Cyrus Soundkey Portable USB DAC / Amp Review
Initially developed thanks to an ultra-successful kickstarter campaign, the Soundkey by Cyrus promises to upgrade the audio quality of mobile handsets and anything else able to feed it audio data, such as tablets and desktop computers.
- Huge audio upgrade for handsets and tablets
- Excellent value
- Camera kit required for use with iPhones
Design and Appearance
This little device is sleek, light and simple; there is nothing much to remark on other than the micro-B USB input and the 3.5mm output. The device is the size of a small cigarette lighter and is available in various colours. Included are two cables (one for micro USB-B and another for USB-A connections); these appear to be decent enough, but are each composed of differing materials. The micro USB-B cable is a fabric covered affair, whilst the USB-A cable is white and plastic coated. Given that this is to be used by Apple users in connection with the often required camera kit, it kind of makes sense.
The Soundkey is powered by the internal battery of the connected device; it does not have its own battery, but its low power consumption will not tax the device’s battery very much.
Durability and Build Quality
The device itself is solid and well constructed; it’s surprising that it only weighs 18 grams. The included cables are robust, and should stand up to a fair bit of use.
Suitability for intended application
The Cyrus Soundkey is designed mainly to be used on the go, and the tiny size reflects this. It used to be that any external DAC would need to be strapped to the handset to keep things simple, but the Soundkey can sit on, and just be treated as part of a slightly extended cable given its diminutive presence.
It provides a boost to volume, so ensure your volume level is low on your handset when initially plugging in your earphones. The Soundkey is designed for portable headphones between 16 and 64 ohms which is a great majority of portable headphone/earphone models.
The Cyrus Soundkey provides a much cleaner signal than many in-built DACs; many of which prove to be sound quality bottlenecks in any portable audio chain. This will be more apparent on higher quality earphones and headphones, and of course will open the way for anyone wanting to upgrade their earphones as these will no longer be limited by the internal DAC quality of portable devices.
Tighter, better audio control results in more noticeable harmonics to give music more texture, improved imaging and greater impact. It’s a good alternative to a separate, dedicated audio player if you are happier keeping all your tunes in one place, on your phone.
If you are wanting to upgrade your portable audio but don’t have bottomless pockets, the Cyrus Soundkey is a clear winner.