Cyrus CDi-XR CD player

In the 1990s, I was a globetrotter, interviewing musicians in diverse locales for several publications. My habit when arriving in London was to hit the duty-free shops for Cuban Montecristo cigars, move on to the newsagent for the latest issues of Hi-Fi News and Hi-Fi Choice, then take a leisurely romp through Oranges & Lemons, Richer Sounds, and Sevenoaks Sound & Vision—three major London audio stores.

On at least one of those trips Cyrus Audio caught my eye. With its sleek, sculpted half-width façades, Cyrus equipment looked like it belonged in the dash of the Aston Martin DB5 I wasn't driving as it sped around a fast curve on the Strand, and you couldn't get it in the US.

Founded in the late 1970s by Farad Azima and his brother Henry, Cyrus was originally part of Mission Loudspeaker group; its earliest products were called Mission Cyrus. The brand debuted with two integrated amplifiers, the Mission Cyrus One and the Mission Cyrus Two, both of which already adhered to Cyrus's half-width remit. Those svelte Cyrus designs have always been more than cosmetic; despite modest prices, their diecast casework and the software and hardware inside were a purposeful excursion into audiophile terrain.

Deputy Editor Art Dudley reviewed the Cyrus 6vs integrated amplifier in 2005, writing, "My impression of this product as a good all-rounder and a true bargain is nigh on unshakable: The 6vs was a perfectly nice little amp, with good timing, surprisingly good drama and scale for only 40Wpc, ... and an open and clear if slightly dry presentation overall." Art followed that up a few months later with a review of the Cyrus CD 8x CD player, wherein he stated, "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."

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For a while, Cyrus Audio seemed to be missing from the US market, but now it has a new distributor: Fidelity Imports of Manalapan, New Jersey. Fidelity is importing products from Cyrus's Classic series and also its newer XR Series, which includes the CDt-XR CD transport, Pre-XR preamplifier, i7-XR and i9-XR integrated amplifiers, the PSU-XR power supply, and the subject of this review, the CDi-XR CD player. In the US, the CDi-XR costs $2999.

A mightier mite
This may seem like an odd time to be introducing a CD player. Sales of new CDs have plummeted; in 2021, vinyl out-sold CD for the first time since the earliest years after CD's introduction. And yet, anecdotally, an underground movement seems to be taking hold: People are shopping for used CDs, finding bargains much as vinyl collectors did before records got hot again. And what audiophile doesn't own hundreds and perhaps thousands of silver plastic discs? Who doesn't want a way to play them?

Despite a rich history in streaming—Cyrus was among the first companies to pursue streaming, with a streaming R&D program that started in 2003—the company believes that CDs sound better than the same music does when it's streamed, or at least it has the potential to. Cyrus has worked to realize that potential with research aimed at eliminating the noise inherent in CD playback, partly by reducing the amount of error-correction that's necessary. "The principal objective with our CD players is to extract the data on the disc as accurately as possible the first time—and that is only possible through some very careful design and calibration in both the hardware and software elements of the player," Cyrus states in its marketing materials.

"Despite the general misconception," said Ceri Williamson, Cyrus's head of research and development, in an email, "a CD player is actually very analog in its operation. These analog paths are affected by track layout, external noise, power supplies, etc. This hardware needs to be optimized to get the best out of the disc. The read-right-first-time approach means that the disc can play in a very linear fashion. If the data is not correctly read the first time, the CD head needs to skip back on the spiral to re-read it. This moving causes noise within the power supplies, etc., which degrades the overall performance. By being in full control of the software within the CD servo, we have tuned this platform to read 'Red Book' standard discs perfectly, with the lowest noise."

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"Cyrus CD players are built around our in-house Servo Evolution platform," Williamson continued. Cyrus designed its own platform, Ceri told me, because the commercially available "servo/mech kits" are intended for automotive and portable players. "These products sacrifice detail for robustness. Driving down a bumpy road, it's more important that your disc doesn't skip than it is for you to hear the noise floor of the recording."

Cyrus's Servo Evolution technology includes "tailored" software to suppress noise created by motor speed, jitter and drift, lost laser focus, and error-correction circuitry. Cyrus claims their Servo Evolution technology reduces read errors by 20% compared to reference-level CD players. A downside is that it only reads old-fashioned CDs and CD-Rs—and not SACDs, for example.

The 8½" wide, 13½" deep, 3" high CDi-XR weighs 8lb. The case and chassis are constructed of diecast aluminum. The gunmetal gray review sample looked nearly identical to Cyrus models that preceded it, with a slanted control panel, a large viewing screen, and a small power button that glows blue. Inside, Cyrus uses custom, low-noise toroidal transformers and shielding around and between the DAC and power circuitry. The CDi-XR's chassis is said to be "inverted" to better control vibration.

The front panel of the CDi-XR includes the power button, viewing window, CD loading slot, and seven pushbuttons, angled slightly upward for ease of operation and illustrated with clear, easy-to-see symbols for all the usual operations: play/pause, previous track, next track, forward, back, repeat, eject. The eject button must be pushed twice to expel a CD; two taps on the remote's stop button do the same. The front-panel buttons are recessed, and it's sometimes hard to determine if contact has been made, at least for those of us with big paws, resulting in extraneous actuations. The multifunction remote control, which is longer than the CDi-XR is wide, adds a phase-reverse button. There's also a "Phase Normal" or "Phase Invert" indicator on the display.

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Around back, in addition to the obligatory IEC power inlet, two RCA analog stereo pairs, and TosLink and coaxial S/PDIF outputs is a pair of proprietary MC-BUS connectors (on RCA), which allows coordinated operation of several Cyrus components. (What I first took to be the cheapest pair of interconnects I've ever seen was actually intended for MC-BUS interconnection between the CDi-XR and an i9-XR integrated amplifier Cyrus supplied but that I haven't yet tested.) There's also a 15-pin umbilical connector for Cyrus's optional outboard power supply, the PSU-XR, and a USB port for maintenance. Cyrus equipment is manufactured in Nottingham, England, in partnership with electronics manufacturing service provider Smart Made Simple.

