The ZEN Series from iFi packs in a bunch of the latest audio technology to produce high-performance sound at a price point that’s accessible to everyone.
Don’t believe us? — Just check out some of the reviews and awards they’ve won in the short time since their release and read the full specs below.
The ZEN Blue is a Bluetooth receiver unlike any other. For a start, it’s the first to support all the latest high-definition, 24-bit Bluetooth audio formats, including aptX Adaptive, aptX HD, LDAC and HWA – this means that whichever smartphone, tablet or computer you’re streaming from, you can be sure you’re getting the very best sound quality.
The ZEN Blue incorporates Qualcomm’s latest Bluetooth processing chip, coupled to a high-performance ESS Sabre DAC chip, plus top-quality analogue circuitry including a balanced output stage; all wrapped up in a sturdy, desktop-sized aluminium enclosure. If you’re looking to add high-definition Bluetooth streaming to your audio system, nothing compares to the ZEN Blue’s amazing combination of features, performance and value-for-money.
With an RRP of just £149 (US$149, €165), the ZEN CAN sports many features usually reserved for high-end headphone amps at many times the price. The ability to drive tough headphone loads, the balanced circuit design, the vanishingly low levels of distortion and versatile sonic tailoring options to optimise performance are all highly unusual at such an eminently affordable price tag. By combining them in one package, iFi is once again pushing the envelope of affordable desktop audio.
As an all-analogue headphone amp, the ZEN CAN has no digital input of any kind, USB or otherwise. It connects to any audio source with an analogue output, such as the headphone output from a DAP (Digital Audio Player), a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone, or the RCA outputs from, say, a CD player or phono stage. It could be paired with the ZEN Blue to add Bluetooth reception, or combined with the ZEN DAC to upgrade the DAC’s headphone amp stage. As well as a headphone amp, it can double as a preamp to feed a power amp and speakers or a pair of active speakers.
Housed in the same compact aluminium enclosure as the ZEN Blue, the ZEN DAC replaces Bluetooth reception with a USB input and adds an integrated headphone amp. Designed for home use – on a desk, perhaps, or in the living room – it connects to PCs and Macs, or smart devices such as tablets or phones, and delivers excellent sound quality across all manner of digital formats including hi-res PCM up to 32-bit/384kHz, bit-perfect DSD and MQA.
This eminently affordable USB DAC/headphone amp can be used as a pure DAC in a home audio system, with the option of fixed or variable output, while headphone users can make use of its excellent amp stage with PowerMatch drive control – this ensures superb sound with all headphone types, from in-ear monitors to larger on- and over-ear designs.
The ZEN Phono is the first sub-£200 phono stage iFi has made and in terms of sound-per-pound performance it is a truly remarkable device. For anyone diving headlong into the vinyl revival, the ZEN Phono is the ideal companion for their chosen turntable. It delivers a specification and performance unparalleled at the price, able to match perfectly will all manner of phono cartridges, whether moving magnet or moving coil.
Every turntable needs a phono stage to amplify the low-level output from a phono cartridge to ‘line level’ and apply RIAA equalisation. Some integrated amps and preamps have phono stages built in, but these vary in quality and are rarely as good as a well-designed offboard phono stage placed in the signal chain between the turntable and a line-level input on the amp. Designing a truly high-performance phono stage is not an easy thing to do. For one thing, it is difficult to amplify the delicate output from a phono cartridge without also amplifying noise. In addition, the wide variation in output from different cartridges means that many phono stages only work optimally with certain cartridge types. These issues are exacerbated at the entry-level end of the phono stage market, where basic circuit design using common off-the-shelf components often leads to a performance that is adequate at best – okay for entry level, but easily outclassed by spending more.
The ZEN Phono has been designed to push the boundaries of what can be achieved in an entry-level phono stage. Its circuit design is like nothing else at the price, with a range of precisely engineered settings that ensure genuine versatility. The ZEN Phono’s circuitry is of balanced, symmetrical dual-mono design – a topology usually reserved for high-end audio products owing to complexity and cost.
Whatever the turntable, whatever the cartridge, the ZEN Phono always delivers a class-leading performance.