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ifi Zen CAN Review (Headphone Amp)

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Hello,

I wonder if anyone saw these measurements?

https://goldensound.audio/2021/07/22/ifi-zen-can-measurements/

They have some curious differences to Amir's ones...

First, Amir's FFT's show significant mains harmonics, which are absend in the tests by Goldensound.

index.php

300-ohm-4v.png


One wonders why this is is? HasAmir's test setup a hidden ground loop that adds around 20dB of 60/180 Hz noise.

This noise cannot be the result of poor power supply design (it would be 120/240 Hz in this case).

And if those two peaks at 160 & 180 Hz did not exist, could the SNR be significantly than Amir measured?

I often see these 60/180Hz peaks in Amir's measurements, if they are bogus, and their absence would improve measured SNR, perhaps many of Amir's measurements need-redoing after he resolves the problem that causes these, to be fair to manufacturers?

Another fun part is the shape of the bass boost:

index.php


1629696910062.png


Down to 50Hz the curves are the same, but they strongly deviate afterwards, this seems odd. Maybe Amir was using a very high signal level and clipping the Amplifier?

Looking at crosstalk with that infamous "3D" effect seems to again have curious differences:

index.php


uvsVkiGThr.png


Again, one wonders, is it just the scaling? And why select this kind of scaling? There also seems to be a 6dB in 320kHz measured crosstalk, why?

M.I.
 

Jimbob54

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Hello,

I wonder if anyone saw these measurements?

https://goldensound.audio/2021/07/22/ifi-zen-can-measurements/

They have some curious differences to Amir's ones...

First, Amir's FFT's show significant mains harmonics, which are absend in the tests by Goldensound.

index.php

300-ohm-4v.png


One wonders why this is is? HasAmir's test setup a hidden ground loop that adds around 20dB of 60/180 Hz noise.

This noise cannot be the result of poor power supply design (it would be 120/240 Hz in this case).

And if those two peaks at 160 & 180 Hz did not exist, could the SNR be significantly than Amir measured?

I often see these 60/180Hz peaks in Amir's measurements, if they are bogus, and their absence would improve measured SNR, perhaps many of Amir's measurements need-redoing after he resolves the problem that causes these, to be fair to manufacturers?

Another fun part is the shape of the bass boost:

index.php


View attachment 149027

Down to 50Hz the curves are the same, but they strongly deviate afterwards, this seems odd. Maybe Amir was using a very high signal level and clipping the Amplifier?

Looking at crosstalk with that infamous "3D" effect seems to again have curious differences:

index.php


uvsVkiGThr.png


Again, one wonders, is it just the scaling? And why select this kind of scaling? There also seems to be a 6dB in 320kHz measured crosstalk, why?

M.I.

Dont know about the mains frequencies. Sure others can offer insight.The bass boost profile looks similar to me but @amirm shows down to 10hz so you see it roll off.

What I take from the crosstalk charts is that the 3d function has a similar effect when measured by both , what I dont know is how/ why Goldensound has the "non" 3d measurement so much lower- suspect different approach to measuring/ output level.

Both measurers tell you the key takeaways though- this is a powerful but far from clean amp
 

JohnYang1997

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Hello,

I wonder if anyone saw these measurements?

https://goldensound.audio/2021/07/22/ifi-zen-can-measurements/

They have some curious differences to Amir's ones...

First, Amir's FFT's show significant mains harmonics, which are absend in the tests by Goldensound.

index.php

300-ohm-4v.png


One wonders why this is is? HasAmir's test setup a hidden ground loop that adds around 20dB of 60/180 Hz noise.

This noise cannot be the result of poor power supply design (it would be 120/240 Hz in this case).

And if those two peaks at 160 & 180 Hz did not exist, could the SNR be significantly than Amir measured?

I often see these 60/180Hz peaks in Amir's measurements, if they are bogus, and their absence would improve measured SNR, perhaps many of Amir's measurements need-redoing after he resolves the problem that causes these, to be fair to manufacturers?

Another fun part is the shape of the bass boost:

index.php


View attachment 149027

Down to 50Hz the curves are the same, but they strongly deviate afterwards, this seems odd. Maybe Amir was using a very high signal level and clipping the Amplifier?

