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Cyrus One Cast Integrated streaming amplifier

Cyrus One Cast Integrated streaming amplifier

Having a ‘lifestyle’, rather than a plain old-fashioned ‘life’, can make significant demands on your possessions. After all, if you just live a ‘life’, then your belongings are simply part of it. Aspire to a ‘lifestyle’ and suddenly everything you own has to complement it and enhance it. Simple functionality is no longer enough when you’re enjoying a ‘lifestyle’.

For some of the more dogmatic brands involved in the hi-fi industry, the ideal of ‘lifestyle’ is anathema. If concessions are going to be made, they’ll be made by the lucky owners of these manufacturers’ products rather than the other way around.

But more sensible – or pragmatic – audio companies accept there’s no longer any virtue in complexity for its own sake. Consumers’ lifestyles don’t allow for it. Products have to be simple to set up and operate, wide-ranging in their functionality, and impeccable in their performance. Because if they’re not, then they’re hardly enhancing their owners’ lifestyle. Are they?

Probably the most resonant recent example of a previously rather hairshirted company seeing the ‘lifestyle’ light and amending their products accordingly is that of Naim. Its ‘Uniti’ range of streaming amplifiers has done wonders, both for the company’s profile and its balance sheet, and at the same time has made a few nominal rivals look rather like Luddites.

Mind you, Cyrus – to choose a brand not entirely at random – has, perhaps inadvertently, been pandering to the lifestyle-obsessed ever since its very first product launched in 1984. The Cyrus One amplifier set the Cyrus ‘half-width/shoe-box’ design template, and the company has enjoyed this particular USP ever since.

36 years is a fair while, though, even in two-channel hi-fi. To keep up with Naim et al, and to convince lifestylers of its credentials, Cyrus has served up the One Cast. It’s the usual half-width box comprising amplification and extensive connectivity, including streaming–on paper, at least, it has everything it needs to compete in this brave new lifestyle world.

‘Everything’, in this instance, means 100 watts per channel of Class D amplification with a heady 78 amps of instantaneous current available. It means a fair number of physical inputs: digital optical, digital coaxial, HDMI ARC, stereo RCA line-level and stereo RCA moving magnet phono stage. There are a pair of stereo RCA analogue outputs for connection to a power amp, and chunky speaker binding posts for just a single pair. It also means aptX Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay 2 and wi-fi connectivity for use with any Chromecast-compatible apps and services. Even Amazon’s Alexa gets a look-in.

The USB is a Type-B socket you’re probably more used to seeing on the back of a printer. Connected to a laptop, it can handle incoming digital files of up to 32bit/192kHz or DSD128 standard–both the optical and coaxial inputs are restricted to PCM stereo only. All incoming digital signals are dealt with by a 32bit/192kHz (and heavily breathed-on) ESS Sabre DAC.

 

What ‘everything’ doesn’t include is an Ethernet socket. The One Cast has a pair of Wi-Fi aerials, can operate at 2.4 or 5GHz and proved rock-solid in its connectivity during this test–but still, we’re all serious people aren’t we? Is the lifestyle market really so cavalier about signal stability?

Control of wireless devices is via the app of the relevant streaming service, and the basics can also be controlled using voice commands–the One Cast can be prompted if there’s an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant mic-equipped device on the network or can be Siri’d via an Apple HomePod. If all else fails, though, the Cyrus is supplied with a basic remote control that feels as inexpensive as it looks.

The ‘look’ and ‘feel’ undermine the One Cast a little. While we’ll soon come to just how great the Cyrus sounds, it doesn’t make much of a case for itself where looks, ergonomics, finish or (to a far lesser extent) build quality are concerned. For example, the lacquered plastic that forms the fascia resonates if tapped with a fingernail, while the two big control dials that govern input selection and volume feel no more luxurious. Meanwhile, the lights that indicate the volume level and input selected are a nice enough touch, but for some inexplicable reason Cyrus has chosen very small, unilluminated icons to indicate input.

Three of those inputs (Chromecast, turntable, and the analogue line-level input marked ‘AV’) are in white, and the other five (Bluetooth, HDMI, USB, optical and coaxial) are in that traditional Cyrus tricky-to-read dark red. They’re very difficult to see under normal domestic lighting conditions, meaning you either commit the sequence of inputs to memory or be prepared to shine your smartphone’s torch on them every time you want to change input. That being said, this graphical layout gives it minimalist chic, something Cyrus does well.

On the rear panel, everything is well laid out. However, in the review sample the HDMI and USB sockets weren’t quite central in their cutaways, and the digital optical Toslink input wasn’t level. In and of itself, this is hardly a catastrophe, and speaks of an early sample. And, as a reviewer, I would far rather see a “warts ‘n’ all” sample that was one of the earliest models (which usually end up as dealer demonstrators) than a pimped up hot-rod made specifically to impress the reviewer. But, regardless, these minor fit and finish shortcomings should be noted.

These shortcomings are doubly frustrating–because in purely sonic terms, the One Cast has plenty to recommend it and sounds like it’s worth the money all day long.

