Welcome to the new ZEN Series with Balanced topology.
So, what is balanced topology and why does it make the new ZEN series from iFi audio special?
Balanced topology refers to the circuit design.
A balanced circuit uses individual left and right channels. No channels are shared. This means that a ‘true’ balanced circuit will always sound better than a single ended one (where channels are shared). A balanced circuit is more resistant to noise as there is no crosstalk/interference between the two separate channels.
Balanced circuits are inherently more complex and hence more costly to develop (almost twice the price because of the separate left and right channels).
This is the main reason why they normally reserved for the ultra, high-end audio components that cost four or five figures such as our flagship DAC and amplifier, the Pro iDSD and Pro iCAN.
However, at iFi we pride ourselves on using trickle-down tech. The ZEN Blue and ZEN DAC are the first of our entry level units to benefit from the balanced tech from our Pro machines. It is unusual to find this level of tech at this price point (£129/€149 inc. VAT & US$129 ex tax.).
The following are shots of the actual printed circuit boards depicting the separate left & right channels.
Their obvious advantages were succinctly summarised by John Curl, “it’s inherently more linear. That type of design, all else being equal, always has less distortion.”
Balanced circuit design was developed by the AMR/iFi audio team led by our in-house chief engineer Thorsten Loesch but also with invaluable input by John Curl.
Curl is unquestionably one of a small group of engineers whose influence is so great it has altered the direction of audio design. Many of us have listened to equipment he has designed, or that was inspired by his work, often without even realising it. His solid-state circuit designs are lauded as classic exemplars of the type; when asked what makes him different to other audio electronics designers, he once replied, “I have circuit sense”.
Today, Curl works with a select group of audio companies including US-based Parasound and one of high-end audio’s most lauded manufacturers in recent years – Constellation Audio. iFi audio and AMR are delighted to reap the benefits of the exceptional experience he has gained whilst devising some of the finest audio circuits of the last five decades and to see it spread into our new ZEN series products – ZEN Blue and ZEN DAC.