Also featuring SLI-100 tube amp! Steve Huff is a well-known American photographer and reviewer for mirrorless cameras and his website is home for honest real world review. Steve is also a hi-fi aficionado with a 35 years experience so it’s quite natural that he reviews high end audio kit as well.
Steve’s reviews cover a broad spectrum of high end audio but his special love are tube amplifiers. He’s been following Cary Audio products since early 90s, and owned quite a few, mostly tube amps, of course, but also a CD player. So it was no coincidence that Steve arranged to audition two new Cary Audio products: a DMS-650 DAC/Streamer and SLI-100 tube integrated amp.
Please follow this link for a complete review at Steve Huff Photo. If you prefer video narrative there’s a YouTube version. Here we include a few snippets for you to get the feel of Steve Huff’s thorough and entertaining style.
For the last few weeks I have had the pleasure of listening to a superb duo from Cary Audio. Their all tube SLI100 Integrated amp and the brand new DMS 650 DAC/Streamer have been making music in two of my systems, and I am itching to tell you all about them!
I have listened to them in my reference system, in my Klipsch heritage systems as well as individually with other amplifiers and DAC’s.
Overall I have very fond memories of my time with some pretty special gear from Cary Audio and I was excited to hear the new DMS650 streamer and DAC. I have been listening to some pretty snazzy and expensive DAC’s lately up to the $15k range and discovering what the true high end pieces bring to a well set up audio system (MAGIC). I was looking forward to seeing what this new Cary could do.
When the DMS650 arrived I unboxed it and was literally taken by surprise by its quality of build, its heft, its big bright display, and the fact that it looks like a million bucks. No, really. This is a really nice looking piece. The display is gorgeous and not like the small ones that we see on most streamers. Heck, some (most) streamers do not even have a display at all, regardless of cost.
This is a product that Cary builds right here in the USA. It packs in all of this tech into one box for under $5k. Upsampling, Roon Ready, Bluetooth, Ethernet, COAX and OPTICAL outputs, MQA compatible, Airplay Compatible, can attach hard drives or even an SD card to play tunes. It has the makings of a superb all in one digital solution that is ready to rock out of the box.
Spec wise, build wise, this is one of those HiFi products that does not seem overpriced in the slightest. I like this as I see many products in HiFi today that are blatantly overpriced. So is this Cary really High End? So far from the specs and build, YES.
I set up the DMS 650 to be hard wired in my ref system via ethernet, and also tested the WiFi in my second system. Both worked flawlessly and the unit does ship with three nice WiFi antennas which really bring in the signal without issues. I experienced zero dropouts with WiFi. Within the menu you can also check for system updates. The review unit was fully updated as I expected but this piece will also auto update, which means you do not have to worry about manually doing this.
It seems Cary thought of everything here.
Yes, this is the entry level piece from Cary in their streamer lineup yet it is appointed better than some megabuck streamers I have seen/heard. The all black unit is striking with its blackout look and really appears as a true high end piece.
With the way HiFi prices are going these days, the DMS650, so far, appears to be an all out bargain.
But what about the sound?
Remember, this is the starter streamer in the Cary lineup, so it needs be compared to something within its price range. I also have an iFi DSD Pro Signature on hand, which is another all in one device. The iDSD does not have a fancy screen, nor is it large. It’s small, and doesn’t look quite as high end as the Cary but it’s a $3500 piece and sounds damn good for the cost as well.
The Cary, besides offering the larger size, huge display screen, and nice remote also has a bigger sound than the iDSD. It’s impactful and sweet yet retains detail and images superbly. I can not emphasis the “size” of the music when the Cary is in the system. It’s seriously BIG with hint of warmth and solidity.
I even did some streaming from Spotify and the results were gorgeous!
Listening to Bodil Niskas “Et Gammelt Stykke Oslo”, a song I know well and use when testing audio gear was beautiful. The music just had a flow, an ease and a richness to it. No, it wasn’t crazy 3D but offered up a nice meaty midrange, where the magic of this song lives. The piano was well defined as well. It all just sounded like real music. Which is what we should be striving for. My body was swaying and that, for me, is a sign of superb musicality!
Listening to Adele’s new album was a treat. “My Little Love” has dynamic shifts, deep bass, stunning vocals and a palpable presence that is uber real on the best of systems. With the DMS650 taking over for the Nagra and Weiss DAC not much is lost. With the Nagra the sound is more in the room, more expanded and with a slightly heftier punch to it. The Weiss is smooth, studio like and offers up stunning detail without harshness.
The DMS650 by Cary brings this track to life just like those two do but with ever so slightly less transparency and realism. Not that the 650 lacks in these areas, it doesn’t, but when comparing it to those heavy hitters we do not lose very much. It’s that diminishing returns thing.
The Cary sound has always been about weight, solidity, and midrange magic. The DMS 650 matures a bit on that and brings on details without being bright, as well as a big expansive sound that truly fills your room with beautiful music.
No matter the music I listened to with the Cary duo it was extremely Musial and offered up a huge expansive and rich sound with a weighty midrange and solid bass. What it lacked in all out transparency it made up for in musicality and by having a way of bringing the artists to your room. It was smooth and had some refinement over lower cost DAC’s that was welcome. If. there is one thing I can not stand with a DAC it is one that sounds ragged, digital or bright.
The Cary DMS650’s DAC section had none of that. What we have here is a true high end bonafide bargain in a world of insanely priced audio gear.
If I had only up to $6,000 to spend on a digital front end of streamer and DAC, THIS WOULD BE IT, no question. I can not imagine anyone being disappointed in the DMS650 for what it costs. It’s one of those rare Hi-Fi pieces that do really punch above its price class and it makes absolutely beautiful music that can touch our heart and soul.
Unless you are uber picky and want to eek out every last bit of detail and transparency from your tracks, this may be all you ever need for quality high res streaming. If you want more, be prepared to spend quite a bit more.