This is a review summary written by Terry Ellis December 2021
For the full review please see my YouTube video linked here
Do you know them for their digital
Cary Audio are a very long established American high end HiFi manufacturer known for their valve amplifiers and preamplifiers. They asked me if I would like to review two of their products, firstly their most popular product the SI-300.2D integrated amplifier and secondly their flagship digital music source the DMS-700.
The DMS-700 features a very interesting DAC combined with a whole host of features that I think would appeal to a lot of audiophiles.
Getting to know my way around
The DMS-700 is a network audio player and music streamer which means it will fetch music either from cloud streaming services like Qobuz, Tidal and Spotify but it can also grab from either attached storage devices like an SD card (slot on front) or USB thumb drive or it will grab it from any network attached storage such as a NAS drive. I think this is important to define because unlike other music servers there is no built in storage.
On the rear are a nice set of quality connections for digital in and out, more importantly analogue out both single ended and balanced and there are both wireless and wired connection options, although only can be used at any time. There is also the option to send a receive music via Bluetooth, with support for 4.0 aptX HD.
On the inside the Cary is mostly separated into three sections power supply on the left, digital bits in the middle and the very significant DAC section on the right. The DAC really is a big feature of the DMS700, literally Cary say they have paid serious attention to details for its power supply design and output stage. Its using AKM’s latest flagship AK4499EQ chipset but also using an FPGA and switched resistor design.
Some other very key features are the DMS-700 is Roon ready and supports MQA with 16x full decoding. There are more features still and I encourage you to check them all on the Cary Audio website.
Cary Streamer 2.0 App.
Cary’s Streamer 2.0 app is available on both Android and IOS and I used it on my 2021 Apple Ipad Pro. The App initially gives you basic control features for power on and off, selecting the preferred upsampling mode, changing volume and adjusting the display brightness. More important is the stream button which gives you three option for finding music which are attached storage, the network or the cloud, I wanted to play music from Qobuz so selected “Internet.”
From here you can navigate through Qobuz music in a familiar fashion but with a Cary interface and graphic that very closely mirrors what’s seen on the screen on the front of the DMS-700. I found it very easy to navigate, select albums or tracks I wanted to form he play cue and most importantly I was quickly listening to music. The app work reliably and was very easy to use, however its not the most advanced or feature rich music control app available. Some audiophiles will prefer to use Roon for that and some might want to use alternative UPnP applications.
For those of you who are old school the Cary comes with a remote control and you can control everything with it, I think this is a nice feature and I am sure will be welcome for those who are moving to a music streamer from a CD player for the first time. I also found the remote useful for the initial setup.
Familiar Cary sound.
It made sense to my why Cary asked me to look at both the DMS-700 and the SI-300.2D because it was possible for me to directly compare the flagship AKM DAC in the DMS-700 to the AKM DAC in the amplifier and I could do this pretty much instantly by changing the input from digital coaxial to balanced analogue.
I really enjoyed the 300.2 using its internal DAC for its smooth, rounded, fun and gratifying overall sound that is definitely on the warmer side with just a touch of tube “euphonic” for good measure. If I had to be over critical and its my job to do so the bolder character of the 300.2D doesn’t leave much overall space in the sound stage and transients could be clearer and crisper but then obviously the sound character would be different, or would it.
Using the DAC in the DMS-700 was very interesting because straight away I could hear that its the better DAC of the two as expected, the overall sound was cleaner and clearer, with better clarity with more individual details coming through. The extra clarity helped music to sound faster and more nimble with better timing but I think most importantly the main sound character didn’t change, the smooth, relaxed Cary sound remained. There was a subtle but noticeable change with the strong warm character being slightly reduced in favour of more transparency and neutrality which I think for most would be welcomed as a nice improvement but maybe not for all.
Cary Upsampling, Yes please
Cary’s upsampling technology has definitely made a positive impression on me and I used it throughout the entirety of the review periods of both the 300.2 and the DMS-700. Interestingly I found the upsample sweet spot of the 300.2 to be 768Khz but with the DMS-700 going all the way up to 1bit DSD 256 sounded great but with both Cary’s the upsampling tightened the sound and improved imaging focus, both welcome.
A great introduction
At £8090 the DMS-700 is a serious chunk of money and of course that means it has a number of competitors offering the same or even more specifications and features and there are much more affordable alternatives that offer a better app experience. In saying that I think the big draw for the Cary DMS-700 will be its sound quality and sound character and synergy with the rest of the system. There is definitely something to be said for a musical sounding digital source for making listening more gratifying.
An Essential Audition Award is granted in recognition of a products high performance but with a certain uniqueness that makes auditioning even more essential.
For the full Specification of the Cary Audio DMS-700
See the website here