iFi Audio Zen DAC
Balanced DAC Burr Brown USB XMOS MQA 192kHz DSD256
iFi Audio continues to expand its Zen range with this time the Zen DAC, a digital-to-analog converter and headphone amplifier offering exceptional audio performance at a contained price. The entire product benefits from an extremely careful design for a rich and transparent sound reproduction.
Review by Audio Science Review
The DAC section is based on a Burr Brown chip, a brand often used by iFi Audio for the musicality and True Native architecture of its components. This chip is accompanied by an XMOS USB interface allowing efficient processing of input audio data for highly accurate sound, whether in PCM, DSD Bit-Perfect or MQA. This interface also benefits from a custom driver offered by iFi Audio to optimize its processing power.
DAC Zen supports high sampling rates, up to 24bit PCM 384kHz and DSD256. Thanks to the True Native design of the conversion chip, the PCM and DSD signals are separated and the DSD can thus remain Bit-Perfect in native, until analog conversion.
Finally, the digital stage optimizes the synchronization of clock signals to minimize jitter to maintain the integrity of the incoming audio signal until conversion.
The analog stage of DAC Zen benefits from a symmetrical architecture often found in devices sold at higher prices. This analog circuit includes many high-quality components, carefully selected for their audio performance, such as C0G capacitors from TDK, a low-noise power chip from Texas Instruments or a high-quality analog potentiometer.
The headphone amplifier stage has an adjustable gain called Power Match, which allows the input sensitivity and therefore the signal strength to be adjusted according to the impedance of the listening device used. A low gain (default setting) is a perfect fit for listening with in-ear headphones, where a high gain is ideal a high gain can be used with headphones requiring more power.
The TrueBass function is an evolution of the iFi Audio XBass circuit. It is a sophisticated bass boost system that subtly increases low frequencies without stifling midrange. A particularly useful feature for listening with open headphones or headphones, which may sometimes lack bass. This system works entirely in the analog section rather than distorting the digital signal via a DSP and can be activated or not by a button on the front of the DAC Zen.
DAC Zen incorporates balanced outputs on 4.4mm Pentaconn Jack, a relatively new type of interface that provides symmetrical connectivity to compact products that cannot carry conventional XLR connectors. Of course, this is not the only connection of the Zen DAC, since it also offers an unbalanced output on a 6.35mm JAck connector and an unbalanced analog output on stereo RCA.
The 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced jack connector on the back of the DAC Zen allows connection to an amplifier or active speakers with a balanced input.
DAC Zen also allows you to select a variable or fixed level for these line outputs. The variable parameter uses volume control and allows DAC Zen to function as a preamplifier for a power amplifier or active speakers. The fixed parameter allows it not to use the volume control, the output level being 4.2V for balanced outputs and 2.1V for unbalanced outputs.
Sharing its design with the other products in the Zen range, the components of the Zen DAC are integrated into a beautiful, compact and robust Aluminium case. The volume knob is also made of Aluminium, for increased resistance. Behind this button, a color-changing LED indicator indicates the sampling rate of the read file.
|DAC Chip||Burr Brown DSD1793|
|Input||1x USB-B 3.0|
|Outputs||1x RCA Line output|
1x Balanced Jack 4.4mm line output
1x Single-Ended Jack 6.35mm headphone output
1x Balanced Jack 4.4mm headphone output
|Supported sampling rates||PCM up to 192kHz|
DSD up to DSD256
DXD up to 384kHz
|Line Outputs circuit|
|Output level||Single-ended RCA: Fixed = 2.1V, Variable = 1V / 3.3V max|
Balanced Jack 4.4mm: Fixed = 4.2V, Variable = 2V / 6.2V max
|Output impedance||Single-ended: <= 100Ω|
Balanced: <= 200Ω
|SNR||< -116dB(A) @ 0dBFS|
|DNR||> 116dB(A) @ -60dBFS|
|THD+N||< 0.0015% @ 0dBFS|
|Headphone outputs circuit|
|Output level||Single-ended Jack 6.35mm: 1V / 3.3V max (12-300Ω headphone)|
Balanced Jack 4.4mm: 2V / 6.2V (12-600Ω headphone)
|Output power||Single-ended : > 280mW @ 32Ω, > 36mW @ 300Ω|
Balanced : > 380mW @ 50Ω, > 70mW @ 600Ω
|Output impedance||< 1Ω|
|THD+N||< 0.005% (125mW @ 32Ω)|
|SNR||> 113dBA (3.3V Single-ended / 6.2V Balanced)|
|Consumption||No signal : ~0.5W|
Max Signal: ~2.5W
|Dimensions||117 x 100 x 30mm|
|Supplied accessories||RCA CAble / USB-B 3.0 to USB-A cable|