Cyrus One Cast Integrated streaming amplifier

Integrated amplifiers,
Music servers and computer audio
Cyrus One Cast

What ‘everything’ doesn’t include is an Ethernet socket. The One Cast has a pair of Wi-Fi aerials, can operate at 2.4 or 5GHz and proved rock-solid in its connectivity during this test–but still, we’re all serious people aren’t we? Is the lifestyle market really so cavalier about signal stability?

Control of wireless devices is via the app of the relevant streaming service, and the basics can also be controlled using voice commands–the One Cast can be prompted if there’s an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant mic-equipped device on the network or can be Siri’d via an Apple HomePod. If all else fails, though, the Cyrus is supplied with a basic remote control that feels as inexpensive as it looks.

The ‘look’ and ‘feel’ undermine the One Cast a little. While we’ll soon come to just how great the Cyrus sounds, it doesn’t make much of a case for itself where looks, ergonomics, finish or (to a far lesser extent) build quality are concerned. For example, the lacquered plastic that forms the fascia resonates if tapped with a fingernail, while the two big control dials that govern input selection and volume feel no more luxurious. Meanwhile, the lights that indicate the volume level and input selected are a nice enough touch, but for some inexplicable reason Cyrus has chosen very small, unilluminated icons to indicate input.

Three of those inputs (Chromecast, turntable, and the analogue line-level input marked ‘AV’) are in white, and the other five (Bluetooth, HDMI, USB, optical and coaxial) are in that traditional Cyrus tricky-to-read dark red. They’re very difficult to see under normal domestic lighting conditions, meaning you either commit the sequence of inputs to memory or be prepared to shine your smartphone’s torch on them every time you want to change input. That being said, this graphical layout gives it minimalist chic, something Cyrus does well.

On the rear panel, everything is well laid out. However, in the review sample the HDMI and USB sockets weren’t quite central in their cutaways, and the digital optical Toslink input wasn’t level. In and of itself, this is hardly a catastrophe, and speaks of an early sample. And, as a reviewer, I would far rather see a “warts ‘n’ all” sample that was one of the earliest models (which usually end up as dealer demonstrators) than a pimped up hot-rod made specifically to impress the reviewer. But, regardless, these minor fit and finish shortcomings should be noted.

These shortcomings are doubly frustrating–because in purely sonic terms, the One Cast has plenty to recommend it and sounds like it’s worth the money all day long.

All it needs is some appropriately talented (and priced) speakers strapping on to form a system. Alternating between Acoustic Energy AE1 mkIII SEs and KEF LS50s, and between QED XT40i and Atlas Equator 2.0 speaker cable, allows the One Cast to confirm itself as a rapid, lavishly detailed and whippet-lean listen in the long-established Cyrus manner.

Chromecasting to the One Cast is a simple here as it is with any other Chromecast product. Once the Cyrus is on the wi-fi network, simply fire up the app of your favourite streaming service on your phone or tablet. Then all that’s required is a tap of the ‘cast’ icon. Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Deezer and Qobuz are all available in this painless and intuitive manner, as well as a stack of podcast providers and so on. We didn’t spend long with Amazon’s app, however, simply because Alexa’s music-wrangling properties fall into the ‘must try harder’ part of the report card.

With DJ Shadow’s Walkie Talkie [MCA] casting from Tidal via a Sony Xperia 5 smartphone, the One Cast fairly motors along. Like every digital Cyrus product (and, let’s be honest, the majority of its analogue products too), it puts the emphasis on precision, detail and manoeuvrability. It’s conceivable you’ll encounter more meat on a butcher’s pencil than on the One Cast’s low-frequency reproduction, but that’s not to say it lacks extension. And it’s certainly not lacking detail–the textures and second-stage dynamics of the tune’s kick drum and grimy analogue bass synth sounds are unambiguous. But there’s just no fat on the One Cast’s bottom end – it has the profile of one of those rangy long-distance runners rather the power-packed, muscle-bound weightlifter alternative.

It’s similarly balanced through the rest of the frequency range. Lawrence’s vocals throughout Felt’s Forever Breathes The Lonely Word [Creation] aren’t done any favours in absolute terms–the poor lad’s just not much of a singer. But the Cyrus allows all his character, all his effort and all his commitment to shine, and the result is thrillingly informative. And though the organ is right at the front of the mix too, the One Cast doesn’t sound in any way crowded. It lays out a properly defined stage and allows every element a bit of breathing space.

Broadly speaking, the fundamentals of this sound–the deftness, the sheer quantity of information, and the even-handed tonal balance–is maintained across the Cyrus’ physical inputs too. Everything from a heavyweight reissue of Can’s Tago Mago [United Artists] via the phono stage to the blaring, grinding soundtrack of Christopher Nolan’s Inception [Warner Bros] using the HDMI ARC socket sounds full (but not rich), fast (but not hurried) and subtle (but not analytical). The headphone amp (accessed via a 6.3mm socket at the bottom right of the fascia) is similarly talented and enjoys a similar sonic balance.

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