Cary Audio Design CAD 300SE Monoblock Amplifiers

CAD 300SE Monoblock

12 watts (pair)

User Reviews (11)

Showing 1-10 of 11  
vinluvr   Audio Enthusiast [Aug 03, 2002]
Strength:

You-are-there realism with acoustic, small-room recordings, jazz, folk, and anything with a lot of mid-range. They are also a great conversation piece.

Weakness:

Transient response under extreme loads. Bass doesn't grab you by the 'nads (but it is present). Those WE 300Bs won't last forever. :(

This pair of 300s is actually a pair of 572s that I had Cary convert. I liked the 572s, but they generated a tremendous amount of heat, and I was going through the power tubes about every 3 months or so. I spoke with Kirk at Cary about the problem, and he offered to convert the amps to 300SEs. The cost was $1200 (I bought the 572s for $1300 used), and that included a new pair of Western Electric 300Bs! I couldn't resist, and am glad I didn't. The sound is even better, and the amps throw a lot less heat. Detail is first rate on acoustic, jazz and anything with strings. Bass is there pretty far down, tighter than the 572s. Are they as powerful as high end solid state? No, but they are also not in the least fatiguing. Definition on complex, highly dynamic rock music is not what you'd get with a pair of Krells, but it's also not as bad as the previous reviewer might have you believe. The palpability of female vocals is something you have to experience to understand. This is not an ultimate setup for house, techno or thrash, but if you enjoy a wide spectrum of music, then you will find yourself seeing if each favorite sounds as much better as the last did. I believe the reason for the positive impressions is that most performance amplifiers (vocal, guitar, etc.) are tube-based, and tube amps best recapture the tonal characteristics of the live performance. Associated equipment: Cary 94P preamp Ah! Njoe Tjoeb 4000 CD player Soliloquy 5.3 speakers TMC yellow and white interconnects and speaker cabling

Similar Products Used: Cary 572 monoblocks Bryston 3B Dynaco tube amp
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
Jim W   an Audiophile [Mar 27, 1999]

The 300SEs have literally, and for the better, changed the way I listen to music. These were purchased at the end of a typically long chain of audiophilia, from Adcom 555 to Levinson 27 to Levinson 23.5 to ARC VT130 over the years. Finally got a pair of the Reference 3A Royal Masters (92 dB, 8 ohm nominal/6 ohm minimum impedance, no crossover), an appropriate speaker for SETs, a few years back and took the dive. Do you ever get the sense that the SE guys have more fun...well, you're right. There's a 'rightness' about the sound, an ease and microdynamic tactility, that I've never experienced with big push-pull tube amps or with solid state. Speaker matching is important, but not as impossible as some would have you believe. If you listen with your ears and not with meters, these just may be the ticket. No fatigue but not syrupy. I listen to rock, blues and jazz at moderate/high levels (often 90 dB average and 95 dB peaks) in a 14x16 room with no problems and very infrequent clipping. Do yourself a favor and at least hear these hooked up in an appropriate system - you may get off the "audiophilia nervosa" train forever. Try the Western Electric 300Bs if you can swing the freight, they're worth the extra scratch.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Sasha Matson   Audiophile [Jan 10, 2002]
Strength:

Magical and sensuous 300B tube life

Weakness:

Unknown future reliability, bought used.

