By Rafe Arnott
Cary Audio‘s Daryl Berk had a nice, simple kit put together to showcase the company’s latest tubed preamplifier at Newport Beach, the TL-300d ($6,000 US ~ $8,000 US TBA, six to eight weeks wait time).
Running a laptop, Berk was playing a nice mix of 16/44 files upsampled to DSD through the 300d and pumping those out to the beautiful Cary CAD-120S MK II stereo power amplifier ($5,995 US) which was feeding a healthy 60 watts (in Class-A triode mode, or 120 watts in Class-A/B ultralinear mode) to the beefy Dual-Concentric driver Tannoy Revolution XT 8F loudspeakers ($2,600 US).
The new pre-amp is interesting for Cary (and is a digital junkie’s delight) as it includes four DAC chips with eight independent channels for true balanced XLR and RCA single-ended outputs.
The 300d also uses a 128-bit DSP engine prior to the DSD 64/128/256 capable DACs and has five digital inputs (asynchronous USB, coaxial S/PDIF, Toslink, AES/EBU and wireless aptX Bluetooth) along with four analog RCA inputs.
So, no lack of options anywhere for this beast, and with four 12AX7 and two 12AU7 tubes running the show, you can be assured that the sound was very smooth indeed.
Cary doesn’t have a legacy of killer tubed gear for nothing, and this setup didn’t disappoint, delivering a big, room-filling sound through the Tannoy’s with a sweet midrange and no missteps anywhere in the highs or bottom end.
I could see this being an easy (and affordable) end game for many on the two-channel upgrade path, the digital options alone on the 300d will keep even the most purist bits-n-bytes diehards satisfied for years to come.
The fact that it offers balanced XLR and RCA outputs keeps the 300d pre-amp in the mix with pretty much any amplifier you want to pair it with.
Also, I’d love to hear this system paired up with Blu-Ray and a 70″ LED TV for some absolutely killer man-cave movie nights.