iFi Audio Zen DAC Review & Comments

muljao

Well-known Member
Seems great. Add a pair of active monitors affordable and you could have a great kit.

Not many dacs work properly on Android with Spotify. The dragonflys have managed to do this well. Do you know if this unit does so also?
 
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OrigamiNinja

Active Member
So happy to see such a great review of this, I have been pondering buying it for a couple of days.

I have recently signed up to Amazon Music HD and want to get the most out the subscription. I think I am going to pull the trigger and buy this DAC but I am a little confused when it comes to headphone selection. I was looking at either the 1000XM3 or XM4 because of the excellent reviews and the fact they give me a portable option. My understanding (please correct me if I am wrong) is that when using these headphones (no DAC) with Iphone X I will get up to 24bit/48KHz quality?

What I am unsure about is how they fit in, when it comes to using at home with the DAC. If I use my desktop with the DAC and use the XM3 or XM4 wired to the DAC, what quality will I get?
 

mindforge

Active Member
Good to see the review. I just bought one of these and am using it with Genelec 8010s as my set-up on my desk while working. I upgraded from a £35 USB DAC from Amazon and the difference is notable, apart from the solid build quality, music sounds more detailed and liquid (sounds silly but best description I can think of). The volume knob is a pleasure to twiddle.

It's worth upgrading the firmware to the latest version as although you lose the different colour LED round the volume knob indicating what signal is passing through, it definitely makes lossy feeds (Spotify and internet radio) sound better, apparently it upsamples it or at least applies a different digital filter.

One thing I haven't done is use the fully balanced output - it's a shame as the Genelecs take balanced XLRs, but I can't seem to find a 4.4mm balanced to XLR converter which isn't ridiculously expensive. However I'm not sure whether there would be any particular sonic advantage if not running over long lengths?
 

Toon Army

Well-known Member
Thanks Ed - Good review and a DAC that definitely has a place in the market despite its single input.
 

Ftorek

Standard Member
looks very good - and congrats to iFi on the win!

just wondering how would this stack up to fulla 2 by schiit sound-wise (apart from connections which fulla 2 has less)? would anyone could give any insight on this :)

cheers
m.
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
I imagine this might be all stereo computer gamers or music people would need.

This and a good pair of actives at the price of your choice would be superb value.

ifi, also sell a ‘quiet’ 5V power supply. I assume that’s really what the power input is for.
 

Toon Army

Well-known Member
This DAC is tempting for use with my laptop. The other alternative at the moment is the Schiit Modi 3 at a similar price point.
 

OrigamiNinja

Active Member
Why do you need a DAC? That defeats the whole purpose of owning either XM3 or XM4
Because both my Iphone and Desktop can only output 24bit/48KHz. This is fine when using my Iphone out and about with the XMs. However, my understanding was that when using them on my desktop, with the DAC I could achieve up to 24bit/192KHz and get the full benefit of Amazon HD music, is this incorrect?
 

gigglebug

Active Member
Because both my Iphone and Desktop can only output 24bit/48KHz. This is fine when using my Iphone out and about with the XMs. However, my understanding was that when using them on my desktop, with the DAC I could achieve up to 24bit/192KHz and get the full benefit of Amazon HD music, is this incorrect?
The only problem I personally experienced with Amazon Music HD was the fact that I could never prevent the music being sampled by the laptop‘s own sound card before it was passed onto the dac that I use even though Amazon Music HD does have an exclusive mode which in theory should bypass this. I’ve switched to Tidal as it’s exclusive mode does send everything directly to the dac, the negative being that it does cost significantly more than Amazon - especially if you are a Prime member.
 

jizzlejimbo

Active Member
I'm looking for a cheap DAC to properly drive DT990 Pro headphones. I was looking at the E10K but seems a bit wimpy. Any suggestions?
 

vkvedam

Active Member
Because both my Iphone and Desktop can only output 24bit/48KHz. This is fine when using my Iphone out and about with the XMs. However, my understanding was that when using them on my desktop, with the DAC I could achieve up to 24bit/192KHz and get the full benefit of Amazon HD music, is this incorrect?
You are better off getting wired headphones in that case, all wireless headphones suck in wired mode, I did assess XM3 and they are no different. In fact I own Sennheiser PXC-550 wireless NC ones and they are not good when used wired.