Looking at crosstalk with that infamous "3D" effect seems to again have curious differences:

index.php


uvsVkiGThr.png


Again, one wonders, is it just the scaling? And why select this kind of scaling? There also seems to be a 6dB in 320kHz measured crosstalk, why?

M.I.
The mains harmonics are coming from the leakage current of the power supply. It's low enough to not affect SINAD. The bandwidth is not captured on Goldensound measurements. Amir has been using 22khz instead of 20khz. The noise is no big deal in the context of the overall performance of the device.

It's likely that goldensound connected the earth connection directly to the device under test to eliminate the noise. Amir does this if the noise is significant enough to be a problem. Amir's measurements are fair. You do not want to create ideal test environment for devices that won't likely be used in.

The issue is that goldensound doesn't mention the test condition like what input what output being used. Amir almost always mentions it or directory put notice on the graph. It's likely the different signal path caused different results.

There are also many devices don't have the mains noise being measured here. So it's all in the design of the devices. We also use APx555/B in our lab. It's the absolute absence of mains noise that's suspicious not the measurement that shows it.
 

JohnYang1997

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One possibility is that his 4.4mm cable has the ground wired to the XLR shield. This is not necessary good or bad. But this introduce a earth current return path directly at the output eliminating leakage current effects.
This is not representative to real world usage since headphones aren't earthed. So the return path is not present when users listen to music.
 

LaL

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@amirm was only able to test the Zen-Can with RCA 2 Volt input as he didn't have the 4.4mm balanced adapter at the time.
But do you think a 4 Volt balanced input would improve the measurements any ?

I have the Zen-Dac and Zen-Can and use the 4.4mm balanced interconnect and there is definitely an improvement over using the RCA connections.
Again, just wondering if this audible difference would show up in the measurements.

Why don't @iFi audio send Amir another Zen Can+Balanced cable to test - as the Zen-Can almost got a recommendation.
 

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Hi,

The mains harmonics are coming from the leakage current of the power supply. It's low enough to not affect SINAD.

SINAD - why use an obscure measure that is actually just THD&N but needs complex conversions to make sense and to be compared to other measurements and specifications? Just BTB.

And I did not ask if this noise might affect SINAD (which like THD&N) is not a very useful measure, but if it might affect SNR. So please answer questions asked, instead of trying to deflect from the issues with verbose verbiage that fails to address issues raised..

The noise is no big deal in the context of the overall performance of the device.

Is that really so? I see mains related noise 20dB above the FFT noisefloor. That's a lot to just brush off with "not a big deal".

It's likely that goldensound connected the earth connection directly to the device under test to eliminate the noise.

You mean goldensound follow best practice, in order to avoid know issues with the Audio Precision input section's limited common mode rejection ratio?

Amir's measurements are fair. You do not want to create ideal test environment for devices that won't likely be used in.

But this mains noise would not exist if (for arguments sake) we used a the device under test plugged into a headphone which in turn is placed on a KEMAR etc. This noise is not generated by the device being tested, but by the test set-up and a failure to employ best practice.

So this measurement shown noise that will not exist in any use case for this device (which is to drive headphones)

The issue is that goldensound doesn't mention the test condition like what input what output being used.

Actually, it is mentioned, if you were to bother to read all of what is presented.

There are also many devices don't have the mains noise being measured here. So it's all in the design of the devices.

More precisely, it is in the design of the power supplies used with these devices and limitations in the Audio Precision Test Set's design. And the fact that many vendors from the far east ship products that would fail various agency compliance requirements if they were imported formally into the USA or EU, compared being grey or personal imports, which is what you get when you buy on Amazon from a vendor in Asia.

We also use APx555/B in our lab. It's the absolute absence of mains noise that's suspicious not the measurement that shows it.

Really, you mean if people who know how to use test equipment get results that differ from your you suspect that other people's results are faked, instead of suspecting your own work first? How curious.

One possibility is that his 4.4mm cable has the ground wired to the XLR shield. This is not necessary good or bad. But this introduce a earth current return path directly at the output eliminating leakage current effects.

