The Stream Xa is a combined streamer/DAC, retailing at £1,295. The PSX R2 power supply is an optional upgrade and retails at £695. John Scott takes them both out for a test.
UNBOXING AND APPEARANCE
Both units arrived in cardboard shipping boxes. Within each of these boxes, the individual units are further protected by another internal box, secured by substantial polystyrene mouldings that keep the units firmly in place during transport. The supplied power cables and accessories are also well packed and secured.
Cyrus are a well-established audio manufacturer, their first products having appeared on the market in 1984 with the Cyrus 1 and Cyrus 2 amplifiers. Over the years, the Cyrus brand has developed into a distinctive style, into which both the Xa and the PSX R2 seamlessly fit. If you are putting the Stream Xa into a non-Cyrus system then you might find its looks to be a little dated compared to something like the Lumin A1 streamer but I didn’t find this to be a major concern. The Stream Xa comes in either Brushed Black or Silver Quartz. The supplied model was Brushed Black which would be my preferred option. Both the Stream Xa and its external power supply are sturdily built – the casing is die-cast metal – and they exude a feeling of quality and craftsmanship in line with their price tag.
The Stream Xa is supplied with a generic information leaflet that seems to be designed to apply across the whole Cyrus range so I gave it a quick look over and then ignored it. A CD containing an instruction manual is also supplied and I ignored that as well. I did, however, download the PDF of the manual which proved to be a lot quicker than messing about with a CD. I guess it is good to have options though. The Stream Xa comes with 5 digital inputs (2 optical SPDIFs and 3 coaxial SPDIFs) and 3 outputs (1 coaxial SPDIF and 2 RCA analogue outputs). Using The Cyrus MC-BUS system, it can be completely integrated with other Cyrus products. A remote control is not supplied but if existing Cyrus users have an iR14 remote then this will also work with the Stream Xa.
The Stream Xa can be connected wirelessly to your home network or via a wired Ethernet connection. Setup is relatively straightforward once you get used to the navigation of the menu on the front panel display which is controlled by a rotary/push knob and a back button.
I have said this in other streamer reviews in the past and I will no doubt continue to do so in the future: a streamer is only as good as the app that controls it. Streaming music files should be all about simplicity and versatility. If using your streamer’s app makes you want to throw your tablet or smartphone through the window, then something is seriously wrong. I’m happy to report that no tablets, smartphones or windows were damaged during the period of my review. Cyrus’ Cadence app does everything you need it to, including access to Internet radio, although not quite with the elegance and sophistication of the best apps that I have used. Currently, the Android version of the app has slightly better functionality than the iOS version but Cyrus have assured me that further development of the app is ongoing and new releases will be forthcoming very soon.
Over a period of several weeks I auditioned the Stream Xa with and without the PSX R2 power supply, switching this in and out regularly. I was immediately impressed by the sound of the Stream Xa on its own. Well-known recordings revealed subtle textures and nuances. I’ve often found solo piano recordings to be tricky to reproduce realistically but the Xa took Gina Bachauer’s version of Brahms’ Variations On A Theme By Paganini (Mercury Living Presence) in its stride. The instrument retained a stable position in the soundstage with the ambience of the recording space being faithfully reproduced.
Adding the PSX R2 to the equation simply made an already good performance better, allowing the Stream Xa to give its all, like adding a drop of water to a cask strength whisky to allow its complex flavours to open up. This was demonstrated time and again over the review period.
The Stream Xa is genre agnostic; equally at home with the taught rhythms of Fragments In Time from Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories album as with the delicate syncopation of Nick Drake’s acoustic guitar on River Man from Five Leaves Left. The complex interactions between tabla and vocals on The Conference from Nitin Sawhney’s Beyond Skin were easily untangled and practically demanded repeated replaying. This is a piece of equipment that will have you revisiting your whole digital music collection.
The Stream Xa can be readily recommended, whether as part of an existing Cyrus system or as a stand-alone component. It can also be recommended with or without its accompanying power supply upgrade but if your budget can stretch to cover the additional £695 then it would be silly not to include it. You can of course start with the Stream Xa and add the PSX R2 when funds permit.
Sound Quality: Revealing, detailed and involving. And with the PSX R2 even more so
Build Quality: Solidly built and exudes an air of reliability
Value For Money: A very good streamer/DAC combo for the money. Deserves to be auditioned
Terrific sound quality
Space-saving compact design may be an advantage for some
The Cadence app could be more refined
Space-saving compact design will not be to everyone’s liking
No DSD compatibility
Stereo RCA analogue
PSX-R upgrade port
WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AAC ,MP3, WMA, AIFF
Maximum signal resolution:
24 bit 192 kHz