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Cyrus Audio CDi-XR CD Player: Review

Does it make sense to spend $3,000 on a CD player in 2022? The Cyrus Audio CDi-XR does its best to make the case for it.

Cyrus Audio CDi-XR CD Player Front

The recently released RIAA H1 2022 Recorded Music Revenue Report offered a rather interesting snapshot of where we are in the United States in terms of music consumption, but it was also notable for three trends that can’t be swept under the rug. The Cyrus Audio CDi-XR is affected by these trends but that does not diminish what it brings to the table.

Physical music sales only represent 10% of the total market in 2022; streaming is now 84% of the market and while there was not a huge uptick for audiophile platforms like TIDAL, Qobuz, and Deezer — they are not going away anytime soon.

Vinyl sales jumped 22% during the first 6 months of 2022, but there are some takeaways from that modest level of growth as we move into the post-pandemic economy that is hampered by high inflation, and supply chain issues that persist.

During the same period in 2021, vinyl sales surged by over 97% — record stores were still closed in many places so consumers were forced to purchase vinyl online, there were 2 Record Store Day events, live music venues were still shuttered, and people were not traveling. Consumers were stuck at home and could streaming movies and television or buy music with the money they were not spending on gas, travel, live music, sporting events, and movies.

CD sales increased for the first time in 17 years in 2021, up 21% to $584 million — which gave false hope to the notion that CDs were about to experience a resurgence. The RIAA H1 2022 report made it rather clear that post-pandemic CD sales have taken another dip.

RIAA Mid-Year 2022 U.S. Physical Music Revenues

New CD sales reversed their 2021 gains, going from 18.4 million to 17.7 million units and from $204.3 million to $199.7 million. Not a gargantuan drop but any reversal has to be seen as a negative.

The situation abroad is very different with CD sales still doing relatively well in Asia and Europe; China, Japan, India, and Germany are still strong markets for the format.

Are products like the Cyrus Audio CDi-XR CD Player still relevant? We think so and manufacturers that we have spoken to report above average sales for all of their CD players this year.

Cyrus Audio CDi-XR CD Player Lifestyle Angle Left

The fact is that listening to music on physical media isn’t dead and vinyl records (and even audio cassettes) may not be your only choice in that realm. The ability to own music on a physical medium is important. You are probably wondering why that is important to you.

Physical media is still very relevant; we discovered that to be very true when Rogers’ mobile and wireless networks collapsed all across Canada forcing almost 33% of Canada’s population offline. No Wi-Fi. No cable. No music or video streaming for over 24 hours and even longer for some customers.

Being 14 hours from home during such a weekend wasn’t ideal and it was also right in the middle of my review of the Marantz CD60 CD Player. French River wasn’t such a bad place to be — it only highlighted how our access can vanish in a moment.

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French River
French River, Ontario

One of the reasons why CDs are still popular with consumers is clearly cost — it’s hard to say no to $3 or $5 used CDs that are still in decent shape. That becomes an even better deal when you look at how expensive new vinyl releases run. Why purchase 1 new vinyl release when you can have 5 CDs? 

The other reason is ownership. Physical ownership. Younger listeners did not grow up with CDs and they represent yet another physical format that they can own and not for a lot of money. 

The final reason is sound quality. Audiophiles conveniently forget the days when they spent thousands on separate transports and DACs, before the hi-fi press decided that a CD player was good enough. Before moving on to streamers and very expensive DACs again. 

CDs can sound great or putrid. The same reality exists with records as well. 

For those of us with thousands of CDs, there is no reason to pretend that we don’t need a CD player. I own 3 of them.

Cyrus Audio CDi-XR CD Player Front

Cyrus Audio CDi-XR

Cyrus has nearly four decades of experience creating award-winning products, designed and assembled entirely in-house at Cyrus in the UK. From the start, Cyrus’s mission has been to infuse the latest in technology with top flight engineering to create ‘emotional’ musical experiences for listeners.

