Cary Audio Design CD-301 CD Players


User Reviews (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2  
Jonathan Lo   Audiophile [Jan 31, 2000]

Can you find better?


Needs some careful tweaking

Tubed CD players or DAC's have always been a double-edged sword for me in the past. I've heard the CAL Alpha, Audiologic 34, etc, and while these tubed units provided something that solid-state units just simply can't (Namely
"air" like a live event and NOT "air" like a artificial, hi-fi detail), these tubed units do have significant shortcomings like lack of ultimate top-end extension/detail, bass definition, which are well-known in the hi-end community. I've owned various combos of solid-state and tubed separate transports, DACs, CD players, and
what I've ended up in the end was Cary CD 301. You probably
never heard of it, and neither had I until I bought it.
I bought it really on a whim after being tired of all the
digital horsing-around/upgrading after I saw an ad on the net. What interested me was the fact that the Cary CD 301 is a one-box CD player, has tubed output stage, and has
digital volume control, all of which I prefer over other
alternatives. I'll bet you can't name a single CD player that feature all of the above. Even the Wadia 860 is NOT
Now, for this CD player to come alive, you can't just play it as is. While it will sound good, it won't blow you away.
In the stock form, I'll have to say it is moderately superior to
Sony XA7ES with the usual solid-state vs tube pluses and
minuses. If MUCH better performance is required, some
tweaking needs to be done.
First, the stock 12AU7's have to go. There are 4 tubes total, 2 in the voltage gain, and 2 in output buffer.
Believe me, I've tried a lot of tubes, and I would humbly
recommend Military grade Amperex 12AU7 PQ equivalent for the
voltage gain stage and Radiotechnique military grade 12AU7
for the output buffer. If you use all 4 amperex, the sound
will be extremely lush and full, but lack top-end sparkle and bottom end definition. If you use all 4 Radiotechnique,
then you will have plenty of top-end sparkle and bass definition, but lack the deep, rich midrange tone. Combine both types, then the sound is jussst sooo...

The next thing that has to go is the stock power cord. I've also tried many cords, but for less than $1500-2000,
the Tekline PC-12W ($400 retail) cannot be beat. It would
be ridiculous to use $2000 Shunyata King cobra cord for this
$2600 CD player anyway. This cords adds more midrange warmth/fullness while giving you more detail.

The next thing is the feet. You cannot use the stock feet.
I used to use some steel cones, brass cones, etc, which are better than stock but ultimately not all that great.
The Audioprism isobearings that work so well with solid-state digital doesn't work so well with this tubed unit.
Black diamond racing cones are better, but what really works
is Symposium rollerblocks, which seem able to give you
more detail everywhere in frequency range without changing
the tonal balance of the unit, which is very hard to do.

With above tweaks, the total cost is $2600 + $100 (tubes) +
$250 (used cord) + $150 (used rollerblocks)=$3200. If you
buy the CD player used (can be found for $1000), then total cost is $1600. Even at $3200, you cannot find a CD player or transport/DAC combo that will come close. For used price, it is just unthinkable! Figure in the fact that
the unit has a great digital volume control and that you can
get rid of your preamp, well, what can you say.
I sold my audible illusions L1 preamp (for around $800)and
ended up having the above unit for only about $800 Net cost.

Also, check out the internet reviews of the Harmonic recovery system unit and TDS audiophile unit. I use both
behind my CD player without a single interconnect because all the RCA jacks are spaced the same, so I use female-to-female RCA adaptors to connect all 3 units!

Set up as above, the sound is very delicious indeed. Some will argue this sound is not "neutral" as in Wadia, Spectral, etc. Well, if full, solid, lush tonality with
vocalists you can almost imagine hugging in your living room
is not "neutral," then I don't want it. Well respected units such as Levinson 39 may sound "neutral," but just don't deliver the musical goosebumps like the Cary can. The
"air" provided by Cary is different from "air" you get from Levinsons and Krells. These other units give you air in that razor-detailed, hi-fi, "air-around-instrument" mumbo
jumbo sense, which many reviewers seem fond of.
The Cary gives you air as in air from the singer's mouth breathing down on your neck and the air coming from the mouth of the saxophone! It is air that wraps YOUR body and
involves you in the music.
I will stick with this CD player until the whole mess with
SACD and DVD audio is settled down, which I imagine will take a few years before the format is settled on and good-enough hardware hits the market. But you know what?
I may even just stick with this Cary even then.
Happy listening!

Similar Products Used: Sony XA7ES, Micromega, MSB
Dan Shulman   Audio Enthusiast [Jan 13, 2000]

build quality, tube gain and output


for the selling price a better quality power cord should be

I would like to very much call myself an audiophile, but given that I lack some knowledge about different tweeks and am as far from elitest as you can get I term myself a lover of tunes. I will in the following try to be as complete as possible in my review of this product.

I believe that I like many people am a biased listener, fortunately i have a wonderfull wife that knows nothing about the differnet grips we all crave. I asked her to tell me if the new CD player sounded better than the old and why. I sampled tracs from Craige Chaquaiso's Acoustic Planet on both our old set-up and on the Cary. She Said
"Wow! It is more alive and does'nt have the hollow sound anymore. Money well spent hun". Can you get a better review than that? I used to use a Marantz cd63 with a theta chroma DAC. Not any more. The Caty 301 is a wonderfull piece of audio equipment. If you are like me CD's over time become tireing and harsh to the ears. I can listen to the Cary for hours on end. It has a huge soundstage with solid lows and soft a fluid highs. The build quality is outstanding, not cold rolled steel here. The chassis is .08 Gu Al. Steel is magnetic and conductive and Aluminium is a much better choice. The front pannel and the drawer face are made from 1/2" Al and it has big soft rubber feet. I have to get to work now but I could go on and on. This is an excellant unit and well worth the money especially if you can find one used for around $1000.

Similar Products Used: As yet there is nothing like it!
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