iFi Audio ZenDAC - Official Thread

How many folks here would like to try the ZenDAC but haven’t had the chance to?

Wanted to bump this up to gauge interest!

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iFi Zen DAC - I’m in love!
Just got this baby over Christmas. Connected a set of SIVGA - P-II PLANAR MAGNETIC HEADPHONES
to it using the balanced jack and added an iFi iPurifier3 USB Signal Conditioner at the same time. It’s like entering a whole new world of listening pleasure. I’ve had all sorts of headphones, from AKG Studio Monitors to Stax Electrostatics to Grado SR-325e to HiFiMan HE-400i. The soundscape is fresh and deep. There’s no brittleness on the highs and the bass is profound, especially an acoustic double bass that’s mixed properly. I listen to a lot of acoustic Jazz and some progressive rock (Yes, ELP, Gentle Giant) and a bit of chamber music so I get a wide mix of dynamics and recording styles to listen to. I’d have to say the the iFi Zen DAC is an amazing unit, not only for the cost, but for what it brings to the audio toolbox. It’s a pleasure to own.

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Thanks for your feedback! Glad you’re loving it so much :slight_smile:

Would love to see a full on review from you with those pairings if you have the time!

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Hi Sebastian, I still have the HiFiman HE-400i headphones and I’ll try them out with the Zen DAC to see what that pairing might sound like. Thank you for the idea.

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I’m becoming interested in the ZenDAC as a DAC only – it’s limitations as an amp are known and documented (above and elsewhere). It could be interesting to compare against the ubiquitous AKM4490. Is the ZenDAC representative of the “typical” Burr Brown tone profile? Is there a typical profile? I’ve read about its warmth and smooth treble, which could be good for some pairings.

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This is a review of a very specific pairing - the iFi ZEN DAC with the HiFiMAN HE400i headphones.

My Zen DAC is connected to my HP Pavilion PC vis a USB 3.0 A-B cable to help increase the bandwidth for data flow at USB 3.0 speeds. It’s heavily shielded affair that made for music transfers. I’m also using the iFi “iPower” DC power supply for clean, filtered power support, and the iPurifier3 to re-clock the signal and eliminate digital jitter. All of the tracks I auditioned were FLAC files at 96/24-bit and I use the excellent AVS4You AVS Media Player v5.2.4.143 for playback of files stored on a Buffalo Box 4Tb NAS file server.

I listened to a variety of music ranging from rock to string quartets to get a feel for how the HE400i cans really sounded when pushed a bit with strong dynamics and subtleties of lighter musical entities. My musical selections were:
[1] Diana Krall - Girl in the Other Room, “I’m Coming Through”
[2] Steely Dan - Gaucho, “Babylon Sisters”
[3] Keith Jarrett - My Song, “Questar”
[4] Brodsky String Quartet - Beethoven Late String Quartets, "String Quartet #11 in F-minor, Op 95

Starting with Diana Krall, the “Girl in The Other Room” has some of the best vocal mixes I’ve ever heard with lots of presence and natural tone. Her piano sounded very well recorded with excellent placement around the sound board. The bass was subdued but full in the low octaves and not overpowering. I chose “I’m Coming Through” because of its shadings and tone colors in Diana’s voice.It was really sweet sounding.

Next was Steely Dan. The “Gaucho” album is a hidden gem of typical Steely Dan recording perfection.I chose the “Babylon Sisters” track for a lot of reasons. The HE400i cans really brought out the Fender Rhodes growl. Listening to the background vocal harmonies was an amazing experience with the midrange of the female singers right in front of the soundstage. I think the Zen DAC benefitted from a “Power Match” gain as the mix level is subdued and I wanted the drums to punch it out a bit. This was also a really enjoyable musical trip because of how well the entire album is recorded.

For my third selection I went to a classic 70’s ECM recording of Keith Jarrett. “My Song” was released on ECM in 1978. It is the second album by Jarrett’s ‘European Quartet’ featuring Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen. As one of the expertly recorded sessions captured at the famous Talent Studios in Oslo, Norway, I was keen on choosing just the right track. “Questar” is a swing song that shows just how profound a master of production Manfred Eicher is and what a musical genius Keith Jarett is. The recording is pristine in its clarity and depth. Jan Garbarek’s sax is intense and right up front in the mix, as is Jarrett’s solo piano . Everything in the mix is clear and precise. I was able to turn off the Zen DAC’s Power Match and listen effortlessly to a stunning soundstage What a pleasure in that this sounded so much better the the vinyl version.

Last was the Brodsky String Quartet performing the Beethoven Late String quartet pieces. I chose “String Quartet #11 in F-minor, Op 95” because of it’s lightness and also, it’s fast movement even though the cello is dominant. In some recordings, strings can get a little strident sounding, but the combination of the Zen DAC and the HE400i headphones offer some real balance so the there was no listener fatigue.

