Is the Cary SLP-05 still relavant?

Given the history and reviews of this preamp with its ability for tube rolling and its "Ultimate" upgradeability, Where does it stand as a premium offering vs something like the PS Audio BHK? Is it still relevant? It still gets sporadic press, but has fallen out from Stereophile recommended equipment list.
Sure it is, but if a product has not been reviewed in "x" years it is automatically dropped from the list, along with a lot of other excellent products. 
@testpilot +1

Just because a product hasn’t been reviewed recently doesn’t make it irrelevant. Yep, products continue to improve each year...and we all love this. But just because a 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo didn’t get reviewed or recommended in the past couple of years hardly makes it irrelevant or not a joy to use. We are all becoming victims of today’s 5-minute news cycle.
LOL @ebm  - love your comments.  :)

The SLP-05 is a fantastic preamp and one that I regretfully sold.  The downside is a very limited remote control, volume control only.

Sonically, it does it all from top to bottom.
@ebm does specialize in brevity, aye.

@cvman be a peach and fix the typo in the heading. 

@hk_fan a volume-only remote is my favorite kind of remote. Bought my Eastern Electric MiniMax integrated for that reason. Glad I did as the amp is fun & punchy to boot. My Schiit Freya rc has a few more, eg to cycle through the 3 gains, a mute, and sources. Stop me when this gets too exciting.

Even more off topic, best preamps you’ve never heard (of): van Alstine.

I just looked up the SLP-05 and it looks amazing. Anyone reading this looking to deal theirs....
I’ve had my SLP-05 for 6 years now. I did an upgrade to the unit with Cary 18 months ago and I still swear by it. To gain any appreciable improvement you would have to spend an inordinate amount of money and then you may actually notice some difference. I think the larger question is that items falling off the ‘A’ list  in Stereophile is a mixed bag at best. Why? They have their favorite items they like to maintain and the others they might grant an ‘A’ rating and then drop later on. For instance. I own the Aesthetix Rhea phono pre-amp, ‘A’ rated and then the following report period they dropped it. The ‘A’ rated Rhea has not been changed in 6 or seven years, unless you buy an upgrade. Want another? My Turntable is an Oracle MK-5, it has now been upgraded. But prior to the upgrade it was an ‘A’ and after 6 months it was dropped as well. I have a Myabi stereo cartridge from 47 labs for my T/T. This little unit has been an ‘A’ for years. But after 6 months they dropped it off. We all know there are any number of shinatagains behind doors. Even my main speakers, Coincident Pure Reference speakers were ‘A’ rated 6 or 7 years ago by both Stereophile and TAS. TAS gave a very nice write up and report about this speaker and Stereophile said an OK two page write up and then 6 months later dropped them off like a rock. If you notice Stereophile has their regular group of speakers they return to every couple of years. Look at the Linn turntable. This  has been an ‘A’ listed item for literally years. There are so many upgrades and purchasing options the entire unit should have been dropped off 5 years or more ago. When was the last time you heard of major write up on it?
there are many new and even brand new highly efficient speakers and even many low efficient speakers as well. Hopefully everyone realizes that efficiency plays a big part in the speakers being chosen for your home. Yet that point is never brought up in any Stereophile discussion for the experienced mind or the inexperienced audiophile. 
 Finishing up, I still think your purchase of the SLP-05 is still current, other than the digital domain we have to find alternative work arounds to remain true to all formats. You have a well built and truly awesome unit. To replace it? Prepare to spend 16K and up to match. Then think about the PassLabs 17K pre-amp. Too much for retirement checks!
If this question is posted in most local audio buddies clubs, @emb5’s answer is almost consensus.

Another funny indicator is whether the product is still listed with full information on the manufacture’s site. If you cannot even download an user manual, it’s history!

Cary SLP 05 is an odd case. It’s still on Cary’s site, but one could argue that it’s for the wrong reason: Cary doesn’t seem to make relevant products for a while. It needs SLP 05 (plus some other true classic products) to beef up the great reviews line-up.

I owned it for a couple of years. I never felt it was anything special even with quality NOS tubes from Andy at VTS. I find ARC preamps to be vastly superior. For same $$$ you can pick up a used LS28. It's better in every dimension as far as I am concerned and no worry about tube rolling or spending stupid money on NOS 6SN7s.
Post removed 
Oh, That piece of junk? No, definitely not relevant any more. You should sell it to me.  ;>)

