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Another Ifi Zen Dac post

giozano

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#1
Hi,
I'm new to the forum.
I recently bought an Ifi zen dac because I thought It would have improved the sound coming out of my PC/smartphone (Dell Inspiron with Realtek soundcard/Google Pixel 4a).
I'm currently using Tidal Hi-Fi as my main streaming service and sometimes I listen to some high-res albums from hdtracks. Unfortunately I only have a pair of (cheap) headphones which are the Sennheiser HD 280 pro, with 64 ohms of impedance.

The main problem with this dac/amp is that I don't notice any improvement in my listening experience, or at least any improvement that I consider worth of spending 150 euros, and I don't know if that's because the zen dac is not a good value dac as many people have stated or because I'm using the wrong headphones or maybe because my ears are not well trained.
All that I was able to notice was a good amount of volume gain, especially when using Tidal from my PC, and a bit of boost in sound clarity. I'm not an audiophile, thus It is not easy for me to explain all of this in technical terms, but I felt like the music was too full/loud and without good separation.

I know this could mainly be due to the headphones and thus my question:
Should I return the zen Dac and maybe try with something else like the Fiio K5 pro or just change headphones?

Thanks in advance to anyone who will take the time to read this post. Cheers from Italy!

P.S. the knob of the zen dac sometimes makes a little resistance at around 11 o'clock which can be frustrating.
 
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giozano

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Thread Starter #2
EDIT:

I also tried connecting the zen dac to my Pixel 4a but as I was expecting nothing changed. Then I asked to IFI support for help and they suggested to download the UAPP (USB audio player PRO) for 7.49 euros and its plug-in for MQA playback (another 4.29 euros....). After I did that the sound quality immediately improved and now even my 130 euros closed-back Sennheiser sound more open and detailed than ever before.

I'm still having a hard time having this sound quality with my PC and I really can't spend all these money on Tidal + Audnirvana + premium headphones (maybe in the future I will).

Finally, I'd be really grateful if someone could recommend me a good and possibly free hi-res player for Windows.
 
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Katji

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#3
I know this could mainly be due to the headphones and thus my question:
Should I return the zen Dac and maybe try with something else like the Fiio K5 pro or just change headphones?
Change headphones, which is what you are actually listening to.
However, the Fiio is probably a headphone amplifier too and that would probably be better. So far I know, the iFi Zen DAC is simply a DAC and there is probably an iFi headphone amp+DAC product too.

Finally, I'd be really grateful if someone could recommend me a good and possibly free hi-res player for Windows.
There is no "hi-res player" per se. At least not for Windows. The UAPP app you installed is a different story.

The rest...
Did you install the Zen DAC USB/XMOS device driver?
You communicated with iFi support desk, surely they would have referred to it.
https://ifi-audio.com/firmware/windows-usb-2-0-drivers/
 

BDWoody

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#4
The main problem with this dac/amp is that I don't notice any improvement in my listening experience, or at least any improvement that I consider worth of spending 150
Most built in DAC's are better than many think. It is unlikely anyone could tell a difference under most circumstances.

Don't worry too much about MQA, hi-res, and all that... Anything above standard Redbook (16/44) isn't giving your ears or system anything useful to humans anyway

It's mainly about whether the amp has enough clean power and your headphones. Hopefully others can notice the thread and suggest some good music players. I stream directly from my tidal app and Roon, but Roon isn't free. There are many good ones. @BillG I think has used quite a few... Any thoughts?
 
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giozano

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Thread Starter #5
Thanks to both. I really appreciate your suggestions.
Actually I wanted to try Hifiman Sundara with Ifi zen dac and thus I bought them. I really like this combo but I don't think that the Sundaras are as excellent as many have stated. They're really good as far as frequency response and soundstage are concerned (I'm not an expert, just a consumer who has used them for less than two days) but I'd rather get a Sennheiser or a Meze headphone (which I'm pretty sure would sound fairly good too) and don't be worried about QC issues.
 
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giozano

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Thread Starter #7
Did you install the Zen DAC USB/XMOS device driver?
Yes, I did it. Actually I was able to make it work in Audnirvana with ASIO selected. I was just searching for an alternative.
 
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