Cary SLI-80HS modifications

I’m strongly considering purchase of a new integrated amp. The Cary SLI-80HS is at the top of my list and I can’t find much information from people who opted for some of the available modifications — hexfeds, better caps, silver wiring, Greyhill volume control, improved binding posts.   I’m leaning toward getting all of them.  Opinions? 

Also, I’ve read that SS rectifiers can remove some of the tube “magic”.  What about in this specific model.  I’ve owned a 2009 era SLI-80 for almost 10 years so I am very familiar with the sound and improvements due to rolling tubes. I previously used a Plinius 9200 SS amp but got hooked on the sound of tubes.

BTW, I’m also considering a LTA ZOTL 40+ integrated but am a little concerned about its synergy with my beloved first-order crossover speakers, Meadowlark Osprey Gen 2.  

My most used equipment includes Aurender N150 streamer, Chord Qutest DAC with a Hugo M-Scaler, Cardas Golden Reference interconnects, Shunyata power cables and conditioner. Sadly, due to the living room location I must use a very long run of Nordost Super Flatline II cable (27 feet).

I’m looking for improved leading edge on plucked string instruments, especially basses, excellent timbre on everything.  90% of my listening is instrumental jazz, the rest is classic rock.  


txp1 - I'm wondering the same thing having bought an F-1 edition in 2007 and enjoying it for 4 years.  Great amp, I'm thinking about getting another HS model too.  Hopefully decooney chimes in.

@txp1 "hexfeds, better caps, silver wiring, Greyhill volume control, improved binding posts. I’m leaning toward getting all of them. Opinions? "

Sure @pehare I’ll chime in, fwiw. imo, I’d also suggest to opt sending your existing SLI-80 to a great local tech for a look-see and targeted upgrades. Sometimes I miss my former SLI-80 Signature, it had really nice upgrades done locally. Sounded amazing after similar upgrades. I was experimenting with Cary SLP-98 preamp at the time, and Cary Audio actually bought back my SLI-80 from me and gave me full price for it with upgrade costs (no joke). They wanted to study the upgrades my local friend and tech did for me before he retired. They had it in the showroom there at Cary listening to it, and were very complimentary. They had few customers queued up who dropped by to hear it. They resold it the week it arrived and the new owner was absolutely thrilled with it. It was the local tech upgrades that brought that amp to another new level. And, maybe I’m a diehard for the older Cary stuff sometimes too. You can also check out what you have now for an uplift.

Or, nothing wrong with buying the new SLI-80HS, with all upgrades, yet you’ll be paying for stock tubes you might put back in the box and replace those anyhow. The older Upscale inspired F1 version can be improved upon by a great tech, maybe someone here will chime in who’s taken an older SLI-80 to the next level like I had prior.

Personally I dont know if I’d do the SS rectifiers today if I picked up another SLI-80. I knew the former designer there who’s long gone, and we talked about this some, and your note about this is correct. My existing tube mono block amps have SS rectification, its nice too. However sometimes I miss a bit of the tube bloom there too. Fast vs. slow, ... Grass is greener some times. Something about older designs that can work too given a makeover. 

Best of Luck on the decsions.


@pehare @decooney  Thank you for your very thoughtful input! I really appreciate that.  There’s only one tech in my local area who even works on audio equipment. I’ll need to do some searching.  And unfortunately the new SLI-80HS is only available WITH the solid state rectification. So there is no choice about that.

Decisions, decisions.  Cary currently has a nice sale ongoing.  Maybe I’ll get the new HS model and try to find a good tech for the old one. Then keep the one that I think sounds best.

The only thing nice about getting old is you don’t need to save as much money!

I have an SLI-80 Signature model with all the upgrades and it sounds excellent.  They are all worthwhile, but the hexfreds are definitely priority 1.  I also have an SLI-100 which has a similar character, but sounds a little better and packs some more watts although I never had difficulty driving speakers with the SLI-80.  It packs more punch than the watts might suggest like a lot of tube amps.

A short time ago I spoke with someone on the Cary sales team and they remarked the solid state rectification HS model still has the tube holography and bloom the Signature has.  (It would be interesting to find out).  They added going with solid state rectification took care of most of the reliability issues they had with the SLI-80.  I have fond memories of my F-1 in triode mode on my Coincident Partial Eclipse 2's.  Years ago Cary built a special F-1 that was triode only and direct coupled as I rmember.  

