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Amp/Preamp Asylum: REVIEW: Cary Audio Design Xciter Integrated Amplifier (Tube) by DannyB

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REVIEW: Cary Audio Design Xciter Integrated Amplifier (Tube)

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Model: Xciter
Category: Integrated Amplifier (Tube)
Suggested Retail Price: $2750
Description: Integrated tube amp with headphone section
Manufacturer URL: Cary Audio Design
Model Picture: View

Review by DannyB on December 27, 2008 at 11:06:58
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Posted 27DEC2008

The CARY Audio Xciter

The Xciter is Cary Audio’s new integrated amplifier with an emphasis towards headphone amplification. It uses four 6L6 tubes for power along with two 12AX7s. Output is reported to be 5 watts, yes, that’s 5 watts. Burn in is recommended at a minimum of 100 hours. Price is $2750.

My main use for this unit is as a headphone amp as I realized using it for my 89db efficient Von Schweikert VR5s would not be realistic: boy was I wrong and delightfully surprised. See below. As a headphone amp it was excellent. My frame of reference is a Singlepower MPX3 SE Extreme, a Singlepower Supra, and a Grace M902. Headphones included the Grado HP2 and Senn HD650 along with an AKG K1000. The best summary that I can give is that the CARY sounded very similar to the Singlepower Supra but with the added power of the SE Extreme which is a great accomplishment. The Cary was perhaps a bit more detailed in the mid and lower midrange and excelled at the low end.

Tube rolling helped nicely. I tried some early version SED Winged C KT88s which complimented the amplifier nicely with the expected increase in output and a slightly improved bottom end. I then tried my Mullard EL34s XF1 version and woooo mama, what a glorious midrange. I ended up using Telefunkens for the two 12AX7s.

Here is the surprise; the little ~5 watt integrated amplifier put out more than enough satisfying power to drive my VR5s at all but the loudest of volumes. I’m still scratching my head. The bass was more than respectable. I am still amazed. Where this helps me is to consider using the Xciter in the summer months when my room gets too warm using my BAT VK75SE for amplification. The rest of the time it will serve as my primary headphone amp.

Summarily, I found the Xciter to be an amazing little, and very cute unit that serves both headphone and most speaker amplification requirements well. Dennis Had seems to have thought through the design of this product well and given his vast design experience, he has brought it all home with the Xciter. Take what I have to say with a grain of salt as Dennis is a personal friend. However, there were a couple of his products in the past on which I chose not to comment. I have no hesitation with the Xciter. It is a winner sonically and cosmetically and does well with what it is designed to do; connect the music to the listener while also being flexible in application and sound, the latter a result of endless tube rolling possibilities. Simply put, this is a very satisfying product that has found a home, my home 

Picture of the Xciter:

Product Weakness: 5 watt output, give or take a little depending upon tube type. Yet it drives 89db speakers rather well so this is a minor limitation/weakness unless you have a difficult load to drive.
Product Strengths: Excellent sonic quality with lots of tube rolling possibilities thanks to autobias.

Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: BAT VK75SE
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Sonic Euphoria passive
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Cary 306SACD, VPI custom stretch Aries
Speakers: Von Schweikert VR5
Cables/Interconnects: Acoustic Zen
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Varied
Time Period/Length of Audition: 2 weeks
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Equi-Tech Balanced
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Cary Audio Design Xciter Integrated Amplifier (Tube) - DannyB 11:06:58 12/27/08 ( 12)