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The Cyrus ONE HD: A UK Amplifier Highlight Now Available in the US

A serious choice for audiophiles who want to combine convenience with high quality sound.

By Eric Benoit | Testing Ground | August 8, 2019
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Qobuz

Picture this: you’re at the Florida Audio Expo, making your way through various hotel rooms with impressive and complicated setups, and you come across something a little different - a small integrated amplifier connected to a pair of Q Concept 500 floorstanding speakers, with headphones standing by, a tablet streaming Qobuz at the back of the room, a striking Cyrus Audio banner, and just about nothing else.

In a show containing a multitude of spectacular audio gear, often all contained within single rooms, we were immediately struck by the minimalism of this setup and wanted to hear more. After demoing the amplifier, which handled the Q Acoustics speakers with ease, depth, and clarity, we requested a review unit to kick off the Qobuz US Hi-Fi blog.

And so, welcome to the first edition of Hi-Fi audio equipment reviews from Qobuz USA: the Cyrus ONE HD integrated amplifier, available now for the first time in the US.

First, Some Background

Cyrus Audio began in the early 80s in the United Kingdom with the launch of the original Cyrus ONE amplifier in 1984, and the company has since gained a reputation as an innovative designer and manufacturer of affordable and high quality Hi-Fi audio gear.

The company is now officially launching in the USA with its two flagship products: the ONE and ONE HD.

Unboxing and Setup

When someone purchases a piece of Hi-Fi audio gear, they should feel like royalty when opening it. We enjoyed seeing the unfolding box design with plenty of foam support, and we appreciated the overall attention to detail, which can often be overlooked. In fact, the Cyrus ONE HD comes packaged so securely we could have probably dropped it off the top of our NYC office building with no issue (don’t worry, we didn’t test this claim). Our only quibble was with the redundant software CD, as many US households don’t even own CD drives for their computers anymore.

The unit looks fantastic, with a small footprint and a sleek design. It’s a hefty 12.3 pounds for the small size, and it packs an impressive amount of power: 100 watts per channel at 6 Ω.

When the amplifier is turned on, it sends a “Speaker Impedance Detection” pulse to the speakers, which produces a low-level but audible and somewhat surprising noise. As we’ll explore later, the SID pulse is actually one of the key features of the ONE HD’s design.

The Sound

We began testing the ONE HD with older but reliable Monitor Audio Bronze 1 speakers before moving on to smaller but more accurate and power-hungry Monitor Audio Silver 50s. We’ll get more detailed with inputs and outputs later, but we appreciated the easy bi-wiring connectivity as we connected the speakers.

Using Qobuz through Audirvana Plus 3 on a Mac mini, we began by listening to James Blake’s 2011 eponymous debut and were impressed by the soundstage, transients, and stereo field on display. The highs rang out with clarity and space, and the amplifier accurately rendered the album’s use of processed and up-front recordings combined with spacious digital reverb effects.

Next, the song “Les Aphides” by Canadian coldwave electronic group Essais Pas brought out the best in the mid and low range. The bass kicks rang out beautifully in the 70-180hz frequency range and were complemented by crystal-clear mid-highs from the speakers.

After that, the ONE HD handled the nuances of Julia Jacklin’s voice in her new song “Body” with impressive detail and truly brought out the emotion in her performance.

Overall, we were very pleased with the unit’s capabilities on an initial listen.

Inputs and Outputs

Inputs

For the audiophile who wants an all-in-one solution for their stereo home listening setup, it’s hard to imagine a more elegant solution than the ONE HD. The unit includes four digital inputs (asynchronous USB, optical and SPDIF inputs, as well as Bluetooth AptX HD), and four analog inputs, including RCA terminals with a phono preamp stage for a turntable and an AV input for integrating with a separate amplifier*. The cheaper “ONE” version includes the four analog inputs and Bluetooth input, but removes the other digital inputs.

Connecting high-quality external gear via RCA to the analog inputs can make the amplifier absolutely sing. The phono preamp is a particular highlight, and for some listeners will fully eliminate the desire to purchase a standalone boutique phono preamp. We played the vinyl cut of pop punk band Antarctigo Vespucci’s 2018 album “Love in the Time of Email” - a record that uses a high amount of compression in the mix and therefore benefits from amplification that will bring out the detail in the transients and microdynamics - on a U-Turn Orbit turntable. The ONE HD did not disappoint, and the record has never sounded better.

The digital inputs, though high-quality and well-suited for home listening, leave something to be desired for the truly discerning listener. We connected a 2018 Mac mini directly to the ONE HD’s internal DAC via USB and auditioned Eric Benoit's 2018 folk-electronic album “Heartrender”. The crackly high-end of opening track “Passion” sparkled, but the track lost some definition in the mid-range and lacked the highly detailed transient response provided by our standalone Focusrite audio interface. Stereo separation, too, could have been a bit more well-defined. We did appreciate, however, that the Cyrus DAC handles 32-bit audio, as the digital audio workstations we use in our studio operate in 32-bit floating point.

On the other hand, connecting a cheap streamer such as the Chromecast Audio (sadly discontinued) digitally via Toslink results in sound quality that belies its humble source. The AptX HD Bluetooth connection, though lossy by necessity, similarly offers a very pleasing wireless listening experience.

Outputs

The ONE HD offers two high-quality analog outputs: speaker outputs at 2 x 100W (into 6 Ω at 0.1% THD+N), and a Cyrus 4th generation Hybrid Class D amplifier.

The highlight is clearly the speaker outputs, which render music transparently and with detail on our Monitor Audio Silver 50s. As noted earlier, Cyrus has developed a unique “Speaker Impedance Detection” system that tests connected speakers’ impedance across a wide frequency range and automatically matches the amplifier’s output response to the speakers’ electrical load. This feature makes matching speakers to the amplifier much easier - one simply needs to purchase speakers compatible with the amplifier’s overall power output range, and the amplifier will take care of the rest.

Uniquely, when the headphone output is connected, the unit’s large toroidal transformer switches to fully power just the headphone amplifier - resulting in a large reserve of power even for demanding headphones. Indeed, the amplifier drove our 250 Ω Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro headphones with plenty of headroom for a rich and warm listening experience. Prospective ONE HD owners might still be left wanting an external headphone amplifier, however - the included output lacks some depth as well as some definition in the transients. Still, as an all-in-one solution the unit does not disappoint.

Conclusion

Overall, we highly recommend the Cyrus ONE and ONE HD for anyone who is looking to combine convenience with top-notch sound at a relatively affordable price. Separately purchasing standalone units with all the ONE HD’s capabilities at an equivalent level of quality could easily run you several thousand dollars, and the Speaker Impedance Detection system makes sure that the unit will play well with just about any speaker system besides a highly demanding Hi-Fi setup in a large room. We applaud Cyrus on their USA launch, and we look forward to hearing more from this well-regarded UK manufacturer as they begin selling their unique and high quality audio gear throughout the States.

The Cyrus ONE ($999) and ONE HD ($1,399) are available for purchase on Amazon.

Reviewed by Eric Benoit for Qobuz USA, © 2019 Xandrie USA Inc.

*The AV input’s gain can be adjusted via the ONE Remote app, available on iOS and Android. We tested the app for this review and found it to be simple, well-designed, and easy to use.

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