@somebike Thanks for your input about the upgrades! That’s very reassuring. The SLI-100 sounds better is interesting.  Could it be your room acoustics or the speakers match it better?  Hmm…  I’ve only considered the SLI-80HS because I can only raise my current SLI-80 volume to about 10 0’clock position or it’s just too loud. Perhaps the KT150s sound better than the KT88s.  I really like the Gold Lion KT88 in my SLI-80. 

@pehare The SS rectifier sound comment is also very reassuring because that was my biggest concern in this purchase.  Thanks!  

Also, I have a theory regarding the rectifier tube reliability problem.  I think it’s due to changing listening mode (UL - Triode) while at power.  I always thought that had to be hard on the rectifier tubes so I never did it.  After 8 problem-free years I started changing the mode while at power for convenience. It only took about 3 or 4 mode changes at power until I blew a rectifier tube and a fuse.  This happened twice. I stopped doing the mode changes at power and the problem stopped.  The tube blows didn’t happen at the exact same time I made the mode change. The tubes blew within a week or so afterwards.  Maybe just a two-time coincidence but I stopped doing it and the amp has been problem-free for almost 2 years.

@txp1 I do have a big listening room that is kind to extra watts when desired.  I should point out that the SLI-100 also has the upgrades and the difference is subtle.  I could drive speakers of varying efficiency with plenty of volume.  I do not think you will be disappointed by the SLI-80.  I also recommend triode mode in pure class A.  In my opinion, that's shine best.

@somebike   I’ve owned a SLI-80 for almost 10 years so I do appreciate the sound of triode mode.  For many years I almost exclusively listened using triode mode.  But in the last year I’ve really learned to appreciate UL mode.  UL is more extended on both highs and lows. Bass is tighter. The soundstage is wider on UL but triode mode has a much deeper soundstage.  Triode mode is usually meatier between the speakers.  Also, I’ve read that people appreciate triode mode when listening to female vocalists. I’m no expert there but it makes sense. 

@txp1 I really like the Gold Lion KT88 in my SLI-80.

Tip: Trust your ears and what you like. A former contact and colleague designed the SLI-100 for Cary. He departed shortly after it was ready to go into production. While the circuit determines the sound with any tube, the KT88s sound very nice in the Cary amps. Sometimes, in some cases, newer is "not always better", fwiw.

This note is coming to you from someone who owns monbock amps that run KT150s or KT120s today. I spent way too much time on my current amps, input tubes, and caps along with different sources trying to get them to provide a sound, tone, texture, and result that sounded closer to my former Cary amps with KT88s, fwiw. While I’ve not heard heard the new SLI-100 in my system and setup, imo, if you love your KT88s now, my bet is the newer unit will sound different, a more modern and more linear sound. KT88s can sound really nice. The old days we use to bring the amps home and try them, not so easy any more with fewer dealers due to manufacturers now offering buy-direct. 

@decooney Excellent input, thanks!  I’m definitely with you on that.  It’s the new SLI-80HS or just keep my old one.  The old unit is sounding really nice these days.  

I took the plunge and picked up a SLI-80HS with kitchen sink upgrades from Cary before the sale ends and right out of the box it sounded fantastic.  Came with Psvane KT88's.  I don't notice any lack of tube bloom from my old F-1 Edition.  Should only get better as it burns in cheers.

@pehare "kitchen sink upgrades from Cary ..."


Do you happen to know which capacitors were listed as upgrades on your invoice/receipt ?

Hello all, I too just recently took delivery on a new SLI80-HS. I am blown away. I opted for all the upgrades. With the sale it was hard to resist. I have only had limited listening time at this point, and no doubt I'm weeks away from things really burning in, but wow!. I also opted for the cage, its very well done. 

I sold Cary back in the early 90's and let me say the modern version shows/sings it's constant improvement and evolution. Going by decades old memory here, i find the sound to be less syrupy. It sounds more focused and tighter, no loss on the sweetness of tube highs and mids. SS rectifier to thank for this?

@doyle3433 It sounds more focused and tighter, no loss on the sweetness of tube highs and mids. SS rectifier to thank for this?


