Cyrus ONE Cast Integrated Amplifier Review

The latest member of the ONE range of amplifiers takes Cyrus’ baby in a slightly different direction and to a new price point. Is this the ONE you want?

by Ed Selley
Hi-Fi Review

11

Recommended
Cyrus ONE Cast Integrated Amplifier Review
SRP: £1,299.00

Introduction - What is the Cyrus ONE Cast?

The Cyrus ONE Cast is an integrated amplifier. It is visibly almost identical to other members of the ONE range of integrated amps (of which we have looked at both HERE and HERE) but brings some new functionality to the range. The reasons for this are increasingly logical when the wider market is looked at. At all price points up to the low thousands, the notion of ‘amp’ and ‘source’ is breaking down to the point where it has little real meaning any more. All the ONE Series amps have been able to work with this but the ONE Cast is self-contained in a way that breaks new ground for the range.

To do this, Cyrus has decided to leverage existing, mainstream software options to give the ONE some clever streaming functionality and tweaked the supporting inputs for a more ‘2020 friendly’ selection of connections. With this, the price has gone up a little and the ONE Cast sits firmly in the sights of some very talented rivals that are more conventional in their overall specification but offer sparkling performance. Is this the best iteration of the Cyrus affordable platform, or in trying to be an all-in-one alternative, does it drop the ball?

Specification and Design

Cyrus ONE Cast
The ONE Cast is virtually unchanged from the front

Crucial to the development of a family of ONE devices is that the amp section of all the variations is the same. For some, the design of this amp will remain a contentious one because it is a class D unit. Cyrus ranks as one of the earlier adopters of the topology and their work both elsewhere and here in the ONE is rather more developed than finding a module then whacking it in anything that fits. Peer inside a ONE of any flavour and the sight of a hulking great toroid PSU looking back at you should be an indicator that this isn’t a dinky convenience fitment. There’s also the not inconsequential detail that the performance of this amp in the other variations of the ONE has been rather good.

The most technically interesting attribute is the impedance matching system. Cyrus quotes an output of 100 watts into 6 (not the more common 8) ohms - presumably because this allows the number to have three rather than two digits. On startup though, the ONE will study the impedance characteristics of the speaker connected to it and adjust the output to suit. This is potentially handy because there are a fair few bookshelf speakers in particular that present a basically benign impedance most of the time before springing a surprise at a point somewhere on their frequency response. The ONE should be able to nullify that.   

As the name suggests, the main difference with the ONE Cast is that it is fitted with the ability to join the Google Cast system via on board hardware. Connect it to a network and it will be visible as a device to which you can cast from a wide selection of apps and devices. Cyrus has additionally ensured that it can be assigned to the various voice control options that are available mass market. Interestingly, the first ONE we tested - the basic amp - pre-empted this as it was being bundled with a Chromecast that allowed for a similar set of features. This is a neater option though as it has no need of a second power supply and the voice control functionality will appeal if that is your thing.

Cyrus ONE Cast
The inputs are completely revised however 

Cyrus has taken the opportunity to give the ONE Cast a selection of functionality that better matches the Cast functionality. AirPlay2 is supported, allowing the Cyrus to join a whole house network of such devices and give another bombproof streaming option. This is now present alongside Bluetooth which is broadly the same as the impressive implementation in the ONE HD but omits the BLE (Low Energy) section of the fitment which has a control implication that we’ll come to in a bit.

The rest of the input choices are rather good though. There is a single example of an optical, coaxial and USB connection; the latter of which supports 32/192 and DSD 128. This is joined by an HDMI ARC connection and a moving magnet phono stage partnered with a single line level RCA input. There is an RCA pre out - more realistically for connecting a subwoofer than a power amp but useful nonetheless. This is a quintessentially up to date selection of connections - wide but shallow. It might seem limiting to only have one of each connection type but I’m also struggling to think what I couldn’t connect up with the inputs available and unless your interests stem to both SACD and moving coil cartridges, there isn’t much I can come up with. You also get a headphone socket to round things off nicely.

This is mounted in the same chassis as the other ONE Series amps and I’ve already made it clear in the other reviews that I think this is a good thing. It’s a clever piece of industrial design that manages to look tidy and up to date and still provides a callback to the amp that it shares a name with. This non overt retro futurism is something that is very hard to do and it has been balanced really well here - to the extent that it does rather show up the design aesthetic of the mainstream Cyrus products as a little long in the tooth. As set out of the box, the LED indicators are at ‘small sun’ levels of brightness but this is easily adjusted via the remote.

Cyrus ONE Cast

The remote is a slight source of consternation though. This is a different handset to that used on the basic ONE (or at least it was) and a completely different approach to the Bluetooth app used on the ONE HD. The good news is that this handset is physically nicer than the one that the original came with and slightly thicker and harder to lose with it. The not so good news is that it makes some retrograde steps at the same time. There is no direct input selection and the volume ramp has been tied to the Cast volume system so the speed of adjustment from the handset itself is glacial. If the BLE part of the original fitment was here, it would have been possible use the Bluetooth remote of the ONE HD as a backup but sadly, this isn’t possible.

