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 "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.