Cyrus ONE HD Integrated amplifier review
New inputs and new functionality makes the ONE a more complete offering
What is the Cyrus ONE HD?The Cyrus ONE HD is an integrated amplifier that forms the entry point of the Cyrus range. Those of you with serviceable memories will remember that we have in fact looked at a version of the ONE before. As we aren’t generally given to repetition, why has it come back? Well, while many aspects of the design are the same, the ONE HD is the ONE with a dose of smarts in the form of a revised set of inputs and a new remote. This also means that there is no Chromecast in the box (although it would still only cost you £30 to add one if you were so inclined).
The result of this effort is a more expensive amp than the ONE but something that can be used to harness your existing equipment rather more effectively to reduce the amount of partnering equipment that you need. This is something that we’ve seen happening with a number of integrated amplifiers over the last few years and the Cyrus finds itself going up against deeply capable options like the Audiolab M-ONE and Yamaha RN-803D. Does this distinctive and technically interesting amp make more sense than its more conventionally specified rivals and does it do enough to make you want to part with the £1,000 required to own it?
Specification and DesignThe guts of the ONE HD are not significantly different from the basic ONE but as the nature of its design is a little different from many rivals, they bear repeating. The amplification stage of the ONE is a class D unit. Cyrus has been making use of Class D for longer than most other UK brands and this represents their 4th generation of the technology. In the ONE HD it generates 100 watts into 6 ohms (realistically something of the order of 70 watts into 8) at an encouragingly low 0.1% THD. As we shall come to, these numbers only tell part of the story.
This power amp is mated with a preamp that operates in the analogue domain but is not entirely conventional either. It uses a pair of rotary encoders, one for input selection and one for volume. The latter is geared in such a way that it can make at least two complete rotations between minimum and maximum volume. The volume level (and inputs) are denoted by a series of LED indicators rather than any position indicator on the knob itself. A feature that has been repeated from the original ONE is the fitment of a full-size 6.35mm headphone jack that draws power from the main power supply for a beefy Class A/B headphone amp - a reflection of the importance of this listening method in 2018.
Where the ONE HD takes a significant swerve from the original ONE is the inputs. The number of line inputs has been reduced to three - one of which can be used as an AV bypass in conjunction with the preout of an AV receiver. This is joined by the same moving magnet phono stage that the standard model uses (no bad thing as we’ll come to). The rest of the line inputs have been changed for a trio of digital connections - one coax and one toslink input capable of receiving 24/192kHz signals and a USB connection good for 32/192 and DSD 128.
The last input is similar to the ONE in that it's a Bluetooth connection but it has also seen a boost. It now includes support for the Apt-X HD codec which makes it the second product after the Bowers & Wilkins PX that we have tested to be so equipped. This means that the Cyrus is capable of receiving and processing a signal of up to 24/48kHz with negligible ‘packing’ via Bluetooth which in turn means that something like Tidal is going to be sent completely unfettered. This is of course completely dependent on you having a partnering Apt-X HD capable device to partner it as without an identically specced sender, it won’t work. If you have an iOS device, you will still be limited to SBC regardless of how clever the Cyrus is.
The Bluetooth is also used to provide the ONE HD with its last point of difference to the normal amp. When you unpack the Cyrus, you might be surprised (I certainly was) to find no remote in the box. This is because the Cyrus makes use of a Bluetooth based control app available for iOS and Android. Having used the ONE HD for a little while I find myself in two minds about this. First up, the good bits. This is by a fair distance, the best Bluetooth communication app I’ve used. It connects quickly, says connected and responds immediately to commands. Cyrus deserves praise for making something that even very large companies have struggled to get right.
Unfortunately, even a very good Bluetooth app is subject to the same limitations as any other. To make a snap volume change on the Cyrus you basically need to walk up to it and make the adjustment as even with a fingerprint scanner, the process of booting your phone or tablet to do it is never as quick as picking up a remote handset and using that. There is also the issue that the app - while good - isn’t perfect. Depending on what my phone has connected to beforehand, it can sometimes require a restart or fail to respond. Effectively, the app is the best of its type I’ve yet spent any time with but it is still being compared to an unsmart device that works every time. Under those conditions, it cannot win every time and can feel a little frustrating as a result.
The externals of the ONE HD closely match the normal ONE with only some red lettering and the revised input roster to denote the difference between the two. As far as I’m concerned, this is no bad thing. Cyrus has been clever with the industrial design of the ONE in that if you don’t know or care about the earlier Cyrus product, you will find the industrial design of the ONE HD to be clean, logical and easy to use. If you are an anorak, the nods to the design of the original are really very well executed indeed.
No less important is that the Cyrus feels up to the task of costing a grand. The levels of fit and finish are good and everything feels solid and well executed. The connections on the rear panel are reasonably well laid out although the centrally mounted mains socket can foul the phono stage connection depending on the cabling used. The only other minor irritants are related to each other. The Cyrus has no standby so needs to be powered off via the two position switch on the front panel. Doing so means that the volume will always start at zero, requiring the app to be booted to raise it unless you remember to stay put near the amp to adjust it. For the most part though, the ONE HD more than holds its own.
