I am trying to make a decision on 2 SACD/CD players: The Cary Audio 306 Professional, which retails for $8,000 and the Marantz SA11S3, which retails for $4,000. I can purchase the Cary Audio for 50% at least, so it puts it at the same price point as the Marantz. The Cary was made a while back, while the Marantz is newer. However, I am trying to discern in terms of quality, build, and CD performance, which is the more superior? I've read some great things on the Marantz, though there were very little comparisons to other CD player options. Looks like the Audio Research CD8 kind of sets the standard, but at $10,000, it is way out of my price range. So what about the Cary vs. the Marantz? Looking for a player with no listening fatigue (which neither players really have at all), detail, resolution, clarity with neutral to slight warmth. Something very musical while retrieving as much detail as possible in this price range. Much appreciation.
My system is Primaluna Dialogue HP Premium Integrated Tube Amp & Sonus Faber Olympica III speakers. Thanks!
I very recently bought the Cary 306 Pro used off of Audiogon, for a reasonable price. I'm not familiar wth the Marantz SA11, but have heard some of their other products. After reading several reviews on the Cary, I decided to go for it, and have been very happy I did. It's not overly airy or bright, but has the ability to relay all the detail in the recording, I would call it very truthful. Being a bass player, I love to be able to pick the bass out of a recording with ease, and while the bass is not prominent, overly boomy or dynamic, I can pick it, or any instrument out with great ease. So over my old Sony ES deck, it is nothing short of awesome! But, my unit is CD only, no SACD or other formats. Which, concerned me at first but honestly I don't presently own any SACD's, so thus far it hasn't been an issue. Build quality is extreme. Solid brushed aluminum on all sides, weighs a ton! Solid as stone, and reads the disc almost before the drawer shuts! The remote could be used as a weapon it's so well made. Which is best? I can't say for sure, but I do know if you choose the Cary, you will not be disappointed. First class piece of gear. Also, it's DAC can be accessed both in and out, so I can pump my computer though it, haven't tried it yet but all the connections are there.
I recall the Marantz was also on my short list, my daughter has one of the lesser models from the SA11, and it has a nice full sound, not bright or boomy, and while the front panel is actually some plastic panels, it's a nice looking unit. And, before helping her buy that unit research showed that Marantz is well liked in customer reviews, required less repairs than many other brands, their numbers on infant mortality is next to zero. (Dead out of the box)
So I chose the Cary, I think it would work well with your tubed gear, if you don't mind the lack of SACD. But honest. I think it's a win-win situation. Either choice will be a good one.
I use a Cary 306 SACD Pro for my digital front end. I'm not sure which model Alpha_gt is referring to but it isn't the 306. I enjoy mine tremendously paired with their SLP-05 and 200.2 (with Focal speakers). At least 200 hours of break in as the sound will change a good bit, especially bass.
Anyhow, the 306 SACD Pro at $4,000 or so seems about right. Dennis Had was involved in the development ('07-'08) before he retired. I'd go in a different direction today if SACD physical disc isn't needed. Otherwise, there aren't too many SACD players at any given price point to consider.
FWIW, based on my use of a Marantz SA11S3 and from what I've read about the Cary, if I had to make a blind choice between the two I'd base my decision on the tonal balance differences between the two. I'd guess that I'd prefer the Marantz in a leaner system(SS?) and the Cary in a warmer system (tubes?). I find in my system (definitely warmer) the Marantz sounds best with small groups and solo instruments. The lower mid-range upper bass seems to get a bit thick (compared to my Wadia 302 which I much prefer on large orchestral music in general, especially those with a warmer balance in the first place). I'm agnostic about SACD's - as far as I'm concerned the performance issues involved in most recordings will overwhelm any sonic benefits of redbook v SACD.
Be careful with the Marantz Reference Line, the last few years I have seen a lot of this line sold as B-stock or Refurbish, including the SA/CD-11S3 this year going for $2500 in NY B-Stock and a little more on line Mail Order. I myself after buying from that line 3 years ago had 2 return a unit because when I turned all the lights off n used a search light I could see were a big touchup was done on the unit, they had 2 take it back, also had a problem with the second unit. I would say its all about POOR QC. hope this helps.
Came across the EAR Acute Cd player or the Ear Acute Mk3 - have never heard of this company and a lot of people seem to to like these cd players. For a tube lover, the EAR looks very interesting. Any more recent owners choose this CD player? Has anyone had any issues with reliability or defects? That is one concern getting into digital equipment..
