ZEN DAC V2
ZEN DAC V2
ZEN DAC — DAC/headphone amplifier
Chill out. At home. In the office.

Our super-affordable compact DAC/headphone amp just got even better.

Available to purchase in May.

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Added oomph!

This ZEN DAC V2 is the same award-winning hi-res USB DAC/headphone amp as before but with added oomph!

We’ve upgraded its digital engine from an 8 core XMOS chip to a 16 core chip. It’s ultra-capable while still being super-affordable.

Compact enough to use as a USB DAC/amp on your work desk and stylish enough to use at home with your favourite active speakers or amp, it delivers a level of specification and performance that punches above its super-affordable price tag.

The ZEN DAC V2 supports PCM and DXD to 32-bit/384kHz, DSD256 and MQA. DSD remains ‘bit-perfect’ thanks to the True Native Burr-Brown chip design.

Zen DAC — DAC/headphone amplifier

16 core = hardcore.

Thanks to the 16 core tech, the ZEN DAC V2 is now an MQA Decoder rather than a Renderer.

This enables you to play back MQA audio files and streams, delivering the sound of the original master recording. The LED glows green or blue to indicate that the unit is decoding and playing an MQA stream or file, and denotes provenance to ensure that the sound is identical to that of the source material. It glows blue to indicate it is playing an MQA Studio file, which has either been approved in the studio by the artist/producer or has been verified by the copyright owner.

MQA rendering technology (used in the original ZEN DAC among other iFi products) connects to an MQA Core signal (such as TIDAL) and completes the final unfold of an MQA file. This product will include ‘stream lock’ but is not able to decode an MQA stream or authenticate it. 

Smooth and balanced.

A new and improved low jitter, crystal clock means >20dB better performance. The super-low noise performance means the ZEN DAC V2 will remain quiet even in noisy situations such as yachts or RVs.

The balanced design for the analogue stage – rare and not found at this price point – makes it pretty special and delivers the best sound quality, normally found in higher priced models.

The ZEN DAC V2 sports Pentaconn 4.4mm balanced outputs at both the front and back. On the front, there’s also the popular 6.3mm headphone socket.

ZEN DAC V2 from iFi audio

Flexible.

Switch effortlessly between ‘variable’ and ‘fixed’.

Set to ‘Variable,’ use the ZEN DAC V2 as a pre-amp to feed a power amp or active speakers.

On ‘Fixed’ to bypass the volume control. Connect to an external pre-amp or integrated amp.

Power. Drive. Performance.

Our headphone amp has PowerMatch – switchable gain to perfectly match your headphones.

For IEMs, normally high-sensitivity, leave PowerMatch at its lower setting for hiss-free listening.

On/over-ear headphones with relatively low impedance require more power – press PowerMatch to increase the level of drive.

Zen DAC — DAC/headphone amplifier

Ace of Bass.

The ZEN DAC V2 boasts TrueBass. This proprietary tech is a switchable ‘bass boost’ operating in the analogue domain. There’s no DSP with iFi gear.

TrueBass enhances the bass but does not muddy the mid-range. Perfect for use with IEMs or open-back headphones which often lack bass.

The ZEN DAC V2  is the ultimate chilling machine. Tune in and ZEN out.

The XMOS 16-Core chip processes the audio data received via the USB* digital input.

This new low-latency XMOS microcontroller has greatly enhanced processing power. Compared to the current generation of eight-core chips, this new 16-core IC delivers double the clock speed (2000MIPS) and four times the memory (512KB), as well as the latest SuperSpeed USB standard.

iFi’s in-house digital development team has programmed the XMOS firmware to optimise sound quality and ensure a perfect partnership with the Burr-Brown DAC.

(* Also on S/PDIF on the NEO iDSD/Diablo)

The Burr-Brown True Native® chipset means file formats remain unchanged or ‘bit-perfect’. This means you are listening to music as the artist intended in the format in which it was recorded.

At iFi we use Burr Brown extensively in our products having selected it for its natural-sounding ‘musicality’ and True Native architecture. Our experience with this IC means we know how to make the most of it.

Hi-Res True Native® playback of all music formats from MP3 to DSD256, PCM384 and DXD384.

MQA is an award-winning audio technology that enables music fans to stream the original master recording into their home, car or on their mobile. In the words of Gilbert O’Sullivan, iconic Irish-born singer-songwriter, “The great thing about MQA is that it delivers the finesse that was there in the desk sound. It’s tremendous, it sounds really good.”

MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) is supported through the USB with full decoding of MQA files up to 384kHz thanks to the processing power of the new 16-core XMOS chip.

Check out how to set up your MQA decoder via Tidal, Roon and Audirvana here.

This means that the full ‘three unfold’ decoding process is performed internally, as opposed to only the final unfold in the manner of an MQA ‘renderer’.

Globally, MQA has become an important consideration for any comprehensively equipped DAC. It is available through for Tidal Masters, Audirvana and Roon.

Extensive jitter-eradication technologies are applied to the digital stage, including our GMT (Global Master Timing) femto-precision clock and the intelligent memory buffer.

The low-jitter crystal clock has been updated to provide >20dB better performance

It is a superior method to the traditional single-ended circuit approach. Balanced circuits reduce noise and crosstalk. Less Interference – clearer sound.