What you mean to say, the presence of a ground connection would in effect apply an Earth to an otherwise unearthed system and thus remove the common mode leakage that throws off the AP's test results, if the AP inputs are left floating?

This is not representative to real world usage since headphones aren't earthed. So the return path is not present when users listen to music.

Ou conraire, mes ami.

It precisely represents real world usage, as real headphones have in effect an infinite common mode rejection ratio and thus fail to show any response to common mode leakage, whereas the AP shows significant response. So it actually would correctly represent the user listening to music, as the user listens to the output from the headphone and not the FFT graph from an AP testest.

Dont know about the mains frequencies. Sure others can offer insight.The bass boost profile looks similar to me but @amirm shows down to 10hz so you see it roll off.

Please look again. The goldesound tests clearly show the same bass boost profile as with other iFi devices. It shows 9dB boost at 20Hz and smooth curve.

Amir shows a distinct "step" in the curve at around 43Hz (and remarks on it) and 12 dB boost at 20Hz. Clearly the two measurements show something very different.

I dont know is how/ why Goldensound has the "non" 3d measurement so much lower- suspect different approach to measuring/ output level.

Crosstalk should not be affected by signal levels, if the test equipment is used correctly, as it is a relative measure, not absolute.

Both measurers tell you the key takeaways though- this is a powerful but far from clean amp

I am not sure what "clean" means. I would suggest that 0.0009% THD&N for an amplifier seems sufficient, if Amir declares 0.009% THD&N "State of the Art" (for a headphone: Dan Clark Stealth Review (State of the Art Headphone).

What is more, the distortion from the Amplifier tested would be considerably lower than 0.0009% if tested at the output level at which the Headphone being discussed here produces it's 0.009% THD.

This level is 0.564V into 23 Ohm, or around 13mW, at this level noise might dominate the Amplifier's THD&N measurements, especially if ten times (20dB) more mains noise is measured that would actually be presented to the headphone.

So it would seem to me that the distortion of this amplifier is entirely inconsequential and will not degrade the distortion of a state of the art Headphone, much less one that is merely "good".

The crosstalk performance may very well be intentional, but again seems not a real problem when listening to music as the "crosstalk" in recorded music is much higher.

Signal to noise ratio seems adequate as well, but may be improved if the mains noise created by the test setup were removed from the measurement.

What more could you require for music listening?

True, other amplifiers may have lower distortion and greater channel separation (maybe greater SNR, hard to say with compromised measurements), but driving real headphones, in the real world I cannot see how anything in the objective performance would suggest an amplifier "far from clean" for the task of driving headphones.

FWIW, I own this Amp and find both the EQ function (I have the HD6xx version to match my Headphones) and the "3D" gizmo very useful.

I'm not interested in defending a purchase (I had this for a good while, since drop shipped) as there is no other Amp out there that includes these specific features that allow me to enjoy my HD6xx way more than a friend's HD800 + Sennheiser Amp that sell way more expensive. There is no need for me to defend my set-up (my friend got another Amp from Drop after he heard his HD800 on my 6xx Zen Can), it has zero altenatives for me.

But given the influence of measurements presented on this site on what people buy, I do think there is a duty incumbent on the operators of this site to ensure their measurements truly reflect the performance of devices tested and to adjust their practice to conform with best practice (using industry standard ways to present data would also be good, to allow test results to be compared to those of others).

I also feel that more consideration should be given to agency compliance both in terms of EMC and Electrical safety, as purchase recommendations of devices that are not tested and shown to be compliant with local regulations may either leave the buyer open to legal problems if the equipment emits too much EMI or even cause damage to health or property, if the electrical safety requirements are not passed.

I am sure we all remember the fake iPhone Chargers from Asia that would electrocute users, despite having all safety markings etc. applied in crass violations of relevant laws.

M.I.
 
Last edited:

JohnYang1997

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Hi,



SINAD - why use an obscure measure that is actually just THD&N but needs complex conversions to make sense and to be compared to other measurements and specifications? Just BTB.

