Zen Blue V2 Quick Impressions
Apologies for copying my photo from The Off Topic, but it’s what I got. Last week, I started putting my xDSD in my office to stream (line out mode) and on Monday got the Zen Blue V2.
Super simple to set up. No annoying on/off buttons. I’d been using my 1st Gen iPad Pro to stream music from a Comcast hotspot near my office. Use both Qobuz and Sirius XM. On Sirius I generally am listening to Bloomberg radio, but also occasionally their music streams. WIth Qobuz, I’m streaming CD quality because, well Bluetooth.
The Onkyo is reasonably clean, but hardly a top audiophile piece. My Sansui AU-919 is much better, and after servicing, I expect to replace the Onkyo with the Sansui. The Rectilinear XI speakers are straight out of the late 80’s, but in very good condition. This model was a direct competitor of the Smaller Advent and the AR 2AX, I think it’s a bit better than either, although I really recall liking the Smaller Advent, thinking it had better sound than the larger Advent.
My use case is to play music at a low volume. I’ve been listening to acoustic jazz, and classical. Prokofiev proved too modern and had too much dynamic range for office music, but Scarlatti is very good. Harpsichord has no dynamic range to speak of, so can be ideal for background.
I have played other content at medium volume after hours, but I have business neighbors on either side, so I can’t crank this and see what it will do. The purpose of putting the system in is to see if I actually LIKE having music in the office, I’ve had silence for years. With the loss of my Admin, and a 4 month of more hiring process, I thought I might like a bit of sound.
The Zen Blue paired quickly and easily with the iPad, and also with my iPhone 12. There was a slight but noticeable increase in sound quality using BT 5 and the iPhone compared to 4.2 and the iPad. The attack of the harpsichord’ s string plucking was more realistic. Soundstage was slightly better on music that included strings in addition to the harpsichord.
In the box is a nice, perhaps 18 inch long RCA interconnect. Also two antennas, one supposed to have a 3db advantage over the other. I connected the fat better antenna, have no idea why one would use the smaller one. There is a 4.4mm balanced out, but I don’t have use in my present config for balanced out.
My big take on this use case is actually external to the Zen Blue V2, which performed perfectly. It’s that streaming from an iPhone - or presumably any other phone that you actually use as a phone is a bad idea. After I explain why, you’ll probably see why I switched back to the iPad, even though it’s limited to BT 4.2.
Recall that I’m trying to play things quietly. In so doing, I’m using the volume control on the iPad/iPhone to control volume on the speakers. This also lets me pause quickly if the office phone rings, or if I get intercom messages on my work computer. (Is VERBOTTEN to attach anything to the office computer as it’s very secure).
I was working on a portfolio with Scarlatti in the background connected to BT5 when an AMBER ALERT came in. For those of you outside the US, an Amber Alert is used by law enforcement when there is a child abduction, and they want everybody to look for the perp in his 1994 White F100 pickup truck license plate Michigan KKK-U2. It’s an “alert” because it starts with a maximum volume buzzer sound.
I can report that the Zen Blue had no issues in reproducing an ear-splitting buzzer with more than adequate fidelity.
This gives me an incentive to not only order the Magnepan ,7’s that I want, but also upgrade my gen 1 iPad Pro to something with BT-5 that I can set up with no access to Amber Alerts, Accuweather warnings, or the panoply of other tones that are common with phones.