Cary Audio SLP-5 Preamp Tube Replacement.

Hello Guys,

I have stock tubes in my Cary SLP-05 and want to replace them with Psvane CV181-T MKII (6SN7) or you have any other recommendations? I am hoping you can help me if I need to buy all eight tubes or I can do with less tubes. I hope they fit in Cary and which slots I should replace them in? I only use RCA cables and not balanced cables. Looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks.



I do not have the Golden ear but I do have a SLP05. If you are using RCAs and NOT using your balanced inputs, you will get absolutely nothing by replacing the two balanced input tubes. As a matter of fact, the reviewer who reviewed the SLP05 for Stereophile wrote that the preamp will atually operate fine without any tubes in those sockets (3 and 6). I have not tryed that so I am not confirming that. If you are not using the headphone out of the SLP05, no need to replace 7 and 8.

I, personally, am using the balanced ins and outs of my SLP05 and I have heard significant differences by only rolling tubes in those sockets (3 and 6). I have had the good fortune of a couple of very generous people giving me a pair of NOS tubes and also one who sold and gave me several pairs of slightly used vintage 6SN7s and VT231s and 6F8Gs that I have been rolling in those sockets, but since you are using your RCAs, I won’t go into that yet.

I would suggest that you try your SLP05 using balanced cables and see what you think, and if you like it, then consider rolling tubes in 3 and six.

As far as 1 through 6, I only recently pulled the EHs and put in JJs 6SN7s. I started by running all six tubes with JJs (with no vintage tubes) and I felt I heard more life with the JJ 6SN7s than with the EHs. Then I put a pair of ’52 Sylvania "Bad Boys" in front of the four JJs and it was one of those oh-em-gee moments. As I put more hours on the JJs, began to enjoy the experience any more.

(Tonight I actually replaced the ’52 Sylvanias with a pair of National Union 6F8Gs and adapters, but I never got beyond verifying that I had a signal from both left and right channels tonight, so I cannot report on that just yet. The NUs did come highly recommended.)

As far as the Psvanes you listed, I have no experience with them. A member who goes by @xcool (if I remember correctly) has a SLP05 and again, if I remember correctly, he put in some expensive Chinese 6SN7s called "Linlis"? But I am not positive about the brand name. I got the impression that he liked them.

As far as the power supply, did yours come with a Sovtek 5AR4 rectifier tube? You may actually hear an improvement by upgrading that, although not everyone agrees that the rectifier tube will have a noticeable sonic effect. Regardless, it would probably be a good idea to at least keep a spare on hand.

The Linlai E-6SN7's were my tube of choice in the SLP-05.  As @immatthewj noted you only need 4 of them if you aren't running balanced.  My SLP-05 sounded a bit better with balanced ins and outs but not as good with mixed inputs but your experience might be different.  I just bought my E-6SN7's off Aliexpress.  No need to pay extra for the nonsense Premium Vacuum Tubes spouts to justify more than doubling the price.

My friend bought a tube preamp and tube phono stage, brought them here for a listen. I was quite surprised how much the sound changed when he tried the alternate rectifier tube the maker had included. Quite obvious difference, not subtle.

I bought a pair of 6sl7s, hated them, returned, tried different ones, love them. Again, obvious, not subtle.

Seemed like a bigger difference than I have experienced when changing 12ax/12au's

Thank you for your replies my friends. So, let me get it right, I just need to replace 1, 2, 4 and 5 slots as I only use unbalanced cables? Also @pinwa Did the Linlai tubes fit and how do they sound in SLP5? 

I really appreciate your giving time to my queries. Thanks.

Yes:  3 and 6 are for your left and right balanced input buffer and 7 and 8 are for your left and right headphone amplifier.

. . . and if you think of it, give us a follow up on how you feel about those Psvane CV181-T MKII (6SN7)s in 1 through 5 after you've had them in for a bit.

@couger4u I’ve tried various 6SN7s in my Cary tube preamplifier. Reliability has been better buying from reputable distributors who actually re-test them well before sending them out. People here all have their favorite dealers, re-sellers.

Not wanting to deal with boutique dealers as much for my backup sets I’ve had reasonable luck dealing with Viva Tubes, both input and output tubes. Sure, I also purchase NOS stuff from the speciality dealers too, but don’t use my vintage tubes as much any more. Hoarded a few sets away, but wanted to find new re/production 6SN7 tubes to use instead. I don't feel as bad running them more often perhaps.  

Having tried TJ Full Music (n/a now days, but I still use them today), then tried special production PSVANE, vintage Sylvania, RCA, repro Tung Sol, and more, comparing with friends, some have moved on to Linlai too, with decent results. Some buddies are telling me they like the lower level model PSVANE and the lower model Linlai as much or better in some ways, slightly less smoothed over, fwiw.

VIVA: You might call Viva Tubes and ask them about their guarantee, returns, and ask how they will support you since 6SN7s are expensive, worth doing some added Q&A with them, comparing to other retailers. I feel the support and guarantee is as important as the tube itself.


