Cary vs Raven

It's about time to replace the 20+ year old Prima Luna.  Based on my limited researches and the positive on Audiogon, I'm leaning toward either a Cary SLI-80HS or CAD-300SEI, and the Raven Blackhawk.  I currently have Forest Totem speakers, but am looking to get some Klipsch Heresy or Fortes.  On paper the SLI-80HS and Blackhawk look pretty similar to me, and I've been intrigued with the 300 B tube.  This is the last amp I will buy, so want to make sure it's the best my budget can manage.  I listen to classical in a small size room (15'x15'x9'), so I don't need a lot of power.   

Anyone out there had a chance to compare these amps?  If so, what is the verdict?  And how about the various upgrades available for each?  Thanks in advance for your advice.


Given your situation. I highly recommend choosing your speakers first. Get them, break them in. And put in a lot of time getting to know what they sound like and only then looking to upgrade your electronics. You want to get electronics that are synergistic with your speakers. 

@ghdprentice +2. The Klipsch are very different speakers from the Totems so you may be looking for different sound characteristics from an amp.  Plus, you can get by with much less power with the Klipsch that may open up more options. 

Thanks for the info.  My thought was that it's easier to get an amp and take it to various stereo places to try out speakers than drag speakers around to try out amps.

FWIW, as I recall Raven uses 6l6GC power tubes in their amps. This should produce a clear and linear sound which can sound excellent when used with neutral to warm toned speakers (I like and use that tube a lot) much as a 6550 or KT88.  No so much the Carys which use tubes which tend to err on the warm side of neutral and might sound good with Klipsch speakers, but not mine. :-)

I agree with Prentice regarding first selecting speakers before you get an amp, BUT I think you would benefit from broader research into matching amps and speakers before you do either. FWIW, I used 6l6gcs in a Primaluna Dialogue One amp. I liked the combo a lot. 

@jrcotner  , I probably do everything backwards myself.  About 30 years ago I had a pair of pretty cheap NHT speakers (that I actually liked) and then I bought my first tube amp to pair them with and I liked them (the speakers) even more.  Then I bought a pair of B&Ws I REALLY liked with that first tube amp.  Down the road I have had a couple of more tube amps, but I still have those B&Ws.

My thought was that it's easier to get an amp and take it to various stereo places to try out speakers than drag speakers around to try out amps.

I think what would be ideal is if you could find a way to audition both the electronics and the speakers in your home.  What I will say about CaryDirect, is that they advertise that they will allow an audition period (without going to their site, I think it is either 30 or 60 days) with no strings (except shipping) attached.  And that is if you do not order any upgrades with the equipment from CaryDirect.

Music Direct also offers an audition period that I think is 60 days.

I actually own a couple of Cary pieces in my system--an amp from the Dennis Had days and a preamp from the "new" Cary.  The customer service/tech support isn't anywhere close to being as good now than it was in the Dennis had days, but I still like the product.



I've owned the Cary Sli-80 and the Raven Blackhawk LE, though at different times and with different speakers. If I were to choose between them, without regard to the speakers, I'd buy the Raven. They were both fine amps but the customer support from Raven was exceptionally good, better than that from Cary.


FWIW, I have a couple of Cary pieces I bought used and have had good customer support convos even though the used equipment isn't covered under any warranty.


FWIW, I have a couple of Cary pieces I bought used and have had good customer support convos even though the used equipment isn't covered under any warranty.

@rjsully0467  , you've had better luck than I have.  Do you remember who you spoke to?

The last time I needed tech support on an amp (this would have been in the summer of '20) and I called them, I was told to email their tech support.  Since they didn't reply to the email I sent them, I emailed them again, and then all they told me was basically what their shop rates for repair work was and to ship them the amp if I wanted them to work on it. 

I would find the speakers I loved (and over buy) and then move through used equipment to find the amp(s) that work best. In my opinion gong in that order will provide the ability to hear the difference in electronics in your home environment.   I say this based on experience.  I purchased a pair of Joseph Audio Perspectives and learned I probably can’t afford the electronics to fully understand how good the speakers are.  Anyway on the journey my system keeps going better as I research and play with amps, pre-amps and DACs.  It is also the best way to understand cables.  Just what I’ve found.  Sorry for running on just what I’ve experienced.  

If your choice is leaning forward tube amps do yourself a favor and a take a few seconds to look at @aricaudio. I could not be more satisfied with the sound, look and customer service. 
Take a look at my profile pic.

I can demo the full line of Klipsch heritage speakers at a stereo store within my driving range.  They also carry Paradigm speakers, as well as home theater and McIntosh amps.  I tried the buy-it-try-it but lugging 70+ pound speakers back and forth to the shipper wore me out.  So my options are limited to Paradigm and Klipsch.  My plan, which seems not resoundingly approved, was to get one of the amps I suggested, go to the stereo place, hook it up, listen to their speakers, and make a choice of speakers.  My budget and personal circumstances are limiting, so I need to make a choice between these speaker options.  If neither are to my liking I will just keep the Forests.

