Theory about Cary amps and their reviewers


Cary is now one of the older tube companies around from the tube boom in the'90s. My experience with them has been very positive. I wonder if some of the criticisms of them - fat, not extended, slow, etc., are in fact relics of the first reviews in magazines which were so used to solid state and still in the "wattage race". I have heard Rockets and V12's in rock and home theater setting pulling duty that would put solid states to shame. I also notice you never really see those sorts of reviews anymore. Other than making the amps compatable with higher gain devices, so that they can have direct inputs from things like CD's with volume controls, have there been any fundamental changes though? I prefer the slightly older versions with the lower gain input myself, but I understand the rationale.
biomimetic
They sound very good but there are several that sound as good just different. My only opinion is they tend to be unreliable and the owner is unreliable. One or the other is normal but to have 2 strikes against them scares me.
Interesting. I have actually had quite a few over the top positive experiences with Cary - shipping an MA plug to me when it wasn't included in a used amp, when their site says not even to ask, complete wih funny stories about people taking their amps apart and getting stranded, unable to get the back together. I have never heard anyone call Dennis unreliable - busy, but not unreliable. Has anyone had a serious problem with a Cary amp? Please do not say: "A mysterious buzzing with a single-ended amp and [you] went back to a Levinson and there was no buzzing". 1. Fix your power supply. 2. Don't compare apples and oranges. Anyone have any first-hand accounts either way? Not,"I know a guy who has a friend who.."? Which is what I have heard and seen repeated from over at the asylum. I am actually curious. Positives okay too.
I completely disagree with Duane, both owner and product are very sound.

Regards,
I would have to say I have had nothing but positive experiences with Cary equipment. Currently I own the V12i amp, SLP-98L preamp, and PH-301 phono stage. All have been very reliable, no breakdowns or other issues, and when I call Cary to ask questions about my gear I get great service. Occasionally Mr. Had himself is the one assisting me, so I don't understand the "unreliable" tag on this man, although others may have had different experiences, these are mine FWIW.
In my experience, they are second to none. One of my good friends turned me onto them and has probably owned 7-8 of their amplifers with ZERO problems. I have owned a CD-308 CD player and my current SLI-80 and have had nothing but success and enjoyment.

My dealings with Cary in NC have also been top notch. Anyway, some one always has a bum experience or product that they would not buy again. I think you will find very few that will say that about Cary.

Chris
Hey Chris - How'd you get to know Mike Ness? (And the thread is derailed...)
(They sound very good but there are several that sound as good just different. My only opinion is they tend to be unreliable and the owner is unreliable. One or the other is normal but to have 2 strikes against them scares me)
I have owned 7 Cary peaces & 5 of them had proplems. I had 5 strikes.Im with Duane.
I've not yet owned any Cary gear, but I have talked to Dennis Had on two occassions... he was more than helpful and very personable. I wouldn't hesitate to buy Cary gear.
Hello Again. My experience with Cary was in the early to mid 90's so if they have improved that is better for everyone and High End audio in general. I am open minded.
Duane,

I am curious what specific experience you have had with unreliable Cary equipment and also with the company being unreliable. I am another completely satisfied customer. First, of a pair of SLM-100's and now a pair of 805c's. Never a problem out of any of the equipment, and Cary is always very helpful when I call with questions.

Jeff
In the past year I have had the Cary Sixpacs and the Rocket 88 tube amps . They were wonderful sounding amps and the build quality was excellent. I also have the Cary cdp 303/300.
I have spoken to Mr Dennis Had lots of time and he has answered all my questions. I find Cary's customer service to be the best.
Cary's service is top notch IME. They are responsive and very interested in working out any reported problems you may have. The build quality is also first rate IME.

That said, Cary does sound "slower" and bloomier then a lot of other hi fi gear. A lot of people like the quintessential tube sound that is a hallmark of most Cary products. It's very enchanting and romantic. I've had the pleasure of listening to their modern designs as well as their older offerings (fwiw, I still own a 10 year old Cary SET).

