Cyrus CD 8x CD player Page 2

I should start by confirming your likeliest suspicion: The CD 8x is indeed a refinement of Cyrus's entry-level CD player, the CD 6. Both products use a Philips disc transport, and both use a Burr-Brown D/A chip, with true 24-bit current output. Both are also built into more or less the same chassis, which is precision-cast in Scandinavia of a magnesium alloy that's said to reduce microphony and prevent the deleterious effects of eddy currents, among other things, owing to the fact that it's as nonmagnetic as a bowl of oatmeal. It isn't often that manufacturers or distributors actually invite me to disassemble their wares—I usually hear a thin glaze of anxiety in their voices when I tell them I've done so—but McGregor encouraged me to have a look inside the CD 8x (footnote 1).

I was impressed. The CD 8x builds on the CD 6 to go further: It has two Burr-Brown D/A chips running in differential mode, and its power supply has two power toroids rather than just one—that and a more extensive approach to DC regulation. The CD 8x also has a separate reclocking circuit, which the Cyrus engineers have implemented in an effort to minimize jitter. The most remarkable refinement of all may be that any CD 6 can be sent back to Cyrus and retrofitted with those upgrades for little more than the difference between the models' retail prices. Viewed in the larger context of the domestic "high-end" audio scene, Cyrus's upgrade program is downright un-American. Which is fine, if just this once.

Today I began my listening with Mendelssohn's Cello Sonata 2, played by Mischa Maisky and pianist Sergio Tiempo (Deutsche Grammophon 289 471 565-2). On this recording, at least, Tiempo's touch leans toward the light side—and in the past, it's taken a really good CD player to recover whatever nuance and feeling there are in the original, and to prevent the part from sounding superficial or too light. The CD 8x didn't quite succeed in that respect.

However, playing an XRCD reissue of Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony's recording of Tchaikovsky's Symphony 6, "Pathétique" (JMCXR-0021), the Cyrus did allow the brass instruments their proper amount of bite and (realistic) glare, and a good sense of the strings' textures.

Wednesday, October 26
I listened to "McGreggor," a remarkable Procol Harum song that inexplicably went unreleased for more than 30 years (from A Salty Dog... Plus, Westside WESM 534), and was astounded to hear things in the recording that had utterly escaped my notice until now—like the way the late Barrie Wilson's (overloud) kick drum occasionally creates a sympathetic rattling noise in his hi-hat mechanism, or—especially—the way singer Gary Brooker quietly sings a succession of higher notes after the end of the fine couplet "And when he died, his loved ones cried / I hope mine cry for me."


Later in the day I hooked up the optional PSX-R power supply ($795). I've written before, in a general way, about outboard power supplies, mostly in the course of reviewing various products from the power-supply pioneers at Naim Audio. The Cyrus approach, however, is different enough to merit a word. Enhancing the performance of a Naim CD player with one of Naim's accessory power supplies is largely a matter of substituting the latter for only the analog power supplies of the former. In the Cyrus scheme of things, however, the presumably clean DC created by the outboard supply goes directly to the CD player's motor, sled, and other more current-hungry bits—the idea being to liberate the internal supplies from their vulnerability to the spikes, dips, and overlays of digital noise that come with such chores. Interesting.

Thursday, October 27
I left the PSX-R power supply up and running with the CD 8x for a little less than 24 hours before sitting down to listen anew. (As the manual encourages one to do, I left the CD player itself powered up throughout the review period.) By today, the difference made by the upgrade was noticeable if subtle. I listened closely for changes in the CD player's musical performance—that is to say, its way with notes and beats, its sense of flow and momentum, etc.—but heard nothing of the sort. What I did notice was a cleaning-up of the player's upper frequencies. The lead vocal in Loudon Wainwright III's "So Many Songs," from History (Charisma 7 86416 2), was smoother, with sibilants that were easier to take. I had the same general reaction to the Byrds' rather poorly recorded "I Come and Stand at Every Door," from Fifth Dimension (Columbia CK 64847)—the song remained difficult to hear only for the sadness and timeliness of its subject.

Friday, October 28
One more brief technical interlude: During the review period for the Cyrus CD 8x, I also had a visit from a very different sort of audio product: an autoformer-based passive front-end from Sonic Euphoria, the PLC (footnote 2). I wondered how the two might get along, but was mindful that a gross mismatch between the output impedance of the one and the input impedance of the other could skew the frequency extremes, and thus raise the question of whether I was responding to the sounds of the components themselves or to some technical anomaly. So for most of the week I used the Cyrus with my usual reference system, driving my usual Fi (active) preamplifier, waiting until I had a good idea of the new CD player's sound before introducing the unknown PLC to the mix.

The combination was wonderful. As it turns out, the Cyrus CD 8x has a lowish output impedance (50 ohms), which no doubt helped endear it to the Sonic Euphoria PLC, whose input impedance varies between just under 8k ohms to more than 190k ohms. While the pairing is still shy of perfect in a technical sense, the sound was quite good—clean, clear, and wide open, with almost nothing in the way of dynamic compression that I could detect. Those of you who own, say, an integrated amp with a passive front-end needn't balk at considering the Cyrus player for that reason.

Monday, October 31: Postscript
Mixed emotions today. On the one hand, my wife returned from a long trip to Europe, raising the level of happiness in our home; on the other hand, I had to return the dog I'd adopted from a "rescue farm" only two weeks ago because it unexpectedly attacked our cat. (I'm not making that up.) So long, buddy.

Cooperstown is between here and the rescue farm, and because John Atkinson still had to measure the Cyrus CD 8x, I removed it and the PSX-R from my system, packed them in their cartons, and dropped them off at UPS. So long, buddy.

I didn't really expect the Cyrus CD 8x to be entirely as good as my more expensive favorite CD players from other brands—although I admit that, given the surprisingly good performance of Cyrus's entry-level 6vs integrated amplifier (which I reviewed in the May 2005 Stereophile), I'd let my hopes creep up just a little. But it's fair to say that the Cyrus CD 8x is both a respectable performer and a pretty good value for $1995. It's commendably clear-sounding, has a good way with pitch relationships and timing information, and its stereo imaging is unquestionably first rate. Adding the PSX-R power supply gains even more sonic ground—but raises the overall ticket to $2790, a price at which a bit of digging can turn up players that deliver just a shade more involvement overall.

The third item in the Sound Organisation shipment was a Cyrus Audio baseball cap. I'll wear it proudly.

Footnote 1: However, Cyrus does use Torx-head screws on their enclosures, so at least some element of discouragement has been engineered in.

Footnote 2: I received the PLC from John Atkinson, who had measured it to accompany Brian Damkroger's review, which appears elsewhere in this issue.

Cyrus Audio, Ltd.
US distributor: Sound Organisation
11140 Petal Street, Suite 350
Dallas, TX 75238
(972) 234-0182