The Cyrus 8vs Integrated Amplifier
|The Cyrus 8vs Integrated Amplifier
|A UK Legend Comes to the USA
I’ve long been an enthusiastic champion of the British integrated amplifier. In terms of musical satisfaction, ease of use, and value for money, they have been my first recommendation for value-conscious music lovers. The classic UK budget amp, forged in the intensely competitive UK marketplace (even sleazy Japanese multi-national audio giants have to create bespoke products for this market), has evolved into an exceptionally musical product, competitive pressure forcing continuous refinement and improvement in sonics to match their legendary music-making powers. Long-term players in that budget market include NAD, Rotel, and Cambridge Audio, flanked by higher performance and higher priced specialists like Creek, Rega, Arcam, Sugden, Naim and Cyrus. Although relegated by many to second place in the audio status hierarchy compared to separate preamplifiers and power amplifiers, the steady improvement in the quality of integrated amplifiers in the middle and upper-price range has challenged that simple view. The rise of truly high performance (dare I say “high end”?) integrated amps has made the assumption that a preamp/amp combo will always outperform an equivalently priced integrated amp no longer a given.
The Cyrus 8 series of integrated amplifiers has longed ranked highly in that competitive world. Previously scarce on US shores, the Cyrus line is now being imported by the able hands of The Sound Organisation, headed by transplanted Brit Stephen Daniels. Now in “vs” iteration, the 8vs is priced at $1795 and offers 70 watts per channel into an 8-ohm load. Fully remote controlled, the 8vs offers 6 line inputs plus tape monitoring; an outboard Cyrus phono preamplifier is optional. A pre-amp out function simplifies bi-amping or connecting a powered subwoofer. Unique to the often excessively stripped-down world of UK amps is a balance control on the handset. There are no tone controls. LEDs illuminate the selected input, the sweep of the volume knob, “Stand-by,” and “Mute” modes.
The 8vs is built on Cyrus’ signature compact chassis, at 8 inches wide substantially narrower than most hi-fi gear. Space-constrained users will highly value the Cyrus’ small size. As a firm believer in “Less is More,” and thus in absolute rejection of America’s recurring addiction to Elephantiasis, I welcome the Cyrus’ unique appearance and compact size. Those deluded by the “Bigger is Better” syndrome are likely to be disoriented by the 8vs’ power and authority.
Given its narrow chassis, it’s not surprising that rear-panel connections are tightly packed. Speaker connection is by individual banana plugs only; these are duplicated for those bi-wiring their speakers. Cyrus dealers will supply adaptors for users of speaker cables not terminated in banana plugs. Cyrus markets interconnects and speaker cables that appear identical to DNM/Reson Solid Cores. I used the latter as my baseline cabling. A headphone jack is included on the rear panel, along with an XLR jack for connecting Cyrus’ optional PSX-R outboard power supply. Cyrus products are available in either black or silver finishes.
Playing music on the Cyrus 8vs immediately revealed that it is a very special amplifier. The fundamentals of music-making were displayed with a clarity that enforced immediate immersion into the music. Rhythm, tempo and the temporal organization of sound into musically meaningful patterns were very well done. Punctuation of musical phrases, correct emphasis at points of arrival, call and response, the building of tension and release – in fact all the devices of musical communication were laid out clearly to perception. This adroitness at reproducing the fundamentals of music-making has been the hallmark of the UK audio industry. The Cyrus 8vs continues that most welcome and unique tradition.
Getting the fundamentals of music right is the prime determiner of audio component quality. The Cyrus 8vs adds an exceptional level of clarity, resolution, and focus to these music essentials. Its transparency and resolution extend across the musical bandwidth: I positively reveled in listening to complicated percussion work, fine cymbal work resolved without splash and hash, rhythmic patterns clearly portrayed. Similarly, bass playing was excellent in drive and control, the 8vs clearly articulating bass patterns and excelling at Linn’s famous criterion of “playing tunes in the bass.” Those fooled into believing that high-quality bass requires King Kong amplifiers with King Kong power outputs will be forced to re-wire their mental constructs after hearing the quantity and quality of the diminutive 8vs’ bass power and authority. Midrange resolution is exemplified by the Cyrus amp’s ability to decipher lyrics on some of the most poorly recorded Rock vocal tracks. I value lyric intelligibility very highly and am confounded by how rare unambiguous decoding of lyrics is, even on components with otherwise high quality and resolution.
Highly neutral amplifiers are often chameleon-like in system application. One is more likely to hear the influence of the source and the loudspeakers than the characteristics of the amp per se. I ran the Cyrus 8vs with five turntables, four phono sections, three CD players, one DVD player, four sets of interconnects, seven loudspeaker cables, and seven sets of speakers in three different rooms.
The Cyrus clearly differentiated and revealed the differences in the abilities of the CD players and the various LP set-ups without any clinical and analytic “puncture the illusion of music” tendencies. There were similar results with loudspeakers: the reason why one pays $125 per pair for the Celestion F15 versus $2,495 for the Rega R7 were clearly obvious. Yet the Cyrus also let the humbly priced Celestions produce all the music they could, while also revealing where they reached their inherent limits. Indeed the overall intuition of the Cyrus 8vs’ performance was that of an exceptionally large and transparent window, larger in fact than the vista of associated components viewed through it.