On a different note, you don't need any more than 24/48 if your primary use case is wireless with NC requirement.
 

Pecker

Distinguished Member
I looked at this model (though never got a chance to listen to it) just after my birthday this spring.

I ended up with a FiiO K5 Pro and a pair of Beyerdynamic DT990 600 ohms. I'm not sure the Zen would be powerful enough to handle those.

If anyone is looking at buying an amp/DAC, the FiiO is worth checking out. Truth be told, I haven't stopped smiling.

Might you review the FiiO, Ed?
 

KWB1

Well-known Member
So can i connect this upto my iMac PC and connect the RCA’s up to my new sonos amp and get hi res music - the manual isn’t very clear and have raised a ticket - reason i ask is im currently using the headphone out on the iMac that is limited to 96khz
 

dannnielll

Well-known Member
You are better off getting wired headphones in that case, all wireless headphones suck in wired mode, I did assess XM3 and they are no different. In fact I own Sennheiser PXC-550 wireless NC ones and they are not good when used wired.

On a different note, you don't need any more than 24/48 if your primary use case is wireless with NC requirement.
The Sony X1000M3 are inferior when used in Wired mode WITHOUT the power on. They are up to normal performance when they are powered on with cable. I have also two pairs of the Sony MDR1series . An original wired model and also the MDR1A with Bluetooth. .In my opinion both of the MDR1s are better, except in a noisy environment than the 1000M3,, but the MDR1A significantly better on cable .. a level of clarity. But the M3s are a little more comfortable because of lightness.
 

Hypernormal

Standard Member
Hi @Ed Selley , I joined the site to say thank you. I purchased this dac and really enjoying so far. Your feature on lockdown listening has been a game changer and inspired me to move from an old Sonos to start a journey into hifi. There is a sub woofer from BK on the way too.

Thank you Ed, the team at Avforums @Stuart Wright and the members, I've been a long time lurker and I just wanted to thank you all
 

mindforge

Active Member
Hi @Ed Selley , I joined the site to say thank you. I purchased this dac and really enjoying so far. Your feature on lockdown listening has been a game changer and inspired me to move from an old Sonos to start a journey into hifi. There is a sub woofer from BK on the way too.

Thank you Ed, the team at Avforums @Stuart Wright and the members, I've been a long time lurker and I just wanted to thank you all
Which feature was that? Sounds interesting.
 

Hypernormal

Standard Member
Thanks! Will check it out. Am doing a lot of listening while working from home with my Ifi Zen and Genelec active speakers.
No worries at all 👍 I just got to the end yesterday, there are some amazing albums on there I'd never heard of, I owe Ed for this!! Hope you enjoy and let me know how you get on?
 

iFi audio

Standard Member
AVForums Sponsor
Seems great. Add a pair of active monitors affordable and you could have a great kit.

Not many dacs work properly on Android with Spotify. The dragonflys have managed to do this well. Do you know if this unit does so also?
Hi there. It should be totally fine. We haven't had any reports of it not working.
 

mindforge

Active Member
Just as a follow up, while I am still enjoying the Ifi, I still cannot find a 4.4mm balanced cable to double XLR so that I can connect it as a fully balanced run to active speakers. I tried this from ebay which was a bit of a gamble but it just produces a loud hum in the subwoofer and horrible distortion in the speakers whereas the RCA to XLR cables are silent. Any ideas?
 

iFi audio

Standard Member
AVForums Sponsor
Just as a follow up, while I am still enjoying the Ifi, I still cannot find a 4.4mm balanced cable to double XLR so that I can connect it as a fully balanced run to active speakers. I tried this from ebay which was a bit of a gamble but it just produces a loud hum in the subwoofer and horrible distortion in the speakers whereas the RCA to XLR cables are silent. Any ideas?
Hey there. I'll ask our support team. I know that we are doing an XLR/4.4mm cable but not sure of all the details as yet. I'll see if they have any suggestions for you. Or you can message them yourself on [email protected]. This may get a speedier response as they tend to answer you guys before us! Lol.
 

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