Well friends, (and also reviews below, which were very helpful during the consideration phase), not all amps are created equal. Some things are just plain better, and those fellows in North Carolina at Cary are onto something. First, if you are concerned about low watts on paper, forget it! As one of the guys I bought it from said: "Every watt is a good watt!" At low volume levels these Cary's maintain their musicality and substance, as if there was a loudness control, only better. And loud? You bet. I simply have lost any respect for watt ratings at all, they tell you exactly zip. Liquid, transparent, coherent, blossoming detailed mid-range, solid command down low, non-fatiguing and luxurious up high? All of the above. It is a priveledge to listen to music reproduction at this level of quality! Now, having said all this, one must be aware of the sytem synchronicity. In my case, I heard these little jewel-box-like amps with a pair of Sonus Faber Concerto speakers, and also without. Had made one plan, and promptly discarded it! What these do with the Sonus Fabers is simply unbeleivably gorgeous. Try some Audioquest releases on vinyl, for example (Am using a Rega Planar 25 with a Grado cartridge). To quote Sam from Stereophile, about Might Sam McClain: "Killer!" In fact, you can try mine - as my music has been released by Audioquest, and my collaboration with my audio guru and advisor Joe Harley continues to this day. He is well aware of these Cary's!I simply cannot beleive that more of the world doesn't know about this single-ended universe, or views it as eccentric. Well, every visitor to my living room whom I have sat down and made listen has become an instant convert - as they say, "I love when that happens!" Downside - (for me anyway) pricey - even used! But that is because they are actually still worth something used, you know, like a Bentley. If you want that buttoned down mid-west sound, then go get those ARC amps (which I also auditioned at home to compare, and in fact am using a tubed ARC pre-amp), but if you respond to those artistic boys from North Carolina and that southern luxurious magic that defies description (though I'm trying), then you MUST HEAR these Cary 300SE's. You will thank me.

Similar Products Used: Golden Tube
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
3
Ben Bernstein   Audiophile [Jan 27, 2002]
Strength:

Smooth midrange, sublte ambience, reasonable non-bloated bass

Weakness:

High frequency loss - to soft sounding, not realistic on rock 'n roll,

I have always had mixed emotions about SE type amp's. I like the midrange smoothness but not the loss of detail in the higher freq's. I just purchased the 300SE (1996) from a dealer who has had them new ,boxed and unsold for almost 5 years. What I got was the very typical SE sound smooth, smooth, smooth. Smooth to the point of boring. On some jazz and chamber music the results are very nice but just listen to some modern rock with some edge and the mystique dissapates into wow - where's the music? The details get lossed in the liquidity.

I wil say that compared to the Golde Tube Se-40 these are light years better in bass and have more realistic sound reproduction. At the end of the day I guess I'm not really an SE guy. Old Krell KSA-150 (or 250) running pure class A with the bottom and top to boot.

The Cary is nice for background mustic or low volume listening but tonally to inaccurate to be defined as hi-fi.

Similar Products Used: Golden tube, BAT VK-60
OVERALL
RATING
3
VALUE
RATING
2
Johann E Lee   an Audiophile [May 19, 1998]

Long jewel boxes, these Cary amps.
Rated all of 12 watts per side these amplifiers (plural, for there are two). And *these* have been my dream amps ever since i first heard the Cary 805 amplifiers.

Unable to afford the monstrous 805s i bought the Cary 300SEs instead. Both pure class A and single ended triode designs.

"But what can they drive?"

At 12 watts max, they can drive my ProAc Response Two speakers , if I wish, to deafening levels. The Cary 300SE when seeing a speaker with benign
impedance like the Response 2 act like Naim amplifiers in the rhythm n boogie
dept., the speed of Krells, with incomparable buttery, transparent mids and delicately nuanced highs. Quite magical.

These ladies focus on reproducing pure musical subtleties that you never knew were there in the recordings. And far better than many other amps, tube or solid state.

Once a long time ago I would not believe that an amplifier, of all things could so affect the experience of listening to music. Do you remember the first time you heard music over the radio or listened to your own voice the very fisrt time you recorded yourself on a tape?

That's the experience of the Carys every day, at a much, much more elevated
level. They do all the usual audiophile things very well of course. Endless depth,
disappearing speakers, etc. But the wholeness of any one single voice or instrument is projected as a true front-to-back, dimensional sonic object. Very much like the real thing.

And they're actually *more* transparent than the Cary 805s. You hear every one of the musical lines that are there all the way through. Every nuance of it.

In Harry Pearson's words, they possess a 'continuousness'. Yes, that is what audiophiles mean by 'accuracy'.

These are true reference quality amplifiers. In a word, magick.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Bill   an Audio Enthusiast [Jul 10, 1998]

I don't have the newest "Signature" model. My understanding is that the "Signature" has more gain and can be driven by passives or direct by variable line level units. There may be little or no sonic difference.
I had a Cary CAD300B push pull amp for three years before I decided to go single ended. I loved that amp; excellent 300B sound.