The only exception to this was the amp’s performance with my reference Sound Lab Dynastat loudspeakers. Although these speakers show an easy 8-Ohm impedance to the amplifier and produce 88 dB with one watt at 4 meters, the combination of a 10-inch reflex loaded woofer and the transformer and capacitive load of the 6-foot high electrostatic panels make the Dynastats a shot in the dark as far as predicting amplifier compatibility. Many otherwise excellent amps flip out when trying to drive them: either turning harsh or glarey on the electrostatic panels, smearing and blurring their output, or just falling apart in dynamics and drive. The Cyrus did very well in driving the load and did not turn harsh or smeared; its only flaw was a notable diminution of its otherwise excellent timing and rhythm through the electrostatic panels. I don’t consider this a flaw of the amplifier; dynamic loudspeakers (even those with 4-ohm impedances) offered no problems, and after all, do account for more than 95% of the speaker market.
The Cyrus 8vs showed no neurotic tendencies with cabling either. My default cabling was DNM/Reson, but I got superb results with other speaker cabling, including XLO PRO, Analysis Plus Oval, Origin Live Reference, and Audioquest’s Midnight and Granite, all of which have been cryogenically treated. I have always preferred the time-coherence and harmonic integrity of solid core speaker cables and the Cyrus agreed. The high frequency boost and the consequent emphasis of harmonics at the expense of fundamental frequencies that are the sonic signature of many multi-stranded cables are at odds with the Cyrus 8vs.
The “vs” suffix refers to Cyrus’ work in simplifying and shortening the circuit path in their preamplifier sections. Adding the PSX-R, Cyrus’ $798 optional fully-regulated outboard power supply, to the 8xs takes over power supply to the preamplifier section, allowing the 8vs’s onboard power supply to dedicate itself to the amplifier section. The effect of the PSX-R is subtle but musically noteworthy. There is a more precise grip on dynamic changes and an enhancement of the subtleties and finesse of low-level signal resolution. The absolute and relative volume levels of multiple instruments playing together are better differentiated, permitting clearer understanding of ensemble interaction, and the relation between lead and accompanying instruments. Subtly scored classical pieces and the group interplay of string quartets and small combo jazz show the change most readily, but all music benefits from the improvement in musical inflection, and the clearer portrayal of how each musician is playing their instrument.
Convening The Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things revealed the typical improvement in low-level signal resolution and overall increase in footroom (the resolution of signal from mid-levels down to silence), though the effects of isolation were not night and day. Most notable was an increase in bass definition, control and punch.
Soundfield and soundstage portrayal were purely a function of the associated gear and the recording. The exceptional stage width of Cyrus’ CD8x CD player and its concomitant ability to project images wider than the listening room’s boundaries was fully revealed. Similarly, depth of field reflected the abilities of the ancillaries in the system, rather than any limitation of the Cyrus amp.
In many ways the Cyrus 8vs can be understood as a fusion of three traditions of audio component design: the neutral and refined BBC school, the boogie factor Linn/Naim school, and the US pursuit of ultimate resolution. In certain system contexts, the 8vs can sound slightly biased towards cerebral rather than emotional or physical listening, and the slightly stiff hip-shake factor – a result of perhaps too rigid control of the flow of dynamics in the mid-bass area – that I also heard in Cyrus’ matching CD player – appears to be part of Cyrus’ signature. These are quibbles, however, that will not apply to all listeners and to all systems.
Overall, the Cyrus 8vs is an exceptionally transparent and detailed amplifier, an unusually large and transparent window to the sonic and musical world. Its small physical footprint, upgradeability, value for money, and extremely sophisticated musical and sonic abilities make it a must-hear for anyone in the market for a high-performance integrated amplifier.
Solid-state Remote-controlled Integrated Amplifier
Enclosure Cyrus Inverted die-cast chassis
Material Lightweight alloy and non-magnetic material throughout
Line inputs 6 Line + 1 Tape
Outputs Bi-wire Loudspeakers, Tape-out, Preamp-out, Headphone
Power Supply 330VA Toroidal transformer with 5 regulated rails
External Highly regulated PSX-R upgradeable
Communications MC-BUS™ System BUS
Remote Control Supplied with Cyrus Amp/CD/tuner system remote control
Continuous Power 70W/CH (both driven into 8 Ohms)
110W/CH (both driven into 4 Ohms)
Burst Power 340W (IHF, one channel driven into 1 Ohm)
Distortion 0.003%, 1kHz (into 8 Ohms)
0.005%, 1kHz (into 4 Ohms)
Frequency Response -3 dB, 0.2Hz and 85kHz
Damping Factor (1kHz) 150
Sensitivity (50W) Line: 200mV
Input impedance 50kOhm (RCA).
Output voltage 200mV (Tape out), 380mV (Pre out)
S/N Ratio 101dBA (ref. 50W)
Channel Balance ±0.2dB (0dB to -63dB)
Volume control accuracy ±0.1dB (0dB to -63dB)
Dimensions (H x W x D) 73 x 215 x 360 (mm), 2.8 x 8.4 x14.1 (inches)
Finish Silver or Satin Black
Cyrus Audio Ltd
Ermine Business Park
Phone: + (0) 1480 435577
Fax: + (0) 1480 437715
The Sound Organisation
11140 Petal Street, Suite 350
Dallas, Texas 75238
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