Tube preamp: Cary SLP-03 vs Schiit Freya+

Hello all.

I realise it’s a slightly odd comparison, given the age gap, but I’m looking to add a tube preamp to my all-SS chain (Mytek Brooklyn Bridge going straight into ELAC Navis powered speakers). The Schiit Freya+ has been getting rave reviews, especially for its price point and its versatility (passive, buffer or tube), but is currently back-ordered and also it is said to feel a bit flimsy (no miracles). As a result I have been looking at older, formerly more expensive, tube preamps that can be had for a similar price today, leading me to the Cary SLP-03. I have also looked for ARC, BAT, etc but they all tend to be well above my price range (max 1500). 
Would you, we’ll-read and listened fellas, have any views on the above choice or any other recommendations? I’ve been scouring forums and used gear websites for literally tens of hours and I need a bit of advice at this point.

Many thanks in advance!


Try a Bel Canto Pre5. Sounds more like a good tube preamp than the Freya+, regardless of what tubes are rolled into the latter (even the overrated Ken Rad 231s). Yeah, it’s more than twice the price but the leap in sound quality is worth every penny. 



The Freya+ is a terrific preamp especially with NOS tubes.  I used chrome domes.  However, it does NOT have a balance control.  I found I could not live without that.  For listening to many classical recordings a very small change can sometimes make them come alive.  To get a fully balanced tube preamp I had to pay much more.  But I found the much increased SQ and precision controls worth it.  If you can live without the balance control the Schiit, though clearly built to a price, is a fine deal

I wish the Freya had a fixed output but that's not a dealbreaker. Thinking about trying one.

Just a couple of things, the Cary SLP-03 preamp is tube based and has balanced ins and outs, I have owned a couple over the years in both black and silver faceplates and it is a good preamp but is prone to some glitches, cheap plastic remote control has tendency to stop working, volume control knob on unit can float up and down when trying to adjust volume not good when you are trying to lower volume and it tends to raise volume and vice versa, a minor issue are the steel covers of the preamp have drilled holes that do not match up with mating holes on chassis, can be a real pain when tube rolling. Has a very nice sound to it, only uses four tubes and can drive long balanced interconnects.

Well, I have just done a deal on a used Freya+ - it’s heavily back-ordered here in Europe, well into 2022, and I want to enjoy it over Christmas next to a wood fire. It comes with a quad of CV181-Z which, though no NOS, have received good reviews. I am looking into NOS tubes that are “affordable” and am quite interested in trying 7N7 tubes with an adaptor - getting some great reviews for the price.

I much appreciated all the advice received and will be sure to post my views when I have had the time to listen to it. The Cary was tempting but, for the price, the Schiit seemed to offer more tech and more options (and easier to resell). Bel Canto and the likes simply out of my current set budget for this piece.