300B single ended is a whole new ballgame. They flat out just don't sound like other amps that I've heard. There's more music there; and it sounds more like music than hi-fi. They play my Epos 14's with great authority at pretty high volume. I'm a believer.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Also John   an Audiophile [Aug 08, 1998]

Yes, they also drive ProAc Tablette50 Signatures well [I own a pair]. Also Sonus Faber Guarneri very well, too [I borrowed a pair for a week]. The Pro Acs sound light, airy, spacious; the Sonus Fabers are darker, with more bass, but much more closed in. Either way the Cary 300SE Signature amps are truly astonishing in their clarity & sweetness. But if you're thinking of buying a pair, do audition the Pass Aleph3 which has 2-3 times the power & all the sweetness, though not quite the utter clarity. [They're half the price, however !]
I have auditioned both the old & the new model 300SE amps. The old one is excellant, but the new one is clearer still & more linear. [They say it is also somewhat more extended in both the treble & bass, but I confess not to hear that. However, I haven't heard the two side-by-side.] Either one is worth buying, though the newer one is clearly better, & sounds great right out of the box.
The highs sound slightly rounded off (after a solid-state amp) and the bass is definitely woolly on many CDs, but hearing those same CDs through the Pass Aleph3, you recognise that the wooliness is on the CDs themselves, it's just that the Carys reveal the wooliness because they don't have a strong bass. So it's not that the Carys are bad, they're actually very analytical. [In fact I've set aside several discs for discarding because I hear distortion now that I didn't hear before, mainly veiling of the mid-range.]
I've never heard the 805s, but I wouldn't want to give up any bit of clarity to buy more power. I'd buy a second amp (the Pass) and switch over whenever I needed more muscle. So far I haven't felt I needed more power.
My ProAcs are crossed over (passively) to a Carver sub-woofer at 50 Hz, so I get plenty of the deepest bass. It makes a big difference.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
John Richardson   Audiophile [Dec 18, 1999]
Strength:

Silky smooth, three-dimensional sound

Weakness:

I don't remember any

I enjoyed reading Kelly Holsten's review since it brought back some memories of my own. Like Kelly, Tom at Advanced Audio in Cary, NC really taught me a thing or two about high-end audio (and he sold me a system or two at the same time). One instance in particular really stands out. Tom is a pro at getting excellent sound out of his listening room, often better than I could get at home. One night a buddy and I went in and walked by the listening room. Some guy (a preacher I think) was in there with the lights dimmed listening to a string quartet (Frank Bridge, maybe?) using a pair of the Cary 300B amps driving Shahinian Obelisk speakers. Not a typical mating. I remember those speakers sitting up on squat stands singing like there was no tomorrow. For the first time, I had the illusion that there was really a string quartet in that room. I had to literally stop and collect myself. I don't think I have ever really experienced that illusion to that degree since. I don't remember, but I think the amps must have been the 300B push-pull version (about 20-30 watts per channel, if I remember correctly). One thing was certain though. I was sold on (1) Tom Hoffman, (2) Cary Audio, and (3) Shahinian Acoustics. By the way, all of this happened about 1990 or 1991. I probably ran into Kelly in that shop at some point. Wow! What an education.

Similar Products Used: none (I own a solid state Bedini amp)
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Tim Naff   an Audiophile [Feb 25, 1999]

