I have warily purchased items with only a 3 star average rating but also with only a handful of reviews. I found the products to be just fine. People's idea of quality varies. Some people see quality as a product that works as advertised with solid dependability. Others perceive quality to be how an item looks, feels and performs. One person is happy with his $15k car because it starts everyday and gets them to work year in and year out. Another person is happy with their $65k car because it looks and feels good and the dealer treats them like a king every time they have to take it in for repairs. Go figure.
Coming late here....just found this topic by doing a search as I think I might be somehow unlucky.
I had one CDP from Cary that fail completely and after a few attempts at repairing it, they offered great deal on a better replacement unit so I took it and it has been flawless for the last 3 yrs.
Got SLP-03 recently, brand new....the headphone jack never worked. Will be sending for warranty repair soon.
Got 120S MKII recently and seems to have a problem...loud hum in left channel.
I totally disagree with the cary statement of not been reliable I own a CD3/300 and a cary SLP-98

and I have it for about 4 years I never never have any

issues with the two units.

I just upgrade the preamp from SLP-98 to the SLP-05
Maybe I expect too much, but I've owned a pile of both pro and hifi stuff over many years and am surprised at how reliable it has generally been, so if something goes bad I freak. I sent an Acurus A250 amp (new back then) back to Mondial 3 times for channel buzz therapy, and sold it sooner than later. Am I lucky? I research most things before buying, but I do now expect stuff to never break, which is unrealistic but seems to work for me. I will never buy anything hinting of unreliability so I'm trying not to bug about Cary as i'd like one of their amps someday...say in ain't so!