‘You must go back to the live music and know how it sounds, the touch of a cymbal, the draw on a violin string.’ There is the essence, the philosophy, of Peter Bartlett, designer of the Cyrus 30th Anniversary system, where he seeks to ‘wrap up 30 years of know how into one holistic system.’
Here we get ‘Behind the Brand’, with Peter Bartlett, Technical Director of Cyrus.
My father was a committed audio man. Like many children of the 60’s & 70’s I benefited from his ‘used’ components as he explored higher and higher performance upgrades. Inevitably I found a part time job selling hi-fi (Technics, B&O, others) in a shop Watford while studying Photography. Great people and sales training.
- Who or what was the biggest influence on your career?
I was lucky enough to have a dad who loved hi-fi and music although his music was very different from mine in the late 70’s! Only now I am in my 50’s have I come to understand his passion for Opera and, what at the time seemed impenetrable, Mahler. Today this is one of the most demanding tests I impose on my development system and the best recordings are truly impressive.
- Proudest moment/product you’re most proud of?
Possibly the last Bristol show as we showcased the super-tuned Anniversary system. I also remember My first speaker design and it’s front cover 5 star What Hi-Fi review. Both represented immense personal commitments, so to receive public and critical acclaim is especially rewarding.
You and your system
- What was your very first system?
Gratefully received kit handed down from dad of course. The first donations would hardly be recognisable as audio today, Celestion drivers in a single (mono) speaker cabinet, Leak amp and a Guarard turntable.
- Tell us about your system history.
To many pieces of kit to list here, suffice to say I have spent over 45 years upgrading to chase the illusive ‘better’ sound. The last working year has largely been spent developing the anniversary system we launched at the show. It started out as a very personal project to use our accumulated audio tuning knowledge make myself a no holes bared system for my home listening studio. As we realised how much we had achieved, it evolved into the ultimate Cyrus hi-fi system, that will be made in a limited edition run of 30 custom painted complete systems.
- What component/product do you miss the most/wish you had never got rid of?
The hardware came and went but I once moved home and skipped 200 7” singles! I regularly think back and regret that. Thinking of hardware though, I had a set of Yamaha NS 1000 speakers with beryllium dome drivers. A reviewer friend still has a set and I do regret selling them when he plays them.
- Best system (or single component) you have ever heard? (no brands you represent please…!)
I was at a German hi-fi show some years ago when I stopped by a demo using a set of Isophon speakers and some electronics I have forgotten now. The ceramic domed speakers where just amazing. If you get a chance check them out as today they still make amazing speakers. Similar ceramic dome drivers are used in one of my reference speaker sets, made by the Swedish manufacturer Marten Design.
- Tell us about your current system(s)
My main system is in my office / studio and is a less shiny version of our Anniversary system. I have spent the last 18 months creating this advanced development platform based upon our X series models. Launched at the last Bristol hi-fi show, this system includes many advanced leading-edge techniques and engineering to make this the most advanced Cyrus system ever; thereby allowing me to have a complete personal system at home for the first time in ten years! I have several pairs of speakers for my work by Marten Design, Vienna Acoustics and PMC. My family use a Streamline all-in-one with a set of Vienna Acoustic Schonberg speakers. Easy to use, this compact streaming system is virtually invisible in our lounge. Today the whole home can access our central music library that sits on a networked NAS.
The state of the industry
- What’s your view on the valve renaissance of the past 20 years or so?
Great for valve enthusiasts, but not really very capable in the real world. Some properly designed valve systems are interesting at low volumes, but the plethora of valve kit coming out of the Far East is less credible.
- What are you views on the state of the industry/where is it going/what will it look like in 5 years/what will typical systems look like?/What will happen to prices?/What will happen to the high end – will it carry on regardless?
Hi-Fi is enjoying something of a renaissance right now. If say 5% of the millions of iPhone/Pod customers are interested in better quality we have potentially the largest interest in hi-fi in several generations. Streaming is transforming our industry and allowing consumers at all levels to have access to masses of very high quality music. For sure, the majority are happy with lower bit rate songs, but increasingly the awareness of “better” is gaining ground. Ripped CD’s are superb, higher bit files are interesting but not necessary for true high-end sound in your home.
- What are the industry’s biggest con(s)?
The retail experience can be poor. Some forward thinking retailers are trying to make visiting a shop a fun experience but I know that some hi-fi stores can alienate those who are not already knowledgeable. I have friends who just would not go into some stores. Increasingly this is changing and hi-fi sales in many of our global markets are growing once again. The future is bright, streaming music sounds superb, we just have to encourage retailers to make their stores a sexy destination!
The way you work
- Presuming the measurements are fine, what do you listen for when assessing products?
The question I always ask is: Can I communicate with the artist? The tiny details we perceive at a live performance are captured in CD’s but filtered out by the hi-fi system. My role is to reduce the filtering effect by encouraging modern engineering combined with our learned understanding of psychoacoustics.
- Your sound preference -‘Smooth, listenable musicality’, ‘forward, driving, ‘foot-tapping’, involving sound’ or ‘detailed neutrality and transparency’?
I regularly attend live concerts from all sorts of venues and musical genres. Any system must realistically present the balance between all frequency’s to be capable of passing our performance criteria. However it is not my goal to make the perfect facsimile of a recorded event in your home. Rather I want to deliver the subtle details that allow the listener to assemble the emotion of the artist’s performance at home. This is not the same thing as traditional hi-fi. I want my systems to deliver subtle detail so you can perceive the emotional content of the recording.
- Your preference – Full-range floorstanders or freestanding mini monitors with a sub?
Floor standing with as big an amp as possible.
It’s all about the music, man…
- What is your favourite recording?
Impossible to say, it changes all the time. Today Nils Lofgran Live would be my choice.
- Tell us about your 3 most trusted test recordings.
It depends on what we are trying to assess; a good studio recording is important but live recordings are the Holy Grail. You will find a blog on our website listing my favourite music for shows and demo. I love Handel, such a master of choral music. Nils Lofgren has unravelled acoustic skill, making a guitar sound at once heartbreakingly beautiful on second and raw and dirty the next, what a guy! On the other hand I spent last weekend listening to Goldfrapp on my phone while traveling to / from Jersey on the ferry. Ooh lala!
- What are your most embarrassing recordings/guilty musical pleasures?
My first record purchase was “She Loves You” by the Beatles. Fab at the time, less so now.
- Having safely ushered your loved ones out of the house as it is burning down to the ground, you ignore all standard safety advice and dash back inside to grab just one recording – what is it?
It would be a vinyl record as all the CD’s are duplicated on three backed up raid nas drives. Probably Quadraphinia by the Who for all the wonderful memories of a misspent youth!
Thanks so much for inviting me to reminisce, what an indulgence, hope it’s not too boring.