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Jeff B.’s SLI-100 Review

Cary Audio customer, Jeff B., wrote an amazing product review on our SLI-100 Integrated Amplifier.  


“It’s been a little tough to get this review written because I’ve largely been unable to tear myself away from my new SLI-100 long enough to compose it. This amp is that good. I’m a longtime Cary Audio customer and have owned some awesome Cary equipment over the years. I jumped at the opportunity to add the SLI-100 to a newly scaled down system sourced from internet streaming and local DSD files. This new system also includes the DMS-550 which I’ll review later. Together, they make a remarkable sounding setup. My very first impression of the SLI-100 was how incredibly dynamic it sounded right out of the box. It was actually startling. This was with the supplied KT-150s, 6922s and 6SN7s using a Mac-based Audirvana source and a Brooklyn DAC over Moon-Audio Silver Dragon cables. I remember immediately thinking ‘how in the world could this thing possibly sound better?’ A few weeks later, scrapping the computer-based system and sourcing it from the DMS-550 allowed the SLI-100 to ‘sound’ its best. After several weeks of listening, I am still blown away with the SLI-100’s ability to present the entire musical package with impeccable balance and transparency from top to bottom. There is simply nothing missing – or added – to the presentation. Every musician and every note is placed precisely where it should be and there is a tangible sense of space between them. I can hear the start of each note, the end of each note, and the air between them. Astonishing. I couldn’t be happier with the amp tonally. The extreme highs are rolled off nicely and presented perfectly in perspective. Cymbals are actually where they should be – not in my face and not on my last nerve. Mids and upper mids are sweet and forward, especially after rolling in a pair of NOS 1967 Telefunken E88CCs. The low and very low ends are transparent and authoritative. I would say the SLI-100 has a very ‘confident’ low end. It never seems challenged. It’s just great to hear this low end material presented the way it was meant to be heard, with none of the collateral stuff. Although the SLI-100 has the (thoughtful) capability, I saw no need to connect L/R subs to augment the sound of my KEF Blade TWOs (running from the 4-ohm taps). This amp drives the KEFs easily and exploits their full capability. These are some of the nicest 100wpc I’ve ever heard. Period. I also replaced the drivers/phase inverters with a pair of NOS 1958 Sylvania 6SN7WGTA Chrome Domes (which I had been saving for a special occasion). The stock Russian and Chinese pre-amps and drivers sounded wonderful, but I think the vintage tubes just allow the SLI-100 to perform to its maximum potential. Soundstaging is expansive and totally immersive. Overall, I’d describe the sound as immersive. And addictive. Trust me, I’ve gained 15 pounds sitting here listening to it. I also own what I believe is the best headphone amp in the world – the Cary CAD-300SEI. I must say, however, that the headphone amp in the SLI-100 really does it justice and can favorably compete with the 300Bs. Like the CAD-300SEI, the headphone signal is tapped directly from the output trannies so you get the full advantage of the tube circuitry. No measly headphone op-amp here. Not quite as sweet as the sound of the 300Bs, but righteous in its own regard. It’s like getting a very high-end tube headphone amp for free!!! All of this wonderful tube sound is accentuated by the awesome and stealthy look of the unit. I got mine (and the DMS-550) in black. This thing is just gorgeous to the eye. I find myself looking at it and smiling every time I pass by. I did buy a cheap 4-button learning remote control to use in lieu of the supplied full function remote. Since I control the DMS-550 with my iPhone, all I need is basic functionality in a remote for the SLI-100. I’ve been a tube-rolling audiophile junkie for many years. I honestly cannot remember the last time I’ve been so impressed with an integrated amp, maybe not since my old Cary SLI-80. And it’s a tremendous value. I just couldn’t be happier with the SLI-100 and the support I’ve received from the Cary staff over the years. A special shout-out to Denny Had (founder, now retired), Billy, and Daryl. These guys do their job well and they do it for all the right reasons. It’s all about the music…”

If you are located in the United States and Canada, you can purchase the SLI-100 direct from our factory on CaryDirect.

If you are located outside the United States and Canada, please contact your local Dealer/Distributor to purchase.


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