Different new production stock tubes, yes ss vs. tube rectification, different coupling caps, hexfred upgrade, all contributes to a less "tubey" and faster and more modern sound.

Fortunately the Triode/UL switch is still there from the old design to enjoy that too, provided you have the right efficiency speaker with the lower wattage in triode mode. Some of us put the stock EH tubes in their boxes, replace from there. 

@decooney Thank you for the feedback. I haven’t yet listened in triode mode. I do enjoy female vocals, so I’m looking forward to it. My speakers are Volti Razz, with sensitivity in the low to mid 90’s. (part of the reason i really sought out the SLI-80 is due to hearing the Razz/Cary combo as my first experience, the spell was cast as it turned out..)

You mentioned some tube rolling.. I’ve enjoyed doing so in my old Mac240. I think the SLI-80 has the ability of more tube variety, so I’m keen to roll so to speak.

Any advice on what you’ve found to be nice pairings? Everyone else feel free to suggest as well.

@doyle3433 Any advice on what you’ve found to be nice pairings? Everyone else feel free to suggest as well.


While I stupidly parted with my own Cary SLI-80 a few years ago, I’ve followed along with others since. Cary bought it back from me, paid FULL price for it wanting to see/hear the mods I/we did with a local industry tech friend who’s now retired. The customer who bought it from Cary called me and really likes it a lot. He wanted to buy all the GL tubes and all of the vintage tubes I still had for it too. Good fun.

Following some of my history, a buddy [tube nut] received his new SLI-80 two weeks ago and while he swapped out the large stock KT88 output tubes for PSVANE EL34s (his preference), he’s been reminding me how swapping out the front two small 6922s makes the most difference. Its crazy, he’s already trying 5 different 6922 pairs he had on order, some new, some NOS vintage. This tube change kind of depends on what you are looking for in terms of more/less detail, or midrange, and such. He runs horn speakers too and hears every 6922 tube change.

imo, yours is a bit more of a special case with those Volte horns you have. Change matters, and select tubes well. As you let it break in, feel free to send me a PM/DM and I can share his my/notes with you. He did not like the stock EH at all though, and same experience I had. Depends on what you hear from your Volte’s.

His last two sets of 6922 this week [new production] were JJ gold pins, and vintage he’s really liking the [vintage production] Amperex 6922s. He’s got more burn-in required on his SLI-80 though. He rolls more tubes than anyone I know, to an obsessive degree. Problem is those old Amperex [matched pairs] are getting to be ridiculously expensive. I would only recommend getting those from a very reputable tube seller with a guarantee/return policy if you go down the vintage rabbit hole. I had Gold Lyon KT88s/6922s in my SLI-80 and they worked better than some vintage tubes i tried. Your situation could be different and call for different tubes - again, depending on what you are looking for from the sound.

I see you have the Cutest dac paired with GR cables. I’ve never tried that dac, but I did recently pick up the Border Patrol SE-I DAC, same dac that BorderPatrol / Volte / TriodeWireLabs uses a the shows. This BP SE-I dac is soft and gentle, i.e so picking a soft 6922 with this BP dac NOT be a good idea, as an example. Whereas I understand your Chord Cutest is a bit more detailed, so balancing things out matters and you may decide to lean one direction or the other with 6922s.

@doyle3433 @pehare  Did you check the bias before your first listen or did you trust that Cary set the bias correctly prior to sending your new amp to you?

 I’m taking delivery of mine tomorrow and I’d like to listen for a week before fussing with the bias.  Yes I know it’s easy, I’ve done it a dozen times, but it still seems to take me 45 minutes and I’m going to do it in a week anyway to ensure it’s stable.  Damn I’m impatient!

The bias on my current SLI-80 was incredibly stable. Unless replacing power tubes, I’d check it once a year and it would be within a mA or 2 of the initial setting (75 mA for KT-88s).

@txp1 Yes, I did power up the 1st time w/the bias plug in and once it was warmed up it was a little high just under 80mA so I backed off each channel to 73.  Could have been the line voltage variation from Cary's bench and my home.

