Stage craft - Cyrus Audio
PHONO SIGNATURE
REVIEWS CYRUS
PHONO STAGE £1,200
CYRUS PHONO SIGNATURE
PHONO STAGE £1,200
various settings as they have been
configured. Highlight one, select it
with the rotary control and choose
the setting you want. The display
also includes a small but legible level
indicator, which is useful for setting
the required gain.
The rear panel is fairly busy with the
four inputs arranged in a row a little
too closely together to make for easy
connection. There’s the option of RCA
and XLR outputs and there are also
Cyrus-specific connections in the form
of MC-BUS ports and an input for a
PSX-R2 power supply.
This latter connection is one the
company recommends you take
advantage of. You can use it as a
standalone device, but Cyrus stresses
the Phono Signature was designed
with the PSX-R2 (£695) in mind and
so one is also supplied for review.
Sound is felt as
much as heard
without any trace
of bloat or bloom
Stage craft
Cyrus is back doing analogue once again,
and Ed Selley can’t help but be impressed
by this multi-input phono stage
N
ot so long ago, Cyrus
looked like it was on
the cusp of closing the
‘analogue window’ of its
products altogether. With DACs and
streamers doing a fine job doubling
as preamps and a healthy collection
of power amps, it seemed it had lost
interest in analogue connections.
But the boom in vinyl has caused the
Huntingdon-based company to revisit
its roots and look at making a vinyl
preamp once again some years after
its last phono stage ceased production,
and this one is no half measure.
Let’s start with some headline
specifications to set the scene. There
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are four inputs, each of which can
be configured for either movingmagnet or moving-coil operation.
If you choose the latter you also
have the option of setting the gain,
capacitance and impedance to best
suit the cartridge you have connected.
Best of all you can change the settings
using the remote control during
playback from the comfort of your
listening position.
If all of this seems a little excessive,
the reasoning behind the Phono
Signature is admirably straightforward.
Technical director Peter Bartlett
wanted the ability to change
capacitance and impedance ‘on the
DETAILS
PRODUCT
Cyrus Phono
Signature
ORIGIN
UK
TYPE
MM & MC phono
stage
WEIGHT
4.1kg
DIMENSIONS
(WxHxD)
215 x 73 x 360mm
FEATURES
l Four phono inputs
l Each input
configurable for MM
and MC loading
l RCA and
XLR outputs
DISTRIBUTOR
Cyrus Audio
TELEPHONE
01480 410900
WEBSITE
cyrusaudio.com
fly’ as the loading instructions for
many cartridges are suggestions
rather than hard and fast rules and
best performance can vary from
record to record. Once the Phono
Signature had been designed to
incorporate this functionality and the
attendant display fitted to make use
of the feature, it made little difference
to the final cost to manufacture it to
handle four cartridges.
Internally, it is no less sophisticated.
To allow for remote switching,
mechanical relays are used to switch
between the settings. These offer
lower distortion than manual
switches. These are then combined
with a design that combines immense
amounts of gain with extremely low
noise. The Phono Signature is able to
produce a maximum output voltage
of 9V RMS combined with signal-tonoise ratios of 87dBA for MM and
79dBA for MC. The long and the short
of it is that it should be able to
generate a suitable output level for
almost any cartridge and not make
unwanted noise while it does so.
This is all encased in the standard
Cyrus half-width casework and from
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the front, unless you read the display,
it would be easy to mistake the Phono
Signature for any other member of
the Cyrus range. The settings are
menu driven and while the
experience isn’t the most cohesive, it
is logical and easy to do. The display
shows the input selected and the
The Phono
Signature has
the classic Cyrus
look we’ve come
to know and love
Adding a PSX-R2 is not an issue in
space terms – the two units will sit
side by side on a conventional hi-fi
rack – but it does mean that you will
need two mains leads as it augments
rather than replaces the power supply
in the Signature. In the course of the
review, the phono stage is used both
with and without the PSX-R2 in place.
The supplied iR14 remote allows
full access to the menu features, but
there are a great many buttons that
don’t do anything specific to the
Signature. The good news is that the
remote can be set up to control two
other non-Cyrus devices for more
flexibility and even without any
programming, the volume commands
REVIEWS
prove functional on a Naim Supernait
2 amp. The iR14, isn’t the most
beautiful device ever, but it is well
built, easy to use and has some useful
extra features.
Even used on its own, the Cyrus has
some notable attributes. The first is
that it is a supremely quiet phono
stage and is completely silent at idle.
Connected to an Avid Ingenium Twin
with Nagaoka MP-150 movingmagnet cartridge (HFC 375) on one
side and Audio-Technica AT33PTG/II
moving-coil cartridge (HFC 402) on
the other, the Phono Signature is
almost supernaturally quiet. If your
turntable is free of noise, you can rest
assured that it won’t add any of its
own and regardless of any gain
setting, the Cyrus remains ultra quiet.
Sound quality
With no extraneous noise in the signal
you can easily hear what the Cyrus is
up to and the news is equally good.
This is not a phono stage you buy to
romanticise vinyl. It will display no
more warmth or bloom than is
naturally on the record itself. The
trade off to this is that it is at times
startlingly vivid. With the Nagaoka
MP-150 cartridge playing Nils Frahm’s
Spaces album, it is in its element. The
absence of noise allows the rustling
and murmur of the audience to be
easily discerned and the all-important
piano is rendered with incredible
vividness and energy. The scale of the
presentation is fantastic. The gain
levels mean its scale is effortlessly
reproduced without the amplification
having to break into a sweat.
