Cyrus PSU-XR power supply with i9-XR integrated amplifier w/ DAC, phono stage Review
This is a review written by Terry Ellis March 2023.
For my video review please see my YouTube channel link here
This has been a simple yet quite complex review for me because if you are already a Cyrus i9-XR integrated amplifier owner, considering the PSU-XR power supply upgrade its a no brainer – it makes the i9 sound much better, bigger, smoother, more expansive and much more engaging to listen to. For you this review could be over if that’s all you want to know.
However, it wouldn’t be a Pursuit Perfect System review without me looking at everything and pushing the system to its limits to find out what it can do. Yes, the PSU-XR demonstrably makes the i9 a much better amplifier but it also makes it a more expensive amplifier. If you are new to Cyrus what does all this mean, and should you even be considering this British HiFi pairing in the first place.
Cyrus are a British company who manufacture their products here in the UK. Earlier in the year I visited their facility in Nottingham and made a video about it which, if you haven’t seen it, I can strongly recommend it to you. The video is packed with great information, and it is linked here.
Following my visit, Cyrus asked me if I would be interested in reviewing their new PSU-XR. This is a new design of power supply upgrade for all Cyrus products but is primarily intended for their latest XR range. I think that it is the first of its kind, a microprocessor controlled power supply that communicates with the host product. It can select from five different internal galvanically isolated power supplies, separated from each other, which feed precisely the exact power the host product needs. It also does it in a very clever way by adapting its power delivery to reduce noise further than previous designs and means the PSU-XR is more flexible as it can be used to power a wide range of Cyrus host products. However, the owner will still need one PSU-XR power supply per Cyrus host product but the same PSU-XR can be used on any Cyrus product they want, so maybe the CD player one week, the integrated amplifier the next. I like that flexibility because it is fun to play with a system and listen to the changes.
Now of course I couldn’t review the PSU-XR without something else from Cyrus. They feel that the i9-XR integrated amplifier really benefits sonically from the PSU-XR and they supplied one for the review. If you already own an i9-XR this review will be even more relevant to you.
The i9-XR is Cyrus’ top of the range integrated amplifier. It uses the traditional ‘shoebox’ compact half-width design which is instantly recognisable. You’ll either love it or hate it! I really like the charcoal matt black finish and I like the updated touch sensitive buttons. The screen is OK, but not amazing, and I couldn’t see the volume readout from my listening position as it was way too small.
If you flip the i9 around you can see that Cyrus haven’t skimped on the connections, despite the unit being so compact, but this is where things got a little quirky for me as there are no balanced connections which you might expect on a high end integrated amplifier, although maybe I am being harsh here as valve amps don’t have them either.
I think there is a good chance Cyrus will expect a lot of owners to use the digital inputs of which there are five; USB, two optical and two SPDIF. I have a niggle here too. If Cyrus are giving us two SPDIF inputs please give us at least one that is BNC and not both RCA. Cyrus haven’t skimped on the DAC installed here, I am pleased to say that the i9-XR features their latest and greatest second generation of QXR DAC design.
There are four analogue inputs, all RCA, a moving magnet phono stage and then there is the really quirky bit for me, the dual speaker cable terminals that require a BFA connection or ‘Z plug’. If you have standard ‘banana’ plugs you will have to re-terminate the connections or use adaptors (these are included), which is what I did. The two sets of speaker cable outputs do allow for bi-wiring your speakers.
This very compact integrated amplifier is very much fully loaded, including a headphone output situated at the rear – a very awkward place to plug into. I want headphone amplifiers to be separate from HiFi gear anyway. For me I am struggling with the logic of having the headphone access at the rear, especially with all the other cables that might be plugged in to this compact unit. I didn’t test the headphone output and rest my case on the topic for another time.
The i9 XRs amplifier is class A/B and delivers 91 watts of power into 6 ohms which is modest power for the price but let’s be honest we all know sound quality is not about the watts anyway, it’s about how they are delivered. Cyrus say that the power amplifier in the i9XR is ultra-wide bandwidth, extremely linear and designed to keep phase shifts out of the audio band.
Power Supply and Sound Quality
The PSU-XR is a simpler unit to describe. It comes with a short umbilical cable for connection with the main component, the i9-XR in this instance. When you power on the i9 the PSU-XR is auto triggered to come on and you are greeted with a message confirming it’s active. This makes it very simple upgrade to install. You can go into the i9 menu and see some details about the power supply such as its firmware, but I think most people will forget it is there and just listen to music. That is a great way of moving on to talking about sound quality.
The sound of the i9-XR with the PSU-XR is, to me, like a very nice white wine – light, airy and packed full of crispness, detail and delicacy of flavour. It’s not a thick full-bodied rich experience that a nice red wine often provides.
The first big sonic strength for me with the Cyrus pairing is the open, spacious see-through sound stage. This is something I expected from a Cyrus, but I didn’t expect the sat-back presentation to be quite as lively, fast and energetic. A nice combination. The sound is focused, through the full sound spectrum, bass up to treble. I found this works particularly well with instrument-based music such as folk, jazz, and maybe even rock and classical. Being able to clearly hear the musical layering and lots details in the layering is engaging. By that I mean instrument played intricacies are easy to hear and follow. This will be very important for some audiophiles, but important for everyone because it’s not delivered overly analytically or too dry. In fact, the resolution of the music and the music’s production is particularly good. Nothing is blurred, or bloomed, it’s all there for you to enjoy.
