Cyenne's custom flip-top box arrived inside a sturdy outer carton and included a power cord, USB cable, credit-card remote, owner's manual and guide to setting up your computer to play PCM and DSD files. Whilst it claims that proper ASIO settings for Windows enable native DSD playback, with the twin ESS 9018K2M on-chip attenuators enabled, some engineers would insist that DSD is automatically converted to PCM. Either way there is compliance with DSD256 and of course 32/384PCM. Cyenne's PCB uses 4 layers and its gain stages are realized with "studio-quality audio op-amps", short hand for four Burr Brown OPA1632

This view has the two Toslink flying leads unhooked to show the CMedia-based USB input board unobscured by them.

Closeup of the lower half of the motherboard with the twin ESS Sabre chips in the center.

Closeup of the upper half of the motherboard.

The CY-5100's footprint is nearly square. Its slightly broader than half-width faceplate protrudes a bit on either side like pseudo rack ears. The end result is a one rack-space deck that's wider than my Eximus DP1 but narrower than the Job 225. Thus it lives a bit in size limbo like Naim and other non-standard gear. The frontal mains switch lights up a piercing blue power LED whilst the blue-on-cyan display is easier on the eyes and dimmable to half mast. The volume control integrates a mute function (a brief push drops down to -60 of a possible -90*) and input selector (longer push, then rotate to sequentially switch through the inputs as indicated on the display). This interface is so intuitive, there's no befuddled reach for the manual. Only the 'next' command to toggle between line-out and 6.3mm port whilst a headphone remains plugged in requires a look. The zipped CMedia USB2.0 driver necessary for Windows must be downloaded from the Cyenne Audio website. Installing it on my Win 7/64 work machine was a zippy cinch. In use, the display shows the input, the chosen digital filter, the sample rate, the format (PCM or DSD), volume in dB of attenuation and whether the line-out or headphone is live. Switching between the two remembers their gain settings to avoid surprises.

* As is the case for many other digital volume schemes, this particular attenuation is calibrated to make the lowest settings (here 90-60) nearly redundant. Even with a 35dB-gain amp like the Job 225, 60 was very quiet, hence the mute=60 convention felt very apt. An amp with lower gain would have gone inaudible even sooner. Hence one wonders why nearly half of this scale was thrown away considering how average homes have a standing noise floor of +40dB. Shifting those lost values into the actually relevant range would make for finer steps where needed. This betrays an engineering rather than end-user perspective just like the chosen attenuation display. Whilst technically correct, for most people that display is non-intuitive and against normal conventions. For them bigger numbers mean louder, smaller figures quieter and zero should equal mute, not full power.