And I did not ask if this noise might affect SINAD (which like THD&N) is not a very useful measure, but if it might affect SNR. So please answer questions asked, instead of trying to deflect from the issues with verbose verbiage that fails to address issues raised..



Is that really so? I see mains related noise 20dB above the FFT noisefloor. That's a lot to just brush off with "not a big deal".



You mean goldensound follow best practice, in order to avoid know issues with the Audio Precision input section's limited common mode rejection ratio?



But this mains noise would not exist if (for arguments sake) we used a the device under test plugged into a headphone which in turn is placed on a KEMAR etc. This noise is not generated by the device being tested, but by the test set-up and a failure to employ best practice.

So this measurement shown noise that will not exist in any use case for this device (which is to drive headphones)



Actually, it is mentioned, if you were to bother to read all of what is presented.



More precisely, it is in the design of the power supplies used with these devices and limitations in the Audio Precision Test Set's design. And the fact that many vendors from the far east ship products that would fail various agency compliance requirements if they were imported formally into the USA or EU, compared being grey or personal imports, which is what you get when you buy on Amazon from a vendor in Asia.



Really, you mean if people who know how to use test equipment get results that differ from your you suspect that other people's results are faked, instead of suspecting your own work first? How curious.



What you mean to say, the presence of a ground connection would in effect apply an Earth to an otherwise unearthed system and thus remove the common mode leakage that throws off the AP's test results, if the AP inputs are left floating?



Ou conraire, mes ami.

It precisely represents real world usage, as real headphones have in effect an infinite common mode rejection ratio and thus fail to show any response to common mode leakage, whereas the AP shows significant response. So it actually would correctly represent the user listening to music, as the user listens to the output from the headphone and not the FFT graph from an AP testest.



Please look again. The goldesound tests clearly show the same bass boost profile as with other iFi devices. It shows 9dB boost at 20Hz and smooth curve.

Amir shows a distinct "step" in the curve at around 43Hz (and remarks on it) and 12 dB boost at 20Hz. Clearly the two measurements show something very different.



Crosstalk should not be affected by signal levels, if the test equipment is used correctly, as it is a relative measure, not absolute.



I am not sure what "clean" means. I would suggest that 0.0009% THD&N for an amplifier seems sufficient, if Amir declares 0.009% THD&N "State of the Art" (for a headphone: Dan Clark Stealth Review (State of the Art Headphone).

What is more, the distortion from the Amplifier tested would be considerably lower than 0.0009% if tested at the output level at which the Headphone being discussed here produces it's 0.009% THD.

This level is 0.564V into 23 Ohm, or around 13mW, at this level noise might dominate the Amplifier's THD&N measurements, especially if ten times (20dB) more mains noise is measured that would actually be presented to the headphone.

So it would seem to me that the distortion of this amplifier is entirely inconsequential and will not degrade the distortion of a state of the art Headphone, much less one that is merely "good".

The crosstalk performance may very well be intentional, but again seems not a real problem when listening to music as the "crosstalk" in recorded music is much higher.

Signal to noise ratio seems adequate as well, but may be improved if the mains noise created by the test setup were removed from the measurement.

What more could you require for music listening?

True, other amplifiers may have lower distortion and greater channel separation (maybe greater SNR, hard to say with compromised measurements), but driving real headphones, in the real world I cannot see how anything in the objective performance would suggest an amplifier "far from clean" for the task of driving headphones.

FWIW, I own this Amp and find both the EQ function (I have the HD6xx version to match my Headphones) and the "3D" gizmo very useful.

I'm not interested in defending a purchase (I had this for a good while, since drop shipped) as there is no other Amp out there that includes these specific features that allow me to enjoy my HD6xx way more than a friend's HD800 + Sennheiser Amp that sell way more expensive. There is no need for me to defend my set-up (my friend got another Amp from Drop after he heard his HD800 on my 6xx Zen Can), it has zero altenatives for me.

But given the influence of measurements presented on this site on what people buy, I do think there is a duty incumbent on the operators of this site to ensure their measurements truly reflect the performance of devices tested and to adjust their practice to conform with best practice (using industry standard ways to present data would also be good, to allow test results to be compared to those of others).