All it needs is some appropriately talented (and priced) speakers strapping on to form a system. Alternating between Acoustic Energy AE1 mkIII SEs and KEF LS50s, and between QED XT40i and Atlas Equator 2.0 speaker cable, allows the One Cast to confirm itself as a rapid, lavishly detailed and whippet-lean listen in the long-established Cyrus manner.

Chromecasting to the One Cast is a simple here as it is with any other Chromecast product. Once the Cyrus is on the wi-fi network, simply fire up the app of your favourite streaming service on your phone or tablet. Then all that’s required is a tap of the ‘cast’ icon. Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Deezer and Qobuz are all available in this painless and intuitive manner, as well as a stack of podcast providers and so on. We didn’t spend long with Amazon’s app, however, simply because Alexa’s music-wrangling properties fall into the ‘must try harder’ part of the report card.

With DJ Shadow’s Walkie Talkie [MCA] casting from Tidal via a Sony Xperia 5 smartphone, the One Cast fairly motors along. Like every digital Cyrus product (and, let’s be honest, the majority of its analogue products too), it puts the emphasis on precision, detail and manoeuvrability. It’s conceivable you’ll encounter more meat on a butcher’s pencil than on the One Cast’s low-frequency reproduction, but that’s not to say it lacks extension. And it’s certainly not lacking detail–the textures and second-stage dynamics of the tune’s kick drum and grimy analogue bass synth sounds are unambiguous. But there’s just no fat on the One Cast’s bottom end – it has the profile of one of those rangy long-distance runners rather the power-packed, muscle-bound weightlifter alternative.

It’s similarly balanced through the rest of the frequency range. Lawrence’s vocals throughout Felt’s Forever Breathes The Lonely Word [Creation] aren’t done any favours in absolute terms–the poor lad’s just not much of a singer. But the Cyrus allows all his character, all his effort and all his commitment to shine, and the result is thrillingly informative. And though the organ is right at the front of the mix too, the One Cast doesn’t sound in any way crowded. It lays out a properly defined stage and allows every element a bit of breathing space.

Broadly speaking, the fundamentals of this sound–the deftness, the sheer quantity of information, and the even-handed tonal balance–is maintained across the Cyrus’ physical inputs too. Everything from a heavyweight reissue of Can’s Tago Mago [United Artists] via the phono stage to the blaring, grinding soundtrack of Christopher Nolan’s Inception [Warner Bros] using the HDMI ARC socket sounds full (but not rich), fast (but not hurried) and subtle (but not analytical). The headphone amp (accessed via a 6.3mm socket at the bottom right of the fascia) is similarly talented and enjoys a similar sonic balance.

 

Despite the emphasis on alacrity, the Cyrus has no difficulty managing the club-footed rhythm of My Little Airport’s Love Is Not A Romantic Song [Harbour Records] or knitting the many disparate threads of Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock [Verve] into a convincing whole. This facility with timing consolidates the Talk Talk album into a unified statement, despite the One Cast having sufficient insight to occasionally allow you to hear the join, or the splice, where different takes have been bolted together.

So as far as audio quality is concerned, the Cyrus One Cast needs no excuses made for it. The company’s specific sonic flavour is evident throughout, and while it’s an acquired taste, years of Cyrus amps prove that’s an easy taste to acquire and there’s more than enough here to keep many a listener coming back for seconds. With the debatable exception of the missing Ethernet socket, it’s hard to pick a hole in the way the Cyrus is specified, too – the One Cast could conceivably form the heart of an expansive two-channel system for years to come. (In fact, thanks to ‘AV Direct’ mode it can power the front channels of a home cinema set-up too). 

Flexibility, and thoroughly enjoyable audio performance? Is that enough for you? Cyrus will have its fingers crossed–because if you’re going start bringing up all the other stuff, about finish and perceived value and other intangibles, then it’s possible you’ll pass the One Cast by. Which, while understandable, would be a pity. 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Type: Solid-state, two-channel integrated amplifier

Analogue inputs: One MM phono input (via RCA jacks), one single-ended line-level input (via RCA jacks)

Digital inputs: Two S/PDIF (one coaxial, one optical), one USB port (Type B), HDMI ARC, wi-fi (2.4/5GHz), aptX Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, Amazon Alexa

Analogue outputs: One pre-power loop (via RCA jacks), one 6.3mm headphone socket

Supported sample rates:

Coaxial and optical S/PDIF: 16-bit, 24-bit/32kHz–192kHz

USB: 16-bit, 24-bit, 32-bit/32kHz–192kHz

Input impedance:

High-level: 47kOhms

Phono: 47kOhms, 50pF

Output impedance (preamp): 47 Ohms

Headphone Loads: min 8 Ohms

Power Output: 120WPC @ 6 Ohms

Bandwidth: Not specified

Distortion: THD </+ 0.02% with both channels driven (1kHz, 33% power)

Signal to Noise Ratio: 95dBA

Dimensions (H×W×D): 86 × 220 × 390mm

Weight: 5.2kg

Price: £1,295

Manufactured by: Cyrus

URL: cyrusaudio.com 

Tel: +44(0)1480 410900

Tags: FEATURED

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