Cary Audio Design CD-303 CD Players

CD-303

HDCD decoding, 96 kHz/24 bit, PMD-100 digital filter, Phillips CDM-12 mechanism, dual c-core power transformer, fully regulated power supplies, fully shielded drive mechanism.

User Reviews (19)

Showing 1-10 of 19  
Discriminator   AudioPhile [Apr 26, 2007]
Strength:

Bass reproduction
Microdynamics
Detail across frequency spectrum
HDCD playback
Selectable upsampling
Solid construction
Heavy-duty remote
Emotionally moving

Weakness:

CD drawer wel built but could move in and out more smoothly
(has never stuck or malfunctioned)

Not much to add to the reviews below except to say that this is *still* a very competitve CD player. I found that I had a lot more HDCD's than I thought and they sound very compelling with the 303/200 - not just detailed but *present* in the room with outstanding imaging and microdynamics, but not at the expense of sound harsh or in-your-face. Really brings out the emotion in a performance as well as in the listener. Mates exceptionally well with my tube hybrid preamp but I expect that it would still sound great with solid state. I looked hard and couldn't find anything that came close for under $1500 (and several costing considerably more didn't sound anywhere near as good in my system). Cary was very good about answering my questions on the phone, too. I have no buyer's remorse after having bought this player used - it's definitely a fine bargain and built to last.

Similar Products Used: Wadia
Pioneer Elite
Sony ES
Meridian
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
augwest   Audio Enthusiast [Apr 26, 2007]
Strength:

Smooth midrange
Excellent bass
HDCD playback
Detail and imaging
Build quality
XLR outputs

Weakness:

Remote is a little clunky

I bought a used 303/200 without auditioning it and could not be more delighted with the value I received. I had conducted in-home auditions of new and used units from Rotel, Wadia, Jolida, Naim, and others and while each had their appeal I found shortcomings in each instance that kept me from plunking down cash to replace my 1998 CDR-800 HHb Pro Burner with Pioneer Stable Transport. I was looking for a dramatic, as opposed to incremental, improvement and none of the aforementioned machines sounded dramatically better to my ear in my price range. The areas where most failed was in bass and smoothness of midrange.

Enter the 303/200, purchased on the strength of the reviews posted here. At $1300 used it was about the same price as my HHb new and considerably less expensive than other machines I auditioned, but this one sounded dramatically better! Add to that the rock-solid construction of this 37 pound beast including solid metal CD tray and remote control, selectable 96kHz upsampling, and Cary's reputation for durability, customer service, and performance and this is an irresistible deal. The bass coming out of my Vandersteen 2Ce Signature speakers and 2Wq subwoofer is palpable, natural, and very quick but never bloated. The midrange is very convincing, my test being piano and female vocals. I didn't know my speakers could sound this good. I haven't tried it without the preamp yet - it's hard for me to imagine it could sound much better. This may sound hokey but I cut some squares out of cheap polaroid sunglasses and affixed them over the bright blue LEDs with black electrical tape to attenuate the output. I also put Symposium Rollerblocks and a Svelte platform under it which took the sound and detail to an even higher level, particularly with upsampled or HDCD playback. HDCD recordings sound amazing. Highly recommended!

Similar Products Used: (see text)
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
mike kletecka   Audio Enthusiast [May 30, 2003]
Strength:

Very neutral but revealing and has great authority with "all" types of music and great control with bass. Excellent sound stage with satisfactory depth as well.

Weakness:

None that I can think od for it's price

I wanted to wait and see what would happen with the whole sacd / cd thing, but my 6 year old linn cd had seen better days, forcing me, very reluctantly to buy a new cd player. With this in mind, I did not want to spend more than $3K on a player which, leaves in this price range a lot of good players to choose from. Based on my system "tubes" and "mini monitors" for speakers, the Cary was the best choice for me. It is everything that the other reviewers have said. I am most happy with it, and it appears to be getting better and better ( so far I mabey have 50 hours of play time on it)so it still needs futher time to break-in. In closing, I know that this player will keep me "very" content until this whole SACD thing fully comes into play. I highly suggest that if one is looking for a cd player in this price range to give it listen.

Similar Products Used: Gamut, Musical fidelity, Arcam
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
EZ   Audio Enthusiast [Mar 25, 2003]
Strength:

Detail. Sound better than some very expensive CD players I've heard.

