The Cary Audio Xciter vacuum tube integrated amplifier is one of those products that makes me take a step back and question the decisions I've made in building my system. Don't get me wrong, I am very happy with the sound of my system but it has taken lots of time, money, and sheer work to get it to its current performance. Sometimes I wonder if it's worth all the hassle when I hear just how good this little $2,750.00 integrated sounds.
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This integrated is the muscle of the Xciter line, which also includes a killer USB DAC, designed primarily for discriminating computer audio users who want a desktop system that sounds like a proper audio system. The Xciter is rated at five Watts per channel but plays more like fifty, maybe more. Each channel of the amplifier circuitry consists of three tubes, first a 12AX7A for input gain and driver stage; both sections operate in Class A with minimal feedback. Next, a pair of 6L6GC tubes configured as triodes operate in a push-pull configuration to drive your speakers with wonderful class-A power. The Xciter offers three single-ended inputs and a pair of gold plated five-way binding posts for speaker cables. The front of the unit has controls for power, input selection, volume control and a headphone output. Aesthetically, the Xciter is beautiful to look at with its glowing orange tubes and blue translucent LED backlighting.
My first impression was shock; I was not prepared for the bottom end grunt that the little Cary was able to produce. It was way tighter and deeper than any five-Watt amplifier should be. Cary thoughtfully included a pair of subwoofer outputs on the Xciter should you want to add a pair, but I honestly don't think many will find them necessary. I was not however, surprised by the gorgeous midrange that filled my room as Cary has a well-deserved reputation for building wonderfully musical equipment, and the Xciter carries that torch proudly. Vocals were especially rich and delivered with weight and texture. Treble was open, airy and extended. I heard none of the syrupy, slow sound which some tube products are known for. The Cary was open, quick and light on its feet with a nice helping of rich smoothness in the midrange, just as it should be in my opinion. Headphone users will absolutely love the Xciter as it produced some of the best music I have ever heard through mine.
Read the High Points, the Low Points and the Conclusion on Page 2