Cary Audio SLP-05 First Impression

Hi,  I just received my Cary Audio SLP-5 tube preamp this weekend.  It’s only been less than 48 hours and I can’t wait to share my experience with my fellow A’goners. If I have to summarize my initial impression of this unit in one word, it would be:  WOW!!!

I don’t consider myself a true audiophile, so I don’t really have a strong audiophile vocabulary to describe the sound quality, but a few clichés come to mind:

  • sounds like the musicians are right there in my room
  • holographic 3D sound
  • dead quiet
  • sweet & non-fatiguing top end
  • deep bass

Couple of things I hope will continue to improve is a tiny bit more punchiness in the mid bass, and smoothing out some occasional graininess at the top end.

My strongest impression so far is the overall imaging of the sound, and the sense that I’m listening to live music.  Last night I had my system casually playing in the background when I was doing stuff around my apartment, and Eva Cassidy’s Live at Blues Alley album came on.   I was suddenly drawn to the music, and for the first time ever, I finally understand what the description ’sounds like the musicians are right there in my room’ means.   It was surreal.   It brought a big smile to my face.  It was simply beautiful.   Need I say more?

This is the first line level tube preamp I’ve ever owned.  I do own the Herron VTPH-2A tube phono preamp.   Now I know what all that fuss and craze of tube pre/power amps are about.   I guess you simply have to experience it to appreciate it.   I still feel my Parasound JC2 and JC5 combo sounds great, and I am not planning to get rid of them anytime soon.   It’s just that the Cary SLP-05 completely opens up a new music dimension that I’ve never experienced before, and so far it’s been very pleasant.

I will consider doing the ‘Ultimate Upgrade’ offered by Cary at $1600 at some point.   Please feel free to share your experience If you are a SLP-05 owner and have done this upgrade.

I have purchased so many components in the last couple of years based on suggestions and comments that I received, and stuff I read in this forum.  So thanks to those who continue to contribute and share their experiences to fellow members. 

Finally, a big shout-out to @ghdprentice for your suggestion of tube preamps and brought up the Cary brand name in one of my other discussions.  This preamp is certainly a keeper.

PS:  there are a couple of changes Cary had made to the latest production of SLP-05.  It now comes with a universal remote control.  The same one that they sell for $190 on their website, instead of a basic 3 buttons remote that I read from some older reviews.   Also they no longer recommend stacking the control unit on top of the power unit, and therefore those indentations on the top of the power unit are gone.  It is simply a flat surface now.   Actually to my surprise, the power unit runs much hotter than the control unit.  I always thought the control unit would run hotter because that is where the vacuum tubes sit.

PPS: My unit was shipped with the blue power LED missing.  After contacting Cary Audio support, they told me it was most likely dislodged due to rough handling by Fedex.  So the unit is now going back and i would have to wait for a replacement.   That sucks, but kudos to the customer support folks at both Cary Audio and Music Direct for their great service!

Thanks for reading.


Good to know about your experience with NOS Mullard rectifier. Can you tell me exactly the model/year if you remember? I did change my rectifier tube to the Gold Lion Genelax as recommended by some member here, but did not hear much difference

@xcool  , a while ago I had some questions related to the rectifier tube for the SLP-05; I don't know if you caught any of it when it was running, but if not, you may find some of the replies helpful.  Or you may not--but either way, here is the thread:


 xcool….congrats on your purchase but sympathy on the issues…ughhh.

Have had my SLP-05 about 2 years now and still very happy with the sound; it is a fantastic sounding preamp. If you want to tube roll on a bit of a budget here is what I did. I am currently running NOS Sylvania 7n7 using an adapter for the tube base. It was a huge upgrade from the stock tubes. You can pick up 8 of these with the adapters from JAC music in Germany for under $500 I believe and additional tubes are very reasonable. I am sure someone will tell me this is compromising the sound in some way but There is no doubt these are considerably better that the stock tubes. I can’t comment how they compare to the $100++ 6sn7  however. I also put an early 60’s Mullard 5AR4 rectifier in and that was a good improvement. The Slovak crap failed in month 3.

Hey @jmbumgarner01, thanks for sharing your interesting experience with the Sylvania tubes.  Something to consider when i feel the urge to do some tube rolling again.   

Also, i’ve read quite a few comments on the stock Slovak rectifier tube not lasting very long.   I guess it’s really not that well made.  

I thought this group may have some insight for me.  I picked up an SLP-05 recently and sent it to Cary for the ultimate upgrade.  When I bought it the LED lights weren’t operating so I didn’t take note of the meters.  When returned, all sounds great and is functioning well, however the plate voltage is at 200 and the plate current is around 49.  Is this of any concern as the manual calls for 210/60 respectively.