OUR FULL REVIEW IS BELOW, BUT YOU CAN READ THE ORIGINAL MAGAZINE PAGES BY CLICKING THE PAGE ON THE RIGHT TO DOWNLOAD A PDF VERSION.
Pure sound” and “audio luxury” are two key phrases used by Cyrus to introduce the Lyric, yet unusually here also “convenience” — not usually a bedfellow of the first two traits. That’s because the Lyric aims to deliver pretty much all you need for a system except speakers, and to bring the traditional amplifier up to date with wireless streaming, app control, even slotting in a CD player to cater for those declining digital discs a few years longer, and radio too, with FM, DAB+, digital and internet radio built in. Yet all still supported by those fundamentals of solidly engineered amplification on which Cyrus built its reputation.
We confess it has been a good few years since we have been offered a Cyrus for review, and our strongest memories of the brand date back to golden days when this was the amplification brand that 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 separates brands in the 10 years from around 1985, the year Cyrus released its first product. Most of the brand names from those days have 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 — half-width, but not exactly half-size, the Cyrus approach being more like putting the fascia on the short end of the chassis, its components thus often unusually deep.
But the Lyric is not of this ilk, being fully fronted, facing the usual wide way to the world, and coming off looking rather space-age with its lower CD drive section supporting an angular fascia where a 55mm-wide display is flanked on either side by a touch square and up/down buttons; impressively the screen and the touchbuttons’ brightness can be separately dimmed. No volume knob! But the high quality remote is your main control, also confirming the space theme by bursting with backlit buttons when you lift it, so all highly legible, with only a few odd icons to find your way around, and annoying clicks from the centre nav/confirm cluster. It is able to learn TV/PVR commands, should that be useful.
If you are thinking of adding source components to the Lyric, be aware it’s better provisioned for a digital world than analogue — there’s just a single RCA input pair (turntable owners will need a phono stage or a model with line-level output), along with an output pair which is usefully menu configurable either as a fixed analogue output (for recording or, say, a wireless headphone transmitter) or as a variable output for a subwoofer or a power amplifier upgrade.
Otherwise it’s digital all the way — there’s USB-B for a computer, two optical inputs, two coaxial digital inputs, and two USB-A slots (one rear, one by the minijack headphone socket under a small cover front right, which is matched aesthetically by a fake cover on the left). The USB-A slots can play from a smart device and charge it even if a different input is selected.
That’s a versatile selection, yet as its ‘all-in-one’ tag attests, you could just add speakers given the CD player on board, three radio types, network streaming and Bluetooth.
The Cyrus Cadence app
The Cyrus Cadence app controls the Lyric very effectively, and was particularly good at ‘finding’ it when first opened. On just two occasions in a month of use the app jammed on either iPhone or iPad Pro, and both times an app reinstall fixed it. Cadence nicely fits a phone, with a neat input screen (right) from which you select a source then browse through the sub-menus, be they for TIdal, internet radio or your various networked and USB-connected music collections. While the Lyric could take a little while to connect each time to, say, a USB hard drive, this indexing period pays dividends, as thereafter navigation was unusually speedy, with instant folder browsing where so many network systems take a moment to populate each screen or worse, fail to fill in scrolling lists as they scroll. None of that here - tracks started near instantly (and sounded fine indeed, see main review). This punctual playback goes to compensate for no apparent way to create a playback queue as you browse, other than a master and semi-permanent ‘network favourites’ list of up to 250 songs.
The Now Playing screen (right) shows artwork where available, and displays more metadata than most, and you can swipe sideways for more (bottom screengrab). Things can look fairly spacious on the tablet version, which adds only little volume buttons, though it’s far better to press the volume icon at top right (on either screen size) and enjoy the long and responsive volume slider that pops up.
Lacking, unless we missed them, were the main settings menus available only from the Lyric’s front panel, though the app does have a settings section dealing mainly with app things - including Tidal sign-in and a toggle that changes that virtual volume slider into a sexy but slightly less responsive giant rotary pot. Also under these settings is a master maximum for the whole amplifier, which was default set to -30dB. This applies only to the app, to sensibly stop you accidentally sliding to the max; the physical remote control can take you wherever your material may lead (you’ll certainly need more for quiet classical passages).
Cyrus Cadence is a simple enough app, with no multiroom abilities, but it proved pretty reliable and was especially good at speedy network and drive browsing.
We will make a rare salute to the delightful packaging here, and more importantly to a Quick Start Guide that successfully covers everything in four pages — buttonry, networking, source selection and the Cyrus ‘Cadence app for iOS and Android’. It may be the clearest and best Quick Start Guide we’ve ever seen! A more in-depth User Guide is available on CD and online.
We took the Lyric to the music room, gave it USB-B from our Mac Mini and an analogue pair from our vinyl phono preamp, hooking it over a period of a couple of weeks to standmounters at $2000 and $6000, and to our trusty JBL Studio Monitors.
We began with DAB+ digital radio, attaching the provided rod antenna, which was quickly tuned to our local digital stations. We encountered some surprisingly thin and nasal announcing on ABC Classic FM, but the subsequent Sibelius sounded well-balanced enough, though with DAB+’s characteristic high-frequency sawtoothing of strings and high brass tones.
The FM tuner astounded us with its sensitivity; given our roof antenna, this was the first tuner ever to receive our local community radio station clearly, even on its weaker frequency, assisted well by the Lyric switching to mono automatically for weaker stations - and you can force its decisions via a settings menu, which delights us. The settings menu for forcing mono, however, couldn’t be found on the app (see the ‘Smarts’ panel), only via the front panel display using the remote control, and then with menu logic that confused us at first. To enter FM settings when playing FM radio, you press the ‘back’ symbol on the remote, not the ‘Menu’ or ‘Setup’ button. This is more cunning than it sounds, because ‘Menu’ takes you to the very top of the menu structure, from where you’d have to get through several layers to FM settings. But ‘back’ enters at the lowest level - it’s effectively a contextual menu button. Clever stuff.