If you are an anorak, the nods to the design of the original are really very well executed indeed.
How was the ONE HD tested?The Cyrus has been connected to an IsoTek Evo 3 Aquarius mains conditioner and run into a pair of Spendor A1 and Acoustic Energy AE1 Classic standmount speakers on Soundstyle Z60 speakers. A Melco N1A has been used for USB testing while an LG 55B7 OLED has acted as a source via toslink. The phono stage has been tested with a Gert Pedersen equipped Michel Gyrodec with SME M2-9 arm and a Goldring 2500 moving iron cartridge. Headphone testing has been via Sennheiser HD800S open back headphones. Bluetooth audio and control has been carried out via a Sony Xperia XA1 Android smartphone that - as luck would have it - is Apt-X HD capable. Some limited SBC testing was undertaken by an iPad Air. Material used has included lossless and high res FLAC and AIFF, some DSD, Tidal and Deezer with Netflix and broadcast TV also being used.
Sound QualityAs you might reasonably expect, given the Cyrus has changed no part of the amp section of the ONE HD over the ONE, the performance of the two amps is largely identical. This is no bad thing though. The ONE HD is an amplifier that feels powerful beyond the basic numbers. There is no shortage of volume even with the level indicator in the lower section of the dial and this is partnered with an underlying feeling of heft helped in no small part by a healthy but very controlled bass output. The Spendor A1 is not a bass monster but it is extremely responsive to the quality of bass output from an amp and the Cyrus does a fine job of securing a little extra heft from these talented little speakers.
Where the ONE HD clearly moves on from the ONE partnered with a Chromecast is with the digital decoding on offer. The USB input works happily running driverless from the Melco and the overall presentation of the Cyrus stays in keeping with the amplifier stage, with a pleasant balance between detail and a little top end energy without tipping over into aggression. It gets stuck into Get Miles by Gomez with a well-judged sense of letting the recording do most of the work but just taking off some of the rough edges.
The most interesting aspect of this performance is that - even more so than is usually the case - speaker choice makes an enormous difference to how you’ll perceive the Cyrus. With the Spendor attached, you get a balanced, considered and accurate performance that might, depending on your preferences - be considered fractionally dull. Switch to the Acoustic Energy AE1 Classic and the result is far more invigorating. Some of the top end refinement is lost but the result is more propulsive, energetic and all round exciting. The Cyrus is sufficiently powerful and sufficiently transparent that it will largely reflect the behaviour of the speaker rather than imparting much of itself. This is fairly unusual in an amplifier at this price point - particularly one with decoding on board - and also a little different from how Cyrus equipment is often perceived.
This does mean additionally that the ONE HD is a fine partner for TV viewing. With the Spendors attached, what you hear is what’s on the TV, nothing more, nothing less. It has handled the banality of World Cup commentary brilliantly and there is always enough of a sense of soundstage that after a few minutes, you generally forget that you are listening in stereo rather than full fat surround. The optical connection has been entirely reliable as well.
There are three features which lift the Cyrus from talented to genuinely impressive though and it is how much you think you will use them that will affect its position on a buying shortlist. The first is the phono stage. This is unchanged from the ONE but that’s no bad thing. It combines pretty much no background noise with plenty of gain and mimics the behaviour of the rest of the amp very closely - that is to say that if you like the performance and presentation of your turntable, the Cyrus isn’t going to alter it. This is also the case for the headphone amp which has plenty of gain and manages to keep the challenging Sennheisers sounding as good as they can - which, provided their exacting demands are met, is very good indeed.
The game changing feature however is the Bluetooth input. If you have an Apt-X HD capable device, the Cyrus is head and shoulders above any other Bluetooth receiver I have listened to. I have at various points enthused about Bluetooth and its potential and spending an evening with Deezer Hifi, the Sony and the Cyrus was, as far as I am concerned, where that potential became a reality. The Bluetooth on the ONE HD is not a convenience feature - it’s the star asset. A lossless streaming service, a suitable phone and the Cyrus will realistically be all the Hi-Fi that even some very discerning people will ever need.
A lossless streaming service, a suitable phone and the Cyrus will realistically be all the Hi-Fi that even some very discerning people will ever need
- Dynamic and entertaining sound
- Excellent feature set including superb Bluetooth implementation
- Well made and handsome
- Bluetooth remote can be fiddly
- No Standby
- Muted at startup
Cyrus ONE HD Integrated amplifier reviewPerhaps unsurprisingly, the finishing take of the ONE HD isn’t radically different to the standard ONE we viewed before. This is a very well thought out example of what a modern integrated amplifier should be in 2018 and the switch to having onboard decoding has been done at a sufficiently sensible additional price increment to ensure that this is still a product that represents excellent value for money.
If you are in a position to make use of the value-added features like the phono stage, headphone amp and that truly excellent Bluetooth implementation, it becomes better value still and viewed as a complete package, the Cyrus comes highly recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £999.00
Ease of use8
Value for money9
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