I also feel that more consideration should be given to agency compliance both in terms of EMC and Electrical safety, as purchase recommendations of devices that are not tested and shown to be compliant with local regulations may either leave the buyer open to legal problems if the equipment emits too much EMI or even cause damage to health or property, if the electrical safety requirements are not passed.

I am sure we all remember the fake iPhone Chargers from Asia that would electrocute users, despite having all safety markings etc. applied in crass violations of relevant laws.

M.I.
If input is unbalanced, connect AP's unbalanced output ground to earth does not have benefits or very little. But connect earth connection directly to the output will eliminate all the effect of leakage current.

I said it's not a big deal because the performance overall is not affected by the mains noise. It's just poor if I have to comment on this. Absence of mains noise won't make it better.

I have done extensive measurements and methods to reduce real world mains noise. You can add a dac and measure it using. The noise will only get worse not any better.
 

colourcode

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I bought the sundara and ifi zen can. I have a pioneer u-05 already and got the zen can in case the pioneer wouldnt have enough power to drive the sundara.

Anyways I cant really tell a difference between the two except bass boost makes the sundara sound much more to my liking. Would 180mw be sufficent to drive the Sundara? I'm completely lost on electrical jargon regarding this.

Did anyone of you compare zen can with the cheap psu to the expensive xpower?
 
Last edited:

domijack281

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I bought the sundara and ifi zen can. I have a pioneer u-05 already and got the zen can in case the pioneer wouldnt have enough power to drive the sundara.

Anyways I cant really tell a difference between the two except bass boost makes the sundara sound much more to my liking. Would 180mw be sufficent to drive the Sundara? I'm completely lost on electrical jargon regarding this.

Did anyone of you compare zen can with the cheap psu to the expensive xpower?
Not much of the help here but saw some sources insinuating that the included psu is kind of crap, the ones sold by ifi overpriced, you can get third party with higher current (Amp) capacity to get better performance.

I have no doubt in my case amp powered by internal AC power supply with class A up to 500mw (Asgard 3) beat up modest battery powered ifi Hip-Dac and it probably would be same for zen DAC. I use it at low gain up to 8-9 oclock plenty of headroom.
 

colourcode

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Not much of the help here but saw some sources insinuating that the included psu is kind of crap, the ones sold by ifi overpriced, you can get third party with higher current (Amp) capacity to get better performance.

I have no doubt in my case amp powered by internal AC power supply with class A up to 500mw (Asgard 3) beat up modest battery powered ifi Hip-Dac and it probably would be same for zen DAC. I use it at low gain up to 8-9 oclock plenty of headroom.

I will never push my Zen Can more than probably 9 o'clock with my current gear. So the power of the cheapo psu included should be more than enough. If the only selling point of the ifi power X is "noise cancellation" wouldn't it make more sense to just hook everything up to a decent UPS?

Have to be very wary of audiophile sources. People praising ethernet cables that supposedly sound better ‍♀️ if the standard ethernet cables weren't up to pair they'd use these snake oil cables in every data center already.

Anyways I'm stupid and like to get things running as best as they can- maybe i'll check the ifi power x out... or buy a new cable for the phones.
 

DaniY

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Al this hate regarding the design.....come on. It's not the same boring box design that's been around for eons. How often do you sit there and stare are your damn amp/DAC anyway? Shouldn't you audiophiles be listening to the music in any case? It's built really well and for the price, you simply cannot complain
 

cheapmessiah

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How many hours in a row can I run this amp without it being a detriment to its endurance?

I daily drive a combination amp with IEMs for gaming, meetings and yt, and use this unit to up the power when I want to listen to music with cans, but recently i've been pondering getting a balanced dac and daily driving the zen can, but im afraid that using it for several hours, sometimes days in a row might not be ideal for a class A amp that doesnt look to be using the chassis as a heatsink.

And also, i've become interested both in the aeon rt and the verum one headphones as openback and closed back main cans, but both units have very low impedance (12,5ohm and 8ohm respectively), has anyone used low impedance headphoes with the zen can and noticed anything bad in the sound quality? I know what Amirs analysis says about it but I would like to know about the "on ears" experience.
 