That’s it from me. I just want to close and say the digital music has come a long way and the iFi Zen DAC makes it so much better with the HE400i headphones. Enjoy and always support the arts, they support you, the listener, with wonderful music.

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I couldn’t say it is a typical example. I can say my experience with the iFi Zen DAC, and the Hip Dac, has been the same as others who have posted here or who have reviewed the product. Best example I have is the iFi Zen, using as an amp. “fixed” the upper mid wonkiness on the Elegia where it stands out on a magni/modi stack. I’d rather have a big huge cord mess and travel with the hip dac and a battery pack than the BTR5 because of the warmth if that means anything.

Right now I’m using it as a DAC only in my second setup, switching with a Magni 3+, in a complicated setup:

Zen or Magni => Loki heavily dialed => NuHybrid DIY amp => Elegia

Let me tell you this makes the Elegia sing.

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Thanks. I’ve been trying to “fix” my Elex glare from the day I got them, so they mostly catch dust. I’m leaning toward getting a ZenDAC, and will decide in a few days. It has enough features to keep me entertained for a while.

This is a review of a very specific pairing - the iFi ZEN DAC with the HiFiMAN HE400i headphones.

My Zen DAC is connected to my HP Pavilion PC vis a USB 3.0 A-B cable to help increase the bandwidth for data flow at USB 3.0 speeds. It’s heavily shielded affair that made for music transfers. I’m also using the iFi “iPower” DC power supply for clean, filtered power support, and the iPurifier3 to re-clock the signal and eliminate digital jitter. All of the tracks I auditioned were FLAC files at 96/24-bit and I use the excellent AVS4You AVS Media Player v5.2.4.143 for playback of files stored on a Buffalo Box 4Tb NAS file server.

I listened to a variety of music ranging from rock to string quartets to get a feel for how the HE400i cans really sounded when pushed a bit with strong dynamics and subtleties of lighter musical entities. My musical selections were:
[1] Diana Krall - Girl in the Other Room, “I’m Coming Through”
[2] Steely Dan - Gaucho, “Babylon Sisters”
[3] Keith Jarrett - My Song, “Questar”
[4] Brodsky String Quartet - Beethoven Late String Quartets, "String Quartet #11 in F-minor, Op 95

Starting with Diana Krall, the “Girl in The Other Room” has some of the best vocal mixes I’ve ever heard with lots of presence and natural tone. Her piano sounded very well recorded with excellent mic placement around the sound board. The bass was subdued but full in the low octaves and not overpowering. I chose “I’m Coming Through” because of its shadings and tone colors in Diana’s voice.It was really sweet sounding.

Next was Steely Dan. The “Gaucho” album is a hidden gem of typical Steely Dan recording perfection.I chose the “Babylon Sisters” track for a lot of reasons. The HE400i cans really brought out the Fender Rhodes growl. Listening to the background vocal harmonies was an amazing experience with the midrange of the female singers right in front of the soundstage. I think the Zen DAC benefitted from a “Power Match” gain as the mix level is subdued and I wanted the drums to punch it out a bit. This was also a really enjoyable musical trip because of how well the entire album is recorded.

For my third selection I went to a classic 70’s ECM recording of Keith Jarrett. “My Song” was released on ECM in 1978. It is the second album by Jarrett’s ‘European Quartet’ featuring Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson and Jon Christensen. As one of the expertly recorded sessions captured at the famous Talent Studios in Oslo, Norway, I was keen on choosing just the right track. “Questar” is an “understated” swing song that shows just how profound a master of production Manfred Eicher is and what a musical genius Keith Jarett is. The recording is pristine in its clarity and depth. Jan Garbarek’s sax is intense and right up front in the mix, as is Jarrett’s solo piano . Everything in the mix is clear and precise. I was able to turn off the Zen DAC’s Power Match and listen effortlessly to a stunning soundstage. What a pleasure in that this format sounded so much better then the vinyl version.

Last was the Brodsky String Quartet performing the Beethoven Late String quartet pieces. I chose “String Quartet #11 in F-minor, Op 95” because of it’s lightness and also, it’s fast movement even though the cello is dominant. In some recordings, strings can get a little strident sounding, but the combination of the Zen DAC and the HE400i headphones offer some real balance so the there was no listener fatigue.

That’s it from me. I just want to close and say the digital music has come a long way and the iFi Zen DAC makes it so much better with the HE400i headphones. Enjoy and always support the arts, they support you, the listener, with wonderful music.

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Excellent writeup @USATRAN. Very detailed.

Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

CCJ

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Thank you, @USATRAN!