The original ZEN CAN, our all-analogue headphone amplifier, boasted the ability to drive tough headphone loads, a balanced circuit design, vanishingly low levels of distortion and versatile sonic tailoring.
The ZEN CAN Signature 6XX takes this to another level. It further improves the sound quality with enhanced circuit design, whilst maintaining the versatile features of the ‘regular’ version and adding something special – a custom EQ setting precisely tailored across the entire frequency response curve to make the most of a popular headphone model.
This new feature, called ActivEQ, combines active and passive components to create a specific EQ curve to suit a particular pair of headphones, performed in the analogue domain without a hint of additional noise or distortion.
The ZEN CAN Signature 6XX, features ActivEQ for the ‘MassDrop x Sennheiser HD 6XX’ – a popular pair of high-quality headphones with more than 120,000 sold to date, based on the Sennheiser HD 650 and created exclusively for Drop.com.
These headphones are renowned for the quality of their midrange performance but exhibit some quirks in the bass and treble regions, which can be seen in frequency response measurements.
When the ‘HD 6XX’ button is pressed, the ZEN CAN Signature 6XX calibrates its signal to complement the headphone’s response characteristics right across the frequency range, thus tailoring its performance to precisely fit the HD 6XX like a made-to-measure suit. In particular, the 7kHz treble and bass below 500Hz is gently elevated.
What’s more, the benefits of this ActivEQ curve are equally applicable to the Sennheiser HD 650, which shares the same characteristics. It also has an effect on other Sennheiser models – take a look here.
This feature can be switched on or off. Without ActivEQ engaged, the ZEN CAN Signature 6XX’s performance is adroitly balanced to make the most of all manner of headphones and in-ear monitors.
No pain, just gain.
The ZEN CAN Signature 6XX features four gain settings in six dB steps – 0dB, 6dB, 12dB and 18db.
This enables the amp to precisely suit the connected headphones. Unity gain (0dB) is useful to ensure low noise with sensitive in-ear monitors, while the higher gain settings make the most of tougher headphone loads, delivering excellent dynamic headroom.
This analogue processing mode compensates for the ‘in-head localisation’ effect that can occur when using headphones to listen to music that was mixed using a pair of speakers.
It widens the headphone soundstage to deliver a more spacious and speaker-like experience.
Balance of power
The ZEN CAN Signature 6XX’s circuitry is a balanced, symmetrical dual-mono design – a topology usually reserved for high-end headphone amps – with a number of key elements trickled down from the discrete Class A circuitry developed for iFi’s flagship headphone amplifier, the Pro iCAN.
Key components have been upgraded to enhance performance in line with the improvements made to the ZEN CAN Signature 6XX, including the use of Panasonic OS-CON and Elna Silmic II capacitors.
The amp offers prodigious drive capability, delivering 1600mW (7.2V) into 32 ohms from the single-ended output, with 15V+ available to loads of 300 ohms or more through the balanced output, ensuring it takes even current-hungry planar headphones in its stride.
Delivering ultra-low distortion, rich sonic detail, engaging dynamics and the ability to drive all manner of headphones with ease, the ZEN CAN Signature 6XX is a truly a driving force to be reckoned with.
The ZEN CAN Signature 6XX offers stereo RCA and 3.5mm single-ended inputs, plus a 4.4mm Balanced input. A 4.4mm balanced output is also provided, to connect to power amps equipped with a balanced input.
It provides a pair of headphone outputs – a 6.3mm output for headphones that have a standard single-ended connector (compatible with all headphones) and a 4.4mm Balanced output for headphones offering balanced connection.
An increasing number of high-quality headphones and in-ear monitors either come so equipped or give the option of detaching the cable and upgrading to a 4.4mm Balanced connector, and this output makes the most of them (it is particularly recommended for high-impedance headphones).
The ZEN CAN Signature 6XX works well with the ZEN DAC Signature V2. Products can be bought separately but a ‘ZEN Signature Set’ is now available. This comprises both ZEN Signature units plus a high-performance 4.4mm Balanced cable (worth £69 when purchased separately) to connect them together.
When used in tandem, the two ZEN Signatures make a fantastic, desktop-sized headphone system for both digital and analogue sources, further extending the reputation of iFi’s ZEN Series for delivering exceptional performance and versatility at remarkable prices.
more headphone power
Tom Evans who makes very nice phono stages made the following astute comment:
A rumble filter simply adds to the bass cut making your already “cut” records sound bass light. Plus, it “time-steps” the bass in relation to the higher frequencies (where our hearing is most sensitive) so much so it can confuse the ear into believing the bass is playing out of tempo.
Since the very first iPHONO launched in 2012, we have used our own in-house ‘Subsonic Filter’. It made it into the iPHONO2 and the iPHONO3 and now, the ZEN Phono which is the very first time this filter is seen in such an affordable price level.
As there is only minimal vertical modulation remaining at very low frequencies with an an actual cut LP that is playable, we know that “vertical modulation” at low frequencies must be warp.
So we designed a filter to take advantage of this.
This is not artificial but real knowledge. By understanding fully how LPs are cut and replayed, it is possible to filter record warp strongly without at the same time attenuating low bass or adding group delay.