It is also a brand that has not had solid distribution in North America until now. Fidelity Imports has a great lineup of brands including Unison Research, Opera, and Acoustic Energy under its umbrella and they are already expanding the dealer network in a significant way.

Cyrus Audio told me during a recent interview while reviewing the i7-XR Integrated Amplifier that fundamental step changes in their design approach for the entire XR series have been possible due to an accumulated understanding of DAC technologies and power supply designs, combined with recently updated manufacturing processes and the availability of higher-grade components.

For the XR series, Cyrus says its engineers were free to select components based on efficiency and optimal performance, without consideration of cost. In designing these products from the ground up, the engineers were able to create an exceptionally low noise platform, through power supply design, DAC optimization, component choice, circuit topology, as well as some more fundamental design approaches.

Cyrus Audio CDi-XR CD Player Rear

The Skinny

One of the driving principles behind the design of the XR series has been noise reduction. Enormous effort has been made to protect and isolate the signal path from potential sources of noise.

Another significant area of focus was power supply design. Using only the highest grade components, XR delivers outstandingly high quality and reliable power to every bit of the circuitry to ensure optimal performance.

All products in the new XR series are wrapped in a new “Phantom Black” paint finish, introduced especially for the XR series.

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The color is sympathetic to both the existing core products and signature range. The XR series user interface is also new, incorporating capacitive touch buttons with satisfying audible feedback. The new UI also features a high resolution LCD screen and reassuringly weighty solid metal rotary encoder.

Improving on the multiple award-winning design of their classic CDi was no easy feat for Cyrus. Both new XR series CD players, the CDt-XR and the CDi-XR, feature a new power supply design and bespoke transformers designed specifically for the new CD players, making their class-leading SE CD engine even quieter than before.

Both the CDt-XR and CDi-XR use twin microprocessors. One chip handles all the user interface and housekeeping, while the second is dedicated to running the SE engine. This prevents crucial timing information from being interrupted by the processor being asked to do other things.

The physical loader is also new, giving better performance than the previous model. There is a re-clocking circuit to reduce jitter too. In terms of board layout, flow and return principles have been applied to the DAC section and the signal path throughout the entire player.

Other improvements include new filter stages and a 2nd Generation QXR DAC specifically optimized to 16-bit 44.1kHz. Finally, both players can be upgraded with the addition of the PSU-XR.

The 32-bit Sabre DAC feeds a highly regulated analog stage to optimize the output; there are two sets of analog outputs, and 2 digital outputs (Coaxial and Toslink) for those who might wish to use the Cyrus Audio CDI-XR as a transport into an external DAC or integrated amplifier with its own DAC.

All of the Cyrus products share a similar industrial design and tank-like construction. The CDI-XR at 73 x 215 x 360 mm and 3.8 kilograms doesn’t look like a big product but the heft is there. The CD loading mechanism is rather quiet and CDs loaded rapidly without issue.

Cyrus Audio i9-XR Integrated Amp and CDi-XR CD Player
Cyrus Audio i9-XR Integrated Amp and CDi-XR CD Player

System

The Cyrus Audio CDI-XR gets partnered with a lot of i7-XRs, PMC, ATC, ProAc, and Spendor loudspeakers; I owned a pair of Spendor SP2/3 for almost a decade but a clumsy mover destroyed them in New York City and I’ve recently thought of changing around my existing systems to afford a pair of the new Classic 2/3 loudspeakers.

I can understand the popularity of the Cyrus/Spendor combination because the tonal balance of the Spendor Classic Series is almost perfect for the XR range.  

I was unable to drive my Magnepan LRS with the i7-XR, but that didn’t stop me from inserting the CDi-XR into my system connected to the Cambridge Edge A Integrated Amplifier which has its own internal DAC.

The Wharfedale Linton were a short-term loan from a friend because Wharfedale doesn’t get enough love from us apparently (only 14 articles in 18 months) and will not return my emails. I own the Diamond 10.1s, Q Acoustics 3050i and 3030i loudspeakers and use them all on a daily basis. Each took a turn with the CDi-XR.