I bought a used pair of Cary 300SE monoblocks a couple of years ago. They came with a pair of the banks of additional power supply capacitors that are described in the review by Kelly Holsten. (The capacitor banks are still available from Cary, but they're pricey and require addition of a socket on the monoblocks.) I use the 300SEs with a Cary SLP-94 preamp and play them through Infinity Composition PRs, which have about 93dB efficiency. The Infinities have built-in 100 watt woofer amps and an impedance curve that rises rapidly below 100 Hz. The rise in impedance helps these low-power amps avoid current limiting on heavy bass material. My listening room is roughly 20 feet by 30 feet by nine feet.
At the time that I got the 300SEs, I also had the Cary 300SEI integrated amp, which has a similar power amp circuit but less capacitance, even without considering the add-on banks. In comparing the two set-ups, the 300SEI and the 300SEs with SLP-94, I can offer a surprising observation. The earlier reviews would have you believe that the 300SEs are the sweetest sounding amps on the planet. The 300SEI is definitely sweeter, although with weaker dynamics and less punch. On full-scale orchestral stuff or rock material that requires high SPL, the 300SEs are more appropriate, but they too become congested sounding when pushed. On intimate jazz, gentle blues, or classical chamber music, however, either Cary setup yields stellar performances. The other reviewers do a great job of describing the kind of impression that they leave. For clarity, resolution of detail, soundstaging, and a "come hither" type of palpable presence (PP), these types of amps are unbeatable when you drive them in their lane. When I need to change over to the fast lane, I switch to my home theater rig, which has a Sunfire in the two main channels. (The Sunfire may have the "soul of single ended triodes" but it can't produce their sound.)

There has been lots of speculation on why SE amps sound so appealing. Even Dennis Had (of Cary) has suggested that the even-ordered harmonics produced by SEs may have a euphonic effect. Consider that lower power class A push-pull solid-state amps are regarded by many experts as sounding better than their high-powered Class A counter parts, possibly because they have fewer parallel output channels that must be created by splitting and then must be recombined. Consider that SE amps are class A and, in the case of the Carys, have only one output channel. Consider that all push-pull amps have the signal split into at least one positive and one inverted channel, with some crossover distortion associated with recombination. At low volumes, this crossover distortion can contribute a significant fraction of the total distortion. Consider also that a single ended tube output stage, operated class A, approaches *zero* distortion at low signal levels. Finally, consider what we find SE amps doing best: smooth, lifelike resolution of detail at relatively low volumes.

Okay meter-heads, jump in. Say that claiming measurable superiority for SEs is heresy. Say that they are unscientific. Just remember that real science begins with observation -- there is nothing less scientific than making measurements, using a model to predict performance, and then refusing to accept that predictions don't match performance. In this case, performance is listener appeal. Period. So, if the model does not predict performance, the model is wrong. Period. My suggestion is that a model that assumes a euphonic contribution of SE-generated even-ordered harmonics may be wrong as well. These amps may just be the cleanest, clearest amps available, when operated at low levels.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
Kelly Holsten   an Audiophile [Sep 18, 1998]

I have been too many audio stores in my lifetime, some obviously better than others, although none were able to match an in home experience....except ONE.
It's 1990 or so. I was in Cary, NC visiting ol TOM at Advanced Audio. Well, more like bugging Tom...but anyway... In his main listening room were two small exposed tube amps from Cary Audio, a set of rosewood ProAc mini towers, and a modified Cary Audio SLP-70 with a Pioneer Laserdisc/CD player. The little monoblocks were only 8 watts each. They were this thing ole Dennis Had was trying out called "single ended." Remember now, this is BEFORE the big single-ended exodus.

Well, let me just get to the point. This was the BEST sound I had ever heard in my life. I just turned out the lights and listened. And OH WHAT SOUND IT WAS! The soundstage was so deep and articulate, I was almost shocked. The definition and complete natural qualities of the sound coming from this setup left me literally in tears. It was almost BEYOND goosebumps to the direct communication of the musical event itself. I listened to music that I didnt even LIKE and it moved me! The communication of emotion and nuance from these little 8 watt amps was something I had never experienced but at a live event, and even then, it almost felt BETTER than live if that's possible. The laserdisc player was a precursor to the THETA laserdisc player based machines. I stayed for several hours listening to these 300B amps and left remembering them to everyone I knew, whether they cared or not. They had limitations
which I explored that day. But within their limitations, there were nonefiner.

I have since heard the big 805 Carys and I still think the original 300SE amps were the best they had to offer. By the way, they also had this experimental massive box of power filtration hooked up to the monoblocks...a double bank of monster blue caps! I never heard any of Had's designs again with that contraption hooked up but I do think it made a difference as well.

Only years later did the single ended craze start to take hold. It started with me back in that store in 1990...

kh

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Showing 1-10 of 11  

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