Weakness:

None.

I have to admit that when I first hooked up this unit, I liked what I heard, but I was not bowled over. Since then, I've let the unit run for about a week straight and put on a classical cd last night. Wow. Break in really makes a difference. The low level information, ie., fine details just jumped out. Extraordinary, detailed music is the best way to describe what comes out of this unit.

Similar Products Used: 303T, Naim, Technics (my old unit), Linn.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
rayd   AudioPhile [Sep 12, 2002]
Strength:

SEE REVIEW

Weakness:

BLUE LITE

FIRST OF ALL I WOULD LIKE TO THANK ALL OF THE REVIEWERS ON AUDIO REVIEW IN HELPING ME MAKE MY SELECTION. I PURCHASED AN ADCOM GCD750 APROX 15 MONTHS AGO AND I THOUGHT IT WAS EXCELLENT AFTER HAVING A PIONEER ELITE CD PLAYER AND A CAL AUDIO DAC WHICH I HAD FOR MANY YEARS AND WAS HAPPY WITH. AS TIME WENT ON WITH THE ADCOM I FELT THEIR WAS SOMTHING MISSING NOW THAT I HAVE THE CARY I KNOW WHAT IT WAS DEPTH THE ADCOM WAS OK BUT IT IS IN MY OPINION LITE YEARS AHEAD IN SOUNDSTAGE,DEPTH,SMOOTHNESS WITHOUT LOOSING DETAIL.

Similar Products Used: TO MANY TO MENTION
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Ralph Lopez   Audio Enthusiast [Mar 16, 2002]
Strength:

Deep, detailed but not edgy soundstage. Excellent, very solid build quality with nice remote.

Weakness:

The blue light are mind piercingly bright. Not to sure about the wooden feet.

This a review of the 303/200, I was using my Tohiba SD9200 for music listening, (Stereophile A rated) when it was decided (my wife) that I could have the living room for a dedicated music room. This gave me a great opportunity to audition and buy a CD, DVDA or SACD player with about a $4K budget. I started with my normal equipment purchase path, reviews, auditions etc. The bottom line of course is I bought the 303/200. I normally don''t write reviews until after 3 months of owning the equipment, but this player is fantastic right out of the box. Deep soundstage, and less analytical (digital) than the Toshiba. Highly recommended! P.S. The unit can control the volume if you don''t have a remote for your Pre or if you hook directly to an Amp or DAC.

Similar Products Used: Sim Audio, Toshiba SD9200, HK FL8450.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
dreamtime1   Audio Enthusiast [Feb 01, 2002]
Strength:

Sound is smooth, articulate and non-fatiguing. Nice heft to it, built well and looks like it. Lets you get close to the music.

Weakness:

The flashing blue light that indicates current track. When I first saw it I thought there must be a way to stop it from blinking or at least mute the display, but there is not. It''s distracting in a dark room.

I bought the Cary without hearing it just from the strength of reviews here, at Audiogon and AudioAsylum. Owners seemed overcome with emotion and tended to rant, which I took as a good sign. Before the Cary, my listening sessions were increasingly lackluster and apathetic. I found myself skipping through the tracks after a few minutes and cutting my listening sessions short. I realized that I was going for weeks at a time only listening to background music and not planting myself in the sweet spot, I knew it was time for a change. I purchased the Cary, used, from Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio. Kevin runs a great business and is a pleasure to work with. It was a cold day when UPS delivered the Cary but I hooked it up at once and played the Patricia Barber, Nightclub CD just to make sure everything was working. My wife was there as well as a neighbor. We all stood around and listened, not even bothering to sit down for the first track. What was issuing forth from the speakers was glorious music! I''ve seen Patricia performing this same music from a front-row seat in a smaller venue. I know what it should sound like. There were enough true-to-life details coming through to evoke the same atmosphere of the live show. The details that the Cary delivers never seem to be isolated events or unattatched entites, seperate from the body of the music. Instead, they are well integrated in a complete and coherent musical whole. Soundstage is pleasantly dimensional-deep and layered. Sound is full with good bass. Smooth and easy on the ears. One very happy owner!

