Smartly presented and exceptionally civilised in presentation: perhaps too civilised for some, with a seeming reluctance to pack a punch in the bass, despite good extension. Detail is impressive though
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Cyrus has given the DAC-X the most comprehensive set of connections with two pairs of balanced audio outputs alongside the lone pair of phono sockets.
There are no less than six digital inputs (two optical, two phono) plus a single optical output and additional connections for Cyrus's MC-Bus and the optional extra power supply, PSX-R.
The input sockets are simply numbered and that's the default on the front panel, but it is possible to rename each one from a list of options. The display also shows the incoming sample rate when a valid data stream is detected.
That sample rate can be any of the standard frequencies between 32kHz and 192kHz, but because the DAC-X uses an asynchronous sample rate converter it can also, in principle, be any intermediate frequency. In practice, we can't remember ever seeing any such oddball frequency, but at least it allows for compatibility with slightly out-of-spec transports.
Inside the case is a generous toroidal transformer with plenty of filtering and regulation following. The other eye-catching feature is a pair of DAC boards, for Cyrus has opted for a dual-mono implementation.
All DAC chips we've seen since about 1990 have been stereo, but it's perfectly possible to use them in single-channel mode and, if one's being really hair-splitting, it's surely no bad thing to do so. Each channel has an identical DAC/filter/buffer arrangement, all implemented with high-quality parts of recent vintage.
It's worth mentioning the DAC-XP – a cross between the DAC-X and an analogue preamp –if only because the DAC-X can be factory upgraded to 'XP spec as a later upgrade.
Although our listeners found plenty of encouraging things to say about this DAC, they concluded that it is a little generalised and lacking incisiveness in its presentation. The strongest criticism was made of its rendition of Miles Davis, which was found lacking in the raw edge so characteristic of that genius.
But there is a lot that the DAC-X does right and its talents are much easier to appreciate in other musical styles. Most successful among the 'blind' listening programme was classical, especially full orchestra, which had excellent soundstaging and very fine detail too. Here there seemed to be far more 'bite' to the sound.
Our unaccompanied vocal track (four voices) was also a big success with a particularly refined sound and very clear diction. It did seem slightly less dynamic than a couple of other DACs had managed, but made up for this with a beautifully pure tonality which extended very well to the high treble.
Maintaining the tonal character of voices, especially multiple voices, is a rare enough ability in sound reproduction equipment!
Occasionally the sound was reluctant to deliver real 'slap' with low, or lowish, frequency transients – yes, that's strictly a contradiction in terms, but you know what we mean, plucked double bass, low percussion instruments, aggressively played low reeds and so on.
But this was a minor anomaly in what it is really very capable product and its detail continued to impress us. It's well worth a listen.
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