Cyrus Audio Stream XA
Input: Ethernet, WiFi, 2x Toslink, 3x Coax S/PDIF, USB Type-A for USB storage, RS232, PSX-R connection (for optional external power supply), MC-BUS connection
Output: 1x Coax S/PDIF, 2x RCA Fixed,
Dimensions: 73 x 215 x 360 mm
Availability: Authorized Dealers
UK-based Cyrus Audio has been in the Hi-Fi game for 32 years starting out with one of the very first specialist CD players. Fast forward to today, and you're looking at a company that offers roughly 30 products from streamers to preamps, to power amps and a few combinations thereof. We're going to be playing with the Stream XA which combines a UPnP/DLNA network player, the Cadence control app for iOS and Android devices, and DAC all-in-one.
The Stream XA employs a TI/Burr-Brown PCM1791ADB DAC that can handle PCM resolutions up to 24/192. The XA supports MP3, AAC, Apple Lossless (digital from iPod), Windows Media-formatted content-9 (up to 320kbit/s), AIFF, WAV and FLAC (via UPnP or USB) formats as well as gapless playback. The Stream XA offers a number of digital inputs including 3x Coax S/PDIF, 2x Toslink, USB Type-A for USB storage and iOS devices, as well as Ethernet to connect to your NAS. There's also a MC-BUS connection to connect to other Cyrus devices for universal control, a PSX-R connection input if you opt for the Cyrus PSX-R external power supply, and the Bluetooth and WiFi antennas. Finishing up the backside there's an RS232 port "reserved for future use", and the IEC inlet for the included power cord.
The Stream XA shares the same Cyrus pressure die-cast aluminum chassis which is common throughout the Cyrus line and feels very solid less so if you reach around the bottom which is molded plastic. The front panel houses a Standby button, Mute and Headphone buttons which do not apply to the XA, a row of 7 push buttons including Music which connects you to the Ethernet input, Radio which connects you to TuneIn Radio and their over 100,000 radio stations and over 4,000,000 podcasts, AUX which steps through the other digital inputs, three basic playback functions (Back, Next, Previous), and the Menu button. There's also a large-ish rotary/push control that lets you step through the current tracks in the queue as well as perform basic menu commands. Sitting dead center is the 2 1/2 inch display which shows the track name, artist, and album for the current selection as well as menu commands when engaged.
I connected to the Stream XA with a length of AudioQuest Cinnamon Ethernet cable to my network and made sure to attach the included ferrite clamp. The ferrite is required for the XA to meet EMM standards. I chose to stream from my QNAP NAS which houses my library in AIFF format running Twonky Media Server.
I also downloaded and installed the Cyrus Cadence control app on my iPad which served as control throughout the review. The Cadence app will be very familiar to anyone who has used any UPnP control point. It offers various views into your library including Album, Artist, Artist/Album, etc. Overall the app was a breeze to use but I found it lagged a bit when rendering my roughly 1,000-album library. I used Album view as it's my favorite view into my music.
The Sound of Cyrus
The Stream XA's way with music is decidedly smooth, dark, and handsome. Initial impressions turned out to be lasting in that the XA offers a forgiving sound that tends to soften the musical image and impact. Dynamics in particular are a bit shelved down from ultimate snap and slam but there's a nice balance to the overall sound.
I spent a more than a few weeks listening to the XA as is my wont even though the review sample appeared to be well worn. That new car smell had long since given way to signs of use which is fine by me but may make the pictures less than ideal. In terms of its overall character, I'd peg the Stream XA in the kind camp, presenting music with no rough edges or bite. Everything just flows like honey. I found that the XA gave a lovely golden glow to acoustic music in particular and Bach's St. Matthew Passion was offered up in fine fettle, the individual voices and instruments nicely portrayed within a relatively large sound space. I have heard bigger and airier presentations, the XA sounding just a tad condensed.
I found that the Stream XA did not fare as well with bass heavy electronica due to its softer sound and a somewhat shelved down deep bass response. D'Angelo's Black Messiah (24/96) lost some of its impact and drive making for a less-than-engaging experience. That said, Charlie Haden's upright bass on Don Cherry's Art Deco (CD rip) sounded nicely fit and full along with the rest of the band but the softness I've mentioned remained apparent. Another strength of the XA is well recorded vocal music. Jimmy Scott's All The Way (24/192 HDtracks) was convincingly sumptuous as was Nina Simone's Little Girl Blue (24/96 eClassical).
In an attempt to put together a similarly priced and featured package for comparison, I switched to the Auralic Aries ($1599) using the iFi iDSD DAC ($189) and found more heft and more weight to the sound. "Cubana" from the lovely A Calm In The Fire of Dances by Deep Rhumba contains but one instrument— a tenor saxophone played by Charles Neville. This recoding has a wonderful and natural sense of space and Neville's sax typically sounds nice and physically present. While the Aries/iFi combo dug this out, the Cyrus sounded less physical lacking in full harmonic weight and the level of clarity offered by the Aries/iFi combo.
The Stream XA's strengths lie in a well balanced presentation with no hint of etch or glare. There's also no sense of the music being overly analytical or too finely detailed. The overall sound image is easy to get lost within and there's a nice sense of the varied voices that make up the whole.
Easy Does It
If you are looking for a one box solution for playing your NAS-based music and Internet Radio, just add amplification, that offers a smooth and relaxed sound, the Cyrus Stream XA may be for you.
Also in-use during the Stream XA review: Auralic Aries/iFi iDSD DAC