Cary Audio Design CAD-805 monoblock power amplifier Sam Tellig 3/98 part 3
I'm reminded of turntables 20 years ago, when quartz-lock mechanisms were all the rage—to regulate but not really stabilize the speed. The quartz-lock mechanism would continually adjust the speed of the motor so that the speed was always changing, microsecond by microsecond. This was likely one reason why an AR, a Linn, or a Rega, all without quartz-lock, sounded much better. I think something like this is going on with both negative feedback and phase-splitting.
Listen to the sound of the Cary 805C. You really should. Even if you aren't in the market to buy, make an appointment for an audition—just to have the experience.
It's not just the holographic soundstaging, not just the startling harmonic purity that make this amplifier sound as real as it does—it's the amplifier's way with detail. Listen to the leading edge of transients and the decay of the notes—the timing of the notes, if you will. Listen to vocals—how clean, clear, and crisp every sibilant sounds.
For most of my listening with the Cary CAD-805C, I used Ed Meitner's Museatex Bidat straight into the amps. (The digital processor has a volume control.) My transport was a Marantz CD 63SE CD player, and I used a Monarchy Audio DIP to clean up the digital signal on the way to the Bidat. Speakers were the Baby Monitor and the Monitor Pro, both from Atelier de Synergie Acoustique (footnote 3).
Even Music Hall's Roy Hall was impressed by the sound. (He'd come by my house to pick up the Creek 4330 amplifier and to deliver the Statmat.)
"Listen to this," I said. "It's a real soundstage."
Dig, dig. The Brits are not into soundstaging—their wives make them put their speakers up against the wall.
Sure enough, the effect of the Statmat on soundstaging was readily apparent. I don't think Roy had ever heard such hall. Or so much music.
"More hall—huh, Roy?"
I will not print his response.
How to sum up the sound of the Cary CAD-805C?
First, it's a soundstaging champ. Maybe the soundstaging champ. It does space. Of course, you can ruin the holographic effect with improper speaker placement...Listen for yourself.
Go with the flow
Soundstaging isn't all.
With the Cary 805C—and with no other amp I have heard to date, not to this extent—the music flows. Maybe it's the absence of pushing and pulling, or, as some have suggested, the special magic of the 805 output tube. (The 300B tube is not the only tube with a magic sound.)
The harmonic presentation is very pleasing, and the low-level resolution can be downright astonishing—true Class A performance in this respect.
Even with feedback dialed in, the bass could be better—tighter, tauter. However, the bass is full, rich, and harmonically informative.
The top end may be a tad rolled-off. But so what? The magic of the music is there.
Even so, with all the magic, I have to tell you that the Cary CAD-300SE Signatures have even more magic in some respects. Not in terms of soundstage depth and width, not in terms of space—the CAD-805C is the clear space and soundstage champ—but in terms of immediacy, palpable presence, and even greater low-level resolution.
However, with 12Wpc, you're much more limited in terms of speaker choice. Dynamics may be reined in, and I'm not sure the music blooms and flows the way it does with the CAD-805C.
A big advantage of the CAD-805C, then, is that it will likely drive the speakers you have. If you're looking for new speakers to go with the CAD-805C, I suggest the B&W Silver Signatures, almost any of the ProAc models, and, if they become available here, the Baby Monitors or Monitor Pros from Atelier de Synergie Acoustique.
Should everyone run out and buy a single-ended triode amp?
Of course not. But I did. I bought two—four, to be exact: a pair of Cary 805Cs and a pair of Cary 300SEs. However, I do recommend that everyone run out and at least hear single-ended triode.
That will likely mean a trip to a Cary dealer, as some of the best Japanese SETs are not yet readily available here—Wavac and Sun Audio, for instance—and many of the American SET manufacturers are mainly into kits. Cary actually gets it all together, in more ways than one.
Quality control, for instance. I have had not the slightest problem with the CAD-805Cs in my system. They have worked flawlessly and have proved absolutely reliable.
The amp sounds its best if you leave it on standby—this keeps the filaments of the 6SN7s and the 300B heated. From standby, the amps sound good in 10 to 15 minutes, and great after half an hour. From a cold start, they take a little more than an hour to reach peak performance.
One more thing.
The break-in time is long. Sorry. How long? I don't know. But several hundred hours. Dealers will want to keep this in mind, too.—Sam Tellig
Footnote 3: Perhaps ASA speakers will be soon imported at last—the Monitor Pros were playing in the Clayton Audio room at January's CES. Will someone also please offer the Offrande loudspeaker from Jean-Marie Reynaud?—Sam Tellig