THE SOUND - iFi Zen DAC v2
The low end is warm and thick. And though the transient response is relatively speedy, you will not hear a particularly tight bass; it has more of a voluptuous feel. The bass seems to spread across the soundstage giving the impression of a larger sound “picture”. This was especially true when I listened to the into of the Steven Wilson remix of Jethro Tull’s “Song from The Wood” with it’s multi-layered vocals. Yes, you will hear plenty of bass punch when listening to pop/rock like “Jazz Funk Soul”, but it’s more of a rounded punch, rather than a hard smack in the face. And this bass profile works particularly well for rock, giving the tracks tons of meat. For some material, if you really need to, press the “True Bass” button for a real low end ride.
The present low and high mids nicely balance each other out. I listened to Pat Metheny’s “From This Place” to hear how both the highs and mids balance each other. It was very rewarding. Next, to get a true feel for the vocals, I listened to Joni Mitchell’s “Hejira” and Denise Donatelli’s “When Lights are Low” for a comparison using expertly mixed and mastered albums with strong female vocal charts. In both cases, the vocals never sat artificially forward in the mix. I got a natural and all-encompassing feel when listening to any track with well mixed instrumentation backing the main vocal track
The highs are pristine. Not that much different from the Zen DAC v1, but here in the version 2, they seem a bit “airier” if that’s a good word to use. I chose Leonard Bernstein “An American in Paris” because of it’s light recording framework (not heavy like a Deutsche Grammophon recording) to get the strings up in the air. The highs aren’t sparkly, but they tend to emphasize the slightly bright side of the spectrum. Female vocals are fat, velvety, and fluid; cymbals are clear with just the right amount of “ping” even if the drummer is using a dry ride cymbal in a Jazz combo setting like German session drummer Mareike Wiening on her “Metropolis Paradise” release which just plain swings and is expertly recorded in Brooklyn, NY.
I think everybody should just start off with the iFi Zen DAC v2. That’s all I can say, You’ll have some wonderful listening sessions no matter what kind and style of material you listen to.
PROS and CONS
Pros: Well-balanced; rich and full-bodied; colorful imaging. Clearer highs and rich bottom end.
Cons: Not that much different from Zen DAC v1.