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DMS-700 network player customer review

Cary Audio customer, Frank P., wrote an amazing review on our DMS-700 Network Audio Player.

“I’ve been an audiophile for a long time. Tubes, solid-state, electrostatics, monitors, floorstanding speakers, turntables, and yes, for the last 15 years, digital. My experience with digital didn’t start well. Technically it made sense and promised to resolve the shortcomings of analog. Initially, it was a huge step backward, and at the time, considering my total shift to digital, demoralizing. How could something that measured so good sound so bad? Fast forward, and I’ve never been more optimistic as the recent improvements in digital music and equipment have made digital a viable audiophile source.

On occasion, I tend to overthink this hobby and find myself spending too much time focusing on the equipment’s influence over the music, key aural characteristics, and the tweaks often required to ultimately make marginal improvements. Believe me, these characteristics are there with the DMS-700, yet they become one with the music and not an artifact of the device. I’ll admit it, before the Cary DMS-700, I would sometimes find myself listening to music that didn’t stir my soul yet because it sounded better and was more audiophile-like; I would play it. The Cary DMS-700 has helped me drop that habit. Listening to the Cary reminds me why I became an audiophile – the love of music, how music makes me feel, and the joy of listening to music and not recordings. The Cary is one of the rare products I’ve owned that allows me to listen to recordings from bad to great and simply enjoy the music.

I really like the DMS-700 for what it does and how the Cary team dialed in the sound signature. The sound characteristic is very much to my liking and gets me closer to the emotion of recorded music. I find myself forgetting about listening for the audio cues, the last degree of resolution, soundstage precision, leading-edge notes, etc. Listen to the Cary DMS-700, and those things take on a new purpose – connection to the recording. Poor recordings sound good, and good recordings sound great.

I would imagine the DMS-700 checks the “spec” box for low noise, dynamic range, and on and on, yet I’ve learned that good measurements, while foundational, don’t always translate into the emotional presentation of music. Through the Cary, the continuity of the audio signal top to bottom is first-class, and I would assume representative in the measurements or at least the key ones.

The DMS-700 is mature and feels refined. The user interface, controls, and app all work really well. I’ve had no issues. No glitches, noise, and unexplainable things occurring. The interface is well thought out and intuitive. Firmware upgrades are easy, relatively fast, and without issue. I use a hardwired ethernet connection for services like Qobuz and haven’t had a need to try the wireless yet. Considering how everything else works, I would assume the wireless works fine.

Build quality is very good, and cosmetically the DMS-700 is pretty basic with no curved fronts, fancy etchings, and nothing that screams look at me. I like this. The DMS-700 is solid, substantial, and to the point. It fills my shelf with little room to spare. Part of me knows the money and time went into what matters most – the product design, engineering, and build – with more focus on the inside. Well done. The screen is fairly large and clear, yet I don’t use it often. My setup has it too far away for me to see realistically, and as the Cary app is very easy to use, I rely on it most of the time.

As for sound quality, the background is dead silent, so the music emerges from a really dark place. If any of you believe that you need an analog front end to render precise imaging and depth, you’re wrong. My speakers are imaging better and more accurately than ever before. The soundstage is accurate, tall, deep, and wide. There is an “I’m there” roundness to voices and instruments alike. The body of the music is there. It’s all quite amazing.

I would have expected that with this new sense of musicality, there would be some compromise in attack, clarity, and the musical edge of the music. That is not the case at all. Music has weight and body with no softening and slowness. If I had to pick one thing the Cary does exceptionally well, I would say it’s timing. The timing of the music is really good. Instruments and voices all seem perfectly in phase and aligned. I’m actually not sure how to best reference this or what this audiophile attribute is called, yet it’s there and adds to the musicality of anything I listen to. I am also finding that I can listen to and thoroughly enjoy music at lower volume levels. I think the added musicality without the loss of detail is a key factor.

While I really like Qobuz and its sheer volume of hi-def titles, the majority of what I listen to is stored on an external hard drive. I have hundreds of Hi-Definition recordings, many of which are DSD 64/128/256, along with PCM up to DXD. The Cary really spreads its wings by playing back really good quality music and exceptional recordings. As an example, NativeDSD’s PURE 256 recordings, which are exceptional, are now noticeably more musical. Wait a minute! I assumed that better recordings would benefit the least from the Cary, yet this isn’t true.

Just last night, I listened to The Journey Home by Kriz, recorded natively in DSD256. Cymbals were better defined, decayed appropriately, and the body of each instrument was felt and not just heard. Each instrument was located where it should be, and I was in the studio. I could reach into the recording, and above all, the musical listening experience was better. I then put on Lee Ritenour’s Stolen Moments. This is a CD that I put on my hard drive years ago. I wouldn’t say this is a great recording, yet the arrangement and musicianship are first-class. Leading-edge notes were clear and timed. I can now feel the initial impact of the piano in a way I never did. The bass lines aren’t necessarily cleaner than I remember, yet the bass seems in its own space in the soundstage. There’s no smearing, yet what I would have considered a dimensionless recording now has dimension. Ernie Watt’s sax in Stolen Moments was front and center, crystal clear, yet the emotion of his playing and his instrument was shining through. A recording I always believed had little recorded depth actually does. I got lost in the music and listened to the entire recording.            

I’ve had the opportunity to have a number of separate DACs, players, and all-in-one streamers at the house. Most have been more money than the Cary DMS-700, doing things to one degree or another exceptionally well, yet none sound as “right” and as well integrated as the Cary.

What else can I say? The Cary DMS-700 allows me to get back where this all started for me. A love of reproduced music, yet even more so, a love of music. This is the first Cary Audio product I’ve owned. I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t have a “Cary owner/fan” bias. The Cary is a sleeper*. It’s, first and foremost, musical, well-engineered, and thought out. It’s unassuming, works well every time, and for the price, a steal.”

* Apparently ‘sleeper’ means ‘something that has unexpectedly good performance while having unassuming exterior’ in colloquial American English.

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