pl | en

Compact Disc Transport

Cyrus CDt-XR

Manufacturer: CYRUS AUDIO Ltd
Price (in Poland): 2000 £

Cyrus Audio Ltd, Ermine Business Park
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire




Text: WOJCIECH PACUŁA Images: Cyrus | Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Marek Dyba

No 201

February 1, 2021

CYRUS is an English company that started its activity in 1983 as a separate brand of the MISSION company, and its first products were called MISSION CYRUS. The first products were the ONE and TWO amplifiers from 1984, which set the form of Cyrus devices for the years to come.

N THE MONOGRAPH PREPARED BY THE US magazine "The Absolute Sound", entitled Illustrated history of High-End Audio, the CYRUS brand did not receive its own chapter. Moreover, in the section entitled The British Contribution, by Alan Sircom, editor-in-chief of the British monthly Hi-Fi +, literally one sentence was devoted to this company.

I mention the nationality of the editor as it could be considered that the omission of this company is a typical US-centrism error. It seems, however, that the reason for this is different - Cyrus was simply "unlucky" because they entered the audio scene a few years after the "all big fish" of British audio, companies such as: Arcam, Cambridge Audio, Naim Audio, Linn, Rega, Creek, Exposure etc.

The late 1970s was the time when a new generation of designers and their companies came to the fore, ones that grew up after the great purge, which in that decade was brought upon the British hi-fi scene by Japanese concerns. By the mid-1980s, when Cyrus was founded, the situation had already stabilized and the cards were dealt.

The products of this brand, then still sold as Misson Cyrus, focused on expressiveness and proprietary technical solutions that were to ensure their success. The devices of this company were distinguished by their original artistic design as well as unusual size. Among other things, a characteristic feature was half the width of classic audio products, i.e. 73 mm, not 140 mm. The One and Two integrated amplifiers manufactured for many years had plastic housings with steel bases. In 1987, they were replaced with aluminum, and in 1997 with aluminum alloy castings.

The second distinguishing feature of this company was the use of more and more advanced external power supplies (first it was PSX, then PSX-R, PSX-R2, and the latest is PSU-XR) that could be used also older models - the Two already offered this option. But probably the most important are the technical solutions - the first Compact Disc player of this company, launched in 1988, so shortly after its foundation, the PCM II model offered its own solutions, both in terms of mechanics and electronics.

All these elements can also be found in the latest, just premiered, XR series, which includes the tested CDt-XR model. In addition to it, five other new products are launched, including two integrated amplifiers with D/A converters (i9-XR and i7-XR), preamplifier (Pre-XR), CD Player (CDi-XR ) and a power supply (PSU-XR). They all feature advanced power supplies, improved circuit topology, new software, and a completely new color, dubbed "Phantom Black" by the manufacturer.


| A few simple words…

Managing Director

WOJCIECH PACUŁA When did Cyrus develop their first CD player? What kind of design was it?
SIMON FREETHY The first CD players where made when Cyrus was part of Mission and were Mission badged. The first was the Mission 7000, launched in November 1984, which was essentially a Philips CD player with a few tweaks. The Mission PCM 7000, launched in 1986 b>used the Phillips mech and digital board, but an all Mission designed analogue sections. This theme continued with products being built around the Philips loader, but with more elements being designed by the Mission / Cyrus engineering team.

The first Cyrus badged players, which were built into the Cyrus die cast aluminium half width chassis, were the two box DiscMaster and DACMaster system, launched in November 1993, and the Cyrus DAD 7 (A DiscMaster and DACMaster in one box), launched in May 1994. This was a top loader design with a magnetic puck, again using a Philips mech (Philips CDM9), but with an Analog Devices AD1861 DAC.

This player typifies the core Cyrus philosophy of going the extra engineering mile to extract higher performance. While most other manufacturers were using the Philips Bitstream chip with their Philips Mech, Cyrus worked to integrate the AD DAC, which was a multi-bit chip, 18 bit and 8 times oversampling, giving the Cyrus player a performance edge.

WP Could you tell us a bit about the new CD transport – about the servo, mechanics itself, its power supply, and so on. How does it differ from other CD transports?
SF For the XR CD players we have taken the SE engine to a new level. We source the loader mechanism only from a mass market supplier. For XR we have changed this supply to a higher quality source, for greater control over manufacturing variances.

The servo board - the chip, software and electronics that controls the laser and sled, how they move and how they read the disc - is a bespoke Cyrus design, and built by our manufacturing partner SMS in Nottingham. We then marry up the loader mech with our Servo board to create our SE engine.

