Cary Audio Xciter Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

Published On: August 11, 2009
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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Cary Audio Xciter Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

Desktop audio is becoming more and more popular, and the Xciter line from Cary is poised to dominate. Featuring a USB DAC and this tube integrated amp that should both live up to its name. Jim Swantko tests it out.

Cary Audio Xciter Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

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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.

Additional Resources
• Learn more about Cary Audio on this resource page.
• Read a review of the Cary Audio Cinema 11a AV Preamp here.

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


High Points
- The Cary Audio Xciter integrated amplifier is a major over-achiever with the ability to fill large rooms with beautiful, rich music.

- The amplifier is beautiful to look at and it's solidly constructed to last a lifetime.
- The circuit design will completely auto-bias for other tubes such as the 6V6, 5881 or EL-34, which allows for painless experimentation with different tubes.
- Cary Audio offers legendary customer support. Should you ever need any assistance with the Xciter, you can rest assured that you will be taken care of with no hassles.

Low Points
- I wish the remote control offered more functionality such as power and input selection. It's not an issue if you keep it on your desktop but if you don't it can get tiresome having to get up to change inputs.
- A possible low point may be the size of the output tubes. If you need something to fit in a vertically challenged spot the Xciter might not be for you.

If you are one of those people who are just beginning the journey of high-end audio, especially those who use their computers as an audio server, you must check out the Cary Xciter line. The vacuum tube integrated amplifier is perfect for your office desktop or bedroom system, but equally at home in your dedicated listening room. It offers the performance of bulky separates in a tidy package and is absolutely beautiful to look at. What else could one ask for?

Additional Resources
• Learn more about Cary Audio on this resource page.
• Read a review of the Cary Audio Cinema 11a AV Preamp here.

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