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ifi Zen Blue Review (Bluetooth Receiver & DAC)

keebz28

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With fully digital pipeline there shouldn't be any distortions/noise. Only the ones introduced by codec compression/decompression. Good achievement - but it should be achievable by every good company.
Then, in light of this, it is a real shame, at this price point, they didn't put a good DAC for analog tract. I cannot recommend this product for anyone. It is "half-baked", the engineer who developed this should be fired. Did the company test it? What did they think? And they still released it to the market?! Whoa!
Wow lots of intangibles for you in this product eh? Have you considered that for the price point that this product is selling, this is probably one of the best implemented digital streamers on the market? Sometimes cost efficiencies play a bigger role in product design than throwing all the bells and whistles in, to appease a few consumers with discerning taste.
 
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iFi audio

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Their expensive stuff was sold under the Abbingdon music research brand iirc. It has been through reincarnations and is now ARC. I suspect it was a market driven "high end" brand that didn't become fashionable and they settled for the lower priced mass market with ifi.
I could be wrong since my memory isn't what it was.

Exciting news! It is the first time it is mentioned in public. There will be a new line of the AMR products coming out next year.
 
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Haze

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From what I've seen the distortion on ifi dac's isn't a bug it's a feature. I part of how they achive their tubeish house sound. It hurts measurements but people do like how it sounds.
 

keebz28

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From what I've seen the distortion on ifi dac's isn't a bug it's a feature. I part of how they achive their tubeish house sound. It hurts measurements but people do like how it sounds.
You mean to say that Burr Brown IC that’s considered to sound “musical”.
 

raistlin65

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So @amirm, let me get this straight as i'm old and confused. ;) You are recommending this product purely as a LDAC wireless to SPDIF bridge, as all the other functionality is sub-par?

*struggling to see the point of it*

I was wondering this, too. Seems like the Topping BC3 is better, for less money.
 

LaL

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From what I've seen the distortion on ifi dac's isn't a bug it's a feature. I part of how they achive their tubeish house sound. It hurts measurements but people do like how it sounds.
You mean to say that Burr Brown IC that’s considered to sound “musical”.
This Zen-Blue actually has an ESS Sabre Dac chip in it.
 

eas

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How well does this work across a good sized living room?

In my experience, 256kbps AAC over bluetooth holds up pretty well within a single room, but starts breaking up with distance and obstacles beyond that. LDAC needs 990kbps for full quality. That doesn't leave as much headroom, so I imagine is much more sensitive, though the antenna should help with that.
 

Veri

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From what I've seen the distortion on ifi dac's isn't a bug it's a feature. I part of how they achive their tubeish house sound. It hurts measurements but people do like how it sounds.
You mean to say that Burr Brown IC that’s considered to sound “musical”.
No Burr Brown DSD1793 chip in here :D
 
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amirm

amirm

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How well does this work across a good sized living room?
I didn't test it in this unit but was pleasantly surprised that I could go some 40 to 50 feet with Topping BC3 and it held up with the same performance.
 
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iFi audio

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Is this a pre production unit? I'm surprised that from a large manufacturer like IFI there is no labeling at all, nor certifications marking on the back.

If I may draw your attention to the labeling on the top panel of the Zen Blue. There is plenty of labelling for everyone ;)
We do not like to be obtrusive with our logos.

Zen_Blue_300_PNG_NOSHADOW_5.png


Regarding certification - the image uploaded by Amir displays a demo unit. Normally, it looks like that.

ifi-audio-zen-blue.jpg
 

iFi audio

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What balanced outs are there? is it the small connector on the far left? if so what type?
Yes. It is a 4.4 mm Jack used for headphone amps normally.