Power supply is key for performance. Cyrus has over 35 years experience of power supply design in audio. There are multiple power supplies circuits in Cyrus CD players, each powering a different part, and delivering the perfect power characteristics for that part of the circuit. Whether that is voltage stability, stiffness under load, rapid transient capability etc etc. It this ability to break down a CD player into each of its parts sub sub systems, and then optimize each of those, that gives Cyrus players an edge over their rivals. They are designed in such a way that the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts.

| CDt-XR

CDt-XR is a Compact Disc transport. It can read signal from CDs (CD-DA, CD-R / RW) and send it to an external digital-to-analog converter. For many years there was a consensus in the audio industry that the type of transport had little influence on the sound. Some even said it had none. It was a very optimistic approach, which stopped the sound improvement of CD players for a long time and drew the attention of engineers to D/A converters.

It turned out that the appropriate signal processing on the DAC side eliminates jitter to a certain extent. This is probably why the first upsamplers (sampling frequency converters) worked so well, overclocking the input signal and - if they were really good - they produced a signal with a lower jitter level. And jitter confuses the signal, reducing its resolution, the sense of space, and the definition of sounds, blurring their attack.

Robert Harley, editor-in-chief of The Absolute Sound, in his guide entitled The Complete Guide to High-End Audio (Fourth Edition) writes directly:

[…] It should be noted that the latest improvements in D / A converters have significantly minimized the sonic differences between the types of transmission protocols and between different models of digital interconnects. (p. 179)

The next step was to apply input buffers, which stored a short portion of the signal and generated a completely new clock for it. Chord Electronics was the master of it.

Experience shows that these were overly optimistic assumptions, and the solutions in question were half-baked and did not eliminate the basic problem - precise reading of data (music signal) from CDs. Trying to save the situation after an error has occurred is not a good solution and it is better to minimize the error at source. Only when companies that recognized this problem came to the fore did the sound of CD players improve dramatically.

Cyrus is an extremely conservative company, faithful to its roots, which can be seen in the style of its products. On the other hand, it is a manufacturer with a modern machine park that designs and manufactures its devices in-house. Digital products have been in its lineup since 1988, when a Compact Disc player called PCM II was introduced, but the milestone for it was the presentation in 2008 of a CD transport with its own software - the, let's add, slot-drive transport.


The PCM II was a CD player with a classic Philips drawer and mechanics. It was replaced by a much better device only in 1994. The Discmaster was a top-loader CD transport using the high quality Philips CDM9 Pro transport. A year later the dAD3 player was developed, which featured a classic transport with a drawer - the inexpensive Philips CDM12.4. The company calls it Integral Isolated Loader in its materials. In 2000, the company presented the CD7 model with Philips CDM 12.1 / VAM1201 mechanics.

All these devices are based on Philips drives, used in their entirety with the software. The real change, however, was not until 2008, when three devices were introduced simultaneously in which, for the first time by this manufacturer, featured slot mechanism, originally developed for the automotive market: CDTx SE transport and CD7 SE and CD8 SE players - ' SE 'in their name stands for' Servo Evolution '.

The SE uses a relatively inexpensive, plastic drive (although with a metal frame, to which the optic circuit is attached and reinforced from the top), from one of the OEM manufacturers. Its strength lies in the software, a proprietary digital servo circuit. The company materials say that three engineers spent over a year on its development, which, considering earnings of high-class specialists, gives a huge amount of money, which Cyrus thus invested in - as it seemed at the time - an uncertain format.

FRONT AND REAR The chassis of all CYRUS devices consists of four elements: a cast body forming the top and sides, a metal front and back, and a plastic bottom. The first and last of these elements are common to all models, which allows a significant reduction in production costs.

On the front of the new series devices feature a small, unfortunately quite unreadable display and touch buttons for transport control - previously these were classic buttons. You can dim the display, change its contrast and even change its polarity (negative / positive), but it doesn't change much in terms of readability.

The signal is output via one of the two digital outputs, RCA or Toslink (both S/PDIFs). It is a pity that the company did not use its own protocol, which could send the II2 signal to the D/A converter accompanying the transport or to an amplifier featuring a DAC. Next to it, there are two other RCA sockets for system communication, and below there are two mini-USB sockets for upgrading the drive’s and the logic’s controlling the device software. This is important because the manufacturer used two separate micro-controllers, thus minimizing noise.

The device rests on tiny rubber feet, so you should provide this device with a good anti-vibration platform. It is also equipped with a multi-pin socket, which allows user to use an external XR series power supply - unfortunately it was not available yet during the test.