In better news, the ONE Cast is still a well made and sturdy feeling device that feels worth the asking price. This price has climbed over the ONE and ONE HD but these devices need source equipment which the ONE Cast doesn’t. In many ways, the ONE Cast should be better seen as an alternative to an all in one system and this means it can look better value than simply regarding it as an ambitious amp. It also isn’t as if the Cyrus replaces the other ONE variants either.

 

In many ways, the ONE Cast should be better seen as an alternative to an all in one system and this means it can look better value than simply regarding it as an ambitious amp

How was the ONE Cast Tested?

The Cyrus was connected to an IsoTek Evo3 Aquarius mains conditioner and placed on my wireless network. It was Cast to principally via an iPad air with additional listening occurring via a Roon Nucleus connected via USB. The optical input was tested via an LG 55B7 OLED and the phono stage with a Rega Planar 10 and Sumiko Songbird, high output moving magnet cartridge. Speakers used have principally been the PMC twenty5 21i. Test material has included FLAC, AIFF, DSD, Tidal, Qobuz, on demand TV and some vinyl.

More: Audio Formats - What It All Means

Performance

Cyrus ONE Cast
The remote is clunky but useable 

Let’s open this with succinct summary; the ONE Cast sounds much the same as the ONE HD with which it shares decoding. In so many ways, we’d be asking more searching questions if it didn’t. Within this statement are some significant achievements though. The first is that the Cast implementation in the Cyrus is very good. Running some A-B tests between files on Qobuz streamed over USB from the Roon Nucleus and then cast via iPad, there are differences between the two and the USB connection remains the best way of listening to the Cyrus (for the most part, which we’ll cover) but it is extremely impressive how close the cast implementation gets. Revisiting the gorgeously tongue in cheek Highway Queen by Nikki Lane, the Cast stream does justice to her brilliant voice and knowing lyrics, supported by understated yet excellent musicianship.

Like the ONE HD, speaker choice will have a significant effect on how you perceive the presentation of the ONE Cast to be. The newly added space and refinement of the PMC twenty5 21i is a great match for the Cyrus creating a partnership that plays to the strength of both devices, combining the speed and fluency of the amp with the weight and three dimensionality of the speakers. It is quite likely that two thousand pounds might be more than many people want to spend on partnering the Cyrus but it’s plenty good enough to make the partnership work. I suspect that the recently tested Acoustic Energy AE500 would be a fine partner at a lower price point too.

Cyrus ONE Cast
The classic 'singing shoebox' profile is retained

This does mean my criticisms are going to be very similar too. Partnered incorrectly, the presentation is likely to be fractionally edgy and lean but I’ve found this less pronounced with the versions with the DAC on board as the digital and amplifier sections complement each other very well. Provided that any care is taken, the Cyrus is a fine partner for TV viewing because it manages to extract plenty of detail, keeping on screen dialogue clear and easy to follow and working well at lower volumes too. Regrettably, the failure of the HDMI ARC socket on my LG precludes this from being tested but its inclusion certainly furthers the Cyrus’ post AV credentials.

I’m also going to sing the praises of the phono stage again. It’s the same unit as the one in the other versions of the ONE and the increase in price does mean that this is the same price as the superb example inside the Exposure XM5 but the Cyrus holds its own. Thanks to damaging the cable on my SME arm, I took the unusual step of running the Planar 10 via a high output moving coil cartridge that can be used into a moving magnet phono stage. In price terms, it is a classic case of effortlessly overmatching the target but the Cyrus holds its own. This is an amp able to offer the most convenient of convenience digital and still do justice to a more ornate vinyl front end at the same time.

 

Provided that any care is taken, the Cyrus is a fine partner for TV viewing because it manages to extract plenty of detail, keeping on screen dialogue clear and easy to follow and working well at lower volumes too

Verdict

Pros

  • Sounds very good
  • Excellent selection of inputs
  • Well made and easy to use

Cons

  • Clunky remote
  • Offers no sonic improvement over cheaper ONE HD
  • Slow volume ramp

Cyrus ONE Cast Integrated Amplifier Review

Given the performance of the ONE Cast is so similar to the ONE HD, the question of its worth boils down to two different calculations. Is it worth a £300 price premium over the One HD? This depends almost entirely on what equipment you already have to your name. If you have a server source of some description and you aren’t looking to connect a TV, the ONE HD makes more sense. If you have the budget for a ONE Cast and also have source equipment, the Exposure XM5 is the better amp - not by much but by enough.

If you are without source equipment though, this calculation changes. The ONE Cast is self-contained, needing nothing other than a device to cast from. The HDMI ARC connection makes it more TV friendly and the presence of a slow but serviceable remote handset will be helpful too. Cyrus has taken their capable integrated amp and taken it to the very threshold of an all in one system and managed to keep the positive aspects of both. The ONE Cast is a welcome addition to the ONE range and earns our enthusiastic recommendation.

Recommended

Scores

Build Quality

.
.
8

Connectivity

.
9

Ease of use

.
9

Features

.
.
8

Audio quality

.
.
8

Value for money

.
.
8

Overall

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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