Cyrus has dominated the premium CD player market for more years than we care to remember. Its long-running and still current CDi model has won the premium CD player category in our Awards every year since its introduction in late 2013. That level of success says as much about the CDi’s quality as it does the state of competition in the CD player market.
Early this year Cyrus announced the new XR range, which sits above the existing Classic series that the CDi is part of. The XR range is made up of two integrated amplifiers, a preamp, an outboard power supply, and two CD playing products – a dedicated transport and the CDi-XR player on test here.
The CDi-XR looks a little too familiar for a supposedly all-new product, predominantly owing to the fact that it comes in the same half-width casing the brand has been using for decades. There’s nothing wrong with this half-width casing, mind. It gives a solid, low resonance foundation for the electronics to work from and lends Cyrus’s products a distinctive appearance that sets them apart from the competition.
Dig deeper and you’ll also find that the brand’s much–lauded slot-loading transport mechanism has been carried over too. This has long been another point of distinction between Cyrus’s players and those from rivals. It was originally introduced in late 2007 and represented a major investment from the brand. The idea was to assemble a dedicated transport kit and write proprietary control software for it that optimised its ability to extract the maximum amount of data first time rather than having to do re-reads. Cyrus claimed a 20 per cent improvement in reading errors at the time compared to the off-the-shelf units it used previously, which is a huge amount.
The CDi-XR’s big news technically is the use of the second-generation 32-bit QXR DAC platform. This is the latest version of Cyrus’s digital-to-analogue circuitry and is claimed to offer significant technical and sonic improvements over the previous edition. The company’s engineers have also worked hard on the power supply arrangement too, making the feed stiffer and quieter.
Features CD player; 32 bit 2nd Gen QXR DAC; Servo Evolution tech; SU-XR upgrade port; user-upgradable firmware
Outputs Twin analogue, optical and coaxial
Remote control iR14 Remote included
Dimensions (hwd) 73 x 215 x 360mm
Visually, the most obvious changes compared to the standard CDi are to the LCD display, which is now a little crisper and easier to read at an angle, and the use of new control buttons.
These new touch controls certainly look smarter than the more conventional press buttons used on the older player, but even after a few days of acclimatisation we find them inconsistent in response. Sometimes we press a button and it does what we expect, but occasionally we fail to get a response from the player, and that proves frustrating after a while. Of course, most owners will use the fully featured remote control instead, and in that case it all works slickly enough. Still, considering this is one of the key differentiators between the XR range and the older, cheaper Classic series, it’s disappointing.
Look around the back and you’ll find two pairs of RCA stereo analogue outputs, coax and optical digital outputs, and the MC-Bus connections that essentially allow an all-Cyrus system to synchronise things like power on/off.
You’ll also find a socket for Cyrus's new outboard power supply unit, the PSU-XR £1995 (around $2770/AU$3740). This power supply is claimed to be far more sophisticated and capable than the long-running PSX-R, and has the ability to power three separate circuits at up to 256 different power levels. We didn’t have one to hand during this test, but past experience with Cyrus’s outboard power supplies suggests that this is likely to be a good move when the upgrade itch strikes, despite the hefty outlay.
A source at this level demands a talented system in order to have any chance of shining. We have our usual reference set-up of Burmester’s 088/911 Mk III amplifier driving ATC’s SCM50 speakers to shine a spotlight on the CDi-XR’s performance. We also have more price-compatible kit such as Naim’s Nait XS3 integrated and KEF’s LS50 Metas speakers to hear how the Cyrus works in a more price-appropriate environment. The standard CDi is also warmed and ready for comparison purposes.
Those comparisons don’t take long. It’s easy to hear that the two players are related as they have a very similar sonic character, but there’s also no denying that the CDi-XR is clearly the more capable product. It sounds better than the older disc spinner in every way, delivering more detail, stronger dynamics and a far more powerful bass performance.
As we listen to the Jay Z/Kanye West collaboration Watch The Throne, we’re quickly made aware of the new player’s superior clarity. It renders sounds with greater precision and paints low-level information with more confidence. The presentation is significantly punchier, particularly at low frequencies where the CDi-XR produces notably more authority and weight. Despite the improvement in low-frequency heft, we’re pleased to report that the bass is as taut and agile as it should be.
Voices are well projected and it’s easy to follow Jay Z’s rapid-fire delivery throughout the album. Despite the more muscular lows, the player’s overall balance follows Cyrus tradition by landing slightly on the lighter, leaner side of neutral. It’s an analytical presentation but one that avoids charges of sterility thanks to a fine sense of musical cohesion and dynamic finesse. There’s little to complain about when it comes to rhythmic drive, with the CDi-XR able to communicate the energy and momentum of the music well.
We switch to Mahler’s Symphony No.2 and this plays right into the CDi-XR’s strengths. It’s a pleasingly organised performer that sets high standards in detail resolution and control. Instruments are painted with convincing textures and nuance, the orchestra is laid out convincingly in a nicely layered soundstage, and each instrument is locked in place no matter how demanding the music gets.
The CDi-XR does well with the larger-scale dynamic shifts of this piece too, able to deliver crescendos with the force they deserve. There’s a good dose of refinement here and little sense that the player is struggling when things get busy. Overall, it's a hugely impressive performance that puts the CDi-XR in the front row at this price as far as CD-playing sound quality is concerned.
While there’s little to complain about in performance, it’s in other areas that we wish Cyrus had pushed a bit harder. The CDi-XR feels like an update of the existing model rather than part of a new upmarket range. Even so, if you’re looking for a top-quality CD player at this level, ignore this one at your peril.
- Sound 5
- Build 4
- Features 3
Read our round-up of the best CD players for every budget
Read our review of the Cyrus CDi