As thread-starter guy I think I did say something about specifics on problems, if you are going to post. We could all use the info, if it in fact exists. Everbody who has been at this a while has had at least one peice of bad gear...

Nako do you fnd your Rocket slow and bloomy? Mine isn't, actually, I wouldn't describe it as tubey at all, in response to Whoop.
Hello again. My experience was within the industry when I was hired by a couple of manufacturers to set up and "tweak" their systems for C.E.S. (At that time in Chicago.) While I was there I wondered around to see old friends and say hi to a few companies I sold at my store. One of the speaker manufacturers was co-exhibiting with Cary and they had showed up 2 days late, there pre-amp didn't work, and when they tried to get Dennis to fix it before the show started he slammed the door in their face and said "don't wake me till noon".
In response to the above post, I did not find the Cary to be slow or boomy. It was dead accurate in its tonal balance and very good dynamics. My speakers are the Daedalus Audio DA-1 and it requires more power than the Rocket 88 could provide. Hence I am now using a Hypex based digital amp. I miss tubes and will be on a look out for the older Cary push pull amps.
I guess I'm an oddball, I actually went the solid state route in the Cary lineup with the CAD500MB. Not slow, not bloomy, really terrific amps that do everything very well. Service and interaction with them has been top-notch also. Also own a 303/300 and had an SLP98L, I've had no problems with any of their gear. I have been able to get easy access and lengthy advice from everyone there, including Dennis Had. I'm a fan.
I had a pair of V12 monoblocks in my system for a month or so. They belonged to a former friend who bought a SS amp from me. He let me use them while I looked for a replacement.

I have never read a review of a Cary amp, but my results were similar to what you said reviews described. The amps were slow, lacking in dynamics, and did not fare well if they did not get enough rest between listening sessions.

I waited a long time for that 'tube magic' to appear. It never came close to magic and never really even reached 'musical.'

I would not spend a penny on a Cary product based on the poor performance I experienced in my system. I wanted them to be good, but they never really were.
Nrchy, what speakers were you driving and how worn were the tubes?
Art
artmaltman, I was using Kharma 1.0 ceramique speakers, and the amp had been recently serviced by Cary, everything checked out fine. The speakers never sounded slow or lifeless when I used other amplification. BUT those are good valid questions.
Frankly, Nrchy that seems odd to me... I think it may really be a matter of taste, like you solid state guys have none... But seriously, do you ever not talk crap to people in threads? Duane's story is kind of awful though.
Biomimetic, I'm not sure if you're just stupid or if you believe that rubbish you just wrote. I have a tube system at work with KT 88's in the amp, and I like it very much. It sounds a lot better than the Cary ever did...

There are a lot of products that are tube based that I like a lot. I would like to sell my Klyne pre-amp and Pass Labs X-Ono and get a Manley Steelhead.

You are typical of the person who turns the initiate off to ever getting inbto this hobby, or to buying tube gear. I have had tube gear in the past, and I own it now. Just because everyone doesn't agree with you, does that make them wrong or are you going through some kind of mental issues where you have to fight with people who you don't know, and about which you know nothing???
I'm saying I've watched you try to ruin thread after thread.
You're saying that, as if my experience were invalid because it does not coincide with yours???
Reading through this thread is very interesting. I have owned and auditioned multiple Cary Products. I would also say they are probably not for everyone's taste.

I read Nrchy's comments on his experience and realize there was no Synergy with his system and that is okay. This happens and I have tried gear friends have loved and hated it in my system.

I think equipment choice is as personal as music is and if not more. I know my tastes have changed in my 18 years of this hobby.

I used to frown in Tube systems and owned nothing but solid state setups. The unit that broke the mold was a Conrad Johnson Tube Pre-Amp. A PV10A to be exact. When added to the SS amp I was using, magic just presented itself in my system.

The first Tube Amplifier that just blew me away was a friends SLA-70 Signature. I was using a Bryston at the time and the Cary just made things more REAL and musical. Was it slower sounding than the Bryston, sure, but it made music sound like music where the Bryston just sounded hard.

