We decided to keep this review shorter than usual because a lot of what applies to the One HD applied to the One. Relaid circuit and new power amplifier stages aside, much of the functionality and operational action of the original applies to the new (you lose a line input to gain a DAC and the rear panel has had a redesign to accommodate that DAC). Installation is simplicity itself and the accompanying ‘Get Started’ yellow-on-black cheat sheet shows you all you need to do without even the medium of words. There is also an accompanying and more comprehensive manual from Cyrus, and is supplied in tree-saving mode (online). And if you download the Cyrus ONE Remote app, everything is golden. Bluetooth is a click away and although you might find everyone in the family fighting for access, the amplifier behaves itself perfectly from an operational front. Cyrus deliberately went for the ‘KISS’ (Keep It Simple, Stupid) approach to next-generation amp design and – coming barely one step removed from the “press any key to continue... where’s the ‘any’ key?” school of IT smarts, I welcome this rudimentary yet robust approach. It means you can be up and running with the One HD about as quickly as you can be with a conventional analogue amplifier, just with the addition of a USB connection and Bluetooth as 21st Century concessions.
The Cyrus One HD is a very level-headed performer, more in the cut of classic Audiolab products than the zingy excitement of modern-day Naim Audio, or even what we have come to expect from Cyrus Audio’s own ‘singing shoeboxes’. It takes a more cerebral, more mannered approach to musical replay than often heard today. In the write-up of the original version, this is perhaps taken too far, leaving the sound somewhat lacking in rhythmic drive, but here that seems to be less of a concern. I’m not as guided by pace and timing as Jason Kennedy, but neither am I deaf to the notion of ‘keeping good time’: the Cyrus One HD can follow a tune better than its Cyrus One predecessor and, although this is never going to be a strong point with the design, it’s only going to strike a negative tone with those obsessed by this aspect of musical presentation.
One HD’s overall delivery is excellent. It delivers an accurate and honest-top-to-bottom performance, with no editorialising, such as thickening up the bass, or pushing the upper mids forward to add emphasis to the presence region. In fact, it has excellent bass for one so small – really deep powerful bass that helps tympani underpin the sound of an orchestra, and bass guitars underpin the sound of rock. There is some commonality of sound between the One and the One HD, here, and even if the One HD is the superior performer, the perceived gap is small.
In essence, you are paying a premium for an on-board DAC, and its here that the Cyrus plays a strong hand. The DAC is a perfect match for the Cyrus One, and the two harnessed together deliver an extremely detailed and agile sound with outstanding bass. My normal fare of obscure pieces of modern classical music has been set aside for a while, as I’ve been ploughing through old school reggae and especially dub (it’s funny how our tastes ebb and flow). Listening to ‘Banana and Yam Skank’ from Dangerous Dubby King Tubby [VP records on Tidal], the heavy dub vibe has some real force behind it especially on smaller loudspeakers (which sound like they have taken on bigger proportions, suggesting an amplifier with a bit of grip. While this track doesn’t really go anywhere, the cheesy organ intro, the shouty plate reverb, and the guitar parts all sound very enticing. The hi-hat beat is perhaps very slightly loose, but the same could be said for the entire track, and is not something to moan about!
Music here has surprising body and substance, and yet is even-handed, especially if you use the One HD with real-world loudspeakers commensurate with its price. Cyrus makes a matching loudspeaker, but I suspect many retailers will want to partner this with lower cost Monitor Audio, Bowers & Wilkins, and KEF models, and those will work extremely well with the One HD. It’s not a powerhouse, but it can go loud without changing its tonality, and this will win the One HD many friends.