Cary SLP-98 vs. other high end preamps--C-J, etc.

Has anyone compared the SLP-98 to any other preamps like the C-J 17LS (or any other C-J), Joule Electra, or any of the VTL preamps? I guess I'm basically trying to get an idea of how good it really is compared to others I might purchase in the $2 to $3K range, new or used. I've owned a VTL 2.5TL, would the Cary be an upgrade to that? Right now I'm using a CJ PRF (SS), so I realize the Cary is probably opposite in many ways to that. Asking because I don't see the SLP-98 discussed as often. Rest of my system: C-J MF2500A amp, Cary 303-200 CDP, Fanfare tuner, B&W M802 SIII speakers. A C-J preamp is probably an obvious choice for me, but I've gotten intrigued by the Cary. Thanks in advance for any info!

Congratulations on your purchase, Steve.

I just stumbled onto this thread because I happened to read Art Dudley's review of the Cary just this morning. I wanted to acknowledge Markmendenhall's post above because I own both a First Sound and a Klyne, and I will attest that they are both superb.
Hi there,
I've owned a Cary-SPL94. What a great pre-amp.
Don't know what different between SLP-94 and SLP-98 (they look quite the same design)?
Is it worth upgrading to SLP-98?

Steveaudio: I understand your question about the SLP 98 phono stage - just how good is it? I own one, but unfortunately don't have anything to compare it to. I have been questioning how good it is to people whose opinion I value, but not enough people seem to be analog savvy. Everything is CD/digital now. Essentially I have concluded (subjectively) that the inboard phono stage of the SLP 98 is pretty good. I had an A-gon buyer over last weekend who was looking to buy some gear I have listed for sale and he heard my analog set up. I have recently undergone a big 'upgrade' (read: expensive new stuff!!) and am cleaning up all my old albums and really enjoying/re-discovering them. I bought a Benz H-2 wood body cartridge, a new Nottingham Analogue Spacedeck turntabale and I bought all new tubes for my SLP 98 pre-amp. The fellow seemed genuinely impressed with the sound. As part of the analog signal path, I feel that the Cary phono stage must be doing its job pretty well or he would not have been as impressed with the phono results. I have been doing a little reading and if money were no object, I would probably go with a Klyne phono stage. Or possibly the Cary outboard unit, but they are expensive and am at least for now satisfied. I think Dennis Had of Cary being a bit of a throw-back (SET amps, tube amps, etc.) would not put anything substandard in any of his pre-amps. Other options might be the Pass Labs phono stage or EAR. But the Cary, I think holds its own. I will tell you this, though, the Nottingham/Benz combo is excellent. I am back to vinyl and the CD's are used pretty much for their convenience and availability of new music, not for the CD sound vs. vinyl. I also believe there really are a lot of great choices out there. As my tt salesman said to me: when you get to $6k for a turntable, all the makers produce a pretty good product: VPI, SME, Kuzma, Nottingham Analogue etc. I think the new/old stock tubes have as much to do with it as anything. MM
I luckily got the Cary SLP98 with internal phono stage and oiled capacitors upgraded. I just bought the deHavilland Ultraverve preamp (also has one 6SN7 input but has a rectifier tube not diodes rectifiers) and would compare with Cary SLP98P. In my opinion the Ultraverve has lot more defined dynamic sound and very clean and clear in the background than the SLP98. Congratulations Steve, you got the SLP98 but I would suggest you roll tubes with NOS Tungsol 6sn7s you'll be amazed with the new old stock tubes which would make your music more lively.
The speakers and amp together have a great deal to do with all the above comments. They should be considered one circuit. Most of today's speakers have two way designs or three way with a cone that is too slow for the midrange it's producing. Get a dome or a ribbon midrange and get a really good SS amp so that your bottom end is not corrupted by the lack of definition and control of the low end speakers. By all means don't let anything above 100-125 HZ go through a slow 10 or 12 in cone especially driven by a tube amp. If all you want is a sweet midrange get a full tube system and a single voice coil speaker as today's speaker designers have lost the ability to truly get two/three way speakers mixing the frequencies correctly. Otherwise just go get a standard surround system from Marantz or something like that where the bus crash sound is all you are looking for. Most people can't distinguish between an mp3,mp4 and lossless PCM anyway. When people talk about most stereo changes they are talking about the distortion they like. If you hear the stereo and are not hearing only the music then you are in that crowd IMNSHO. I used to build $4000.00 amps and custom Speakers in the 70's. The Cary SLP-98p&l are both outstanding tube units. Especially if you change out the 6SN7 tubes used for the line stage with american or german new old stock (NOS) tubes as recommended above. You might even need the tube dampeners as they are sometimes sensitive to the feedback produced. For a tube unit I only have one better and that is a VAC. I still think a really simple SS circuit with minimum extra circuits like protection et. al. is the finest sound. You can't get that stuff because manufacturers don't want the risk of a blown bank of transistors. Tubes are replaced regularly by stereo nuts who want to play so the problem is solved. VAC at least sealed some units. There was nothing like my Bedini / Strelioff (actually in the end Strelioff) SS preamp and amp for sound. Just have to turn them on yourself and let nobody touch any on/off switch. Bob Carver gets bashed for no good reason. He built equipment a mere mortal could/can have and stereofile and all their "expert listeners" couldn't tell the difference between a $700 and a $5000 unit back in the early 80's. Including a Fine tube amp. His C-19 partial tube preamp was pretty special with a good set of replacement NOS tubes from the past.
Listen to the music not the stereo. I repeat, If you are hearing your stereo that's bad. I'd rather listen to Rickie Lee Jones than my stereo. Now I'll go put on my flack jacket for the folks who bought CD demagnetizers from Bedini and for the tube zelots. Bedini was always the consummate salesman. As for the tube zelots I have a bunch of tube amps and preamps some of which (mostly amps) are for sale (like a pair of McIntosh MC30's in primo shape - the holy grail of tube amps). Opinions in here are likely discarded - I don't mind as opinions are like elbows and ... (well you know the rest).