ARC Reference 6 or Cary SLP 05 with upgrade?

Yeah, it's me again. The Voyager has settled in nicely and I think I would benefit from a better preamp. A friendly local dealer dropped by today with a ARC LS28. That was headed in the right direction but was not close to a $12,000 improvement. I could probably swing a used ARC Reference 6, but somehow the Cary SLP 05 has caught my attention. Everything I read about it is very positive but I don't know if it would lend more of a full sound than increased transparency. Has anyone been able to compare these two directly? 

Currently: Bricasti M3 > Rogue RP-7 > LSA Voyager > Fyne F1-8

One of the things that appeals to me about the Cary, aside from cost, is it uses 6sn7 tubes which are now being manufactured by Lin Lai and have a reputation for great sonics.

Anyway, I await your wisdom. 


I have almost the same system and went with the Cary because it seemed like more tube rolling (sound tuning) options, tube rectified, separate power supply, talking to people and cost.  The remote is way over kill if just using for 2 channel.  Wish Cary would offer a minimalist remote option.  

Sound-I have a few hundred hours on it and really enjoy the improvement in bass, soundstage and midrange over my Rogue RP7.


I never listened to a Ref 6 but would buy the Cary again.  I don’t think you can go wrong with either. 

I too run a Bricasti M3, AGD Audions (class D) and moved from a Rogue RP7 with NOS tubes.  The Cary enhanced the sound in all the areas I was wanting.  I feel like I’m finally hearing my Joseph Audio Perspectives.  Sorry for rambling.  Reach out if you want to talk about “specific” detail. 


Hi testrun! Yes, we do have similar systems, so your input is particularly valuable. Thank you. The Voyager, aside from having gobs of power, is slightly on the warm side and is quite robust in the lower frequencies compared to the Audions (I had a pair). Same for the Fyne speakers, at least compared to the JA Pulsar II that I almost bought. So a concern I have regarding the 05 > Voyager > Fyne is perhaps too much emphasis in the mid bass. Maybe this is not something you can comment on. I am looking for a more etherial sound than I have now. A soundstage that puts me IN the music, not so much as a voyeur. Yes, I know, headphones. 

Are you still using the stock tubes? What 6sn7s does it ship with? Have you found the 05 to be sensitive to different interconnects and power cords? 

@testrun Did you get the upgrade in your unit? I was planning to do that but they do not allow returns if upgraded. The only reason I might return the unit is as follows.

My main concern is that this is a high gain preamp. The Bricasti, I believe, has a rather hot output (their output specs are not in volts and are confusing to me), the Voyager is powerful (350W), and the speakers are 91db sensitive. I am concerned that I will have a very limited volume range available to me. Like from 0-10 on a scale of 0-100. Your amps are 85W and your speakers are, I believe, 85db sensitive. So in that regard we are very different.

You can ignore my questions about tubes and cables, above. I think I have a handle on those.

I have the SLP-05 without the upgrade, will do it when I am going to be away so I won’t miss it. Super preamp but your concern on gain is valid. I installed rockwell attenuators as suggested by others on this forum and that worked great with no noticeable sound degradation. Vinyl was fine but my digital source was too hot and I have magnepan 3.7’s which I believe are like 87 db fed by Pass X250.8.

the Cary is a fantastic unit in both looks and sound and does offer many tube sandbox play opportunities.

I got it with the upgrade.  Honestly when I buy anything I buy with resale in mind.  I tube rolling options are great the rectifier tubes based power supply is something I really wanted and would suggest for anyone buying a tube preamp.  The Cary is a collectible which is very important for resale fore everyone involved with this addition.  Signing off but think about it .