The Cyrus CD8se looks a long way from a player costing £1100. Finished in various shades of silver, it sports a row of narrow control buttons, boasts a load/eject mechanism that almost gives you the disc before snatching it back a bit, and features a lumpy remote control – all while being scarcely the size of a shoebox…
The whole proposition is unpromising. Look at it alongside the Yamaha CD-S2000 handsome entrant; the Cyrus may as well be wearing health service glasses with a plaster over one lens and a built-up shoe.
That's one aspect of the Cyrus. The other is the way it makes your CDs sound. And that's when the CD8se stops being a bit of a runt and instead is revealed as quite the best CD player this sort of money can buy.
No matter what you choose to play (we ran from Sir Simon Rattle/Berliner Philharmoniker's Carmina Burana to Dr Alimantado's Best Dressed Chicken In Town), the Cyrus simply dazzles with the vibrancy and authority of its performance.
Effortless musicalityPunchy, balanced and impeccably poised, it seems to have a hardwired connection to the emotional centre of recordings – allied to its effortless musicality, forensic detail retrieval and masterful control of timing, it makes for an endlessly absorbing player that can rob you of your time in the most gripping way.
More after the break
It's tough to find meaningful fault with the sound of the CD8se, but Lord knows we'll give it a go. It's never brash or overpowering, but there's no doubt the Cyrus is an upfront, attacking listen – if it's accompanied by equally enthusiastic amp and speakers, you may end up with a sound a little too gung-ho for some tastes.
Really though, the CD8se is such an accomplished and downright enjoyable player, we'd let it dictate our choice of partnering equipment. It's not as if it's especially sniffy about the system it's in, and it will reward you mightily.
It would be easy to dismiss the Cyrus lined up against rivals on a dealer's shelf. Once you hear it, it's impossible to ignore.