There are two sides to the Cyrus Soundkey. On the one hand, it's an elegantly designed, nicely finished, robust and reliable aluminium-cased DAC amplifier that brings excellent quality audio to mobile and portable devices. On the other, it's a PC accessory that'll up the quality of your audio experience when playing games and listening to tunes on your personal computer. It'll fulfil either of those two functions very well indeed, although it offers the best value to those who use it for both.
For most people, the Soundkey is marketed as the former. It's a relatively inexpensive DAC (digital to analogue converter) amp that offers music connoisseurs the opportunity to have an audiophile experience while they're out and about. For that reason alone, it's worth considering. However, that's not how the Soundkey was sold to us and we were enticed into reviewing the product by the offer of a high fidelity audio experience when playing games on our PC. This particular miniature DAC delivers on both fronts.
The unit itself is a nicely built piece of kit. It's elegantly finished and won't take up too much space in your pocket thanks to its diminutive size. It connects to your device via a provided adaptor, but this comes with a caveat for Apple users. While you can use the wires in the box to connect to an Android device (specifically one offering a micro-USB port), there is no such adaptor in the box for Apple lightning cables, and you'll have to spend around £30 to get one. You can't even skimp on the expensive official camera adaptor and get a cheaper third-party solution, as we discovered firsthand. If you're using an iPhone or an iPad, there's no escaping the extra expense and it would have been nice to have either a second cable in the box or the option of choosing a different SKU with the desired cable included.
Instead we plugged the Soundkey into an old Android phone, which limited our options in terms of music, but still gave us a good idea of what the DAC amp offers. True to the promises made by Cyrus, it offers an expansive stage for any piece of music to unfold, and you'll notice each and every note and feel its individual placement within the song. There's a crispness to the sounds it creates, and we particularly enjoyed the tightly-controlled bass notes and how effortlessly we were able to pick out the subtle details that often go unnoticed. If you're looking for a DAC solution to enhance your listening experience while you're travelling, during an extended commute for example, then the Soundkey is reasonably priced and of excellent build quality.
Most of our time with the Soundkey was spent playing on PC, either on our desktop in the office or in the evenings on the laptop. It's simple to plug in and easily selectable (via the recently updated audio options on Windows 10), and straight away you'll notice the benefit. It's especially impressive if you've got an excellent pair of headphones, and this might be a great option for those who've got a decent headset already and who don't want to splash out on a completely new setup (something like the SteelSeries Arctis Pro + Game DAC). Under those circumstances, Cyrus's DAC is a very worthwhile investment and will certainly take your current setup to the next level.
If you use your mobile device regularly to listen to music and play games, and if you then like to go home and play immersive games on your PC, then you'll certainly get your money's worth out of the Cyrus Soundkey. If you're an Apple user then there's an unwelcome additional cost that's worth bearing in mind. Alternatively, if you just want to up the potency of your audio experience on PC, then you'll have to weigh up whether the performance bump is worth the investment. It certainly represents an upgrade on the components already in most laptop and desktop PCs, but if you don't use your PC as a media centre or if you haven't got a suitably high-quality headset then you should probably start there instead. That said, if you've already got the gear at home and, in particular, if you play games where crystal clear and immersive audio is a tangible benefit, then the Soundkey is certainly worth a closer look.