The Cyrus 8x CD Player

                               Pursuing The Ultimate in CD Playback

        

Page 2

The CD8x ranks as the most detailed CD player I’ve ever heard. Its detail reproduction extends across the frequency range with no frequency group favored. High frequencies trail off believably; there is no sense of being 6 feet 6 inches tall in a room with a 7-foot ceiling. There is an exceptional freedom from opacity. The CD8x makes no attempt to artificially sweeten the sound; there is no dumbing-down of the signal. Separation of individual instrumental lines is truly excellent, as is the intelligibility of lyrics. Some mumbled and buried-in-the-mix lyric phrases on older Rock records that had me stumped for 30 years were finally made understandable. The broad sweep and larger gestures of music are clearly laid out: large-signal bass punch and control are deeply satisfying.

The exceptional separation of individual lines is supported and enhanced by the CD8x’s equally exceptional portrayal of soundstage width. Individual instruments are laid out in an unusually wide spread. Particularly with near-field listening, there is a perception of the sound field being wider than the listening room. On some recordings, the outside edges of the stage wrap around into the room, partly immersing the listener into the ambience of the recording. This effect can be very intoxicating; to those who have never experienced it, it can even seem aberrant. Depth of field is also superb: visually oriented listeners will revel in the CD8x’s ability to project a vivid and 3-dimensional stereo hallucination.

Isolation from environmental interference proved the decisive factor in determining the Cyrus’ ultimate performance. This characteristic of source components is so common that it almost doesn’t warrant mentioning. Still, owners of the CD8x/PSX-R should be aware that cavalier placement of the products will only hint at their true performance potential. I am an avid and long-standing member of The Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things: I view isolation products as the foundation of a system, as essential to musical performance as suspension, wheels and tires are to the performance of a sports car. Consequently each component of my reference system is isolated – from source to loudspeakers. The performance of a component without effective isolation is so often such a pale shadow of what is capable of when isolated that I now ignore any perception of gear played neat. The outstanding increase in the effectiveness of state-of-the-art isolation products during the last 5 years has led to a major paradigm shift, one that the larger audio industry has been slow to incorporate successfully as an organic concept. This paradigm shift holds that effective isolation and control of resonances is at least as important as the quality of the circuit design. In many cases, it can be more important.

I ran the CD8x and PSX-R with a wide gamut of isolation devices, ranging from the pocket-change cheap Vibrapods and Vibracones, through various elastomer feet, air-bearing platforms, and ball-bearing based isolators in ascending order of effect. The best isolation products produce at least one signature common effect: wholesale improvement in eliminating the slurring and blurring of low-level detail and dynamics – an enormous increase in ‘footroom’ (to borrow DNM’s Denis Morecroft’s term) - that is to say, high resolution of the area where sound and music begin and end. Given the CD format’s notoriously atrocious fidelity to low-level signals, it’s not surprising that not blurring low-level information yields enormous gains.

Playing the Cyrus 8x and PSX-R with my reference Stillpoints Universal Resonance Dampers completely altered my perception of the musical performance of the two components. I was not surprised to find that the outboard power supply benefited as much as the actual player, having heard the improvement gained in isolating outboard supplies in the past.

Improvement in timbre was significant. Difficulty in reproducing the sonic signature of orchestral instruments has always been one of my primary criticisms of the CD format. My simple Reality Test – Does that really sound like a violin, viola, clarinet, oboe, cello? - which garnered only fair (but typical for CD) results without isolation, improved markedly with the Stillpoints. I was now able to concentrate on what the instrument was playing without wasting perceptual energy trying to identify the instrument. Hugh Bean’s transcendent violin playing on Vaughan Williams’ A Lark Ascending at last revealed itself. It was the same with other orchestral instruments. High frequency percussion instruments were portrayed to a standard I had always assumed beyond the CD’s abilities.

Improvement in rhythmic articulation was equally significant. Ritchie Hayward’s “in the pocket” drumming with Little Feat now became apparent, as did the rhythmic thrust and funk of The Meters, Funkadelic, and The Neville Brothers. The polyrhythms of Olatunji’s master drummers were easier to identify, though I found I could not follow more than 4 rhythms at a time, compared to 7 with the analogue LP.

But it was the improvement in overall music-making that was the most significant and the most important: the timing and placement of notes improved so much that the sense of musicians playing together finally bloomed. Sound became organized and revealed musical sense and meaning. Rhythm, tempo, and the gradations of volume, dynamic contrast, and punctuation started to hint at music’s reality rather than CD’s Cyborg version. The improvement in portraying the standard music-making devices common to all music was significant, leading to deeper aesthetic experiences. Listening involvement improved markedly: foot-tapping, knee-bouncing, and head-bopping now entered the picture, though mid-bass propulsion lacked that hip-shake sense of fluid drive that makes rhythm-based music so physically intoxicating.

Those whose audio philosophy holds that faithfully extracting every last bit of sonic detail from a recording is the ideal will love the CD8x. This philosophy holds that a component’s ability to reveal the differences between recordings is not only a test of its resolution, but also the determiner of its quality. Though there are practical pitfalls to this viewpoint (the tendency to value the sound of the recording without larger reference to reality and music as the ideal, and a subsequent tendency to listen to recordings based only on their sonic merit,) there is clearly high value in extracting as much from the recording as possible. Hearing whole new instruments obscured by lower resolution players is not to be scoffed at.

I deliberately avoided listening to analogue LP while auditioning the CD8x, all too aware that the contrast is fatal. Just when one starts thinking that CD playback is unconditionally good, a quick comparison to LP reveals that the asterisk and parenthesis (for CD)* still apply. Critical listening to the CD8x revealed, however, that most of my quibbles were criticisms of the CD format itself, rather than the performance of the player per se. It was hard to ignore the feeling that the CD8x was at the limits of what can be achieved with the CD format. A slightly detached cerebral perspective, a sense of “terraced dynamics” (as if all music is performed with the traits of Baroque music,) and the most obvious tell-tale sign of ultimate limits in low-signal resolution – the stepped decay of sounds - are so much a part of the CD experience that only users of high-resolution analogue are likely to be constantly aware of them. The CD8x is a faithful messenger, and thus liable to be blamed for shoddy recording studio techniques and third-rate digital transfers. One has to admire Cyrus’ courage in adopting this “Damn the Torpedoes! Full steam ahead!” approach to CD playback.

So very high praise for the CD8x. Its combination of ultra-resolution, unexcelled stage width and depth, articulation of instrumental lines, top-to-bottom clarity, tight bass control and punch and realistic price places it at the limits of what CD can do. Add the ability to upgrade with the PSX-R outboard power supply, and to tune its ultimate music-making abilities with affordable isolation devices, and one is facing the maturity of the CD format. No it doesn’t match the analogue LP in naturalness, timing, and music-making, but for those whose experience with CD has lacked the torture of mine, an effectively isolated CD8x/PSX-R combination can rank with the ultimate in CD playback.

Paul Szabady

                                  ___________________
 






Address:
Manufacturer:
Cyrus Audio Ltd
Spitfire Close
Ermine Business Park
Huntingdon
Cambridgeshire
PE29 6XY
England
Phone: + (0) 1480 435577
Fax: + (0) 1480 437715
email: info@cyrusaudio.com
Website: http://www.cyrusaudio.com/index.htm

Price: CD8x: $1995. PSX-R: $798.

US Distributor:
The Sound Organisation
11140 Petal Street, Suite 350
Dallas, Texas 75238

Phone: 972-234-0182 fax 972-234-0249
email: steve@soundorg.com
Website: http://www.soundorg.com/