MastersOfHiFi.com is a new webzine focused on interviewing the creators of hi-fi & high end audio equipment. The original interview went online March 31, read it at source if you like. We reprint it slightly abridged.
Cary Audio is an American audio designer who offers a whole range of high performance Hi Fi equipment: High audio performance, tube or transistor amplifiers, cd players, digital audio converters, tubes… Billy Wright, CEO, answers our questions.
Can you introduce Cary Audio in a few words?
Cary Audio’s core activity is the design and manufacture of high performance audio components comprised of tube, solid state, and digital products. We started in 1989, and our factory is located in Raleigh, NC. We have 23 employees.
Who are you? What is your role within Cary Audio?
My name is Billy Wright, and I am the President/CEO of Cary Audio.
How did you get into the hi-fi industry?
I have always been an entrepreneur at heart. After graduating from North Carolina State University, I worked in the corporate world for a period of time. It was a great experience but I was ready for new challenges. Through a mutual acquaintance I was introduced to Dennis Had who was the founder of Cary Audio in 1989. I came into the business in 1992 as a partner and co-owner and have been doing this ever since.
How to define the mindset, the philosophy of Cary Audio?
Cary Audio is all about the sound. It should be something that moves you. It is emotional. Beautiful midrange and sound-staging effects that make you feel part of the performance.
Tell us about your technological choices or innovations.
Our choices and innovations are somewhat varied since we design and produce products from vacuum tube to solid state to digital. In the vacuum tube and solid state products, we use the best components we can source and still meet our retail price goals for the particular product. Components like chassis, faceplate, knobs, and transformers are all custom made by or for us.
The digital products also use the very best components but they also use the most technologically advanced features available – Bluetooth HD, latest DACs, up-sampling, etc.
What’s the process while developing a new product?
We constantly research the market to determine products desired or needed in the market. We do this through feedback from distributors, dealers, customers, and our own research. Once we determine the product and its features, then we establish our retail pricing goal. Our design and cost structure are built around this information. All products are then designed based on our internal criteria which includes build quality, component quality, reliability and, of course, sound quality and performance.
What’s the special thing with your tube amps?
I think the special things about our tube products are the gorgeous looks and the sound quality. Our products like the SLI-80HS, CAD-805RS or SLP-05, to only name a few, are beautiful. The sound is special. There is excellent weight and warmth to the midrange, bass is detailed and natural, and the highs are smooth and extended. It is a sound that makes you want to sit and listen forever. Never fatiguing. Very emotional.
What kind of music do you test to evaluate your products? Can you give some examples?
We use all kinds of music to evaluate our products. We believe our products should sound good with any genre so it is how we design and voice our products.
What do you think makes a hi-fi product successful?
It is a combination of things, and I think it is different now than years ago. Now, I think it combines cosmetics, features, reliability, and price point. It is a tough recipe to get right but is necessary for a successful product in today’s market.
Which product(s) makes you especially proud, and why?
There are a number of our products that make me proud so it is very difficult to single out one or two. However, the CAD-805 is one of the finest amplifiers ever made and a favorite of mine. It was designed and released to the market starting in 1992 and has evolved into the current CAD-805RS. Twenty-eight years and it is still going very strong. It is a true measure of the success of this amplifier.
Also, I am very proud of our current DMS series of Network Audio Players/DACs/ Streamers. The amazing state of the art features, sound quality and performance, and reliability make these products the finest of their kind on the planet no matter the price.
Can you talk about your latest innovations or product creations?
As mentioned above, the DMS series of Network Audio Players/DACs/Streamers are all cutting edge. Our All In One System ( AiOS ) is an awesome integrated amplifier with all network capabilities of our DMS series of products. For the money, nothing can touch it. All of these products are extremely popular in the market today. It is the current trend of our industry.
What is the most beautiful hi-fi system you have listened to?
I think one of the finest systems I have listened to was the Cary Audio SLP-05, CAD-805s, and CD-303/300 with the ProAc Response 3. The synergy was wonderful. I could sit and listen to music forever. It is a sound I can still remember years later.
Can you talk about your first audiophile emotion or a legendary hifi product?
I always enjoyed listening to the Fisher 500C. It was a wonderful product, and one I remember vividly from my youth.
Can you quote an or a few albums that you love?
I love most types of music – classical, jazz, blues, etc. but I am a rock n roller at heart. I love all things Eagles, Tom Petty, Black Crowes to name a few.
Can you quote some especially well recorded albums?
There are a lot of well recorded albums. However, I do like the Hotel California album a lot.
How do you see the evolution of the industry?
I think you will continue to see the trend toward more and more streaming as well as less and less component systems.
What’s your opinion about vinyl comeback?
I think it is great. It is also wonderful to see the number of younger people buying and listening to vinyl. I think this is a positive for our industry.
What’s your opinion about digital hi-res audio?
I enjoy digital hi-res music. It is primarily what I listen to these days.
Which musician, living or dead, would you love to meet?
Tough question since there are so many. I will name three – Tom Petty, Don Henley, and Mark Knopfler. They all wrote a lot, if not all, of their music as well as excellent musicians.
What would you love to say to the inventor of MP3?
Probably thanks. Whether you are a fan or not, it did bring a revolution to the enjoyment of music for more people.
Is it necessary to be rich to be audiophile?
No. I think you can put together a world class system for not so much money if you trust your own ears.