Cartridges of all types need the partnering phono stage to have specific electrical input characteristics to transfer their delicate music signal properly. We’re talking about tiny fractions of a volt here, so we really do mean delicate.
Moving magnet designs tend to have pretty fixed electrical parameters so, as far as setting values for gain and impedance are concerned, things are easy for phono stage designers.
Moving coil cartridges are another story, as their output tends to be much lower and more varied. A range of gain settings is needed, and there’s no standardisation as far as capacitance and resistance are concerned either.
If these conditions aren’t met, you won’t hear what these components can do.
The Phono Signature has four inputs, each of which can be optimised individually. The gain range is 40dB right up to 70dB (to cope with really low output moving coils). Resistance and capacitance can be adjusted through an equally wide range of adjustments.
A choice of both balanced XLR and single-ended line level outputs means that this unit will slot into most systems with ease.
As usual for the Cyrus, the Phono Signature is upgradable. You can add the updated version of the company’s outboard power supply, now called the PSX-R2, to improve performance. This is a hefty, fully-regulated 300W DC supply designed to deliver highly stable, low-noise power to the Phono Signature’s sensitive internal circuitry.
Considering the amount of amplification any phono stage has to do – many times more than any pre or power amp – a pure power feed is essential for a good performance. Tonally, things are convincing and full bodied without edging towards overt richness or excess weight. It’s all refined and smooth, yet has plenty of bite when required.
The Phono Signature is built into Cyrus’ traditional die-cast, half-width casings. The Cyrus brand has been built on a long traditional of excellent CD players and amplifiers. Vinyl replay has never been a major part of its output, and we’ve found past phono stages good rather than great. This Phono Signature/PSX-R2 combination changes that.
It is wonderfully flexible and the ability to fine-tune cartridge loading with the remote works superbly. Most of all we just love the way it sounds.
If you’ve already got a suitably talented turntable and really want to hear how good it is, buy this.