@txp1 I decided to wait about a week. Like @pehare Mine was slightly high when I did check bias, so I backed down slightly. Otherwise right out of the box, no fuss no muss. I was startled at how good it sounds with my Volti’s. When I visited Greg at Volti to pick my Razz up, he had me listen to another pair of Razz with the Cary and it was great. Perhaps because my room is about a quarter the size of his, my set up is even more alive and involving to me. Sweet and effortless.

Next step is to pick @decooney 's brain about some tube rolling.. 🙂

@doyle3433 can you look at your order build sheet to confirm which coupling caps they installed in your HS model?  Also, I'm not familiar with what stock tubes they come with now days, is it still Electro Harmonix or something else now?

I'm helping or tracking along with a friend with his SLI 80, and he's rolled several output tubes and at least 4 different input tubes on his own, and seemingly not "there" yet. Now he's replaced all the KT88s, trying different EL34s, wanting that type of midrange sound for his 3-way Klipsch Hersey IVs, which are NOT like his former Hersey IIIs. He's acting super itchy now wanting to swap out the stock (lower version) Mundorf caps his came with. I'm talking about someone who swaps coupling caps more frequently than most people change tubes - that kind of over obsession. We'll see.  We talked and thought it was best to let the amp truly burn in another 30 days before jumping to conclusions, screwing with the caps yet, its too early imo. For now, maybe its worth doing some research to determine what other type amp/tubes work well with you Volti Razz (other than Gary Dews 300B amp). Its helpful to decide if you want to keep KT88s or attempt EL34 instead, and only you can answer what's missing from the sound after its burned in at least 30-45 days, would be my suggestion. You might like it stock after its all settled in, yet I don't recall how much time you have on this amp/tubes/caps overall. .   


@pehare Thank you! You as well!

@decooney My friend, you must be in my brain somehow. One of the things I've heard Greg say is he likes the way EL34's sound with some of his speakers. Last night I was thinking just that! Seeing what a quartet of EL34's would do with the sound. I will need to check my build sheet on the caps, and see what the stock tubes are and let you know. 

I’m up to 56 listening hours on the new SLI-80HS so still in the burn-in window. It sounds quite nice with the stock tubes.  The power tubes are PSVane KT-88s.  The other tubes I’ll likely replace them first when I get to it.  They look like E-H 6922s and Chinese (JJ?) 6SN7s. Much of the printing is rubbed off.
As others said above, it has a tighter sound, less syrupy, less tube bloom but still definitely a tube amplifier.   I like it!

The only thing I didn’t like was the damn location placement stickers on the tubes.  They must have had some real newbies buying the amps. That’s great but I would have thought labeling just the boxes would have been sufficient. The stickers and stickem were a b***h to remove from the tubes.

Cary customer support was excellent as always in identifying screws I needed to fill the cage screw holes (I didn’t get a cage). 

My unit decided to quit working after just a few hours:(  Sent it back to Cary and it turned out to be a connection came loose on a Solen cap lead.  Cary did a great job quickly on the short trip from FL to NC and I have the unit back in a sealed box.  It had been over 10 years since I had an amp this big and heavy and my senior bulged disc back unfortuately can't handle it so I've decided to sell it on the other site.  Great amp for someone looking.  

@pehare Bummer!    I recently moved both my new amp and my old SLI-80 and the new one seems quite a bit heavier but I haven’t weighed them (obviously!).

@txp yeah, no doubt.  Curious what screws did Cary say work to fill in the cage hole screws and what did you use?  It'll be interesting to hear about the side panels as well, enjoy!

@pehare 6-32 threads ¼ inch length.  They get theirs from DB Roberts. I found 18-8 SS black oxide pan head Phillips drive screws on Amazon. Inexpensive and fast.  They look more like button head screws to me.  They look fine in the amp’s cage screw holes.  Those tiny screws are only very slightly magnetic so I couldn’t use a magnetic screwdriver and my fat fingers had a very difficult time with them.  I managed to get two in and gave up on the other two.  My wife came to my rescue and she had them installed in 90 seconds!

@txp1 Cool thanks for the info.  Looks like Cary used allen head screws like on the side panels according to manual as a kind poster just responded to your other thread about side panels.

@txp1 Thanks for the info my unit hasn't sold yet so I may seek some out to fill the cage holes like you did or at least send them to the new owner.  FYI, a local friend says the Linlai 6SN7's are really good in his 300sei if and when you decide to roll.