We played from computer via USB. The Lyric mounts as a quietly anonymous ‘USB Audio DAC’, and we were surprised to find it accepted only 16-bit at 32/44.1/48kHz, so no high-res at all, even 24-bit. Were we missing a switch from USB 1.0 to 2.0? Apparently not, Cyrus labelling it a “a driverless USB connection”, so USB 1.0, which does indeed top out at 16/48. This is especially surprising since the Lyric has a 32-bit DAC and will play up to 24-bit/192k WAV, AIFF and FLAC from other paths. Not that the computer playback suffered much from this; the vast majority of our music is CD quality (or sadly below), and our Amarra software neatly downsampled high-res files to the Lyric’s needs. And things were sounding great as we got the measure of the power reserves available in this Cyrus.
To hear its best shot, however, we attached a USB hard drive of music to the rear USB slot (labelled ‘iPad rear’). There was a pause, which turned out to be the Lyric indexing the drive’s not inconsiderable contents, and then the app leapt into life with lighting fast navigation around the contents. Also notable was the delivery of metadata to both the app (which showed notes as well as basic track information) and the Lyric’s front panel, which showed track and file quality information.
But most notable at all was the sheer quality of the Lyric’s drive. The power here was the most impressive of our set in its apparent ability to slam, to deliver dynamic swings at volume, where necessary with jump-out-of-your-seat power edges. The sheer zing and definition of Audio Alchemy’s Marrakesh was an audio delight, the very plectrum strikes on string clicking with every guitar note, while drums and percussion were so controlled and lacking in overhang it seemed you could detect the silent background behind the full ensemble in action.
We use kd lang’s The Air That I Breathe as a tester to see when speakers fail to unravel the layers - here every separate harmony was individually rendered while the force of the choruses simply grew without restraint. It’s a wonderful presentation from an all-in-one, and points to an excellent DAC implementation as well as power a-plenty.
Still more impressively, things were almost as zippy for UPnP music shares. The file format support was confirmed for WMA, AAC, MP3, Apple Lossless, and up to 24-bit/192k WAV, AIFF and FLAC (there seems no DSD support at all). While you can store individual tracks to a permanently stored network playlist, there seemed no way to create an ongoing queue, so as with another smart amp in this group, you select one track or album at a time.
With this price and tradition (and performance) you might expect Class-AB amplification, but Cyrus is one of the increasing number of audio-orientated companies to accept and espouse the benefits of some carefully implemented version of Class-D. Here the amp is quoted 150W into into 8 ohms or 230W into 6 ohms,
And it uses those watts rather smartly too. The first time Lyric powers up, it tests your speakers, or the left one at least, to measure its high-frequency impedance curve. One characteristic of Class-D can be unpredictability in high-frequency response, and this ‘Speaker Impedance Detection’ (SID) procedure flattens that to within half a decibel. If you switch speakers, unplug the Cyrus entirely and turn it back on when the new speakers are connected. (Which is good practice anyway, of course.)
Firmware upgrading is, well, not so smart. Our Lyric had indicated firmware 1.7 and the Cyrus website listed 2.2, but since we had already networked the Lyric with Ethernet, we expected to dip into a few menus and then make a cup of tea while it downloaded and installed. Not a bit of it. Through the Cadence app, perhaps? No, that just glared in bright red that our machine was outrageously out of date. Turns out that updating the Lyric requires 660 words of instructions, a cable connection to a PC, and a ballpoint pen. (Mac owners are out of luck unless they have a PC emulation mode.) After downloading the update, you connect your PC to the Lyric twice, first by cable to delete and replace the firmware, then over the network through a browser (pointed to whatever DHCP address your router has assigned it) to insert a separate boot file. Much time and yanking of the power cable later, the best we can say is that this worked almost as advertised, but really, WTF. Why not put it in the app?
Whinge over, we moved to the CD player, pulling a box of silver from the attic and offering discs up to be sucked into the Lyric’s CD slot. Again delight, and indeed no discernable difference to the same tracks from USB.
There’s more - in-app access to Tidal, internet radio (the Cyrus often revealing its limitations), a surprisingly enjoyable Bluetooth that is useful for other music services you favour (you have to juggle the two separate level controls on your device and the Lyric), a surprisingly minijack-sized headphone output, and of course four digital and one analogue external inputs. So a system of some complexity could be built here, or alternatively the Lyric could sit there on its own, playing CDs and USB and networking music as you tap at leisure using the Cadence app.
Best of all, these abilities are built on high quality amplification, and plenty of it. The smart stuff doesn’t detract from Cyrus’s amp expertise at all.
Cyrus Lyric integrated amplifier/all-in-one system
+ Loads of power
+ CD, radio, app control & network streaming
+ Could just add speakers
+ Plenty of digital inputs
- Only one analogue input
- Tortuous firmware updates
- No high-res via USB-B
- No volume knob
Quoted power: 2 x 150W into 8 ohms; 2 x 230W into 6 ohms
Inputs/sources: CD player (built in), DAB+/FM tuner built-in, 1 x RCA analogue, 2 x optical digital, 2 x coaxial digital (digital inputs to 24-bit/192kHz), 2 x USB-A, 1 x USB-B (to 16-bit/48kHz), Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Ethernet for UPnP/DNLA/Tidal
Outputs: Loudspeakers out, analogue out
Dimensions (whd): 420 x 105 x 320mm