Visually, the CDi-XR is attractive but unobtrusive, an effect aided by its diminutive size and "phantom black" paint.

A clean machine
I slid the Cyrus onto the second shelf of my Salamander rack and connected it to the Sugden LA-4 preamplifier using a 2m pair of Triode Wire Labs Spirit II (RCA) interconnects. I connected the Sugden to the LKV Research Veros PWR+ power amp using LKV's own RCA-to-XLR interconnects. For streaming, I used a laptop and a Denafrips Ares II DAC augmented with Sonore opticalRendu and systemOptique fiberoptic Ethernet cable, Small Green Computer sonicTransporter i5 and power supply, a TRENDnet switch, and one in-akustik Reference USB 2.0 cable. My DeVore Fidelity O/96 speakers accepted electrons from the amplifier via an 8' pair of Auditorium 23 speaker cables.

COMPANY INFO
Cyrus Audio Ltd.
US distributor: Fidelity Imports, LLC
Manalapan, New Jersey
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Michael King's picture

Appreciate the CD vs streaming comparisons and music recommendations. As one who listens to both formats, I question the necessity of a stand alone CD player. I purchased my first DAC in 2010. At the time I was in the market for a new CD player. The player I owned (McIntosh MCD201) had required two factory repairs for a faulty transport and I sold it. A salesperson talked me out of buying another CD player because it puts the owner at the mercy of the transport. I could relate. How many DVD players are out there? I spin CDs in an early 2000s Pioneer DV-353 feeding a Moon 280D through the entry level Transparent cable with wonderful results. If the Pioneer cacks out, I can replace it for little cost. Just sayin'.

partain's picture

Amen to that .!

If a magazine would pursue affordable audio and at least mention the elephant that might be in the room , as you have pointed out in this one , I'd be up for a subscription.

My need for million-dollar turntables is waning , no , it's morphing into disgust .

Michael Fremer's picture

Brings me immense pleasure!

partain's picture

Please , Sir .

Glotz's picture

Analog playback has many virtues that digital in any form, does not.

Nonetheless, it has been said many times in many publications that CD data fed from a transport has a different sound signature and higher SQ compared to just streaming. There obviously many factors at play that modifies that statement.

More importantly, many millions of CD owners have huge collections of compact discs. Many of those music lovers don't feel a need to spend countless hours transferring data from CD to digital storage, or even relegate their collections to a garage sale or used cd shop.

Many also enjoy interacting with their expensive audio gear, CD allows that, though nowhere near analog tape or vinyl.

Those with large CD collections see the value in this Cyrus product, regardless the perfunctory comments leveled at it...

jimtavegia's picture

I still have my PS1 and it still plays CDs. I have never had a transport fail in my audio systems including 3 old Sony DVPNS 755's (2003) and a Yamaha S1800 from 2007 and they are all used every day I have owned them. They are all DAC drivers (transports) except for the S1800 that still plays SACDs. None of the Sony's will play SACDs anymore. I have had one CD player/burner fail, but at 74 I consider myself lucky in that regard.

MBMax's picture

I suppose I'll rip my CD's to a server or migrate to more streaming one day. But for now, I really enjoy combing the library (LP's & CD's), looking for the perfect piece of music, loading it up and enjoying it and the booklet notes all over again.
It's a participation sport and I like as much participation as possible.

jimtavegia's picture

Should we not expect SOTA in a $2000 player if a $500 Project S2 DAC can be class A? I hope I am not being unfair?

ok's picture

quitted streaming. I don't need all this "new music" readily available at my hand. I like certain things and these things are eventually few. CDs and LPs - even PC disks for that matter - sound physically better for reasons uknown. After all they give me the feeling of earthly longtime friends, not bodyless facebook acolytes. Just me I suppose.

Allen Fant's picture

Excellent article- KM.
The CD is NOT dead. Far from it in 2022.

PeterPani's picture

I tried a lot of CD-Players. Playing digital over longer time fatigues always, compared to analog. Several years I went back to my Sony CDP-01 from 1983. There are differences compared to modern players. Some in better direction (directness, midrange), other in worse direction (treble - what's on the disc, without improving).

MBMax's picture

After years of searching, I finally found a digital solution that is a delightful, non-fatiguing way to listen to my CD's. Frankly, I never thought I'd enjoy them so much and I don't feel like I'm settling when I choose a CD over an LP anymore (though I still buy and love records to be sure). My find? An MHDT Orchid DAC. No doubt there are others out there of a similar design approach that give similar sonic results. Absolutely worth seeking out IMHO.

jimtavegia's picture

Pro-Ject S2 DAC's Something excellent I afford.

DougM's picture

When the CD was introduced an album cost $7 and a CD cost $15. Now a vinyl album is over $20 and a CD is still $15 or less. I will never go back to the hassle of cleaning discs and styli, replacing styli, and having the hassle of setting up a turntable with all the gauges and protractors, not to mention having to worry about isolation and storing all those huge discs. It's not worth all the cost and headaches for the arguably better sound of analog. I'm happy with my CDs and the gear I use to play them. They sound just fine to me, and I have no interest in paying a monthly fee to a streaming service to hear music I already own. The hipsters will soon tire of the vinyl fad and move on to the next fad to impress their shallow friends.

volvic's picture

I was at Princeton Record Exchange the other day, and judging from the first-year university students digging through the vinyl bins, I suspect this fad ain't ending anytime soon. I was the only one in the classical CD section and one of three in the jazz section.

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