I think that thing looks absolutely amazing.
just started running a new slp 05 taking advantage of a factory direct sale.
after adjusting and optimizing it sounds astonishing. my fourth and final preamp, a lesson learned that they are very important to the quality of the sound you hear. dynamics, tone, transparency, refinement, sound stage. the slp 05 does it all.  a good preamp can take control and transform the sound of your system. 
a few reference points for anyone stumbling on this thread:
1, the gain is extremely high, 24db with balanced outputs. the default gain level on the new controls is 100%. this was way too much for my system.
2, even with the gain levels at 50% it was still too much. i had to adjust the gain on my power amp, also to 50%. highly recommended to have a power amp with adjustable gain.
3, the stock sovtek rectifier and eh tubes sound very good out of the box. i have some nos 6sn7 and a rectifier ready to go but am in no hurry.
i suspect that people who are not completely happy with this preamp have a gain related issue and have not made proper adjustments. again, an amp with adjustable gain is highly recommended.
hope this helps.
Hi all,
i just got a new slp-05 for to audition. After a few hours of break in it sounds very pleasing so far. I am running balanced and the high gain does limit me to about 35% on the volume knob for reasonable listening levels. Does this result in any issues I am missing, In other words, why is high preamp gain an issue if you just have the pot set at 30% instead of say 60 % with an amp that has adjustable gain? I am driving a pass X250.8.
@jmbumgarner01, I run a slp 05 into a pair of xa60.8 and have the same issue.  A quick note to Pass Labs and they suggested a pair of Rothwell 10db balanced attenuators into the amp’s inputs.  Problem solved, plus it lowered the noise floor with no signal degradation whatsoever.  Reno HiFi also recommended the Rothwells.  
Excellent test pilot thanks. So is running the slp-05 volume pot between 20-35% not ideal and result in additional noise or degradation etc? 
The combo is sounding pretty great so far although from startupmy voltage meter has been showing 250 not 210 and current is 68 not 60, I emailed Cary today on that.
I think that I answered that by looking into the rockwell’s.. gives a much better range of volume control not such large steps. I will try to track some down here without paying excessive shipping from uk. Thanks again.
Despite being forced out years ago the Dennis Had designs are still the class of the Carey line of electronics.
After spending a week with 5he SLP-05 I can enthusiastically say relevance is not age or recent press review dependent. Great designs are timeless unless they are obsoleted by technological breakthrough and I don’t believe 5hat has happened with preamps since the Cary came out. I agree with avanti1960 the sound is neutral, detailed and very musically engaging. This piece sounds fantastic in my system.

I am ordering the Rockwell attenuators as the gain is too high, there does seem to be some discrepancy as to the exact gain but it is definitely a bit high with the Pass amp. Well back to a snowy listening session.
a couple updates on the slp 05 after ~75 hrs.
i bumped up my amplifier’s gain from 50 % to about 75% because i noticed a slight reduction in the jump factor from the initial setting at full amplifier gain. parasound a21+. sounds much better, the sound really "pops" again. at 29db gain at full throttle i am guestimating about 21db gain through the amp, running half gain on the slp 05. i am using balanced outputs on the cary and max gain is 24db so pushing about 12db at half gain.
running stock tubes so far, tried a batch of NOS tungsols and ran into hickups. the stock eh sound excellent, the product must have been well voiced with them.
i did change the rectifier to a nos amperex and it bumped up the bass and warmth a noticeable amount without ill effect.
so far it sounds stunning.
Update: I put the -10dB Rockwell attenuators in and that worked great. Volume knob now between 10 and 12 o’clock on most listening and SLP-05 balance set at 100%.
I still haven’t tried any other tubes but may look at that rectifier tube @avanti. My vinyl source material is amazing through the Cary and I have a new streamer/Dac coming tomorrow so that should be fun too. Are you guys leaving the SLP-05 on 24/7? Manual recommends yes but seems like there is a lot of disagreement on this. If I will be away for more than 12 hours I have been shutting unit off.
Put the unit in standby when not in use for short periods and power off completely at the end of the day.  The slp 05 does not take long to reach optimal listening. 
still lovi’n my 05 !
backed off the gain on my parasound a21+ to 50 percent, 75 % started to sound too rich, almost like a loudness contour was switched on.
added a NOS quad of sylvania 6SN7 GTA and they improved the midrange and treble quite a bit, midrange is clearer, treble sweet and refined. Also put the stock sovtek rectifier back in.
this thing was already a keeper but getting it dialed in at 150 hours the sound will be impossible to part with.
fyi the sound continued to change after 100 hrs so take the Cary recommendation lightly.
i leave the power unit on and switch the units on or off with the preamp power switch per Cary.  
Thanks for power off thoughts. I am planning on trying some Sylvania 7n7’s with adapter if they ever show up. I am probably at about 100 hours now.

analoguehaven...I am not a preamp expert, lots of opinions here and in the press. If you are looking for a neutral, very musically pleasing and gorgeous tube pre under $10k then the Cary should definitely be on you short list to evaluate in your system. Only caveats: it has alot of tubes, as mentioned above gain is high and no phono stage but at this price point most everyone running vinyl will have a phonostage. I am totally loving mine too since it hit my system a month ago.

when Cary direct has a sale the SLP 05 is listed for $5397.  Answer- No.  
Old thread I know but my SLP-05 just blew some fuses and looks like the rectifier tube is bad….bummer…using a Classe’ preamp while I wait for some new tubes and gotta say although the Classe’  is decent BUT I am really really missing the Cary… is just not as live, detailed and engaging….The Cary is a fabulous piece of musical hardware… every way incredibly still relevant….doubt I will part with it as long as it keeps going…lots of tubes to screw with (i.e. roll or spend $ on) but very sweet where it counts.
my slp05 was bowing fuses too.  apparently the sovtek rectifier is as unreliable as people mention.  
received a mullard gz34 branded as westinghouse, sound has improved, reliability on these is supposedly lifetime.  
i listened to an old solid state preamp and man i used to really like the way ot sounded, but it was almost unlistenable vs. the cary.  
the Cary is my lifetime preamp.  it has it all sonically and visually. 
Thanks, agree totally, on my solid state pre anyway. 

