Whether due to reasons of convenience, cost, restricted space or purely education (or a mixture thereof), there is a relatively untapped market of music lovers who are at the moment favouring smart speakers and headphones over a more traditional chain of dedicated components.
With the One Cast, Cyrus has stepped forward to play a Pied Piper role, luring these potential customers to its range of integrated amplifiers with the promise of all those smart features they have come to expect.
The One Cast can be used with all three major voice assistants – namely Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri – as well as Chromecast, but it retains its serious audio aspirations, designed to show its audience just what is achievable in stereo sound without necessarily sacrificing these modern technologies.
But if you're looking to Cyrus to smarten up your home listening experience, you shouldn’t stick your existing smart speaker on eBay just yet: you’ll need it to work in tandem with the One Cast in order to unlock its hands-free features.
There’s no extra legwork involved to connect the two, they just need to be hooked up to the same network, but there’s no microphone on board.
It means those without a speaker will need to buy one, but we can’t imagine many baulking at the added cost of an Echo Dot having already set aside a hefty enough budget for this amp.
Power output 2x 100W
Headphone output Yes
Apple AirPlay Yes
Dimensions (hwd) 8.5 x 22 x 39cm
Cyrus has decided not to develop its own app for the One Cast, and that actually makes a whole lot of sense. Casting is made simpler, for starters, with the user needing only to set the unit up with Google Home and then hitting the cast button from whichever app they’re playing media.
This will also wake up a sleeping One Cast, and override any inputs already selected without having to find the remote or twist a dial.
It is also an admission that app development is not Cyrus’s forte, in the same way designing hi-fi components isn’t Spotify or Tidal’s strength. Having battled with many sub-par digital creations in the past, we’d agree it is probably a smart move.
Thanks also to Apple AirPlay 2 and built-in Bluetooth, it’s possible to play pretty much anything from compatible devices without the aid of a cable – though it’s worth noting the latter is not the aptX version found on the Cyrus One HD amp. This is a conscious decision, as the company believes most streaming will be done via cast.
That isn’t to say you can’t still plug outboard components in. The One Cast features both optical and coaxial SPDIF inputs for digital playback, as well as analogue RCA fittings, one of which leads to the on-board moving-magnet phono stage based on Cyrus’s Signature model.
Want to connect your TV and use the One Cast as a hub for all of your home entertainment endeavours? There’s an HDMI (ARC) input for that, as well as the option of configuring an analogue input for AV integration.
The fourth generation of the company’s Hybrid Class D amplifier is capable of outputting 2x 100W. There are pre-outs to connect to additional power amplifiers, and a high-power Class A/B headphone amp, while Speaker Impedance Detection will automatically calibrate the One Cast to your speakers.
What hasn’t changed since the introduction of the One HD – the last amplifier released in this line – is the sonic profile. Pleased with the performance of that four-star amp, Cyrus decided to tune the One Cast in much the same way. That should satisfy those in agreement with the company’s assessment, but means already we’re tempering our expectations before we’ve plugged in our reference speakers.
Certainly, Cyrus is able to allay the fears of anyone so-far shy to enter the hi-fi market on the basis of space or convenience. The One Cast piggybacks outboard smart speakers to offer all the intuitive features they offer, and, as far as is possible, its form is agreeably compact to suit most environments.
What it hasn’t tackled, however, is the price. The One HD wasn’t cheap at just under a grand, but Cyrus has here added almost a third of the price again.
It's rare that a product debuts at a price cheaper than its predecessor, but this price increase is hard to stomach, given that there has been no improvement to the sound quality.
The One Cast is also entering a market where value for money has vastly improved in recent years. But by the time you’ve added a pair of suitably-matched speakers, cables and a pair of stands, you’re bound to be at least a couple of grand down.
But even ignoring that, this does not feel like a mid-range amp. In fact, at a quarter of the price, it would likely only pass for adequate. The merits of its aesthetic design are a matter of personal preference, but there is a flimsiness to the overall build that massively belies the price tag.
The dials are anaemically lightweight, and it feels as though even a half-hearted tug at the front panel could rip the One Cast’s face clean off. Cyrus is operating at a price point where this kind of cheap feel is frankly inexcusable.
In terms of sonic presentation, the One Cast sounds like the One HD, for better and for worse. There’s plenty of weight and warmth to the sound, with nothing poking out as to cause disturbance, and the level of detail is reasonable.
If Cyrus is attempting to lure listeners used to smart speakers at a fraction of the price, then it certainly does so in terms of information.
Its balance and smoothness also bring versatility. You’ll want a clean-sounding pair of speakers, but this isn’t an amplifier that is easy to provoke. In that sense, there is cause for a certain amount of celebration.
But there is nothing here to suggest you’ve spent over a thousand pounds on a serious piece of hi-fi equipment. The One Cast finds timing a struggle and is less than adept at organising instruments so that their input feels beneficial. At best, it is all a bit messy; at worst, more intricate pieces can sound almost entirely unrehearsed.
Dynamics are a disappointment, too. There is little sense of urgency in what is delivered, nor much to suggest the artist is wholly convinced of what it is they’re trying to say. The line is not flat, but nor are we really roused by anything we hear.
This is the same performance as we heard with the One HD, but we are more critical than we were back then, mainly because the competition has improved. Put aside the in-built casting facilities and the One Cast is way behind amps such as the Cambridge Audio CXA81 or the CXA61 – both are much cheaper and far better made.
Cyrus’s aim of inviting a new generation of music fans to the hi-fi party is laudable. Nobody could argue that the adoption of modern technology to further the industry is a bad thing, but the One Cast really isn’t the best of advertisements for it.
It is easy to use and the casting and voice control capabilities are close to fool-proof, but those added features simply don’t make up for the fact the One Cast’s performance lags far behind the class-leaders. From the flimsy build to its underwhelming sonic output, it’s all just rather disappointing.
- Sound 3
- Features 5
- Build 2
Read our Cyrus One HD review
Read our Cambridge Audio CXA81 review