Cyrus One
OUR FULL REVIEW IS BELOW - YOU CAN SEE IT AS ON THE ORIGINAL MAGAZINE PAGES BY CLICKING THE IMAGE TO THE RIGHT>>>
 
The original Cyrus One was released 33 years ago in 1984, in golden days when this electronics brand partnered Mission loudspeakers in the UK and shared their rise at the centre of the veritable Britpop world invasion of high-quality mid-price UK-based hi-fi in the subsequent 10 years. Most of those names have since been through two decades of changing hands, qualities and countries, but Cyrus remains in private hands, its HQ still in the UK’s Cambridgeshire, where it not only designs and prototypes but also still manufactures its distinctive ‘half-width’ hi-fi. That’s half-width, but not exactly half-size, the Cyrus approach being more like putting the fascia on the short end of the chassis, making things often unusually deep — here 35cm, and more like 45cm including the two spectacular front knobs plus room to insert banana plugs at the rear. 
 
It’s a unique look which Cyrus has made and kept its own since the beginning. But we must say we applaud the new front panel layout of this latest version, with none of the clicky buttons and weird displays of the past, just two big knobs on a black gloss fascia, with a cutaway below for the power switch, the IR receiver and a quarter-inch headphone socket. Nice. It’s a solid purposeful look, for what turns out to be a solid purposeful amplifier. 
 
Cyrus One
 
Equipment
The Cyrus design philosophy has always been somewhat minimalist, but still it’s a surprise to find how resolutely analogue the connections for the Cyrus One are. The all-in-one Cyrus Lyric that we recently reviewed had only one analogue input against a smorgasbord of digital inputs and streaming options. The Cyrus One turns that on its head, having nothing but RCA analogue socketry on its rear — four stereo pairs, one phono input and ground link for a turntable, and a pair of pre-outs. No optical or USB... how many users in this day and age would not need a digital input of some kind?
 
Is this a push for purity? Back in those golden days it was considered by many to be borderline evil to have a computer in the same room as your analogue hi-fi, let alone microprocessors and digital circuits actually inside your amplifier spewing EMF all over your delicate and sensitive analogue pathways. 
 
But here Cyrus kinda removes that argument by including Bluetooth, with aptX, so there is a DAC of some kind lurking within, while the amplification itself is Class D — specifically the third generation of Cyrus’s own Class D circuit, delivering 2 × 100W (quoted into six ohms at 0.1% THD+N). 
 
So you can’t, say, plug in your TV’s optical output, at least without budgeting for an external DAC to precede the Cyrus One’s analogue inputs; there’s no plugging in your computer’s USB. But the traditional hi-fi fan may celebrate — turntable, CD, or direct input from the stereo outputs of a good Blu-ray player, plus Bluetooth for all that newfangled app stuff. The ‘AV’ input can also be put into AV Direct mode, removing the volume control from the circuit so the AV input is full level, ideal for using the Cyrus for front speakers under the control of an AV receiver or AV preamp’s own volume control. So not as inflexible as it looks. Perhaps there’s sense in Cyrus defining its own position so firmly.
 
Cyrus One
 
Performance
You get a whizzbang light show from the front panel as you power it on, a circular rippling of all the LEDs around the left ‘selector’ knob and right ‘volume’ knob before the Cyrus settles into its duties with an audible speaker pop. We warmed it up with casual TV audio duties for several weeks, connected in analogue stereo from our Oppo Blu-ray player, and from our TV optically by using a little Arcam DAC. It never put a foot wrong, driving our TV-side standmount speakers with authority, and plenty in reserve for some big movie moments. It remained powered up throughout this time, and simply did its job with authority and barely a hint of stress, not even running warm from the efficient exertion of that Class-D wattage.  
 
We weren’t impressed with the remote control at all. It’s a small ‘credit-card’ remote which compounds its cheapness by having no priority given to its main volume and mute commands. It’s easy to operate upsidedown mistakenly in a darkened TV room (always assuming you can find it in the first place). It’s a misconsidered saving to deliver such a lovely amplifier but give us such a cheap rattly control as the main user interface.
 
Should you prefer to open your phone every time you want to nudge up the volume, Cyrus has made a remote control app available for iOS and Android. This app connects via low power Bluetooth, a separate connection to that used for streaming music. We downloaded the app (right), and it connected to our Cyrus One, but it didn’t work. Firmware update required? How to know when there’s no display to tell you the current firmware version? Cyrus has been quite clever here — if you restart the amp and press mute five times, the lights on the panel indicate the current firmware — 1.2 in our case (as on the diagram below). And 1.3 is required for the Bluetooth remote. With no networking on the Cyrus One, the update requires downloading to a computer and then a connection to the rear mini-USB port; happily this proved a far easier task than the tortuous update procedure required for the Cyrus Lyric. (Hint, don’t panic when the amp doesn’t light up as normal — it won’t do so while the update cable is connected.) After the update, presto, app control of volume, mute, balance, source selection, also a sensible ‘cap’ on maximum volume via app so you don’t slide into excess through error, and five choices of brightness for dimming those LEDs around the control knobs. 
 
We reconnected the Cyrus One to our reference speakers, Musical Fidelity USB DAC and Thorens turntable — well-timed for the last of these, since we’d just attended a local record fair and had three bags full of vinyl to test out, in addition to our usual suspects. While many amplifier manufacturers must be rushing to reacquaint themselves with the niceties of phono stage design, Cyrus has never left vinyl behind, and the moving magnet stage here proved a fine one, delivering a delightfully tight but full bass from our Thorens TD 203 and allowing its open delivery of treble to shine. It was especally enjoyable through the Cyrus One’s excellent headphone section, which drove a visiting pair of Focal Utopia headphones wonderfully as we spun our black discs. One nice clean record-fair buy was Genesis’ 1983 eponymous LP — not their finest work but the best of it (Beyond The Silver Rainbow, Second Home By The Sea) powered out under the Cyrus’s vinyl curve, while the synths of It’s Gonna Get Better were vinyl-rich and full. 
 
The vinyl playback turned out to be the highlight through our horn speakers; back on digital content (via a DAC) the top-end felt sometimes a little insistent, not always entirely musical, and occasionally even brash. Songs with big waves of rich bass content seemed slightly under represented, though the Cyrus One didn’t strip things back to the extent of shrieking, presenting our torture tests for this well — Dion’s I Read It In The Rolling Stone and The Teardrop Explodes’ Colours Fly Away, both of which can poke you in the ears if equipment adds peakiness to their existing thinness. At moderate levels this was a perfectly enjoyable amplifier; playing loud there was power, for sure, but we found ourselves wanting just a little more finesse. 
 
Conclusion
Analogue fans can celebrate the joys of the One’s excellent phono stage and vinyl performance with all-round enjoyable performance from this purposeful and usefully neat Cyrus amplifier design. 
 
Cyrus One stereo hi-fi amplifier
Price: $1299
 
+  Well-priced powerful amp 
+  We love the look
+  Great phono stage
+  Bluetooth with aptX
 
-   No digital inputs except the Bluetooth
 
Inputs/sources: phono input (mm); 4 x RCA line in; Bluetooth with aptX 
Quoted power: 2 x 100W (website) or 
2 x 110W (manual) into 6 ohms, 0.1% THD+N
Outputs: preouts, 6.5mm headphone out; 
4 x speakers out (two sets for biamping) 
Quoted response: 6Hz-50kHz (-3dB)
Dimensions (whd): 220 x 86 x 390 mm
Weight: 5.6kg