Yeah the stock Sovtek lasted 6 months, guess for less than $20 that is what you get. I ordered another sovtech to be used as a test for any issues and one of the new Mullard GZ34. Replacing rectifier did solve so I pulled the sovtek and threw the Mullard in. I will hunt around for a nos Mullard but looks like they are pretty expensive.

Not sure if sound improved but I spent the night listening to Analogue Production 45 rpm’s and I am once again in aural heaven….and like you said it is a visual masterpiece for sure.

Did you ever put any higher grade fuses in?It seems to me fuse upgrades in a power supply would have limited sonic impact but ?
Thanks. Some swear by them but I am skeptical in a power supply. Glad I didn’t have any high $ ones in there anyway I guess since I blew several.
I have to tell you. The bottom line is the SLP-05 is still near the top when it comes to pre-amps. I also did the the full upgrade to include a new set of tubes. It took over 200 hours to fully break in and now I can say it is what my ears were looking for. Everyone always talks about his brand has this particular sound. I’m not a believer in that statement. To much is demanded upon the different components that you use or I use. Although I must admit that I compared Macintosh pre-amp with SLP05. My wife walked in the front door and had one comment….Take the MAC out, it sounds terrible. I have had a number of people from all over the USA a d all have smiled and flat said I have a lucky home as the music playing was ver enjoyable doing all the right things. My music room has a slopping ceiling from 10 up to 26 ft and it opens sides to the kitchen area and then to the upstairs loft another 28 ft. Down stairs or upstairs the music is darn good. And my 2 two subs (svs) blend very well. We all like to think we have the best but I look at the sound as it does my ears well so I am pleased. If you come by and like it… we’ll that is nice. We can’t please every one only areselves and that is what we should be doing. Very ones ears and residents are different. If you enjoy what you have why change? I retired back in ‘93 and I get weak kneed once in a while and then I say to my self is the change for me or so,e one else? Just food to think s out. I don’t know what you have to complete your system but the sop-05 is a very fine pre-amp and the Cary boys can do many things to make you happy before jumping ship!
good luck!Rich

The SLP05 is the best pre-amp I have heard (has the ultimate upgrade). For me, it beat out several pre-amps, even one that retails for $9k more. It's not only a work of art, it has a sound that is very addictive. Added a NOS Mullard Rectifier and rolled in some NOS Pope 6sn7's...fully end game. So yes, it is relevant, even in 2022. It's one amazing piece of HiFi and for what it costs new with upgrade right now, I consider it a bargain for what it is and offers. 


Steve I just read your review, so thorough and inciteful. I hope you do a video on the SLP-05.

Loving mine for over a year with a Pass XA-25 and Harbeth SHL5+ speakers.

One thing, the ’05 does have gain control. The two knobs on the right for left / right continuously variable adjustment. It was fairly easy to dial in the best sounding gain including a slight trim to adjust for a minor channel imbalance in my room.

Bingo on the Mullard rectifer, big difference. If you get a chance try a combo of KEN-RAD VT231 in the first 4 positions and a pair of Sylvania 6SN7 GTA 50’s date codes in the two balanced connection tube positions 3 and 6.

A nice balance between old school liquid richness (KR’s) and modern day detail and dynamics (Sylv’s).

BTW definitely continue to use balanced connections for sources and amplifier, the balanced circuitry runs through another set of tubes vs. single ended and the sound stage is more open and spacious in all directions.

Mine is sans the ultimate upgrades and I love the sound so much I am afraid to risk it changing- at all !

peace, Tony

Had my SLP-05 for 2 years. Bought it with all the upgrades because I knew I would eventually make the changes. It came with Electro-Harmonix tubes that are considered average. I rolled in Psvane 6sn7-se "tennis balls". Wow, it sounds great. Comments about the high gain are puzzling. It has gain level adjustment right on the front panel. Once adjusted to your speakers, all is good.

The Cary SLP 05 is a very good sounding preamp.The mid level Supratek 6SN7 preamps like Supratek Sauvignon  are a bit better however.And less than half the price.The difference being you are buying the Supratek direct from the maker and avoiding retail mark-ups.

I looked at Supratek before buying my SLP 05 and there were a number of issues that kept me from ordering one.  

Long lead time like 6 months plus was one, no balanced connections and limited number of inputs were other issues.  

Also the web site had virtually no information to help make a decision. 


Are you sure you’re looking at the right Cary Audio preamp? They have both balanced and unbalanced inputs and outputs. May want to double check. 

Seems to have passed the test, highly recommend one.


Anyone want to sell me their silver one? 😁