In use, I adored the convenience of leaving headphones plugged in and toggling outputs remotely. This switch was confirmed by the display as head versus ovrr next to the source indicator. Ovrr will be short for override. The only unexpected action was that after a period of no signal, the Cyenne would fall asleep. Its display would blank out yet the bright blue power light remain lit. "This is a power saving feature. If there's no lock or if the DAC is locked but receives digital zeroes for about 20 minutes, the DAC goes into standby. It can be awoken again by pressing the volume knob, selecting an input from the remote or pressing the remote's power button. Power saving can be disabled: press/hold the function knob; wait until power save appears on the top line; release the knob; turn it until the indicator says off; wait or push the knob briefly to exit the menu. The setting is automatically saved and remembered even if the unit was unplugged." I disabled power save.

CY-5100dsd as fixed-output converter, with its display showing 00 as a result.

Whilst I had Rob on the horn, I asked about the four headphone settings not mentioned in the manual either. The menu calls them low signal, standard, mid-high and high signal. It's not quite intuitive whether 'signal' refers to the amp's gain or a headphone's sensitivity. "Currently these options change max output in 3dB steps. The loudest setting will put about 3Vrms per channel into 16Ω. This feature is more to protect low-impedance headphones (and the user’s ears) against overload than to match impedance. During consumer tests with early samples, some people used headphones, then forgot they where attached the next day whilst increasing the volume and wondering why their speakers were silent. This is partly a result of having the connector on the back. Low impedance headsets can be damaged this way. The default setting is about right for higher mainstream headphones like the AKG-K701 at around 32-60Ω. If the user finds the sound not loud enough, the setting can be increased in the menu."


The DAC's USB transceiver maintained a firm handshake with my Win 7/64 machine even in standby. There was no particular turn-on sequence required to be 'seen' by the PC. With my hi-gain Job 225 and the Boenicke W5se monitors, low nearfield levels sat below 40 on the display, standard levels below 30 for significant amounts of digital attenuation. Whether because of it; high-feedback op-amp outputs; both or something else altogether... the sound was noticeably drier, more lightweight on tone colours and less juicy and buxom than my twice-priced April Music Eximus DP-1. The Korean deck applies analog volume and discrete outputs. ESS converter chips are popular for their detail retrieval to exhibit good low-level linearity. This translated even with 320kbps Spotify+. 1411kbps FLAC streams via Qobuz Hifi did sound fuller of course. To get a better sense for potentially compromised performance with 40dB or higher signal cut in the digital domain, I replaced the Job 225 with April Music's Vita receiver. This gave me analog volume plus balanced inputs. Using Cyenne's XLR outputs, I now could control volume with either machine.


Mocking up the prior Job 225 setting, I moved between DAC at -40dB which put the Aura at 60; and DAC at 00 to move the Aura down to 20. There was no doubt. Option #2 was glossier, with more robust snappy bass, livelier airier top-end sparkle and more realized fullness. Using too much digital cut became dull, pale and pinched. This confirmed earlier such experiments with the AURALiC Vega. Activating the ESS on-chip attenuator adds free volume control to any sabre-rattling converter. But, it comes at a sonic price unless a combination of low amplifier gain, speaker inefficiency and high SPL shrinks the amount of signal cut invoked. In my desktop context which implies short nearfield distances and concomitantly lower levels, I found Cyenne's solution too compromised for serious purposes. I preferred running it as a fixed-output DAC followed by a standard integrated amplifier.


Exploited in that fashion against the Eximus (its volume likewise bypassed), the Korean still was juicier and tonally more generous. Once again the Cyenne was the drier performer. Its colours were more muted and less vibrant. In the domain of subjective flow or swing, the 5100dsd too played it more damped and strict. None of this impinged on its very obvious detail obsession. That very finally teased-out detail was simply embedded in a certain monochromatic greyness. By way of triangulation, I unseated the USB cable and jacked it into the 24/96 port of the $1'400 Aura Vita whose single-input DAC reads far more low rent on paper. Alas, same game. This move pulled out Cyenne's grey filter. Color intensity revived instantly. Tracking back, I repeated the exercise over my ALO-rewired Sennheiser HD800 by using either machine as a DAC/headfi server. The Cyenne was set to low signal to only use 20dB of attenuation. If anything, this round enlarged the difference gap in favour of Simon Lee's deck. For exactly the same money, that machine bundles a tuner; a 50wpc Mosfet integrated amp; a very powerful headfi port which taps the main output section through a voltage divider; a basic USB DAC; and more refined looks with a chromed fascia. Whilst my expat(riotic) sympathies felt rather tweaked by this assessment, with 16/44.1 content streamed off my Qobuz Hifi subscription, the Aura was the plainly steeper value, the far superior headphone amp and finally also the more compelling (albeit far more limited) converter.