Sean Killebrew began his writing career in the '90s, covering football for UCLA (his alma mater). His first foray into publishing was in 2000, with the below-the-line film- and TV-production guide books LA 411 and NY 411. For the past decade, Sean's passion for audio/video has been poured into writing for HomeTheaterReview.com. When not chasing A/V deals, Sean spends time skiing and losing to his son in basketball.
It's rare that you can purchase a product based on name and reputation alone and not have to worry about whether or not you're getting your money's worth. Cary Audio Design is one such name. While I've been hearing about their products for years, my actual listening experience was limited to a couple of impressive demos at CES. As such, I was thrilled to get my hands and ears on their 7.125 seven-channel power amplifier. The 7.125 retails for $4,000 and is part of Cary's Cinema Series. It's the ideal companion for Cary's stunning Cinema 11a processor, which I recently reviewed.
The 7.125 weighs in at fifty-five pounds, stands seven inches tall, has a width of just under 18 inches and a depth of 16 and a half inches. Its seven channels are rated at 125 Watts per channel at 8 Ohms and 190 Watts per channel at 4 Ohms. RCA and balanced XLR inputs are included and of the highest quality. While designed for use with the Cary Cinema 11a processor, the 7.125 would mate well with any high-end processor. The chassis is black and the faceplate is available in silver or black anodized aluminum.
My experience with the 7.125 was overwhelmingly positive, from the minimalist design, which should blend well with any system aesthetically, to the raw and unadulterated power the amp possesses. My listening room is decent-sized and regardless of how hard I pushed the amp, it still had more to give without sacrificing sound quality. There was absolutely no compression, no clipping and really no sonic negatives to speak of. I used several different types of speakers, including Definitive Technology on- walls, Aperion floorstanders and some power-hungry Magnepan 4 Ohm electrostats and it handled all of them with aplomb. I was truly impressed with the resolution and precision of the amp, regardless of the volume level.
• The design of the 7.125 is exemplary, featuring silver anodized
aluminum with the Cary logo prominently lit up in blue. Some might opt
to turn this off, but I prefer the brightest setting, call it an "I have
a Cary amp and you don't" sort of a thing.
• Massive amounts of clean, neutral power. It played as loud as any
reasonable person would want it to and still had more to give.
• The speaker output connectors, along with all of the connections on the rear of the amp, are heavy duty and built to last.
• At shut-down and at times when muting the processor, there was an
audible squeal that came through the speakers. This was only evident
when shutting down or muting while listening at high volume.
You can spend a lot more money on a multi-channel home theater amp, but
you're not necessarily going to get better performance. If you're
looking for a powerful, neutral and incredibly engaging amplifier, the
Cary is worth your time. I was treated to new detail in the
instrumentation and vocals in pieces of music that I thought I knew like
the back of my hand. It doesn't take a ton of time with a piece of Cary
gear to understand why their name carries so much weight in the
audiophile community. The 7.125 is aesthetically pleasing, well
engineered and most importantly, it's a reference quality piece of gear
in terms of sound quality and power.