Cyrus Audio + Google Home App & Apple Airplay = Spellbinding Sound!
It’s been about two years since Google discontinued their Chromecast Audio music streaming device, and I still don’t understand why.
It was a handy little device that allowed you to stream or “Cast” music from your Android smartphone or tablet with just a couple of clicks, and you didn’t need a complicated app to do it. By the way, it also played high-resolution audio via a combination digital/analog output.
But the most impressive part was the price. It only cost $35, and you could get it as low as $15 on sale.
Of course, there were better-sounding streamers out there, but for the price, you couldn’t beat it, and there is still no other product (that I know of) that can replace it at that price point.
I still have two I hold on to for use with budget setups, but what if you could have that same convenience in a high-end audio product?
Well, that’s the premise of Cyrus Audio’s ONE Cast Integrated Amplifier ($1999), which is an extension of ONE series of amplifiers.
Along with the ONE Cast, you have the $999 Cyrus Audio ONE, which is an all-analog affair, and the $1399 ONE HD which adds a DAC with digital inputs. Then the ONE Cast adds a network streaming layer in the form of Chromecast and Airplay 2.
The series is designed to combine Cyrus’ legendary British hi-fi sound with contemporary design and functionality, and the ONE Cast is at the pinnacle of this concept.
By using Google’s Chromecast technology, the ONE Cast lets you play music directly from the apps you already use and are familiar with (like Tidal or Spotify) instead of saddling you with yet another app to play music through.
If you use one of the big three voice assistant schemes like Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, or Apple’s Siri, you can control the ONE Cast with just your voice, which is pretty cool.
I have a Google Home speaker, and when I asked it to play a Spotify playlist (one I usually play on my Google speaker) on the Cyrus amp, it quickly woke up the ONE Cast and played the music I requested. I was even able to change the volume by voice command. Very nice.
ONE Cast also possesses a plethora of digital inputs (Coax, Optical, USB, HDMI (ARC), along with analog inputs (RCA, Phono) and wireless sources (Apple Airplay, Chromecast, Bluetooth). That, along with its streamlined proportions, makes it a flexible centerpiece for any modern hi-fi setup.
This amplifier with Chromecast built-in is an interesting blend of Internet of Things innovation with old-school hi-fi sensibility, and I really enjoyed using it. If you’re looking for an easy-to-use integrated amp that’s powerful and has a transparent, spacious sound (amazing soundstage), this Cyrus product should be on your shortlist.
If you want to know more about the Cyrus ONE Cast, read on for my full breakdown!
Disclaimer: This unit was sent to us as a loaner for the purposes of an honest and unbiased review. It will be returned once the review is complete.
The ONE Cast is a handsome unit with a glossy black face and two large operation knobs on the front panel, one for volume and one to select the source. It follows Cyrus Audio’s traditional half-width format, half the width of a standard component but about an inch and a half deeper.
Don’t let its compact size fool you; this amp is chock full of quality components, including a huge power transformer that supplies the high-current needed to drive a wide variety of speakers. Because of this, It’s much heavier than it looks.
The ONE Cast also calibrates impedance to match any set of speakers you hook up, so you get the best performance. Amplification is Class D and rated at 100W per channel into 6 ohms, which should be plenty of power for most speakers in a standard-sized living room.
As I said before, there are two knobs to operate the unit on the front of the one Cast, but no display per se. Alongside the source knob, there are symbols that light up, representing each source, and alongside the volume knob, there are lights that illuminate in succession to let you know the volume level.
I’m not overly bothered by the lack of a display as it keeps the front panel uncluttered, plus a lot of modern amplifiers (like my favorite, the Cambridge Audio CXA81) have done away with a display screen and I haven’t missed it.
The only bugaboo I have is that it’s impossible to know what input the ONE Cast is on if you’re sitting far away since the input icons are so small. But overall, the operation is quite intuitive, which is a good thing.
The front panel also has a jack for a high-power Class AB headphone amp, so if you have a power-hungry set of cans, you can plug them in and drive them with no problem.
You have all the popular connections on the rear panel, like an RCA input for a CD player, etc. You can also plug a CD player into the two digital inputs (optical and coax) and use it as a transport tapping into the ONE Cast’s Cyrus Configured 32-bit ESS-based DAC (capable of 32/192 PCM/DSD128). It also has a USB input that utilizes the same DAC section, giving you great sound from your laptop.
If your TV is compatible with HDMI (ARC), then you can also send a pristine digital audio signal from the television into the ONE Cast’s HDMI connection.
If you’re a vinyl buff, you can plug a turntable into the ONE Cast’s MM phono stage, and if you want to upgrade your amplification, you can plug a power amp into the RCA Pre Out. You can also use this connection for a powered subwoofer.
This amp also has a single set of five-way binding posts to accommodate a single pair of speakers.
Let’s Talk About “Casting”
While all these wired connections are nice, this unit is called the “Cast” after all, so we need to talk about this unit’s wireless capability.
As I alluded to earlier, this unit sort of works like that Chromecast Audio I mentioned if you have an Android device. You can basically pull up just about any music app on your phone like Tidal or Spotify, then pick the ONE Cast as the place you wish to “Cast” or stream the audio to.
The ONE Cast will then wake up and play the music you select in the app over the speaker you have connected. This connection is capable of hi-res streams up to 24/96.
For this to work, you have to perform a short setup process in the Google Home app where your ONE Cast is connected to the Wi-Fi network and registered as a cast-capable device.
