Hifi Pig published the review of the X DAC Signature’s siblings, the X200 Signature mono amplifiers a few days ago and Dan found them to be very good indeed – so good in fact he awarded them a Recommended Award. In a day or so we will have the review of the X DAC Signature playing along with the X 200 Signatures by way of a system report.
The preface history to the X DAC Signature is the same as the X200, but here, to offer completeness, it is again.
Following the launch of the Anniversary Series System, Cyrus Audio has launched the Signature Series, an exclusive range of fine-tuned hifi components.
Initially comprising a four-strong range, the components share many of the performance-enhancing modifications seen in the limited-edition Anniversary Series System and have been fine-tuned by Technical Director, Peter Bartlett.
The Signature Series will represent Cyrus’s flagship product line up and comprises upgraded versions of the X Series components: DAC X Signature (DAC); DAC XP Signature (DAC/preamp) and the Mono X 200 and X300 Signature (mono power amps). Further models are expected to join the range later in the year. The Signature Series include performance-enhancing modifications and the very latest-generation components that Cyrus say bring improvements in detail and resolution.
Each component comes in the standard Cyrus bead-blasted cast chassis, in either black or quartz finish, and feature the ‘Signature’ badge on the fascia.
The DAC X Signature is a twin 32-bit stereo DAC, designed in dual-mono configuration where the operational elements of the system, such as the digital control signals, are optically isolated from the twin mono DAC cards. The DAC X Signature also possesses a carefully specified power supply system based on a custom designed ultra-low-noise torroidal power transformer.
The front panel, sporting the ‘Signature’ logo, has buttons for moving through source selection, a power button, menu button with an accompanying rotary selector for changing options within the menu. An LCD display indicates input selection and bitrate/sampling rate whilst in use.
Norah Jones’ ‘Above Ground’ was terrifically smooth with great textural detail to the bands instruments and this lent a natural and musical reproduction to guitar, bass guitar and drums. There was clarity and separation between the placement of individual instruments within the soundstage. The Long Way Home’ has a clear rubbing of guitar strings to the left of the soundstage which was extremely clear. Norah’s vocals projected from good central depth and had a natural well balanced quality with not too much body to overshadow her clear tones – which is how I prefer vocals presented. There’s great delicacy with the DAC and a smoothness which retains great musicality with a decided lack of edginess or forwardness to the sound.
Fleetwood Macs ‘Big Love (Live)’ felt immediately more vibrant than the previous recordings, indicating to me that the DAC doesn’t display a samey samey approach to reproducing sounds. Centre focus was sharp and guitar notes were vibrant and airy. The short solo on the track which has the guitarist walking across the stage from the left, around to the rear of the stage, back across to the left and then back to the forefront of the band was clearly portrayed and soundstage width was good whilst retaining great height in the centre of the performance.
‘The Chain’ produced very similar characteristics, with a great punchy bass and terrific vibrancy to the ringing of cymbals. The track was very rhythmic and pacey. The track can be a little forward with an uncontrolled front end yet I never picked up on any of this with the DAC running from my Squeezebox and through the Emille Integrated.
Hollies ‘The Air That I Breath’ showed fantastic separation to the soundstage retaining a cohesive but never disjointed image, creating width and ambience.
Loreena McKennits ‘Raglan Road’ was simply beautiful; refined and silky in the midrange with good control to the top end extension to her powerful voice, accompanied by delicacy to violins and piano notes. Depth once again was great to the centre of the performance. A wonderful dark background allowed expression in the vocals to flow marvelously well.
‘Whisper Not’ by George Shearing and Mel Torme was a fun bouncy and musical performance with good transparency on cymbals and a natural and “un-manufactured” soundstage displaying neutrality and vibrancy. I felt there was a slight lack of body to the performance although it still retained musicality.
There were a few tracks I played which I felt sounded a little thinner with the DAC in my system which were fuller bodied in the full Cyrus setup. However, Spotify through the modified Touch was great, the DAC added great vibrancy and detail with plenty of musical appeal and weight to the sound, proving lesser recordings could be enhanced by its ability to refine and retain tempo.
Dynamics using the DAC were fantastic with a wide range of dance and trance music which I played through my valve amp. Emilly can really kick out a beat and the DAC pushed her to her very limits. There was slam, out of phase dynamic nuances and midrange projection that flooded the room. Sound staging was huge, spacious and had insight into every part of the music, energising me after previously listening to all those vocal and acoustic tracks.
Adding one of my aftermarket DHLabs mains cables to the DAC was a further treat to hear. Soundstaging blew out across the width of the room and layered slightly better with more ambiance and harmonic dissipation. Finer details became more apparent and the midrange was a little more liquid. Bass retained its bouncy extended appeal yet tightened a little and became a little more informative. I very much recommend trying a dew aftermarket mains cables with this unit.
The DAC likes to be fed good recordings, but what I have found with some other DACs is that bad recordings have a more bang and tizz approach to those poorly recorded tracks and albums, whereas the Signature X DAC loses a bit of body yet displays a more cohesive musical performance – it doesn’t suck the midrange out and replace it with edgy treble and a boomy bass, it seems to relax a little and just take things a little more easily and in its stride.
I was extremely impressed at the musicality that was achieved with Spotify as I listen to it regularly as background music for discovering new artists and even for a more critical listening session.
The flexibility of the unit, with its size and masses of connections both in and out is outstanding. It sat neatly next to my headphone amp on a standard shelf and I had no need to move things from here to there to demo it in my system.
The Cyrus Signature X DAC has a great musical character; it’s refined, dynamic and has a wide and informative soundstage. It is able to portray the music on a recording dependent basis, injecting its character, yet never making different recordings sound ‘the same old’. I would recommend this on your must demo list if you are in the market for a new DAC.
Price is £1750
Author – Dan