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ifi Zen Blue Review (Bluetooth Receiver & DAC)

zberkowitz

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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.

View attachment 144267

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.

View attachment 144270

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

View attachment 144271
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 Thanks for the breakdown! I have no doubts about the quality of the DAC portion of your product as opposed to a random cheap piece of gear from Amazon!

But the interest of this thread and the review are more related to the digital output. Your product supports LDAC which I understand to be the superior BT codec which is great. However, I'd guess that in my particular listening setup I'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between it and the aptX HD codec for most material. If using the same codec, what's the difference between the S/PDIF output on your product and that of the competition?
 

iFi audio

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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?
It's the best of both worlds. We add the best SMPS we know within the price range Zen Blue allows for. If someone is looking for an upgrade, then we recommend matching the Zen Blue with the iPower or an iPower X.
 

iFi audio

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OK, so here come the measurements.
Skype_Picture_2021_07_31T21_07_39_465Z.jpeg


Comparison of the iFi power supplies. (Ignore 50Hz lump, that’s a measurement artifact.)

All with DC iPurifier.
Red, iPower Mk2.
Yellow, iPower X.
Green, Elite.
Magenta, measurement noise floor.



Skype_Picture_2021_07_31T21_07_43_365Z.jpeg


Green, computer USB bus.
Cyan, SMPS from Zen Blue.
Blue, iPower X.
Magenta, iPower Mk2.
Yellow, measurement noise floor.







Skype_Picture_2021_07_31T21_07_49_604Z.jpeg


Red, USB bus.
Yellow, USB bus with DC iPurifier 2.
Magenta, iPower X by itself.

All at 150mA, the current the Zen Dac draws.
 

RadioBuddha

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Thanks for your review Amir and thank you all for your comments. Our aim is to become better and better, so we appreciate your feedback (good and bad), because it is what we can learn from. I'll also do my best to address your questions.





You are right. You pretty much already summed it all up. In our case, the price differences are a result of the different tax systems and regulatory mechanisms in the countries where you can find iFi products. In the UK and the EU member states there is a standard VAT rate that is charged on almost all purchases. The standard rate of VAT in the UK is currently 20% and this is the rate charged on most purchases.

In the United States, there isn’t a cohesive tax like VAT. This means a product can have different levels of taxation depending on where it's sold, that is why the tax is not included in the price. Different states have different sales taxes, so the same product may have a different tax based on which state it is sold in. Sometimes, different counties or even cities have their own taxes. So, much depends on the location of the company/store.

There are quite a few reasons why prices may differ. We need to take into account fluctuating currency exchange rates, etc.,


Does the IFI Zen Blue does have Airplay or Spotify Connect?
 

iFi audio

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solderdude

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These appear to be all measurements of the noise spectrum of the DC power supplies itself.
Given the fact that most audio gear has decent PSSR by themselves can you show the actual output of the actual Zen blue itself with various power supplies and perhaps also the common mode current spectrum in the analog out (RCA out) ?
Or are the upper measurements just that or are those the DC output of the i purifier only ?
 
Last edited:

RadioBuddha

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The Zen Blue is a Bluetooth receiver/DAC. It is not a Wi-Fi streamer. AirPlay and Spotify Connect are based on Wi-Fi connection, so the Zen Blue does not support it, but the Zen Stream does. Airplay/Spotify Connect and many other types of software too.

Yes but I have read that the Zen Stream has a delay when connecting to internet radio stations/streams, has that been corrected by a software update if it is indeed a problem? Also can I connect an Apple USB-C Dac Dongle to the Zen Stream, if not directly because the Zen Stream does not have a USB-C output, possibly through a USB-A to USB-C adapter?

I was considering the Zen Stream because of some good reviews regarding the sound quality but for my use case, I need it to work well with internet radio streams, thanks for your time.
 

iFi audio

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@RadioBuddha it is normally a pretty smooth process. Some stations may take a few more seconds to load, but that depends mostly on the radio station itself and network. Zen Stream has a USB-C, but only for a system upgrade, so you need to rely on USB-A.

It should work fine with the USB-A to USB-C adapter.
 

RadioBuddha

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@RadioBuddha it is normally a pretty smooth process. Some stations may take a few more seconds to load, but that depends mostly on the radio station itself and network. Zen Stream has a USB-C, but only for a system upgrade, so you need to rely on USB-A.

It should work fine with the USB-A to USB-C adapter.

What about the problem that this poster had with the internet radio delay, is it the buffer, if so what setting should it be at, what about the bricking problem, some people report up to 20 second delays, and if it is the individual station, why do other players not have the same issues?

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...treamer-with-no-dac.13050/page-20#post-883219
 

RadioBuddha

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Which radio stations do you have problems with?

You have to ask that question of the person who posted it in that thread, I don't own a Zen Stream, I'm trying to find the music network player that fits what I want, there is no point to a player that delays internet radio stations, even if for only three seconds when others lock in instantly, not everybody cares about that feature.
 

iFi audio

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I get your point. I am using it myself and did not have any delays with the radio stations I am listening to. You can always buy it and if it does not meet your requirements, you can return it.
 

RadioBuddha

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I get your point. I am using it myself and did not have any delays with the radio stations I am listening to. You can always buy it and if it does not meet your requirements, you can return it.

Sorry but your response to this does not inspire confidence, I will not buy it at this time.
 

poxymoron

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Thanks @amirm for another great review. I'm adding an SHD Studio purely to correct my room feeding my Edifier S3000pro active speakers using digital out from SHD to digital in on the Edifiers, using internal speaker DAC. I may or may not use the streaming functionality of the SHD depending on how well it works (Volumio implemtation etc). If it gets Tidal Connect then I suspect it will be ideal. In the meantime given how well LDAC has performed on @amirm's test bench, albeit with simple SINE waves, I fancy trying the ifi Zen Blue V2 solely as an LDAC transport, through the SHD to the speaker's digital input. I know very little about Dirac and room correction apart from how powerful a tool it is and I hear terms like headroom and gain when discussing Dirac/SHD dsp. I don't suspect anybody can say for sure until they have actually tested it but would anybody have a guess or a suspicion that despite LDAC performing very well and providing a clean transparent signal it may fall short when it comes to using the SHD Studio? Assuming the LDAC codec does deliver the 24bit 96kHz data is that all that's needed or are there other things to consider? I'll probably just go with this anyway with the iFi being so affordable but just wondering if anybody had any thoughts on this. Thanks.
 
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