Still wanting that "sound" out of Solid State, I tried and purchased amplifiers by YBA and Electrocompaniet but still just did not capture what I was looking for. I auditioned two Integrateds by Cary (The SEI-300 and the SLI-80)The SEI clearly sounded a little better than the SLI-80 but it did not make enough power to drive the majority of speakers I was considering.

After further auditions, the SLI-80 won me over. After getting it home and much trial in error in tube rolling. I have captured the "sound" that I was always looking for. Is it the end all in resolution, speed, and detail? Definitely not. Is it slow sounding compared to solid state stuff? Maybe, but I have never found it to be.

All I can say is that Music sounds like music. It has plenty or dynamics and yes my speakers will disappear. I have often seen the same thing said about Sonus Faber speakers are they have a character sound to them. I would have to say the Cary Tubes amp have a similar character of their own.

Love them or hate them, I like the Cary Tube Amplifiers and have not looked for amp upgrade in over 2 years now. I cannot say this about many of the other amplifiers I have owned.

Chris
Hey Chris - I hear you on the 300 vs 80 question. Was not meaning to be really harsh, but I have watched Nrchy do this before. Was not saying anything about valid vs. invalid - I had asked for specifics and none were provided, which is his typical M.O. Bash, no back-up, bash, derail...
I listed the gear in my system! You asked about my speakers and I told you what I was using, what do you need, and invitation and a machine to travel back in time so you could hear how bad the cary's sound???

I was not bashing, I was stating my experience, How is that bashing, or derailing. If you offered me a pair of V 12's for free, I would not take them. They were dull and lifeless, kinda like your posts!
You have offered up this same observation in at least one other thread where you also stated you preference for the likes of Pass Labs. It also had nothing to do with the topic there.

It doesn't sound like a soild state amp therefore it is unreliable is not a first hand account of your problem with one of these amps. Is it?

I agree with Kid.
"It doesn't sound like a soild state amp therefore it is unreliable is not a first hand account of your problem with one of these amps. Is it"

This is a gross misrepresentation of what I said and meant. I got away from tubes a few years ago due to the unreliability of a Counterpoint SA 5.1. For about six years I used only SS gear.

After getting to know, through AudiogoN the virtues of tube gear, I decided I would like to try some tube amps. Cary's were one of the amps I wanted to try. SOme of the other amps were the Wolcotts, and VTL.

When the chance came up to try the V 12's I jumped at it. I even gave them an extended break-in which since they were well used, they should not have needed. After over one month I made my conclusion. Was one month long enough to determine that they did not sound good?!?

I wanted the Cary's to better the Krell amp I had just sold, and really thought I would buy the V12's from the clod who was no longer using them. I even had my wife sit and listen with me to make sure I was hear them right. The Cary's were dull, flat, lifeless and boring, compared to the krell amp that I was no longer interested in owning, and had sold to the Cary owner.

The Cary would have been a step backwards from an older Krell FPB 200! So I bought a new Krell FPB 700cx, which was better than the Cary in every conceivable aspect.

I wanted the Cary's to be good! I was hoping to buy them!!! BUT there was no magic, there wasn't even music!!! They sounded about 25% better than AM radio!
Nrchy,

I know a lot of people will disagree, but I think you tried the wrong product if you were looking for the "Cary Magic" in the V12's. I have never owned a V12 amp, but I have auditioned them extensively. I know that the V12's are highly regarded, but to my ears they don't have the same magic as products such as the 805C, SLM-100, and SLI-80.

In fact, I once auditioned a V12 back to back with a pair of 805c's. The V12 sounded dull, flat, lifeless and boring just as you described. I thought there must be something wrong with the system until I substituted the 805c's and everything sprung to life. You really should try to audition some other Cary products if you get the chance. Until then, it's easy share your enthusiasm for Krell FPB amps. I really like those too. If only I had endless resources to set up multiple systems...
Jeffrey, I'm not trying to pick a fight with the gentleman who started this thread, I just tried to point out my experience. He has repeatedly claimed that I either don't know what I'm talking about, or that I have a bias against this product. I know I gave the amps a fair try, and I wanted to buy them until I heard them.

