Adding to the end of this long thread as an update for some of the folks who had questions about the C12 and whether it has bug issues.
I received my Cary Cinema 12 about a month ago, after shortlisting it with the Arcam 888 and the Anthem AVM50 and D2V. It turned out to be very difficult to find a dealer in the SF Bay Area who had the Arcam or Anthem units, and would return my phone calls. I auditioned the Cary at Audiovision SF to get a sense of the basic analog quality, and although it was a foreign system it was pretty clear that the C12 is a very, very good audio processor. I spent an hour or so listening to both the analog pass-through and the digital processing. In both cases, the performance was at least as good as I expected. The pass-through signal came from an $8k Wadia unit (maybe a 581?) and was fabulous, but the processed signal through the Cary was not too far behind. A little more closed-in, not quite so much air and separation, but close. I ordered it that day, and it took a week for the C12 to arrive.
I finally decided to replace my ancient Meridian 5-series combo; I had avoided investing in another high-end processor given the rapid obsolescence that has been the norm for a while. My system is unusual, so it will make direct comparisons a bit of a problem; it has separate analog and digital paths to the active x-overs so that signals from my phono rig don't go anywhere near the digital processor. Amplification for the 2-ch front is Audio Research tubes. The Meridian processor was handling audio signals from a Sony BR player, a DISH DVR, an Apple TV, sometimes a PS3 and occasionally a couple of laptops. Video switching was on the JVC projector (and manual cable switching!)
Main goals were to be able to hear the new hi-rez formats, have 4 HDMI inputs, and not screw up the reproduction of 2-channel digital. Good analog pass-through would be a bonus.
I ignored the auto setup process, since all it does is identify the speaker channels that are present, work out the distance (and hence delay) from each speaker to the listening position, and set the levels. Since I own a tape measure and a sound level meter, and I know how many speakers I have :-) it was easy enough to handle manually. The documentation is pretty rudimentary, and could be WAY better...
Randy at AudioVision SF warned me that burn-in could take 100hrs, and I tend to agree. When it was first installed, the sound was way more detailed than the Meridian units it replaced, but sounded a lot thinner. Over a two-day period it became much warmer, with a lot more bloom and air surrounding instruments.
How does it sound?
So far I have tried CDs via coax and HDMI; Blu-ray, the DVR and an Apple TV via HDMI; and my phono preamp routed through the analog bypass mode. I have also tried 96/24 and 192/24 music via laptop and optical cable.
The Cary sound is very similar across all of these sources. There is a ton of very fine detail, the sound stage is very clearly laid out, and the separation between instruments is really, really good. There is also a great sense of "bloom", the sense that each instrument has space and air around it.
I haven't spent a lot of time yet on movie soundtracks, but being able to decode DTS-MA is definitely a big step up. We have been watching a lot of concert movies lately, and both the Clapton Crossroads blu-ray and Lightning in a Bottle via Apple TV sounded great.
The sound is definitely still a little brighter and more forward than the Meridian sound, but it is definitely not at all hard or shrill. It handles violins beautifully, and that is usually where I find any digital/transistor artifacts stand out, so it is probably a reflection of the Meridian's "over-smoothness". On a Chesky CD recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto there is a very real sense of the bow, strings and wood that was a real eye-opener.
My system is at least as "musical" as before, and despite all the strong high-fidelity attributes the Cary is not at all sterile; it really lets the emotional content through. The level of detail is shocking, but it is 100% musical.
Don't forget that I am comparing it to a pretty old Meridian 500 series combo; I'm really curious how the C12 would stack up against other modern digital processors. But at this point I have no inclination to look any further.
Lack of room eq is irrelevant to me. No idea if I am losing anything without having ARC or Audyssey, but in the past I have found that adding any additional processing incurs a penalty in detail and musicality. I'm having too much fun listening to music to worry about that!
Two big surprises
The most shocking thing is that I swear the phono stage sounds better through the Cary than direct, although I might just be enjoying the fact that I now have remote control of LP volume for the first time. As far as I can tell the analog pass-through is exactly that.
The other thing that is a total revelation is listening to 96/24 and above decoded by the Cary. Lots of you are probably well aware of the improvements (yes, I'm late to the party) but the sound via the Cary is now remarkably like the sound of the analog side of my system. The analog rig is a Scheu Premier 3/SME V/Ortofon Cadenza Blue, thru Lundahl trannies to my own phono pre design. Listening to Steely Dan Gaucho, or Stevie Wonder's Talking Book at 96/24 from the laptop gets very, very close to what I love about LPs...and my teenage kids were totally blown away by the sound of the new Daft Punk album at 88/24!
Operationally, there have been no issues but it is going to take a while to sort out the setup completely. With the lack of documentation it's not for anyone unwilling to invest a little time, or anyone with little experience.
There is no center channel in my setup, and I have had zero phantom center issues.
I was worried that others had reported issues with things like noise on skip forward or back on a DVR via HDMI, but I have not experienced this. There is a definite delay of a few seconds when switching HDMI sources or skipping tracks etc on an HDMI-connected device, but that is no big deal for me. For those who have said this is a non-starter for music listening, there is a simple fix. The delays are only on HDMI, so I added a digital cable from my BR player's output to one of the digital inputs of the Cary and use that for music. Not sure if there is a sound difference between the HDMI connection and a good digital cable.
The only quibble so far is that a bit more gain out of the box would have been nice, but that is configurable. As others have discovered, the maximum level of "0" can be increased if you need more.
Bottom line: the sound quality is absolutely fabulous, the video switching works and stays out of the way, and I'm getting less sleep as I work through my music and movie collection..
So far, I'm a very happy Cary owner.