You normally find this set-up in products at the higher end of the price spectrum such as the Pro iCAN but iFi is now using this across its range to produce the best quality audio for all our customers.

TrueBass® – delivers genuine bass with realistic depth and definition.

Everything from timpani to a bass guitar, to an electronic bassline, is conveyed with power and poise.

Support

InputUSB3.0 B Socket
(USB2.0 compatible)
FormatsDSD256/128/64, Octa/Quad/Double/Single-Speed DSD DXD(384/352.8kHz), PCM(384/352.8/192/176.4/96/88.2/48/44.1kHz) MQA
DACBit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC by Burr Brown

Line Section

OutputAudio RCA (SE) — 2.1V fixed
1V / 3.3V max. (variable)
4.4mm Pentaconn (BAL) — 4.2V fixed
2V / 6.2V max. (variable)
Zout<= 200 Ohm (BAL)
<= 100 Ohm (SE)
SNR< -116dB(A) @ 0dBFS (BAL/SE)
DNR> 116dB(A) @ -60dBFS (BAL/SE)
THD+N< 0.0015% @ 0dBFS (BAL/SE)

Headphone Section

Output Power (@1% THD)4.4mm Pentaconn (BAL)
[email protected] Ohm; [email protected] Ohm;
16 Ohm - 600 Ohm Headphone

6.3mm S-BAL (SE)
[email protected] Ohm; [email protected] Ohm
16 Ohm - 600 Ohm Headphone

Note: Using 5v power. If powered from USB, power output may vary.
Output Impedance< 1 Ω (BAL/SE)
THD & N< 0.005% (125mW @ 32R)
SNR> 113dBA (6.2V BAL/3.3V SE)
Power consumption< 1.5W via USB power OR 5v DC (power supply not included)
Dimensions160(w) x 117(d) x 35(h) mm
6.3" x 4.6" x 1.4"
Weight (Gross)0.8 kg (1.8 lbs)
Warranty period12 months

Reviews

MQA yesss!

I just plugged my Zen Dac up and it’s a WoW! I found the setting in my Tidal player on my pc “use exclusive mode” and the led light lit up magellan for the MQA is on!! It sounds great! I started with thee HD 660 s and then to the Sony XM3’s. Everything sounded great! This is a buy!
(Click name to read original review)
Active 'v' Passive Speakers

So, what’s the difference?

Active speakers have an in-built power amplifier and just need a power cable (or battery) to operate. Passive speakers require an external power amplifier to operate.

In short, you need an amplifier for passive speakers, you don’t with active speakers.

Balanced audio

This is a type of audio circuitry topology that uses individual left & right channels.

It is a superior method to the single-ended circuit approach. Balanced circuits reduce noise and crosstalk.

While single-ended is used by most at this price level, iFi is implementing balanced circuits across the Zen range which is quite a step-up.

Balanced 'v' Unbalanced

Let’s talk headphone cables.

An unbalanced headphone cable has a left + and right + wire, for each respective side. The other, the third – wire is shared by both left & right channels. As this is shared, this gives rise to undesired coupling noise which is commonly referred to as ‘crosstalk.’

A balanced cable has the same left + and right +. But it has a separate left – and right -. With totally separate wiring ‘crosstalk’ is negligible.

Therefore, a balanced connection is the superior headphone wiring configuration.

DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Converter)

DACs convert digital information, stored or streamed by computers, into music we can hear through speakers or headphones.

Every device that’s a source of digital sound has a built-in DAC (TVs, games consoles, CD players, phones, portable music players etc). Dedicated external DACs sound much better than standard DACs used in digital devices such as phones.

DSD (Direct Stream Digital)

DSD is a very high-quality digital audio format that’s even better than CD quality. The higher the ‘DSD rate’ – DSD64, 128, 256, 512 and 1024 – the greater the amount of music information available, which means better sound quality.

Files can be remastered to higher file rates to improve sound quality. The pinnacle of this is DSD1024. Not many machines out there are capable of this feat.

Gain

Gain is the amount of increase in audio signal strength. Gain is often expressed in decibels (dB).

IEMs

IEMs stands for In-Ear Monitors.

These fit inside your ear. You’ve been using them for years. You just called them something else.

You will also see these referred to as earphones, ear buds and CIEMs. CIEMs are Custom In-Ear Monitors – IEMs made specifically to fit your ear shape.

File Formats

MP3 – this is the most popular format, every device in the world can use it.

DSD – Direct Stream Digital is a very high-quality audio format, better than CD quality. The higher the number (sample rate), the better the recording – DSD64, 128, 256, 512 and 1024.

PCM – Pulse Code Modulation is the most common format for CDs and DVDs.

DXD – Digital eXtreme Definition is a very high-quality PCM format. It was developed to edit hi-res (high quality) recordings recorded in DSD.

MQA (Master Quality Authenticated)

MQA is an award-winning British technology that delivers the sound of the original master recording. The master MQA file is fully authenticated and is small enough to stream or download. More here.

ZEN

Zen emphasises rigorous self-control, meditation-practice, insight into the nature of things and the personal expression of this insight in daily life, especially for the benefit of others. Discover more here.

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