Djfst this is a (EAR) top of the line company, I have heard from everybody that has heard this unit it sounds outstanding Plus in can be used as a Preamp also. I would think once you hear this player you will love it.
Perhaps my Cary 306 is an older model? As to why it doesn't play SACD? Honestly, the man I bought it from told me it didn't play them, I haven't actually tried. And don't own one to try. The instruction manual makes no mention.
I owned the Cary 306 SACD which was the model before the Pro. Mine played SACD's. Actually quite well. It was a very, good sounding CD player.
I copied all of the SACD's from the Cary to a Tascam at 24/192 then onto a external hard drive. They sound awesome! Most of them sound even better than HiRez downloads.
I eventually sold the player, but its a very good sounding unit. I must add though the drawer gave me fits. I sent it back to Cary 3 times. Cary really didn't treat me too well though. They didn't care if it had been in 3 times for the same problem. They still charged me every time it was sent back and the last time the cost was about $1000.
"08-11-15: Alpha_gt Perhaps my Cary 306 is an older model? As to why it doesn't play SACD? Honestly, the man I bought it from told me it didn't play them, I haven't actually tried. And don't own one to try. The instruction manual makes no mention."
Are you sure you have a 306 Pro? If I remember correctly, the 306/200 is just a CD player, but all the Pro's are SACD. If you're not sure, you can find out by removing the cover and look to see what DAC chips you have.
If I remember correctly, the first 306 model was the 306, which did HDCD and 24/96. The 306/200 added 24/192. Then came the 306 SACD, which added SACD. Then, the 306 SACD Pro, which was meant to be the ultimate SACD player. For the SACD Pro Denis went to Sony to get the best SACD engineers he could find.
The first 3 used Pacific Microsonic chips for HDCD, but the SACD Pro did not, since the chips were not longer available. So it has a Burr Brown chip that does HDCD.
I am pretty sure the labels on the front and back of the case should tell you whether a model is SACD capable.
There you have it! Thank you Dtc for clearing that up. Mine is a 306/200 apparently. I just bought it in May, so I'm still in the "Honeymoon" phase. I'm still mesmerized by the rock solid performance, and overall neutral tonal balance. All my CD's are new again! Some sound much better with the pressing of the 24/96 button, others, hardly any difference if any. I haven't figured out why that is just yet. What is different about those that do? I've been experimenting with what available cables I've got around here, and it looks like I'm going with the Harmonic Technologies Precision. Single ended, I'd love to try the XLR outputs but at present do not own a good pair of XLR cables. On my list of things to do. All of this has me now wanting to upgrade my preamp! The curse of the audiophile. Will it ever end?
So, Djfst, have you made a purchase yet? I'm very interested to know what you bought, and what you think of it.
As I understand it, there are two buttons on the 306/200. The Digital 24/96 Sample button controls whether the digital output signal is upscaled to 96/24 or left at the input sample rate/depth. The Analog 192/24 Converter button determines whether the digital signal is upscaled to 192/24 before conversion to analog. So, if you are using analog output, the Digital 24/96 button should have not effect, but the 192/24 button may.
The manual is on the Cary website under Support.
On of the nice features of the 306 line is that they accept digital inputs, so you can use them as a DAC in a PC music setup.
Thanks Dtc, that also helps me, and reflects my experience. After reading your post, I looked back, and thought to myself that is what I've been hearing, the first button (labeled Digital) doesn't make a difference, the second button, (labeled Analog) occasionally does make a difference. I'm trying to figure what it is about the CD's that are improved, over those who are not. So far I can't find any trends, just that some do, and some very little, and some no real improvement. Whether the are AAD, or DDD, sure isn't it, but it's still nice when I press the button and it does make a difference.
And I realize this thread / post is old, but if anyone is looking to buy a used Cary and came across this thread as I did, be advised that Cary no longer services this product (the 306); no parts they say. So if your laser is defunct, the drive system is causing you fits or whatever, you may well be out of luck. But Marantz still services their older CDPs as they make / build a lot of their own parts or have sources still making them for them. FYI...
By chance, does anybody here have a schematic diagram for the Cary CD 306/200 player ? I have a wounded player and cannot move forward without the schematic. Cary seems very indiferent to my problem since this is a used machine. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
You must have a verified phone number and physical address in order to post in the Audiogon Forums. Please return to Audiogon.com and complete this step. If you have any questions please contact Support.