FireLion

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Have no problem with sensitive IEM's in my experience, as long as it's in low gain. This with any of the Zen DAC using 4.4 is great.

It's not required, but I do recommend any decent 5v external adapter on the DAC to take the power duties away from the USB.
 

FireLion

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Al this hate regarding the design.....come on. It's not the same boring box design that's been around for eons. How often do you sit there and stare are your damn amp/DAC anyway? Shouldn't you audiophiles be listening to the music in any case? It's built really well and for the price, you simply cannot complain
I wasn't crazy about it at first, but when I had it in hand, it's actually pretty cool.
 

FireLion

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How many hours in a row can I run this amp without it being a detriment to its endurance?

I daily drive a combination amp with IEMs for gaming, meetings and yt, and use this unit to up the power when I want to listen to music with cans, but recently i've been pondering getting a balanced dac and daily driving the zen can, but im afraid that using it for several hours, sometimes days in a row might not be ideal for a class A amp that doesnt look to be using the chassis as a heatsink.

And also, i've become interested both in the aeon rt and the verum one headphones as openback and closed back main cans, but both units have very low impedance (12,5ohm and 8ohm respectively), has anyone used low impedance headphoes with the zen can and noticed anything bad in the sound quality? I know what Amirs analysis says about it but I would like to know about the "on ears" experience.
Who knows, just use it as long as you need to.
 

Riaz-Ahmed

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hey @cheapmessiah I use the Zen Can with DCA AEON RT Closed HP and Fiio FH7 IEM and I have no problem whatsoever. The Zen Can has lots of power to drive both the AEON and FH7 and I have been impressed by the sound output of the Zen Can + SMSL SU-9 DAC -- an awesome combination!

I shared my thoughts here and here on using the Zen Can with the EX5, Node 2i and SU-9 with the AEON and FH7. Hope this helps you or someone else.

The AEON RT are amazing headphones, I have had them for a few months and they are still going strong. Well worth the money IMHO!

cheers
Riaz
 

MalinYamato

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Happy Friday all

As promised, here is my observation when pairing the SMLSL SU-9 with the Ifi Zen Can.
  • Firstly, as mentioned many times, Zen Cans are very powerful and IMO can probably drive any HP or IEM easily.
  • I did not observe any noise or distortion while playing a range of music at low and high volumes on my IEM and HP
  • Like, the Topping EX5, the SMSL SU-9 DAC is very good. Clean and clear delivery of music. SU-9 has more thump and punch in its delivery than the EX5
  • I did not get any ground loop buzzing on my Fiio FH7 IEMs like I did with the Bluesound Node 2i -- see my previous post this
  • The FH7 sound very good with and without the XBass. With XBass they absolutely rocked and you could really feel the sub-bass and energy from some music.
    • it is very easy to drive the FH7's from the Zen Can. I leave it on 0db Gain
  • The DCA AEON RT Closed headphones also sound very good, full of energy and life (again XBass is enabled).
  • I think the Zen Can compliments the SU-9 DAC really well - a good combination in my opinion.

I am not using any software or hardware EQ to tweak the sound of the AEON RT Closed as suggested by a few folks to sort out the lack of the sub-bass.

Overall, I am very happy with the Zen Can and will be keeping them to power my IEM and Headphone.

So, here is a question folks...... there are headphone amps that measured much better than the Zen Can like the Topping L30, Singer SA-1, SMSL SH-9, etc. If I pair any of these with the SU-9 will I see a night-and-day difference in music delivery?

The main differentiator for me using the Zen Can vs the other HP amps is the XBass feature. With this I don't need to worry about EQ'ing. I just turn it on and get amazing bass boost. I also know that the signal from the source is pure and unedited. Especially good for delivering pure MQA audio to the DAC (sorry if I have offended some folks) and to my ears.

Cheers


View attachment 145771
likewise, I combine SMSL M500 V2 with the Zen Can V2 and I am very happy with how it performs.
My Sundaras sounds so much better.
4032-3024-max.jpg
 
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