Exactly, it is the 4V balanced 4.4mm Pentaconn connector. This high-quality connector set with 5 poles and jacks is a new standard of JEITA.
 

keebz28

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Lorenzo74

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No, they have a lot of DACs and such in hundreds of dollars and accessories for less.

their DAC is sold at 150€ tax included in EU and got Best value DAC Award from EISA in 2020-21. Any plan to measure it?
Maybe a loand directly from ifi Zen…
Best
 

zberkowitz

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I recently picked up this BT receiver for $40 on Amazon just because I only needed digital out: https://www.amazon.com/1Mii-Bluetooth-Receiver-Wireless-Surround/dp/B07KTK8YP3

So far so good, what's weird is that I expected only aptx and aptx-ll support which what it claims to support in the description, but it actually defaults to aptx-hd on my Moto G phone and does say in the manual that it supports that codec as well! Not sure there have been any measurements of aptx-hd here, but it should at least have a lower noise floor than regular aptx I would presume. An alternative for 1/3 the price if aptx-hd is at all comparable to LDAC.
 

iFi audio

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@zberkowitz I am sure that the 1Mii B06Pro serves its purpose which is receiving BT signal. You may as well find a BT receiver for £15 on Amazon, but then again we need to ask ourselves what do we aim for. Reception of BT signal or reception of super high-quality BT signal.

The Zen Blue and 1Mii B06Pro are two dramatically different products. The only similarity they have is the fact that their main function is BT reception.

1)
The Zen Blue
QCC 5100 Series -Newest generation of QCC chips.
Plus, the BT chip is only responsible for signal reception. All the processing (i.e. cleaning, de-jittering, hum reduction, re-clocking technologies) is done
a) outside of the BT chip
b) in the analogue domain.

That is why is also has a DAC chip installed. The ZEN Blue has separate digital and analogue stages. To feed the analogue stage, the processed digital signal is routed from the QCC5100 to a specialised DAC chip from ESS Technology’s Sabre family to convert the signal from digital to analogue.

iFi-ZEB-Blue BT path.jpg


It incorporates a range of high-quality circuit components, carefully selected for their performance in an audio context, including professional-grade balanced line drivers, C0G capacitors from TDK and a precision low-noise power supply IC from Texas Instruments.

ZEN-Blue-v2_-pcb-min.jpg


1Mii B06Pro
QCC3005 - An older generation design.
System-on-Chip - All the decoding, amplification and DAC conversion is done inside the chip. There is no cleaning, de-jittering, hum reduction, re-clocking technologies.



2)
The Zen Blue
The ZEN Blue supports Bluetooth® in all current and future formats. Every possible source device is covered, at the highest resolution its Bluetooth audio specification will allow. All the latest 24-bit-capable Bluetooth audio formats are supported.
AAC, SBC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC, HWA Codec

BT5.0_01.png

1Mii B06Pro
Goes up to apt-X and apt-X Low Latency. It does not do high-resolution 24 bit audio.

3)
The Zen Blue
Balanced - the ZEN Blue’s analogue output stage is a balanced design. The balanced design means less interference and cross talk. It has RCA and balanced outputs at HiFi standard level; 2V SE and 4V BAL and thus is compatible with both HiFi and Pro systems.

1Mii B06Pro
It is not balanced.

4)
Zen Blue - You can insert clean, efficient and effective 5V power supply.

1Mii B06Pro -only USB powered.
 

iFi audio

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The difference would be noise and grounding artefacts from a USB supply. We usually compare our silent power supplies with the regular SMPS products. I do not have the measurements comparing USB and our Power line on hand, but I'll ask the RnD to measure it for you. Expect an answer within a few days!

Here are the tech notes of our Power Products:
https://media.ifi-audio.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/iFi_iPower2_Lowdown_01.pdf
http://media.ifi-audio.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/iFi-audio-Tech-Note-iPower-X.pdf
https://media.ifi-audio.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/iFi_iPowerElite_Lowdown_07.pdf
 

FeddyLost

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The difference would be noise and grounding artefacts from a USB supply
I mean not USB supply, but AC/DC adapter that arrived with Zen Blue. Noname SMPS 5V, 500 mA.
I think it might be not the cleanest PS in the world.
Shall I expect some improvement with PS exchange or analog out will be essentially the same with any PS?
There's almost no noise, but relatively high THD. Is it deliberate design or result of cheap PS in box?
 
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