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Cary Audio Design Superior Quality and Value

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Old 07-28-2016, 07:41 PM
Bombadil Bombadil is offline
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Default Anyone else have a Cary SLA-30?

I've only seen a handful of these over the years. Cary made a 30 wpc power amp back in the 1990s based upon EL84 output tubes. Uses 4 per channel in a push pull design.

I don't think Dennis Had was a big fan of it. I wrote him twice over the years, he wrote back once, saying nothing about the amp.

They also released it in an integrated amp model, named the SLI-30.

I've owned mine for nearly 20 years but have used it only sporadically. I do like it, it certainly has a very warm, tubey sound. Maybe not the most detailed, articulate amp in my stable. Enjoy listening to blues and jazz through it.
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Old 07-29-2016, 11:10 AM
FloridaBoy FloridaBoy is offline
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I had one in 1992. Nice amp, ran hot. Later acquired a SLI30 but sold it.
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Old 07-29-2016, 12:00 PM
Bombadil Bombadil is offline
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Yes, it does run hot. Which is to be expected when you run eight EL84s with a tube cage over them. I usually use mine with the cage off.
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Old 12-16-2016, 07:49 AM
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Have recently been running a Luxman SQ-N10 integrated with uses two pairs of EL84 tubes. Based on my experience with both the SQ-N10 & my SLI-80 I would recommend two things for an SLI/SLA-30. For an immediate improvement give the Soviet (pre-Russian) 6N14P tubes a try. There are several sellers on eBay. For long-term improvement, have it recapped with new Clarity caps. I just had my SLI-80 totally recapped (17 caps in total), using the Clarity caps on the power tubes, increasing the capacitance of the main power supply filter caps by 50% and adding 10uf by-pass caps on them. Makes a great improvement in the sound. Also installed HEXFREDs in power supply which are fast recovery diodes. If you don't have a tech who can do the work I'll put you in touch with the fellow I use. Also, Cary will do the work. Try it. You'll like the results.

Edit: Will add the caveat that the Clarity caps take about 100hr to start sounding their best. But........... well worth the wait.
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Last edited by jdandy; 12-21-2016 at 12:13 AM. Reason: The forum Marketplace is the only place to buy, sell or trade
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Old 12-21-2016, 12:09 AM
Bombadil Bombadil is offline
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Not sure I want to make that level of investment in an amp worth about $500. As to tubes, I'm currently running eight 1990s pre-war EI EL84 tubes in my SLA-30. They are very nice tubes. I also have eight 1980s Soviet tubes, but as they were rebranded, I do not know if they are 6N14P tubes.
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Old 12-21-2016, 01:02 PM
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.......... I make my "investments" in audio based on my personal enjoyment. Only worry about the fact that putting a few $hundred into a $500 amp will only be recovered through enjoyment of listening to same. But........ obviously, is your ears and your $$.
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Old 01-05-2017, 03:38 PM
Bombadil Bombadil is offline
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It is my 4th favorite tube amp and I am not sure it would be any higher if I put hundreds of dollars into it. Dennis is not too enamored with it. 4 EL84s per side in PP. It has a nice smooth sound but is lacking in detail and imaging. Not sure why I keep it. Think I have had it for close to 20 years.
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Old 07-28-2018, 11:48 AM
Bombadil Bombadil is offline
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Pulled the old SLA-30 out of mothballs and fired it up for the first time in 3 years. Now that I'm in a smaller place, I want to see how it sounded. Better than I expected. At 30wpc it is my most powerful tube amp. It can really crank in this smaller room.

Produces a very smooth sound, perhaps even too smooth and lacking a bit of detail. A very classic "tubey" sound. I have heard many people state that EL84s and 6V6s sound similar. Not in my two amps. In my Inspire high output amp the tubes are driven very hard, right up to their limits. To my ears 6V6s sound a bit strident and forward in it. As compared to the very smooth EL84s in this amp, and in my Inspire SE EL84 amp.

Hard for me to believe that I've owned the SLA-30 for over 20 years now.
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Old 07-29-2018, 11:23 AM
decooney decooney is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bombadil View Post
Pulled the old SLA-30 out of mothballs and fired it up for the first time in 3 years. Now that I'm in a smaller place, I want to see how it sounded. Better than I expected. At 30wpc it is my most powerful tube amp. It can really crank in this smaller room.

Produces a very smooth sound, perhaps even too smooth and lacking a bit of detail. A very classic "tubey" sound. I have heard many people state that EL84s and 6V6s sound similar. Not in my two amps. In my Inspire high output amp the tubes are driven very hard, right up to their limits. To my ears 6V6s sound a bit strident and forward in it. As compared to the very smooth EL84s in this amp, and in my Inspire SE EL84 amp.

Hard for me to believe that I've owned the SLA-30 for over 20 years now.
Hang on to it for another 20 years if you like the sound!
Seeing comments about some of these amps running "hot", when my local tech helped me further upgrade my CAD V12R, he took some measurements for me that indicated there was no need to run the tubes up to the high limit as some of the older manuals suggested you could. We tested and listed to confirm that, and he knows what he is talking about as I've learned. I was at the California Audio Show yesterday with friends, and gotta say with the right upgrades and tubes some of these older amps hold their own and then some. It reminded me to squelch upgraditis.
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Old 07-30-2018, 12:07 PM
Bombadil Bombadil is offline
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Having fun doing some system swapping. I have 5 preamps, to go along with my 6 power amps. When I have used my SLA-30 it has been in my bedroom driving either Spica TC-60 or Focal Aria 906 monitors. This is the first time in many years that I've had it driving my Von Schweikert VR-7 towers. That last time was in a very large room and I just didn't warm up to how it sounded.

Now in a much smaller room, I'm liking it better. Probably at lower volume levels than I was listening to 20 years ago too. Last night I hooked up my old Conrad Johnson PV10A preamp to it. My, it sounds very good. Like a natural combo. The PV10A has extraordinary amounts of gain, listening now at a reasonably loud level and the volume control is at 8 o'clock. With the PV10A there seems to be a touch more detail through the midrange and a touch more warmth in the bass - although detail and control in the deep bass is well short of my SS system.

Vocals are wonderful, strings, piano and percussion are nicely presented with good detail, separation but no harshness. Overall the sound is more seductive but not as tight, with a smaller soundstage. More like a night club. The SLA-30 has never sounded better to my ears.
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