Article Index
Cyrus Stream X
p2 Set up and use
p3 Sound quality
p4 Conclusion
p5 Measured performance
All Pages


From Hi-Fi World - March 2012 issue
BUY THE MAGAZINE (back issues subject to availability)



The Stream comes in three different flavours. The Stream X we tested is the simplest and cheapest version. Priced at £1400 it is hardly ‘cheap’ and this version is a relatively simple home streamer that reads music from your computer, from iPod or iPhone via digital USB cable (not dodgy analogue from the headphone jack!), plays internet radio, or reads from six digital inputs: five S/PDIF  and one USB, on the rear only.

There are no analogue outputs, meaning no on-board digital to analogue convertor (DAC), so connection must be made by the single S/PDIF digital output , an electrical connection via phono socket. Cyrus don’t even provide an optical TOSLINK digital output – always my preference for its slightly smoother sound – and S/PDIF does not support high resolution 24/192 stereo. So the Stream X cannot handle top resolution digital, Cyrus quoting 24/96 only in their literature, but more about this later.

There are two TOSLINK inputs, so a CD transport can be connected up via optical cable for example, but the signal is routed through to the digital output.
The absence of analogue outputs means connection must be made into a ‘digital’ amplifier, meaning one equipped with an internal DAC like a Cyrus 6XPd, or into an AV receiver, or into a stand-alone DAC. However, as the Stream X does not have an on-board digital volume control, such a DAC cannot feed a power amplifier direct; it must go into an amplifier’s Aux input, unless the DAC has its own volume control or a passive preamp with remote control of volume is used (oh, the options!).

A DAC and analogue outputs are fitted to the Stream XP (£2000), in both fixed and variable form. The DAC does handle 24/192 Cyrus told me. Then there is the Streamline, which has an on-board 30 Watt power amplifier that drive loudspeakers direct, price £1600. With less functionality than the Cambridge NP30, price £400, the Stream X looks costly, but it has some serious ability.

One big difference between these Cyrus streamers and all others are their lavish n-remote control that brings the interface to the user. Where with most other players a small screen on the streamer itself, usually far from the user on the other side of the lounge, offers the only view of what can be lengthy menu trees, Cyrus provide a remote control with a 40mm x 50mm colour display screen that is pin sharp, bright and crystal clear. So in the late night Stygian gloom of my lounge I had no trouble scouring my computer’s menus. As stepping through Windows style menu trees are a pet hate of mine, anything that makes their navigation easier gets a big thumbs up from me (OK, I was using a Mac so I can’t really blame Microsoft for the tedium of menu trees!). Trouble is, fancy screens like this need power, making an on-board Lithium-ion battery and a charging system for it necessary.

Well, at least you don’t have to worry about replacing AAAs any more.  But there is a small penalty to pay. The remote must be left on a dock to recharge, or connected up direct to the USB charging cable that itself runs into a small wall wart power unit that Cyrus supply. Ours was a little shaky in its bayonet connection with a 13A plug interface so we used an Apple iPhone power unit that puts 5V down a USB lead in exactly the same way. The battery obviously has quite a large capacity because it takes 4-6hrs to fully charge it seemed – an overnight job. Whilst the Stream X has a yellow fluorescent screen that is as legible as that of most streamers, the n-remote was always preferable. Also, because it is ‘wireless’ (i.e. radio transmission) and not infra-red, it can activate the unit from another room.

Although the remote’s screen and clear text were a blessing, the control buttons could have been better arranged and sized. The Return button in particular was a victim to style consistency, looking the same as other less used buttons surrounding it, and Naim manage without a Return button, using Scroll Back instead. Button function was consistent and sequences logical, unlike Cocktail Audio’s X10 streamer for example.

There are many ways to set up a network streamer like this, as Cyrus note in their PDF owners  manual (there is no paper manual, only a quick setup leaflet). Our system comprised both Mac and PC computers on a wired Ethernet home network, both with UPnP music servers. The Stream X fed a Marantz SR-8002 AV receiver, able to handle 24/96 over an S/PDIF digital link.  Faced with 24/192 from a USB memory stick, however, the Cyrus reported ‘file error’ and remained silent so as I said earlier, this version of the Stream series cannot handle 24/192.



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