With MM/MC, high/low and very low, the ZEN Phono is able to handle just about any cartridge. From 36dB all the way up to 72dB. So as your vinyl system grows over time, the ZEN Phono will always keep up.
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.
LPs + ZEN = Magical combo.
You’ve spent years building your dream LP collection. We know because we have done the same!
The ZEN Phono is a wonderful enhancement to your vinyl setup. It will max out every MM/MC cartridge.
Choc full of AMR/iFi trickle-down vinyl technology, it will have you poring over your LPs into the wee, small hours.
Spec’d to make you smile
Unlike any other entry-level phono stage. The ZEN Phono has:
- MM/MC from 36dB >72dB gain. Super-silent noise floor -151dBV
- Precise RIAA with Balanced output, performance comparable to +$1k phono stages
- AI sub-sonic filter. Addresses warp without eliminating bass or causing phase issues
Flagship phono amplifiers create their own power supply off the mains, like a mains regenerator. This is fundamental to a well-designed phono stage. Without this, it will struggle to amplify the signal without added noise. This is why phono stages ‘hiss’ so annoyingly.
Unusually, the ZEN Phono has its own high-tech clean power supply. It creates a 1.2MHz power supply (20,000x mains frequency of 60Hz). In this circuit, a 10uF filtering capacitor = 200,000uF at lower, audible frequencies. With serious levels of noise filtration, it performs at the level of well-designed LC filtering circuits as found in classic tube amplifiers. Further, located on its own ‘island’ PCB, it is isolated so there is no noise pollution of the analogue stage.
Just super clean +/- 12V DC.
Measured EIN (Equivalent Input Noise) is -151dBV. It is 20dBV quieter than some Stereophile Class A+ phonos which are -131dBV.
The EQ circuit uses multiple TDK C0G capacitors in parallel. This is for best stability and the least distortion. They beat polystyrene capacitors and are close to Teflon. Read more here.
Already using the lowest tolerance capacitors combined with multiples in parallel, tolerance is exponentially improved by the square root of the number of capacitors. This is quite a natty circuit design.
The RIAA EQ tolerance level (+/- 0.15dB) is impressive as it is en par with hand-selected capacitors!
With great circuit comes great components
The ZEN Phono has some seriously good audio components backing up the fab circuit design which has trickled-down from its ultra-fidelity AMR PH-77 and iFi iPhono siblings.
Scroll down for more on the most consequential circuit highlights/boutique components.
The intelligent sub-sonic filter is from the iPhono range and is quite special.
Normal sub-sonic filters remove ‘rumble’ AND bass and cause phase issues.
Our unique AI phono sub-sonic filter removes ‘rumble’ only.
TDK C0G (Class 1 ceramic) capacitors offer high stability and low losses for resonant circuit applications.
Getting ever closer to the theoretical ideal of pure, frequency-constant capacitance, these capacitors reduce capacitor-induced distortion to vanishingly low levels.
They are pricey but are a perfect addition to our products.
|Gain settings||MC (v lo)@|
|72dB (+/- 1dB)
60dB (+/- 1dB)
48dB (+/- 1dB)
36dB (+/- 1dB)
|AI Sub-sonic filter||Remedies only the 'warp' in LPs||No negative impact to bass response|
|Max Output Voltage (RMS)||20v RMS bal output into 100k (< 1% THD & N)
13.5V RMS bal output into 600R (< 1% THD & N)
|200 Ohm resistive
100 Ohm resistive
|Input impedance||MM: 47K Ohms (Load: 110pF)
MC High: 47K Ohms
MC Low: 1K Ohms
MC V Low: 110 Ohms
|Signal/Noise Ratio:||94dB(A) MM re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
80dB(unweighted 80kHz BW) MM re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
84dB(A) MC Hi re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
71dB(unweighted 80kHz BW) MM re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
90dB(A) MC lo re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
79dB(unweighted 80kHz BW) MC lo re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
79dB(A) MC vlo re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
69dB(unweighted 80kHz BW) MC vlo re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
|EIN (equivalent input noise):||0.6nV|/Hz (unweighted) MC lo/vlo|
6.5nV|/Hz (unweighted) MM/MC hi
|-151dBV (A weighted)
-130dBV (A weighted)
|Harmonic Distortion:||< -110dB / 0.0003% MM re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
< -80dB / 0.01% MC lo re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
< -86dB / 0.005% MC vlo re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
|Dimensions||160(l) x 113(w) x 35(h) mm
6.3" x 4.4" x 1.4"
|Power Supply:||DC 5V / 500mA|
|Net weight:||515g (1.14 Ibs)|
The iFi ZEN Phono Review. Make your Vinyl SING!
ZEN Phono – “Yes, you should”
The ifi zen comes highly recommended by a lot of trusted audiophiles from YouTube and the like. So… is it right for you? Yes, you will like it. I currently have a douk audio tube phono amp with upgraded tubes. I also had a schiit mani which my son ran off with. I like all three of these amps and will probably replace my schiit mani. Why do I want all these phono preamps? Because phono preamps change the sound of my music system the most. If I want to change the sound of my system, I simply have to change my phono preamp. Buy the ifi zen. Buy the schiit mani. Buy something else as well. The ones I’ve mentioned sound great… but they’re different.I like the schiit mani because it’s very forgiving with some of my poorly pressed vinyl. I like the douk audio tube amp because it’s open and airy. I like the ifi zen because it’s very detailed. It’s also excellent with my live recordings.Phono preamps are very easy to swap out. At these prices, you should get a few and have fun. Yes, you can get the ifi zen and be happy with it for the rest of your life. Just know you’re getting a great phono preamp.
Looks great sounds great
Probably can get something of similar sound quality for less cost, but no way can you get the build quality or features of this thing as well as the sound quality for $150.
I have previously used ifi stuff before so I wanted to try their latest zen line of products, and can say this is really cool. Look sharp sounds crystal clean and will slot in nicely with any hifi stack.
I do not have multi thousand phono preamps to compare this too. Suffice it to say it clobbered every other phono pre I have in house. And I read at least one review saying essentially this is in the ball park of the expensive phono preamps . So there you have it.
Worth the money, a good performer.
I comp’d this preamp against four others I was deciding amongst: modded RS 42-2111, DIY tube, Puffin, and Slee Communicator 2. This iFi took a week to break in, after which it greatly improved over new. I ran it with a DIY 5V linear power supply. The iFi is a level presenter of music: neither forward nor recessed, not calling attention to itself, not wrongly altering the music. The deeper tonal and timbral elements of well-played instruments were pleasantly revealed. Gave a genuine “Feel” for what the performers and engineers put in the LP’s grooves, didn’t hide anything much. Its playback is very comfortable, but maintaied an energizing pacing/rhythm/timing.
Results: The iFi and Slee were nearly equal in music-savvy and properly vibrant to my ears. I liked iFi more than the Puffin (good try, but too much DSP alteration of the music, adding “effects” and lacking “aliveness”). The DIY and the RS just lacked too much note/timbral richness in comparison, teaching me how delicate is a phono preamp’s circuitry and component choice. So the Slee pulled ahead in clarity and fidelity: it could cleanly reveal background voices that the iFi left slightly muffled. The Slee retails for twice the iFi’s price, but’s worth it. At their price points, the iFi and Slee are excellent values.