Cary Audio Design CAD-805 monoblock power amplifier Page 5

The Mozart and the 805 formed a synergistic duo. Objectively, the Mozart's upper registers are lively, with a notable metallic flavor characteristic of all the Scandinavian aluminum-dome tweeters I've heard. With the Classé M-700 solid-state monoblock, the metallic aroma had no place to hide. The 805, on the other hand, civilized the Vifa tweeter to the point of respectability. Again, I found 5dB of feedback to be an ideal balance between lushness and intimacy.

The Mozart simply brought out the 805's best, resulting in a fully 3-D illusion of space. Not only were instrumental outlines fully fleshed out, but the space around each instrument was convincingly resolved. There was a wonderful transparency to the soundstage; the sensation of being able to reach out and touch someone was strong. The extreme treble sounded rolled off and shut in, while the lower treble's bite was somewhat reduced so as to emphasize the midrange. This, together with the delectable lushness and textural liquidity added by the 805, served to change the "stage lighting" from sunny to patently yellow. This duo's harmonic compass, while at times softer and less bright than the real thing, could conjure up a whole new spectrum of soulful moods.

Violinist Arturo Delmoni's Music for Violin and Guitar (with David Burgess, Sonora SACC-102) features about as sweet a violin tone as you're likely to hear anywhere. I've heard this disc through a variety of push-pull tube amps, but in this instance the 805's clarity of expression and palpable imagery clearly surpassed those of the push-pull crowd. Harmonic nuances were fleshed out with startling vividness. Gene Ammons's tenor sax (on The Gene Ammons Story: Gentle Jug, Prestige 24079-2) never sounded sexier, the slow, elastic tempo serving to accentuate the mood. The pacing sounded oh-so-right.

While the deep bass was typically indistinct, the mid- and upper bass regions were well defined and tonally authoritative. Nor was double bass slighted—Gary Karr's instrument sang out with believable body and heft on Adagio d'Albinoni (King K33Y 236).

JA once pointed out to me that it seemed as if I listened to nothing but Belshazzar's Feast (EMI SAN-324). Well, hardly a week goes by without my taking Walton's epic work out for a spin. The large chorus and orchestra work well together to present any audio system with certain basic problems. First is that of adequate dynamic range. The Mozart/805 duo ran out of steam only on very loud passages, when the 805 clipped but seemed to recover instantly. The stage came alive, every rhythmic nuance nicely resolved. The surging imagery of a large chorus was allowed to bloom nicely, with full emotional impact and outstanding spatial resolution. As far as fleshing out an orchestral foundation, the deep bass lacked full extension and impact. But the lower mids and upper bass regions were quite convincing.

Again, female voice was superbly expressive. Whether it was Jennifer Warnes, Joni Mitchell, or my wife Lesley on ViTaL, the brilliance of the upper registers was slightly subdued, though the music's drive and energy came through in spades. The emphasis was typically on the middle registers, which were reproduced with plenty of heart.

Final thoughts
It may seem incredible that 1930s audio technology is viable in the '90s, that 25W single-ended amplifiers are actually saleable in this age of the 200W solid-state juggernaut, and that music lovers worldwide are embracing the notion of pure class-A as the ultimate means of connecting with the music's emotional value. But that's exactly what appears to be happening. This return to audio roots is gaining momentum as sales of single-ended amplifiers have grown dramatically in the last several years, both in Europe and the Far East. Kudos is due CAD's Dennis Had for his vision and perseverance in promoting the single-ended passion Stateside.

In the context of a compatible load, the 805 will redefine the meaning of a tube amplifier. Admittedly, this 211-based, single-ended amplifier is not a stellar test-bench performer. Yet, equipped only with a sophisticated integrated test and evaluation system (ie, two ears), any audiophile worth his or her salt should have no problem discerning the 805's magic. True, it's flawed at the frequency extremes; but in the midrange, the CAD 805 offers a glimpse of heavenly bliss—and a highly addictive one at that. It's intensely romantic and expressive, to the extent that I find its musical qualities impossible to walk away from. It's a great communicator of the musical message. There's a feeling of realism about harmonic textures that easily draws the listener into the music.

It would be doing the 805 an injustice to brand it as merely euphonic and walk away from it. It doesn't so much give the music a cosmetic "face-lift" as act as a lens through which the music's intensity is focused. This is a product for, first and foremost, the music lover. It preaches its own brand of Super-Fi: the surreal universe that awaits those burned out on the bland and sterile landscape of mere hi-fi. Most of us, at least subconsciously, want to feel good about reproduced music; issues of accuracy are secondary. This amplifier will allow you to connect with the music as never before.

Lately, Toob Man has felt good only when those colossal 211s light up. Only once or twice in a lifetime does one come to such a fork in the audio road. I've taken Route 805.—Dick Olsher