Launched in 2011 for £699, the Cyrus CD transport filled a much-needed gap in a hi-fi world that was suddenly beginning to see a decline in the number of silver disc spinners being made. By this time, Linn had already announced it would not be selling a Compact Disc player in future, and the major Japanese manufacturers – with the notable exception of TEAC/Esoteric – were already long gone.
Cyrus Audio, on the other hand, decided to take the bull by the horns in 2008 and made its own CD mechanism, using its Servo Evolution platform that had bespoke Cyrus-written code. It represented a considerable investment, both financial and in time, the company’s then managing director Peter Bartlett told me. “We re-engineered both the core CD controller code used in all ICs, and we now know how to tune correctly the way the servo software drives the mechanical parts. I wanted to reduce the data errors created by inaccurate servo systems, finessed for the rigours of life in a car dashboard rather than a stable living room.”
The decision to rewrite the core code was a huge task that took three software engineers over a year, he says. This was partly due to Cyrus engineers having to “unravel the many workarounds successive large customers had requested over the core code to accommodate a mass market application”. He continues, “what we required was a system designed to get the maximum data off the CD with the fewest number of data errors. Once we understood the code (and had stripped out about half of it) we had a better base upon which to build our system. We then researched the best DVD laser and a matching sled system, both offering top-in-class performance. Then we had to write the sled/focus control code for these new components. The last and the easiest bit was to write code to control the loader that everyone thinks is important, because it is the visible bit!”
This Cyrus CD transport – CD t for short – had the then latest version of the company’s SE2 CD servo ‘engine’, which was claimed to read more data “right first time” from a disc than any other system. Despite being based on the CD Xt SE2, it cost half as much. The CD t was designed to match the company’s XPd range of DAC-enabled amplifiers, suggesting the 6XPd amplifier to “create a truly special hi-fi system with many upgrade options for the future.” The transport had all the features found in the top-of-the-range CDXt model, but without any provision for connecting a PSX-R power supply. All the same, it could be “affordably” upgraded to top-of-the-line CD Xt SE2 specification.
One thing I really liked at the time – and still do – is the slot-loading mechanism, which is much less fussy than a disc tray. Sadly, some early Cyrus SE mechs had flaky disc loading and ejecting – down to firmware issues which were later resolved. Overall, it’s a very neat bit of kit, housed as it is in the classic Cyrus diecast magnesium case that’s been the same since the launch of the Cyrus 3 CD player back in the mid nineties. It weighs 3.7kg and measures 215 x 78 x 360mm. The backlit LC display looks crisp and the player itself is easy to use. Round the back there are S/PDIF coaxial and optical TOSLINK digital outputs and MC-Bus connectivity for Cyrus system integration, and inside are separate power supplies for motors and electronics.
Sonically, this is easily the best cheap CD transport around – then and now. That may not be saying so much because it’s pretty much in a gang of one. The great thing is that it can be upgraded to the CD Xt SE2, and that turns it into a truly top-flight silver disc spinner. As it stands, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by its smoothness, detail and general poise – but upgrade it and it starts to become a really forensic thing with stronger bass and more spacious treble. Highly recommended, if you’re looking for a super slick, smart, compact and fuss free silver disc spinner that happens to sound very good indeed.