The focus and how tight the timing is, especially in the bass, is extremely impressive. At times the bass dynamic punch can come from no-where and can be really percussive which is even more impressive as the overall sound balance is on the slightly leaner, lighter, airier side, especially in the mid bass, a very British amplifier sound, favouring space over fullness or boldness – white wine more than red wine.
Bass is always tight and I listened to a lot of random music played with the radio function of my streamer app. Some big brass instruments came on strong in one song, where the trombone sounded particularly exciting. There was a huge amount of textural insight, I could almost hear the metal of the instrument horn. This is all very impressive, and I didn’t previously know the Mission 770 could deliver this level of musical insight.
In the main, the overall music delivery from the Cyrus pairing is smooth. The treble is airy, crisp and detailed, but maybe smooth would be the the wrong word to use to describe it and I think its a little bit too lively to be classed as smooth treble (often a softer treble) but it is grain free and clean. There is one exception that feels more like a nit-pick to even mention.
The vocals from the Cyrus pairing are again clear, clean, ultra focused and always well place in the sound stage, which I like, and the level of insight into the vocal details is again extremely impressive. However, I did notice that with music with an obvious vocal sibilance the Cyrus didn’t smooth it over like some other amplifiers can do, but I don’t think it overly emphasised it either. Sibilance is at a very sensitive high frequency for my hifi reviewer golden ears and so it’s just something I notice or that stands out to me. Also, when vocals are delivered with a little bloom about them, as with some HiFi gear, they sound more rounded, warm and bold. The Cyrus laid vocals a little bare which could be perhaps a little too bare for some, again more white wine than red wine, but this is very much going to be music, speaker, room and setup dependent. It stood out to me as did some other things when I did some comparative listening with the similarly priced Leema Tucana II Anniversary amplifier, which is a very lively, powerful and excellent integrated amplifier.
Using the Tucana II, straight away the Mission 770s sounded more upfront and forward, the Leema really is a muscular sounding amplifier that wants to convey the energy of the music’s performance. I noticed immediately that there was more fullness in the upper-bass region which gives vocals that rounded character I mentioned, and I can’t help but like that. However, the overall composure and timing of the system was not quite as good as with the Cyrus duo, it was maybe a little more live ‘raw’ sounding, which obviously suits some music and tastes better. I liked these attributes a lot as the Leema put me in the mood for them, but I also found myself missing the smoother, more spacious and maybe more sophisticated sound of the Cyrus too. It’s a tough one and I like them both for different reasons.
The phono stage in the i9-XR I found to be very good. It is a clean sounding moving magnet phono stage with a good amount of gain. There are no adjustment controls and so it might limit some cartridges, but with the Goldring E3 on my upgraded Avid Ingenium turntable it sounded very pleasant but maybe not quite as dynamic as my external AVID Pellar phono stage. It sounded maybe a little cleaner though but either way I really cannot see anyone having any complaints about the i9-XR’s built in phono stage, I could listen to records all day on this setup and that is what it’s all about.
Moving on to the built-in QXR DAC, there are seven different sound filter modes. I didn’t notice a huge difference between them but there was enough of a difference for me to rule some in and some out pretty quickly. I did a lot of the review with my reference DAC setup and the built in Cyrus DAC sounded pretty close, which shows that its a good good. The external, much more expensive DAC setup did sound noticeably better, which is not a criticism and I expected that but I still think that many owners will be very satisfied with the sound quality of the built in DAC.
The Cyrus i9 -XR costs £3,295 and the PSU XR costs a further £2,395 so a combined cost of £5,690. That is a serious chunk of money for this HiFi setup. However you of course may purchase them separately over time, so it is interesting to explore what happens when you take the PSU-XR away and just listen to i9-XR on its own.
All of the main sound quality characteristics I have just discussed are still present, the general tone, the sat-back but lively presentation are all very similar, but the overall sound stage feels smaller from an expansive and immersive point of view. There is also more tension in the sound, by that I mean music is edgier and not as smooth and graceful, especially at louder volumes. The bass also loses a noticeable amount of its impact, and the timing is not as precise, but it’s the tension in the music for me that’s the big difference. I think the difference was made all the more obvious to me in a demo situation where I listened to the PSU-XR connected and then took it out, which proved to be a more obvious change than when I put it in! Taking the benefit away and seeing how much do you miss it is always a great way to test things.
I feel there was an obvious difference which you can easily hear. Some would call it a night a day difference as the PSU-XR raises the sound quality several notches and makes the i9 sound like a much more high-end solution. Whether you can justify its cost for the sonic benefit is personal, but it is there and it is big.
I like the i9-XR without the power supply but I am not sure it would be my first choice integrated to use with my Mission 770 speakers given other integrated amps I have reviewed around this price point. I have found some others to suit my taste a little better and I am thinking of the Audiozen Embrace.
However, with after adding the PSU-XR power supply it is a different proposition. the Cyrus pairing has been an excellent overall system to listen to, especially as its not the usual sound I go for, but it has really grown on me very quickly, allowing me to appreciate a different side to my Mission 770. I have also listened to and enjoyed a lot of different types of music compared to my normal preferences. There is a lot to be said for a system you can just lett the music play on randomly.
Just to finish, some of you will probably be asking why did Cyrus not just put the better power supply in the i9 instead? That’s a great question. As I understand it the PSU-XR complements the i9’s power supply rather than replacing it.
An Essential Audition Award is granted in recognition of a products high performance but with a certain uniqueness that makes auditioning even more essential.
For the full specification of the Cyrus i9-XR and the PSU-XR please see their website linked here