Possibly the hardest-working component in hi-fi, the Cyrus case moulding has done some impressive things in its time, but surely few are quite as surprising as hosting six-analogue and five-digital inputs, plus twin pre-out, Zone 2 out (usable as a record output), MC- Bus in/out, headphone socket, PSX-R power supply socket and bi-wire loudspeaker outputs, all on a rear panel one hand-span wide. You do end up needing slim fingers to plug and unplug, but that’s hardly a big deal when kit like this is unlikely to sell to full-on system- tweakers.
The digital input provision is particularly appealing. Five inputs (including one USB) is more than you get on any sensibly priced DAC and makes this amp a perfect choice for modern systems with assorted analogue and digital sources. It also features sensitivity trim for each input, again something you won’t find on most standalone DACs and while, in principle, this shouldn’t be relevant for digital inputs it can be handy when one of them is from a dynamically compressed source such as TV or radio, which will otherwise sound much louder than full dynamic-range sources like CD.
The mains transformer is a generous sized toroidal lump, so intelligent use of electronic switching components and surface-mount parts for almost everything else has made the circuitry quite compact. Cyrus mentions the use of extensive power supply regulation, something that can be taken further by using the PSX-R which replaces the internal transformer for most functions except the main output.
Operation is pleasant, with the graphic display showing useful information. You have to scroll through the inputs, which can be renamed to suit your use.
There are many good things in this amp’s sound, but it would be dishonest not to report that there were also some misgivings by our blind listeners. Most serious among these is that there is some shrillness in the sound, which accentuates any brightness present in a recording and can make it cross the line between enjoyable and annoying.
On the other hand, there is a flip side to that coin: the sound is very ‘fast’ and, with the right sort of music, exciting. As so often, this comes down, at least, in part to a question of taste.
If you like that kind of sound and/or music, this is a good amp to investigate. In addition, there’s the question of system matching, especially speakers. We used Bowers and Wilkins speakers for the main listening test, which aren’t markedly one thing or another – obviously useful for reviewing purposes. If you have laid-back speakers, though, this amp will be unusually successful in bringing them to life, ditto if you have a rather lazy-sounding source.
Tonally, the 8 XP d’s qualities are dominated by that shrillness, which often makes the bass seem by contrast rather recessed. Detail is not bad, but if one’s attention is directed towards the treble one might not notice that the midband is actually very informative. Dynamics are not the widest in the group and seems a little ‘lumpy’, progressing in discrete stages rather than a gradual ramp from loud to soft and back.
It’s a shame that such a well-specified product, with many practical things going for it, is hampered in this way. Even more frustratingly, the DAC is very good, giving excellent results via the preamp outputs. Maybe Cyrus has just tried to make it do too much?
WE SAY: Sound is fast, lively and pretty well detailed, but is let down by some shrillness which can quickly grate on the ear and which distracts from the good midrange and bass. Excellent features count, but at a sonic price.
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