The SLP 03 is Cary Audio’s affordable tube preamp. It is not a two chassis unit like the SLP-05 but neither does it cost $8,000 either. The SLP-03 is more like the “simplified” version. Tubes used are only four 12AU7s versus eight 6SN7 on the SLP-05. It retains the fully balanced design and although is a single chassis unit, it is fairly substantial and well built.
With the unit fully warmed up, it had the unmistakable “glow” of the tube sound across the music. Music definition is sharp and clear which was a sharp contrast to some of the older tube preamps we have in the store. Background was quiet and bass was actually tight and deep. Mid-range was warm and not too overly expressed. A typical used SLP-05 will range in price from $4,500 to $5,500 and with the SLP-03 being one third and one quarter the price of the SLP-05, it becomes somewhat of a bargain. It may not exhibit the same richness or the better definition and clarity of the SLP-05 but it is definitely not three times or four times worst sounding than the SLP-05.
Cosmetically, the unit is in pretty good shape. Minor scuff marks from use but nothing major. The remote control still has the plastic cover over it. We have the original box but no manual (available online).