MECHANICS The mechanics, with its the software, is mounted to the top of the device through an L-shaped steel plate. Its controls are placed underneath. The PCB with the logic circuit of the whole device and the power supply is placed in the second part of the chassis - there is also a small toroidal transformer there. The tested transport uses a circuit re-clocking the digital signal. So two techniques of jitter reduction were combined - at the source, i.e. in mechanics, and then at its output.

We can read in the press materials that the new servo allowed manufacturer to reduce reading errors by 20%. Due to that the error correction could be shallower and less invasive. According to Cyrus, this has a big impact on the sound quality, because even when the signal sent to the DAC does not contain interpolated data, the DAC also receives noise from the source that affects the quality of the conversion. The noise level is further reduced by a new topology and a thoroughly redesigned power section and re-clocking circuit.

To verify this information, I reached for the CD Check disc from Digital Recordings, I wrote about when I tested the GRYPHON ETHOS Player. It allows you to examine the drive precisely in terms of its mechanical efficiency, and not the ability to interpolate errors.

Let me remind you that all first four tracks were properly played so far only by Philips CD-2 Pro CD transports, CEC belt transport, Esoteric SACD transports, and - used in the aforementioned Gryphon - the latest product of this type on the market, StreamUnlimited Blue Tiger CD-Pro 8 S. The StreamUnlimited transports used in the newest PRO-JECT CD BOX RS2 T, as well as those used by Ayon Audio got stuck a lot on the fifth track. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Cyrus CDt-XR also belongs to this elite club, playing all tracks without any problems.

REMOTE The remote control supplied with the transport is a systemic one, allowing you to control not only Cyrus products, but also a TV set. So it's big and has backlit buttons. However, there are so many of them that it's not very easy to use.


HOW WE LISTENED Cyrus transport was tested in the HIGH FIDELITY reference system. The digital signal was sent via the RCA Acrolink Mexcell 7N-DA6100 II interconnect to the RCA input of the Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition SACD player. The CDt-XR was compared to the StreamUnlimited Blue Tiger transport used in the Ayon, and to the CD Lector Digidrive TL-3 transport, with the same mechanics as in the CD-35 HF Edition.

Cyrus stood on the top shelf of the Finite Elemente Master Reference Pagode Edition rack, on its own feet. On its upper panel I placed the Verictum X-Block passive EMI / RFI filter. The power was provided by the Acrolink 8N-PC8100 Performante Nero Edition cable.

Recordings used for the test | a selection

MARE BALTICUM III. 13./14. JAHRHUNDERT - WIZLAV VON RÜGEN, wyk. Ensemble Peregrina, Agnieszka Budzińska-Bennet, Tacet 261, Master CD-R (2020);
⸜ BURT BACHARACH & DANIEL TASHIAN, Blue Umbrella, Big Yellow Dog/Sony Music Labels (Japan) SICX 30088, BSCD2 (2020)
⸜ ERIC REED TRIO, Blue Monk, M&I Jazz MYCJ-30386, CD (2006)
⸜ JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, Essential Recollection, Sony Music Labels SICP-30789, BSCD2 (2015)
⸜ NORAH JONES, Pick Me Up Off The Floor, Blue Note Records B003179801, Compact Disc (2020);
⸜ PAUL McCARTNEY, Kisses on the Bottom, Universal Music/Universal Music LLC [Japan] UCCO-3038, SHM-CD (2012)
⸜ PET SHOP BOYS, Super, x2 (2)/Sony Music Labels (Japan) SICX-41, CD (2016)


BECAUSE OF SILINESS, WE WASTED SO MUCH time that we could spend listening to music with better sound, or - simply put - listening to better music. I am thinking about negating the influence of the drive on the sound. Luckily the rumors regarding death of the CD format were definitely premature... The Cyrus' transport sounds very refined. What's more, it is so different from the transport of the Italian Lector and still different from the transport used in the Ayon player that you have to be deaf to pretend that how a disc is read does not matter.

As always, this time I had a selected list of titles that I wanted to use in the test, some of which were albums that I also used while listening to the Lector. The CDt-XR, however, had its vision of this test and following the "must-listen" list, it led me through the more discs, showing me how it differs, what it is good at and in which areas it does let go of a bit. After all, audio is, as I always say, an art of compromise, with an emphasis on 'art'.

The sound of the tested device reminded me about it in a very interesting way. It is a presentation devoid of the disadvantages of CD players in the past, i.e. roughness, artificiality, lifelessness. In fact, it is completely different. The Eric Reed Trio album showed that the guiding principle followed by Cyrus engineers while working on it (at least that's how I imagine it) was "do no harm". The close sound of the instruments on this album was not exaggerated, it was not too close and too “on-the-face”, and seemed even slightly distant.