If you also have Google speakers registered in the Google Home app, you can control the ONE Cast via voice by giving a command to said speaker. As I said before, I was able to ask my Google Nest Hub to play “Spotify State of Jazz on the ONE Cast,” and it turned on the amp and played music from that playlist through the speakers wirelessly.
You can perform similar functions if you have a speaker from Apple or Amazon. Of course, you would then use Siri or Alexa for voice commands, and you would follow the setup instructions for those ecosystems. You can also send music directly from your Apple Device using Apple AirPlay.
For me, there’s something really freeing about not putting another app in between yourself and your amplifier, and I don’t see why more hi-fi companies don’t take this approach.
I’ve used Tidal with other streaming setups like BluOS and DTS Play-Fi (and many more), and the implementations of Tidal from within their apps are never as good as the Tidal app itself.
So why would you choose that when you can Cast directly from the Tidal app and have direct access to all the favorites and playlists you have there.
That’s not to say Chromecast is perfect. The apps that work with other streaming amps may have higher bitrates or sampling depths, but Chromecast’s 24/92 is not bad.
Some may also like the ability to access a bunch of different sources/services from one app. But if you’re like me and work with only one or two apps anyway, this is not a big deal.
Basically, if you’re not a fan of dedicated streaming apps for a system, then this ONE Cast approach may appeal to you.
I should also mention you can set up a quick wireless connection via Bluetooth, albeit via the SBC codec, the lowest bandwidth option. That’s not the end of the world since most people will use Wi-Fi, but it’s a bummer since the cheaper ONE amps have the aptX codec, which streams at a higher bandwidth.
Listening to the Cyrus ONE Cast
So now you know how the music gets into the ONE Cast, but how does it sound? Well, in a word, transparent. This amp is one of the cleanest amps I’ve heard at the price point, and the tonal balance is superb.
For testing purposes, I hooked the Cyrus amp up to two different bookshelf speakers, first the 1800.00 Euro (about $2150 at the time of writing) Buchardt S400 (our review here) then the $4500 Q Acoustics Concept 300 Speakers (complete with matching stands) (our review here). The Concept 300 happens to be pictured in the marketing materials along with this amp.
Most of the music I played on the ONE Cast was streamed via Chromecast thru the Tidal App on my LG V60 smartphone. I also hooked up a $350 Cambridge Audio AXC35 Compact Disc Player for comparison.
When I cued up Eric Clapton’s “Unplugged” on the Tidal app, I was immediately impressed at how the ONE Cast opened the Buchardt speakers up. These speakers can sound a little hollow through the midrange with lesser amplifiers, but vocals and guitars were full and well-rounded with the Cyrus amp.
The S400 speakers are well known for their wide soundstage and precise imaging, and the ONE Cast enhanced this trait immensely. In the song “Tears In Heaven,” you could hear the three guitars clearly defined across the stage left, right, and center, along with the interplay of Clapton’s vocal and the background vocals.
The background vocalists were also placed very precisely on the right-hand side, just like on the video. It was beautiful to listen to.
As far as bass goes, the Buchardts can also sound a little loose on the bottom end with a lesser amp, but with the ONE Cast, the bass was very punchy and well-controlled. I really enjoyed the combo, and I could’ve been done right there.
However, to do my due diligence, I also hooked up the Concept 300 speakers, and even though the soundstage wasn’t quite as wide or the bass quite as punchy, the Q Acoustic flagships let me hear just how transparent, and well-balanced this amp was. I listened to the same album, and the separation was even better, and the voices and instruments were even more vivid and present in the room. I really felt transported to the concert.
At that point, I made an a/b comparison between Tidal and the CD player, and I found the CD to be a little crisper than the Chromecast but a little smaller in scale. However, the difference wasn’t night and day, and I could definitely live with the Chromecast streamer.
I also tried the Bluetooth connection, and even though it was an SBC connection, it actually sounded pretty good. It was not as defined or transparent as the CD or Chromecast connection, but I was still good enough for a quick listening session.
I wonder how much better it could be with a higher bitrate like aptX or even AAC.
After listening to the Bluetooth, I compared the ONE Cast to two other integrated amps using the CD player. One was the $1299 Cambridge Audio CXA81 (review here), and the other was the $1699 Denon PMA-1600NE. (review here) Neither one had the transparency or definition of the Cyrus Audio amp.
There was just realism and depth that the other amps couldn’t compete with. The Denon came the closest, as it was more transparent than the CXA81, but the imaging on the ONE Cast was razor-sharp compared to both of them.
Lastly, I checked out the headphone amp, and it was quite powerful, driving my Mr. Speakers (now Dan Clark Audio) Aeon Flow Closed headphones with gusto.
It didn’t have quite the fullness I get from my $1000 dedicated headphone amp, but it still sounded great, and I think it would be the best headphone amp many people have heard.
Cyrus Audio ONE Cast is not the first amp to include Google Chromecast technology, both NAD and Onkyo have done it, but it’s the most powerful and sonically accomplished one I have seen so far. It also works with Airplay and Alexa at the same time, which is impressive. I loved its amazing transparency and detail, which beat the pants off some really capable amps I had on hand.
It will drive a wide variety of speakers and I also liked its ease of use. If you’re looking for an amp with true high-end sound and a no muss, no fuss streaming experience, then you should check out the ONE Cast!
Where To Buy
CYRUS AUDIO ONE Cast Streaming Capabilities via WiFi Amplifier
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I’m an audio writer who started as a young audio salesman/consumer electronics professional back in the late 90s. That’s where I discovered the magic of 2-Channel sound. My hunger for great sound has led me on a delightful music quest that continues today.