It's good to know that Cary does make some products that do sound good. I had more or less written the company off based on my experience with the V12's.

I don't have either of the Krells anymore, but they did sound better than the V12.
Ok, ok, already - Can we all just agree Dennis Had is probably kind of a hothead, if not actually a bad guy and go on with our lives? I'm more of a Bryston than a Krell man, if it comes to solid state. Anyway with the V12's it's probably an EL34 vs. (insert other tube name here).
better late than never...

I own a Cary 300SEI LX20, the higher watt KR tube version, no longer made due to reliability issues with the older KR tubes and then the company itself. The extra power makes the difference for most speakers. The tube itself is an improvement in the frequency extremes. It's a testimony to Cary's responibility that they made the hard to decision to bag the KR based design in deference to reliability since they loved that tube.

This beautiful little integrated has more detail, transparancy, finesse and "thereness" than the SS EAD Powermaster 500 (and everything else) I compared it to. I also am a big fan of upgrading through modifying as I have done with increasing depth with this amp over time. By upgrading the rectifiers first, then the coupling and bypass caps, then rebuilding the whole damn thing from scratch (ie. polyplroylene power supply caps, upgrading coupling caps again, improved the circuit, adding choke for filament supply, made wiring more direct) I was able to maintain the tube magic and remove most of any down sides, improving speed and transparancy, frequency extremes, bass clarity, smoother sibilance, dynamics, jump factor, lowering noise, hash and grunge, etc...

The point is that the product started out as a great real world product, (cute too) and can be improved to signifantly decrease the issues separating the tube and SS camps. They've also been extremely helpful.

The only negative issues I've had with it are a bit more physical hum off the power transformer than I'd like; output tubes supernovaing which were replaced for free a number of times; and 300B bias resistors burning up over time, which I replaced with their help before I reconfigured the whole thing with separate over speced resistors for each channel.

Dennis is a busnessman and a salesman with plenty of gas in his tank, but he covers all the bases responsibly, including providing a solid product at a fair price. Kirk, their former tech support man is an angel. The new guy is very helpful as well.

ya chooses ya poison...

'smy 2 cents.
Funny thing I went back to Cary in a SLP98P. Witch I love. Maybe a Cary dig amp this time & I do NOT thank Dennis Had is a hothead He is a good guy. & I find Cary's customer service to be pritty good.
I very much agree that they are always professional. Sometimes I think dealing with them is a little more off-putting than with some companies.
i have owned 3 cary preamps and a cary cd player. i have also heard cary gear in a variety of settings. their sound is anything but fat. in fact i find their products not tube like at all. they sound very clean open transparent and detailed and sometimes bright.
I am going to take a different route on this thread. I have a Cary SLP 50B or is it A as it is indicated to be both depending on where you look on the preamp. I got it because I thought the tubes would be a good match for my AR 110. Anyways it does not matter as my point in replying is is that the design Cary uses is sound but the parts quality is a bit lacking. This is probably an accounting cost cutting decision. At first it sounded ok. But I upgraded the volume to a stepped attenuator using an Elma switch and Takman metal film resistors, all other resistors to Takman metal film, the coupling capacitors to Mundorf gold and oil, the power supply capacitors were increased in value and swapped to Ruby Gold, and the first capacitor to a film from Solen. Now the ripple on the power supply is 103 DB up from 82 and with the Vishay carbon resistors gone and the addition of good capacitors it is very fast. The tubes are gold lions which are ok but not enough to make this change. My point is the component is no better then the sum of it's parts. Only reference components use the quality parts I just described.
I chime in on two different issues:

1) Biomimetic - you do come across as fan who cannot bear to hear negative opinions about one of his favorites. You open a thread by saying
I wonder if some of the criticisms of them - fat, not extended, slow, etc., are in fact relics of the first reviews in magazines which were so used to solid state and still in the "wattage race"
And someone, Nrchy, replies with a firsthand, personal, experience with the exact amplifier you cited and, at least partially, invalidates your (above)assumption.