@couger4u The Linlai E-6SN7 tubes fit fine in the SLP-05.  I tried a variety of NOS and new production tubes and I liked the LinLai tubes the best.  They are very transparent and neutral with excellent top and bottom end extension.  I think they excel at soundstage.  If you are looking for a tube that provides some sort of boost, either to the top or bottom end I don't think they do that, they are very uncolored but just sound very good.  I have dozens of pairs of 6SN7 tubes and the LinLai's have become my tube of choice.

I have dozens of pairs of 6SN7 tubes and the LinLai's have become my tube of choice

@pinwa  , just a few questions for you as I am also a SL05 owner/operator who is always interested in better living through electronics:

1) how have you configured your SLP05 as far as the Linlais go?  Do you have the Linlais in all six sockets, or only the balanced inputs, or only in the four left and right + and - phase buffers sockets?

2)if you are only running a pair of Linlais in the left and right balanced input sockets, what are you running in the other four sockets?

3)I was looking at Viva's site earlier today and there sem to be a few different grades or models(?) of the Linlai 6SN7; which are you using?


Hi all, 

just ordered Linlai E6SN7 quad for SLP05. I had Linlai before on Supratech Caberet and liked them. So, let's see how they fare with Cary. I will let you know. Thanks to you all.

Very curious to see how the tubes work out for you! I’m about to finish building a Tubes4HiFi SP14 preamp and will be needing to order a quad of 6SN7’s for it.


Been leaning towards the Black Treasure CV181, but have read good things about the Linlai E-6SN7’s. otherwise it’s going to be some NOS Sylvania.


The prices from AliXpress are really good on the Linlai. 

@couger4u  , I meant to ask you who you ordered from?  (I may want to upgrade in those four sockets myself.)

@immatthewj I ordered from AliExpress as they have the lowest prices as @perkri said. Viva tubes has them, but the price is about $100 more. The expected delivery is March 8th. Keeping my fingers crossed.

I've been using various 6SN7s (GTBs in my case) and found that NOS GEs sound best for my tastes, and last a really long time. 

@immatthewj I have the LinLai E-6SN7 tubes in all 6 sockets since I used the SLP-05 balanced.  I don't use headphones so I have cheap throw away tubes in the other two sockets.  It has never been clear to me if you could leave those sockets empty or not.

I have only used the E-6SN7 tubes.  I have no experience with any of LinLai's cheaper tubes but I have tried different 300B tubes from them and generally I think you get what you pay for when you move up their product line.  I only buy from Aliexpress and don't think the premium from Viva or the other US vendors is worth anything despite their claims otherwise.  

Hi @couger4u,  the Lineal experiences that I posted as mentioned by @immatthewj are in this long thread started by another member.  A big part of the discussion was about where to purchase them, and whether the ones sold by non authorized dealers at a cheaper price are actually legitimate, and same as the ones sold by their one and only authorized dealer for the US market.

I ended up buying one pair from their "authorized" Linai dealer, and paid the extra money for my own peace of mind.   I used them for the balanced output, i.e. slot 3 and 6 on the SLP-05, and I do like them better than the stock EH tubes from Cary.  

As for slots 1,2,4,5,  I bought some NOS RCA black plate tubes from a dealer named Brent Jesse whose highly regarded in this forum.  I also like the RCA's better than the stock tubes.

Anyway, hope this helps, and good luck with finding the tubes that you like.  It's a time consuming process.

@xcool thanks for your reply. I think I will leave the stock EH in 3 and 6 and only change the four tubes mentioned. I have read somewhere that all tubes interact with each other in the circuit so the sockets has to have tubes in them and not to leave them empty. I might buy tubes for the headphone as I use headphones once in a while. I will try the Psvane once Linlai’s are paid off. 

I have read somewhere that all tubes interact with each other in the circuit so the sockets has to have tubes in them

I have read the exact opposite. And although I realize that this discussion applies to the SLP05 preamp, back in late 2017 (which was back when you could actually get tech support via the telephone from Cary) the Cary tech guy suggested that I run my Cary V-12 amp (which uses a total of 12 EL34s) with only two EL34s perside and set each side’s bia at 80 to 100 mA and see how I liked it. I actually did try that and when I ran it in that configuration I covered the empty sockets with electrical tape to keep dust and foreign objects out. (At the time I didn’t feel it was enough power . . . but I might give it another try as my tastes have changed).

But as far as the SLP05, as far as the balanced input sockets, if you are not hooking interconnects in to the balanced inputs, I truly cannot see how those sockets would interact with the + and - phase buffers. And since I have read nothing at all about leaving the two headphone amp sockets empty if not using headphones, I will not comment on those.

However, with all that typed, IF I was running my equipment into my SLP05 with RCAs, I would still leave the cheap tubes in the balanced input sockets, and in my SLP05 I am NOT (yet) running headphones (although that may change) and I still have the stock EHs in those sockets.

I run Raytheon VT231’s in the gain stages and CBS Hytron 5692 in the buffers fo my SLP05, and they sound glorious. Tubes of this quality are still available from Brent Jessee and others.