Similar Products Used: EAD CD-1000, Roksan Caspian, Sony SCD-C333ES SACD player
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Danny   Audio Enthusiast [Oct 12, 2001]
Strength:

Involving, detailed yet more subtle then most british, musical, the way the composer intended his/her music to sound.

as you can see by looking at similar products used, I have extensively looked at cd-players. Without any doubt, all the above mentioned brands have beautiful players. Yet, Cary Audio Design produces cd-players from another dimension.
Personally, I listen to R&B, Accoustics, Classical (ranging from Yo-Yo Ma to Vanessa Mae), Techno (on occasion), Latin (Ibrahim Ferrer), Rock and Roll, so all sorts of music.
Most players mentioned had a very hard time with modern music. Linn, Arcam etc can articulate all the information on a cd perfectly, but this quality is more interesting listening to Classical and accoustical music. But if I listen to the Buena Vista social club, I want the music to bring me to a party in Cuba, and actually see the sigar smoking musician play the drums and feel the rythm.
One day, I was in the US and came across a Cary 303 and auditioned it against Krell. Both players were good and brought a bit of punch to the table, most players were missing. Yet, my preference went to the Cary, as it was warmer, even more musical, involving and the player made my hear rise.
I returned home to Amsterdam, and I just bought it through Elliot at Accoustic Image after searching the internet.

Imagine this, I was so impressed in the 30 minutes I listened to this player in the US, that I bought this pricy player without auditioning it with my own equipment.

Again, try this player, you won't be sorry,

Impressive piece of Cary Audio! I wish more people could afford such a player.

Similar Products Used: arcam fmj, krell 280i, rega planet, linn genki, arcam diva cd92, musical fidelity, audio analogue, rotel
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Raymond   Audiophile [Dec 14, 2001]
Strength:

Pristine sound, quality of construction, upsampling capability, etc

Weakness:

You'll need to work more than a couple of days at McDonalds to afford it...


I think Greg described this unit rather well. I wish - though I know it won't happen - the vinyl ideologues would give this an objective audition. They might, just might, abandon their dogma that vinyl is supreme. It has become holy writ to the vinyl acolytes.

To clarify, I use records, grew up with them but parted company with the true believers some while back when they insisted that digital by its very nature can't be satisfying and certainly can't equal vinyl playback. That WAS true until the early to mid 90s. But in players like this and with some of the other big hitters you get, IMHO, all the virtues of vinyl without all the BS that goes with it.

This player is astoundingly good. I thought I had something special in the Adcom, but the 303 easily bests it. In fairness, it costs more than twice the 750, so it should beat it. 750 is still a great player (probably will keep it for 2nd system).

Listening recently to Schubert's 9th was an experience almost transcendental. The music (and only the music) shone through. No "digitalitis", no stridency on massed strings. Just a glorious and expansive soundstage, detail to burn, and most important, the ability to elicit your emotional involvement in the music. The ability to upsample gives you some interesting latitude to compare "on the fly". Generally, the soundstage seems to shrink when you deactivate the upsampling. But.... the standard playback is incredible. The beauty is that it allows you to experiment.

I have most of Keith Johnson's Reference Recordings and they will simply rivet you to your chair when played through this unit. All the virtues for which Reference is famed are clearly evident: naturalness, clarity, orchestral depth, detail, vanishingly low distortion, what have you.
Patricia Barber's "Cafe Blue" will give you chills the sound is so natural and realistic. Kevin at Upscale gets my unqualified recommendation. Give him a holler if you're interested. I'm sure glad I did.

Similar Products Used: Adcom GCD 750
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
greg reh   Audiophile [Dec 11, 2001]
Strength:

The most musical sounding cd player I've ever owned-or-to put it another way-the best sounding cdp I've owned.

As I continue to travel the path to audio nirvana, one thing seems to be certain, especially as it relates to the source component:
You do indeed get what you pay for.
The 303 plays music from top to bottom and makes cd listening the most enjoyable its ever been. The 303 is staying in my system for years to come. Probably the highest praise I can give the unit is this: I have no desire to upgrade. For those of you who share this hobby, I'm sure you know exactly what I mean. It's that good.
Many thanks-as usual-to Kevin @ Upscale Audio, whom I've purchased 50% of my cd players from. Excellent communication and follow up from Kevin-and I live on the east coast.
I highly,highly recommend the Cary 303 and Kevin @ Upscale Audio.

Similar Products Used: Marantz 63SE, Rega Planet, Ah Tjoeb 99 and 4000
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Showing 1-10 of 19  

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