Later, you direct an attack at his fairly straightforward opinion
11-13-05: Biomimetic
Hey Chris - I hear you on the 300 vs 80 question. Was not meaning to be really harsh, but I have watched Nrchy do this before. Was not saying anything about valid vs. invalid - I had asked for specifics and none were provided, which is his typical M.O. Bash, no back-up, bash, derail...
I find his response fairly direct and specific - he found the amps to be "slow, lacking in dynamics, and did not fare well if they did not get enough rest between listening sessions. " Later, when asked what speakers they drove and how worn were the tubes by Artmaltman, he responded
I was using Kharma 1.0 ceramique speakers, and the amp had been recently serviced by Cary, everything checked out fine. The speakers never sounded slow or lifeless when I used other amplification. BUT those are good valid questions.
Again, this is a fairly straightforward and complete response without and inflammatory remarks.

Then, it is you who takes the discussion into unnecessary territory with the remark
Frankly, Nrchy that seems odd to me... I think it may really be a matter of taste, like you solid state guys have none... But seriously, do you ever not talk crap to people in threads?
How was that called for? And, what does that have to do with what he said? You accused him of "Bash, no back-up, bash, derail", then proceeded to do so yourself.

Then you simply head into the territory of the bizarre
You have offered up this same observation in at least one other thread where you also stated you preference for the likes of Pass Labs. It also had nothing to do with the topic there.

It doesn't sound like a solid state amp therefore it is unreliable is not a first hand account of your problem with one of these amps. Is it?
Bizarre, in that he had previously stated
I have a tube system at work with KT 88's in the amp, and I like it very much. It sounds a lot better than the Cary ever did...

There are a lot of products that are tube based that I like a lot. I would like to sell my Klyne pre-amp and Pass Labs X-Ono and get a Manley Steelhead.
So, it is clear that he's not strictly a solid state, Pass or Krell, guy as you attempted to write off as. He states clearly that he would sell his Klyne and Pass for a Manley tube full function preamp/phono. Also, he never stated that any Cary gear was "unreliable".

Anyway, I see nothing in his responses that did not fit perfectly within the context of your original post.

2) I have had a Cary 300SEi in my system for decent amount of time and found it was the "tube sound" in the extreme - midrange was lush, bordering on "overripe". Bass was was rounded and loose. Highs seemed to be slightly rolled off. I think this amp is a classic example of how Cary came to get the reputation for a "House Sound".

The impression was the same with 90dB/4ohm Jean Marie Reynaud monitors and Hammer Dynamics 97dB/8ohm widerange driver w/ Fostex super tweeter.

By comparison, I found the Welborne DRD300B monoblocks with a TVC(Transformer Volume Control) to be far more revealing, neutral, and controlled. All the SET magic with far less embellishment. Bass was tighter and highs more extended. Midrange was less saturated.

Was the presentation terrible? No, not by any means, but I wouldn't describe it as accurate, either. I do see how people fall in love with the ultra-rich midrange, even though that is not my personal cup of tea.

I cannot comment on any other Cary products, as I have never spent quality time with any in my system.
I really get a kick out of all the "audiophile" arguing as above. Music is personal. What you like I may not...what floats my boat you may hate...I own a Cary V12 and love it, have owned it for 10 years. To my ears it sounds like music. I am a musician; but that does't make my taste in sound better than yours. I also own a Cary 300SEI as well as a Golden Tube 300B. I love each unit in different ways. Cary has been extremely reliable, not a single problem, ever. I have owned a number of SS amps, generally I am not a fan, rather dislike most SS. Criticism like "Tubey warm, etc., just makes me smile...it's what I like, to me most SS is hard, unnatural, no dimension, thin, sterile, unlike real music; but like I said that
is my bias...