Cyrus Audio ONE Integrated Amplifier Review
A clever amp gets a little bit cleverer
What is the Cyrus Streaming Starter Pack?The Cyrus Audio Streaming Starter Kit is a package available through selected dealers in the UK until December 31st 2017. It comprises the Cyrus ONE integrated amplifier to which Cyrus has added a Google Chromecast at no additional cost together with a three month subscription to the Tidal streaming service. The result is an amplifier that is already usefully specified gaining additional features that turn it into something that is very close to an all-in-one system – albeit one that isn’t quite in the same chassis.
As luck would have it, the NAD C338 has just passed through the review progress which has its Chromecast on board giving us a point of comparison to this combination and the Cyrus itself was around at the same time as the Rega Brio which will appear presently and – as a sneak preview – is very good indeed. As such, we can see if the package itself makes sense and we can also go on to work out where the ONE sits relative to these two amps and does it earn our endorsement if you happen to reading this in 2018?
SpecificationsThe Cyrus ONE has been around for a little over a year and exists to help Cyrus fill a gap in its range that has appeared for them in the manner of many manufacturers in recent years. The Cyrus 6 amp and CD player have gradually crept up in cost to the point where a Cyrus 6 integrated amp now costs over £1,000. As a result, Cyrus has created the ONE to ensure that they can continue to contest the sub-£1,000 part of the market – which has been shown to be extremely important in terms of getting new customers through the door and interested in your brand.
In specification terms, the ONE doesn’t take the ‘rubber mat’ approach of reminding you how much more you could have if you’d bought a ‘proper’ Cyrus either. In terms of connectivity, you get four line level inputs, a moving magnet phono stage and its Apt-X capable Bluetooth. This is joined by A-B speaker terminals and a stereo preout. There are no digital inputs – you’ll have to look at the Cyrus 6 integrated for that – but there are enough connections here to assemble a fairly comprehensive system. There’s also a 6.3mm headphone socket with a Class A/B headphone amp.
The big difference between the ONE and its more expensive brethren is the amplification stage. The ONE uses a Class D power amp section that provides it with a healthy 100 watts, albeit when measured into a six rather than an eight ohm load. The impedance of the speakers (provided they aren’t too absurd) is something that the Cyrus studies on start-up and adjusts the output to best handle them. This should alleviate a criticism levelled (rather generally it must be said) at Class D amps that they can sound strained with some speakers because they don’t impedance-match as closely as Class A/B designs. It is also worth noting that this is not the first Class D product from Cyrus either so the company has some experience in this area.
The Chromecast Audio doesn’t need much in the way of introduction. Google’s dinky streamer is a USB powered disc that can be placed on a wireless network and used to access material ‘casted’ from a phone or tablet or via UPnP and various pieces of software. There’s no remote but it can be controlled by anything that runs the Google Home app and if you have a device with a USB socket that is powered, you can run it without mains power. In this instance, while the ONE does have a USB connection, it isn’t able to able to pull this neat trick which is a bit of a shame. The Chromecast is firmly targeted as a convenience item but it is capable of processing a 24/96 file if you need it to so it should be more than up to the job of fulfilling the idea of a starter kit.
This particular ONE and Chromecast was supplied with a pair of Wharfedale Diamond 11.1 speakers. This takes the pack price to a neat £1,000 and means you get everything you need to have a functioning system. This is being done by some of the dealers participating in the offer and the speakers they are using will depend in part on which brands they sell. Other dealers are simply offering the ONE with Chromecast for £700, allowing you to choose speakers accordingly.
DesignThe ONE is the first Cyrus amp in a very, very long time that doesn’t come in the company’s traditional metal casework but there’s a little more going on to the way that this amp looks than might at first be the case. The ONE is an all-new design but one that carefully plays homage to the very first Cyrus integrated amp released all the way back in 1984. This has been done very cleverly – if you don’t know or care what the original looked like, the ONE just looks like a smart half width integrated – but for sad sacks like me, it’s very clever.
The ONE is driven by two rotary controls – one for input and one for volume. These are both free to rotate indefinitely but in both cases this doesn’t deliver the results you might expect. The input selector will rotate cheerfully around and around but the inputs themselves won’t cycle around to the start again and you have to reverse direction to go back. The volume control conversely is extremely low geared and increasing and decreasing the volume requires several rotations to make a meaningful adjustment. It’s far from the end of the world but the controls don’t seem terribly well integrated. This isn’t helped by the remote being a tiny card type unit that flirts with being lost the moment it leaves the box. In defence of Cyrus, for an extra £50 you can buy an ‘iR14’ handset that is both larger and harder to lose and has significant system driving possibilities.
Everything feels solid enough though. Compared to the heavyweight chassis that ‘normal’ Cyrus products come in, the ONE doesn’t have quite the same heft but judged against products that cost a similar amount of money, it is perfectly competitive. The design is handsome in an unobtrusive way and the presence of proper binding posts rather than the bizarre BFA connectors that tend to crop up on the more expensive amps is worthy of celebration in itself.
The Chromecast is a small plastic disc and really there isn’t a huge amount more to be said about it than that. For the low asking price, it feels perfectly OK and it is simple to hide away behind the amp if you need. The audio output is only on a 3.5mm connection but Cyrus supplies a cable in the box to get you up and running.