Sources included the Cyrus Audio CDI-XR CD Player, Bluesound NODEPro-Ject Debut PROYamaha YP-701, and Thorens TD-145 MKII Turntables.

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The CDi-XR also spent time next to my Audiolab 6000CDT and the aforementioned Marantz CD60 CD Player for comparison purposes.

Cyrus Audio CDi-XR CD Player Lifestyle

Sound

It’s no secret that I enjoy my coffee black with some raw sugar and a tiny amount of cream.

And there has not been very much of that over the past 6 months having lost 46 pounds and my body focused on regaining the lean form that it once held when I took it on the chin between the pipes on the frozen pond.

The CDI-XR is $2,000 more than the Marantz CD60 that I just reviewed and proved to be a bit of a chameleon as you will find out below; it is definitely one of the best sounding CD players I’ve tried in many years and the tank-like build quality left me convinced that it will prove to be very reliable for the long haul. I ran more than 100 CDs through it during the review process and only one badly scratched DCC recording skipped.

Very much like the i7-XR, the Cyrus CD player is focused on pace, timing, and getting from start to finish with some authority. It’s hard to recall any CD player that has crossed my path over the past 30 years that was as adept in those areas.

The super affordable Audiolab 6000CDT and Naim CD5si come the closest; they also have a similar tonal balance which must be a British thing.

There is such a stark contrast between the Marantz CD60 and Cyrus CDi-XR that it’s hard to tell which CD player is getting it done better from a tonal perspective.

The Marantz is a much warmer sounding source; the midrange blooms whereas the CDi-XR offers a much cleaner and robust sounding presentation that has greater solidity to it from top to bottom.

Make no mistake — the Cyrus Audio CDi-XR extracts greater detail, resolution, and makes the Marantz sound somewhat slow in comparison.

The $2,000 difference in price is rather apparent when you listen to both CD players in the context of a better system; the Cambridge Edge A/Magnepan LRS combination is almost two and one half times the price of the CDi-XR and it only emphasized how big of a gap there is.

When I used the coaxial digital output, the CDi-XR’s tonal balance and presentation changed rather dramatically; the warmth that it doesn’t posses came through rather vividly and the Cambridge pulled back on the brakes somewhat.

None of that was a bad thing because it didn’t take away from the exceptional detail, resolution, or speed that make the CDi-XR so compelling as a digital source; it just needs a warmer sounding system to really show off its capabilities.

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Vocals are a prime example of this; Sarah Vaughan, Tori Amos, Billie Holiday, Amy Winehouse, Sam Cooke, and Sinatra all came across rather vividly through the i7-XR/CDi-XR combination but without a warm sounding loudspeaker — just too much of an edge and not enough soul.

The Marantz has the “soul” thing covered in a very real way and while it doesn’t image as well, deliver the same level of clarity and detail — it makes Winehouse and Tony Bennett sound far more palpable in your living room and that will seal the deal for a lot of people.

Cyrus Audio CDi-XR CD Player

Conclusion

Would I buy the Cyrus Audio CDi-XR for $3,000?

I recognize that sounds like a fatalistic question but it’s a fair one.

It does almost everything well and is built like a tank. It worked without issue with 3 different DACs, 4 integrated amplifiers, and it only stumbled once with a badly scratched CD.

The tonal balance is definitely on the leaner side, but it also races along like a Morgan 3-wheeler on a British country road with utmost confidence. It can be an exhilarating and eye-opening experience in the context of the right system.

For more information: cyrusaudio.com/products/cdi-xr/

Where to buy: $2,999 at Sky by Gramophone

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. johnceena88

    October 3, 2022 at 6:30 am

    Ditto. But instead of spinning the CDs, I am ripping them to FLAC and playing them over Roon. My own personal Spotify where I get to control which mastered version of the album is streamed, and it never gets removed or replaced with inferior versions.

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