On at least one of these trips, Cyrus Audio caught my eye. With its sleek, sculpted half-width fronts, the Cyrus equipment looked like it belonged in the dash of the Aston Martin DB5 I wasn’t driving as it accelerated through a fast curve on the Strand, and you couldn’t get it. to get to the United States.
Founded in the late 1970s by Farad Azima and his brother Henry, Cyrus was originally part of the group Mission Loudspeaker; its first products were called Mission Cyrus. The brand debuted two integrated amplifiers, the Mission Cyrus One and the Mission Cyrus Two, both of which have already joined the Mission Cyrus half-width. These svelte Cyrus designs have always been more than cosmetic; despite modest prices, their die-cast case and the software and hardware inside were a deliberate excursion into audiophile terrain.
Associate editor Art Dudley reviewed the Cyrus 6vs integrated amplifier in 2005, writing: “My impression of this product as a good all-rounder and a real bargain is almost unshakable: the 6vs was a perfectly pleasant little amp , with good timing, surprisingly good drama and scale for just 40Wpc, … and an open and clear albeit slightly dry presentation overall.” Art followed that up a few months later with a review of the Cyrus CD 8x CD player, in which he said, “It’s fair to say that the Cyrus CD 8x is both a respectable performer and a pretty good value for 1995 $. It’s commendable-sounding, has a good way with pitch relations and sync information, and its stereo imaging is unquestionably top-notch.”
For a while, Cyrus Audio seemed absent from the US market, but now has a new distributor: Fidelity Imports of Manalapan, New Jersey. Fidelity imports products from Cyrus’ Classic Series as well as its new XR Series, which includes CDt-XR CD transport, Pre-XR preamplifier, i7-XR and i9-XR integrated amplifiers, PSU-XR power supply and the subject of this review, the CDi-XR CD player. In the US, the CDi-XR costs $2999.
A more powerful mite
It might seem like a strange time to introduce a CD player. Sales of new CDs plummeted; in 2021, the vinyl CD sold for the first time since the early years after the introduction of the CD. And yet, anecdotally, an underground movement seems to be taking hold: people are buying used CDs, finding bargains like vinyl collectors did before records became popular again. And what audiophile doesn’t own hundreds or even thousands of silver plastic discs? Who doesn’t want a way to play them?
Despite a rich history in streaming – Cyrus was among the first companies to pursue streaming, with a streaming R&D program that began in 2003 – the company believes that CDs sound better than the same music when is streaming, or at least it has the potential to. Cyrus has worked to realize this potential with research aimed at eliminating the noise inherent in CD playback, in part by reducing the amount of error correction needed. “The primary goal of our CD drives is to extract data from the disc as accurately as possible the first time, and this is only possible through very careful design and calibration of the drive’s hardware and software elements” , says Cyrus. in its marketing materials.
“Despite the general misconception,” Cyrus research and development manager Ceri Williamson said in an email, “a CD player is actually very analog in its operation. Those analog paths are affected by track layout, external noise, power supplies, etc. This hardware should be optimized to get the most out of the disc The “read-right-first-time” approach means that the disc can be read very linear. If the data is not read correctly the first time, the CD head must backtrack on the spiral to read it again. This movement causes noise in the power supplies, etc., which degrades overall performance. By being in full control of the software in the servo CD, we have tuned this rig to read standard ‘Red Book’ discs perfectly, with the lowest noise.”
“Cyrus CD players are built around our in-house Servo Evolution platform,” continued Williamson. Cyrus designed its own rig, Ceri told me, because commercially available “servo/mech kits” are for automotive and portable drives. “These products sacrifice detail for ruggedness. When driving on a bumpy road, it’s more important that your disc doesn’t skip than hearing the background noise of the recording.”
Cyrus’ Servo Evolution technology includes “bespoke” software to suppress noise created by motor speed, jitter and drift, lost laser focus and error correction circuitry. Cyrus claims that its Servo Evolution technology reduces read errors by 20% compared to reference CD players. One downside is that it only plays old-school CDs and CD-Rs, not SACDs, for example.
The 8½” wide, 13½” deep, 3″ high CDi-XR weighs 8 lbs. The housing and chassis are constructed from die-cast aluminum. The metallic gray review sample was nearly identical to the Cyrus models that came before it, with a slanted control panel, large display screen, and a small power button that glows blue. Inside, Cyrus uses custom low-noise toroidal transformers and shielding around and between the DAC and the power supply circuits. The CDi-XR chassis is said to be “inverted” for better vibration control.
The front panel of the CDi-XR includes the power button, viewing window, CD loading slot and seven push buttons, angled slightly upwards for ease of use and illustrated with clear, easy-to-see symbols for all the usual operations: play/pause, previous track, next track, forward, backward, repeat, eject. The eject button must be pressed twice to eject a CD; two presses of the stop button on the remote do the same. The front-panel buttons are recessed and it’s sometimes difficult to tell if contact has been made, at least for those of us with big paws, leading to superfluous actuations. The multifunction remote, longer than it is wide on the CDi-XR, adds a phase inversion button. There is also a “Phase Normal” or “Phase Invert” indicator on the display.
On the rear, in addition to the mandatory IEC power input, two analog stereo RCA pairs, and coaxial TosLink and S/PDIF outputs are a pair of proprietary MC-BUS connectors (on RCA), which allow coordinated operation of several Cyrus components. (What I initially considered the cheapest pair of interconnects I’ve ever seen were actually for the MC-BUS interconnect between the CDi-XR and an i9-XR integrated amplifier supplied by Cyrus but which I have not tested yet.) There is also a 15-pin umbilical connector for Cyrus’ optional external power supply, the PSU-XR, and a USB port for maintenance. Cyrus equipment is manufactured in Nottingham, England, in partnership with electronics manufacturing service provider Smart Made Simple.
Visually, the CDi-XR is attractive but understated, an effect aided by its small size and “phantom black” paint job.
A clean machine
I slid the Cyrus onto the second shelf of my Salamander rack and connected it to the Sugden LA-4 preamplifier using a pair of 2m Triode Wire Labs Spirit II (RCA) interconnects. I connected the Sugden to the LKV Research Veros PWR+ power amp using LKV’s own RCA-XLR interconnects. For streaming, I used a laptop and a Denafrips Ares II DAC augmented with a fiber optic Ethernet cable Sonore opticalRendu and systemOptique, a Small Green Computer sonicTransporter i5 and a power supply, a TRENDnet switch and an in-akustik Reference USB 2.0 cable. My DeVore Fidelity O/96 speakers were accepting electrons from the amplifier through a pair of 8′ Auditorium 23 speaker cables.