The ONE is an all new design that carefully plays homage to the very first Cyrus integrated amp released all the way back in 1984
How was the Streaming Starter Pack tested?As befits them being supplied together, the bulk of testing has been carried out with the ONE connected to the Chromecast. This has been used to access content on a Western Digital NAS Drive as well as Tidal and Spotify. Some additional testing has been carried out via an Oppo Sonica DAC and the phono stage has been tested with a Michell Gyrodec running an SME M2-9 Tonearm and Gold Note Vasari Gold phono cartridge. The Wharfedale Diamonds supplied at the same time have been used along with the Spendor A1 and a pair of Acoustic Energy AE1 Classic standmounts. Material used has included lossless and high-res FLAC and AIFF, Tidal, Spotify and Tidal as well as vinyl.
Sound QualityHaving been given a bit of time to warm up and run in, the Cyrus is in some ways very much a product in keeping with the company ethos but in some other areas it is intriguingly different. It does get the basics right though. There’s plenty of power available and that curiously low geared volume does at least allow for very specific level setting. It’s completely silent at idle too and does without fans or other such silliness to keep itself cool.
In terms of the definitively Cyrus bits, this is an amplifier that has a sense of get up and go from very low levels all the way through to the upper reaches of the volume range (at which point levels are firmly antisocial) there is an immediacy and drive that pulls you in and engages at an emotional level. The music in question doesn’t need to be especially quick – something like Nocturnal Sunshine’s Down by the River with its loping 130bpm signature shows it to good effect – it simply delivers everything in a compellingly immediate way.
The bass response is also excellent. To be clear, all three pairs of speakers I’ve used it with are small but the Spendor and Acoustic Energy in particular respond to amps with decent bass response and it is clear that the Cyrus is well endowed in this regard. The bass itself is also rather more than a dull shove. It is taught and well defined and has impressive tonal detail. This detail retrieval also continues further up the frequency response with the ONE digging out little nuances to Brandon Flowers’ Between Me and You that can sometimes be lost.
Some elements of the ONE are also typically Cyrus but may or may not be less desirable. While I would hesitate to describe this as a bright amplifier – it can be impressively warm and refined across the bulk of the midrange – it will pick up on thinner material and can sound slightly unforgiving especially as the volume rises. The soundstage is also relatively constrained which has mixed results for material. Barns Courtney’s The Attractions of Youth sounds potent, exciting and direct while the more three dimensional It’s Nearly Tomorrow by Craig Armstrong sounds a little squashed compared to some similarly priced rivals.
The partnership with the Chromecast is a good one though. It is easy to find fault with Google’s baby – the bass response is a bit weak, the variable output has a definite impact on performance and setting it up for iOS is a little more hit and miss than it needs to be but the fundamentals are all there. With this innocuous little disc connected, the Cyrus is a fully paid up streaming device and the UPnP and Tidal performance is extremely good but perhaps just as importantly entirely stable. Sure, the Oppo Sonica is better but you can have 22 Chromecasts for the price of a Sonica.
Of course, the Cyrus has two features as standard that rather help its flexibility. The performance of the Bluetooth input is genuinely excellent and does mean that if you happen to be reading this after this particular offer has ended, the ONE still has a pretty strong way of accessing content even without the Chromecast. It also has a phono stage that offers excellent performance. It isn’t as tonally ‘sweet’ or spacious as the one in the Rega Brio but it has a low noise floor and works with the propulsive presentation of the amp to sound consistently entertaining. It monsters its way through Youth and Young Manhood by the Kings of Leon doing a fine job of delivering the album with the fury it needs.
What is no less impressive is that the performance of the Cyrus with the Wharfedales is also extremely appealing. If your budget tops out at a grand, you could do a lot worse and some of the other speakers that dealers have partnered their offerings with look promising too. On a recent ‘trip out’ to a dealer, the ONE was partnered with the KEF LS50 and this was excellent. Ultimately, the ONE has enough power to work happily with pretty much any speaker under £2,000 and some of the recent candidates we’ve looked at will work well. The key to this is the ‘Starter Pack.’ This has the bits you need to get going but the ONE itself is more than strong enough to cope with significant upgrades to the source and speakers. Should you be looking at the ONE on its own, it will deliver a strong performance with a range of components and the partnership with the Sonica was extremely good as well as usefully compact.
With this innocuous little disc connected, the Cyrus is a fully paid up streaming device
- Potent and lively performance
- Usefully flexible
- Plenty of power
- Can be slightly forward
- Cheap remote
- Some performance limits to Chromecast
Cyrus Audio ONE Integrated Amplifier ReviewThis is a conclusion in two parts as reflects this review being around for rather longer than this specific deal will be. The package as offered here, both with and without the speakers makes a lot of sense. The Chromecast is a tiny, unobtrusive addition that gives it considerably greater flexibility. It’s a useful addition being thrown in for free and combined with some of the speakers being bundled, this is a very strong offering.
If you’re reading this after the event, the good news is that a ONE might well be for life rather than Christmas. This is an amplifier that sounds consistently potent and entertaining. It never fails to engage the listener and while there might be fractionally more spacious and refined rivals, they often have to give ground to the sheer fun factor of the ONE. Throw in the excellent phono stage and Bluetooth and you have an integrated amp that earns enthusiastic recommendation.
Ease of use8
Value for money8
Our Review Ethos
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