Spend a little more time with the
Cyrus and it becomes clear that this is
a wonderfully natural and involving
phono stage. Fink’s Wheels Turn
Beneath My Feet is exceptionally
real. Greenall’s vocals are filled with
CONNECTIONS
2
1
1
2
4
www.hifichoice.co.uk
Cyrus-specific
MC-BUS port
Four RCA inputs
with earthing points
3
PSX-R2 power
supply input
4
Balanced
XLR outputs
3
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PHONO SIGNATURE
REVIEWS CYRUS
PHONO STAGE £1,200
Q&A
Peter Bartlett
Technical consultant, Cyrus
ES: It has been some years since
Cyrus has produced a phono stage.
What prompted the decision to
produce the Phono Signature?
PB: The RoHS directive unfortunately
ended the Phono X and at that time
we wanted to focus on developing
our streaming platform and then the
Lyric all-in-one system, therefore it
has taken more time than we would
ideally have wanted to get back onto
a new phono stage. In the meantime,
several of our team have purchased
new turntables and became very
excited by vinyl, just like our customers.
Was the decision to make the Phono
Signature adjustable via remote
taken at the outset of development
or did it evolve by degrees?
The initial ‘blue sky’ staff meeting that
always precedes our Functional
Requirement Specification (FRS)
document listed this as a must-have
feature. We all have precious LPs,
some bought as teenagers, that
sound frustratingly coloured; the
ability to tweak the loading – and
thereby the sonic balance – is now an
essential feature that we could not
now live without. It’s this type of
collective planning that makes
working in a privately owned,
enthusiast company so exciting.
The Phono Signature has XLR
outputs – is the circuit balanced
throughout or only at this point?
It’s designed with a correctly
balanced output stage. This is
included for those who want to use
longer cables to a preamp. One
could argue that balanced cables
would potentially reduce any issues
between chassis or interference
induced in a poorly isolated phono
lead. However, we fully expect most
owners to use quality phono cables.
The Phono Signature carries out a
single function rather than multiple
roles – is this an indicator of future
Cyrus product development?
Future Cyrus models will become
even more focused on performance
to satisfy the demands of our
audiophile customers.
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The supplied
iR14 remote
allows settings
to be adjusted
on the fly
HOW IT
COMPARES
Avid’s Pulsus, Whest’s
PS.30R and Roksan’s
RPP are all comparative
with the Cyrus and
PSX-R2, and the Roksan
in particular can come
close to matching its
exceptionally quiet
performance. What
none of these phono
stages can do is offer
the adjustment
flexibility of the Phono
Signature. All of them
offer the option to
adjust the settings for
the cartridge you are
using, but only the
Cyrus can do this
via remote during
playback. More
pressingly, the ability
of the Cyrus to handle
multiple carts is hard
to replicate. There is
nothing that is able
to match the Phono
Signature’s ability to
handle up to four
cartridges at once.
texture and energy and are layered
on top of the supporting instruments
in such a way as to be part of the
piece without ever being lost in it.
The extended version of Sort Of
Revolution is also underpinned by
phenomenal bass. At various points,
a huge hand drum is struck and the
sound is felt as much as heard and
the Phono Signature handles it
without any trace of bloat or bloom.
It also has energy and a sense of fun
that shines through. Listen to the
wonderful Rose Rouge by St Germain
and the Cyrus simply grooves. Every
beat and break is relayed with the
The absence of noise
allows the murmur
of the audience
to be discerned
speed and precision of an atomic
clock and within seconds you are
completely immersed in the music.
The more genres of music you
throw at it, the more skilful it
becomes. You can spend an evening
kicking off with the beautifully
intimate and melancholy Pink Moon
by Nick Drake, move on to the
powerful blues of the Mark Lanegan
Band and finish with Underworld’s
Dubnobasswithmyheadman and the
Cyrus will handle every note with the
discretion of a well-trained personal
assistant. This is not a device that will
drastically alter the characteristics of
your analogue source, but will instead
show you exactly what your turntable
is capable of without putting itself
into the mix.
The Signature Phono is also a
seriously accomplished movingmagnet phono stage. It uses fixed
settings to follow the RIAA curve and
even without any tweakery at work,
the fundamental qualities shine
through. It simply gets out of the way
and allows the virtues of the cartridge
to shine through.
The ability to adjust cartridge
settings in real time is interesting, but
with the Audio-Technica the results
are subtle. The very idea that you can
make the adjustments at all while sat
in your listening position rather than
peering at dip switches is wonderful
and although it helps with setup
enormously, you will be keen to stop
tweaking and get listening. Adding
the PSX-R2 is a very worthwhile
undertaking. The effect on the
performance is subtle but effective.
The space and separation improves
further and the already superb
tonality takes another step forward. If
you can budget for it, the benefits are
certainly worthwhile.
Conclusion
Even if you can’t add in the PSX-R2,
this is a superb offering and a
welcome arrival to the ranks of
high-end phono stages – and indeed
judged by the prices of many rivals
it is something of a bargain. This is a
device that genuinely delivers on the
promise of vinyl as a high-resolution
format and the fact that it does
so while offering class-leading
functionality and flexibility makes
it very special indeed l
OUR VERDICT
SOUND QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
BUILD QUALITY
FEATURES
LIKE: Exceptionally
flexible; ease of use;
performance with
multiple carts
DISLIKE: Display; won’t
flatter poor recordings
WE SAY: A remarkable
phono stage with
tremendous flexibility
and exceptional sound
OVERALL
www.hifichoice.co.uk
17/02/2016 14:12
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