Forest are very good speakers. And they’ll pair well with Cary. 
I would stick with established brands for amps and speakers if this is to be a long term relationship. Audio Research also makes a nice integrated, slightly more expensive than the Cary but used can be a good deal.

Cary provided great service on an issue with my SLP05 that I had bought used. No complaints from me about their service. 

Klipsch Forte’s and Cary Audio! Superb, especially at low listening levels. 

@ghdprentice is spot on.  I got my speakers and am now adjusting/upgrading electronics to match my taste in music and the speakers.  IMO, it is much easier to swap out an amp or preamp then speakers given the cost and size.  And less expensive, at least for me. 

@immathewj - I spoke / emailed with Steve Witek and Tammy Wright. Both very helpful.

I'm not familiar with the Raven Blackhawk but do own the CAD 300 SEI.  I also own 2 sets of Klipsch Heresy's (I and II) and Klipsch Belles which are similar to the LaScala's. To my ears the Cary and Klipsch speakers are an excellent match.  The Heresy's are not my main speakers (left over from 5.1 system back in the day) but when I do rotate them in, I put them on stands to get them up in the air at ear level.  I purchased the CAD 300B with all the upgrades and have since added the newer Western Electric 300B tubes from the factory in GA.  This pairing sounds incredible - a very large bookshelf setup.   Btw, Cary support from Billy on down has been great for me. 

+++1 ghdprentice, buy the speakers first; but I have not heard either amp you are considering. Maxdukecapone mentioned Aric Audio, I'd recommend visiting their website to learn more about them.


My understanding, unfortunately not from personal use, is that the totems are excellent speakers.

While I get that they thrive on power/current, I have never read a negative word about them.

I would not sell them until after you are done with your amp/speaker purchases, you may come to regret it.

In order to buy what you hope is your last amplifier, it's better to have what you know are your last speakers.  Given how radically different the two speakers are, you'll want to be absolutely sure about the Klipsch before you sell the Totems. I wouldn't do it, but that's my opinion.

Thanks for all of the advice.  I like the Forests, but after having the Fritz Carbon 7 SEs for a while I realized my old speakers were getting tired.  I'll take a listen to the Klipsch and see how I feel about them, then look into one of the amps.

@jrcotner Is there any particular reason that you are not settling in with the Fritz Carbon 7 SEs?  Or are they in a second system?

You might consider just adding a couple subs to the Carbons — might be the best of all worlds. Klipsch is very different from Totems or Fritz, but maybe you’re after different?

I got the Fritz speaker to try out at home.  They had nice high and mid range, but not the oomph which I like with the Forests.  I'd rather have a single full-range speaker than satellites and subs.

I have not owned Cary but I have owned a Raven Osprey and I’m disappointed that I sold it. Long story. The guy who bought it is really happy though.

Raven’s are really nice amps and their customer service is top notch - very personal.

If you are into tube rolling Dave at Raven sells NOS tubes for his amps as a side biz at very reasonable prices. He has likely the only remaining pre-1970 Shugang 6L6GC tubes that I really liked as well as other great options.


forgot to mention Raven has a 45 day return policy for a reasonable restocking fee

  I say this based on experience.  I purchased a pair of Joseph Audio Perspectives and learned I probably can’t afford the electronics to fully understand how good the speakers are.

@testrun  , this is not a rhetorical question or a question intended to start an argument, as I believe that the electronics in front of a speaker are important, but what do you think that it would take to get those JAs to live up to their potential?

Not sure.  My assessment is based on hearing significant improvements with changes in electronics, tubes and cables.  I guess my learning after 35 years in this hobby is speakers have to be capable to hear the differences in other components.  Having said that, for me, my Perspectives are “end game” speakers and I have enjoyed how good they are.  In no way do they need really high end equipment to hear how good they are just that they enable hearing the difference in equipment as changes are made.  At their price point they should and I’m sure there are many speakers that are as capable.  Sorry for rambling but my point is they also enable when amps / preamps don’t improve sound hence find the speakers you love and don’t over spend on supporting equipment if you can’t hear a difference. Keep things in balance.  

If you have the patience to wait for Dennis Had to post another of his hand made amps (or get a used one like I did) that is a choice I can whole heartedly recommend. I've used mine with Heresy IIIs for years and it's astonishingly good.

The “HS” in the SLI-80HS stands for “Heritage Series,” so one might deduce that the Cary pairs quite well with the Klipsches you’re considering.  That said, my PrimaLuna EVO 400 integrated absolutely sings with my Cornwall IVs - I’m just blown away every time I listen, so that might be a combo worth considering if you haven’t already.