Disc after disc, recording after recording and each time it turned out that Cyrus may not be a master of selectivity, does not try to extract all the details from the recording, and yet we sit in front of the speakers (or with headphones on) curious about what we are about to hear . Despite the apparent lack of "nerve", there is so much emotion in the CDt-XR’s sound and it is so internally "connected" that those players that previously seemed to be "energetic", "sonorous" and " strong ”, after listening to Cyrus they seemed “lively”,“forward”, and finally -“ exaggerated”.

The British transport does not exaggerate anything. If we stick to this painterly metaphor, we could say that its sound is pastel, but not a pastel that is faded in the sun, but a strong color, almost like oil paint, although in pastel. The point is the device shifts the sound layers backwards into the soundstage. It distances us a bit from the events, so we have a very good perspective, especially in the case of discs of lesser quality.

That is why the Super album by the Pet Shop Boys duo sounded so good, which so compressed, that it offers almost zero dynamics. It was presented in a really nice way, without exposing the hard edges and without the coarse top. The latter is slightly withdrawn with Cyrus, but not all of it, but the part that is adjacent to the midrange. Therefore, the vocals, which in the studio were slightly trimmed at the bottom, so they do not have enough richness, let it be Norah Jones from the last album, suddenly turned out to sound great combined with an accompanying band

This is probably why if I were to write w very short review of this CD transport, I would say that it promotes the midrange. This is not entirely true, because the percussion cymbals from Eric Reed's albums, the piano from the Pasodoble disc by Lars Danielsson and Leszek Możdżer, and finally electronics from the Essential Recollection, bringing Jean-Michel Jarre's greatest "hits" to the Japanese market, they were all sparkling, open, never "muddy". But it was the midrange that shone in them, so to speak, it was the king of the ball.

The material for the Essential Recollection album was remastered by Dave Dedwater, currently Jarre's producer. I do not like his remasters, I prefer the first releases and re-editions for which the sound was prepared by Scott Hull, but this particular collection is great, perhaps due to the fact that it was released by the Japanese on the BSCD2 disc. Cyrus showed the music at its best, that is, offering enough information to make the presentation lively and interesting, but with adding a melancholy that makes us immerse ourselves in the sound.

I heard a similar thing on the Kisses from the Bottom by Paul McCartney. The Ayon player showed the foreground closer and saturated the vocal with more details. It was not as close, as tangible sound as with the Lector Digidrive TL-3 transport, but quite close to it. Cyrus moved the foreground a bit further away, which produced a similar effect as before with Norah Jones, i.e. the vocal was more pleasant and seemed less compressed. And it IS compressed, because the ex-Bealtes voice is not very strong anymore.

Speaking about the "midrange", and even more about "favoring the midrange", it is implicitly assumed that its edges are withdrawn. In the case of Cyrus, the matter is more complicated. This shows how far we have come since the "British School of Sound". I have already mentioned the treble, pointing to the fact that they were not lacking, but this evolution can be shown even better using bass as an example.

Comparing the Cyrus transport to the Lector transport, we notice that the Italian device has an even more accentuated mid-range, which makes its sound seem more tangible. What's more, its attack is contoured and its focus is clear, which gives the effect of a strong, low sound. In fact, the Cyrus offers even more extended bass and differentiates it better.

We will not notice it immediately, because - as I said - the sound is a placed a bit further away from us. But when we listen to such albums as Pasodoble or Blue Umbrella y Burt Bacharach and Daniel Tashian, we notice that the English transport shows everything perfectly balanced, it does not promote any element at the expense of others. As a result, I heard a smooth, fluid, very relaxing sound.

| Summary

CYRUS CDt-XR IS A DEVICE that offers a lot of fun. It is an unobtrusive, well-organized, extremely engaging presentation that allows you to listen to any type of music, regardless of how it was recorded and released. The better recording/release, however, the more "sounds in the sound" we get. Listener's attention is focused on the midrange, but mostly - but not only! - because everything in it is so natural and pleasant. This is a pastel sound, but without a clear softening, let alone "veiling".

This is a great example of the fact that digital audio is still evolving, and not only in the computer industry, i.e. in music files playback. The Compact Disc format has a lot to offer, it is easy to use, and the music we bought really belongs to us - the files are "rented" and we cannot legally share them. And the Cyrus transport will offer us a lot of joy and long hours devoted to slow "tasting" of numerous albums.


Reference system 2020

1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

AC Power

Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

  • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|


Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:


Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC