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ifi Zen DAC and Headphone Amp Review

LaL

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Aug 13, 2020
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The grounding issues with my Zen Can have magically fixed themselves. I can now run the Zen stack balanced without the RCA plugged in without issue. I have no idea why.

I upgraded to the Zen-Dac-Signature and just heard the ground loop. It turns out it's not the Zen-Can amp - but actually the balanced 4.4mm lineout socket on the Dac. The alignment must be slightly off and the poles don't quite align and you can hear the buzzing hum - but push the jack right or left - or pull the jack out a tiny bit and it goes away.

(Edit) I just pushed in the the back panel on the case and it now feels like the 4.4mm Jack is clicking in more securely. I think the back panel was not seated correctly and was preventing the jack from going in all the way)

The Siganture-Dac does sound better than the regular iFi Zen-Dac particularly in the highs, it's definitely cleaner and has more separation.
I bought it as an open box from Amazon for £217, so I have 30 days to return it - but if the issue does not come back I'm going to keep it as it sounds really great.
 

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Johannes AU

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Hello Amir, Hello fellow members :)

I bought the Zen Dac several months ago, the purpose is for streaming/Playback Apple Music from my Mac Mini or iPhone/iPod, I need a headphone amp though my headphones are not hard to drive ones .... I am pleased with the performance of the Zen Dac but it is not good enough, it is not expensive in Hongkong, so price-wise it did the job well, I do not use a power transformer for the additional 5V power but a power bank instead, supposed it is clean enough and strong enough ....

I also own the Yamaha WXA-50 which has a DAC inside (which Amir recommended), sometimes I use Musiccast sometimes I use the AUX input to get the signal from Zen Dac, all good. The combination is not perfect at all, some will say it is cheap, but it is for my music ..... only music ...

How it sounds? I cannot tell, I do not know how to describe the sound, but I am fine with the performance of the Yamaha-Zen Dac combination, Ar ... I forget to tell, the Yamaha WXA-50 drive a pair of DALI Spektor 1, I enjoy small system, fit my desk top for near field listening, and few months ago I add a Yamaha NS-SW050 subwoofer to the system.

Headphone(s) .... I have Sennheiser PXC 550 II, for noise cancelling while travelling inflight, wired while at home, seldom use bluetooth unless watching TV. another wired headphone is Austrian Audio Hi-X55 which I enjoy it so much ..... I also own a few cheap IEMs ......

Recently I want a better DAC, which can fullfill more needs from me, so I ordered the RME ADI-2 DAC Fs ... crazy right? it cost more than the whole AMP/Speaker system .... :p But I think it worth the price if I need a better stereo system in future ....

The only thing I am not enjoy is, when playback from Mac Mini, the Audio Midi setup is a pain .....
 

tonimccloud

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Jul 23, 2021
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Hi everyone, hope you are well. I have a problem with my ifi zen pro dac v2
I've purchased this device only because of playstation 5 compatibility. Everything went well until yesterday...it doesn't work, ps5 don't recognize the dac. Maye because of ps5 update? Do you know any other dac with ps5 compatibility?

Regards
 

MDA

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Jul 20, 2021
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Hi Everyone,

I purchased an ifi ZEN DAC (v1) in March and was very happy and extremely satisfied with both good looking exterior and clear, transparent and dynamic sound of this DAC during the very first weeks when I used the unbalanced headphones output on front and RCA outputs on the backside only.

But I have also purchased appropriate adapter cables for utilizing the balanced outputs to achieve even better sound quality and then I have discovered a serious problem.

Almost each output is okay (incl. balanced out on the backside) but the balanced headphones output on the front panel produces extremely high distortion on both right and left channels, independently from the bit-rate of the source, output volume level and button settings. The music can be heard using this output is terribly distorted and washed away, which is especially obvious in case of solo piano records. The cable and headphones have to be okay since, using the same cable and headphones, the unbalanced output on the back is fine as well as the other outputs.

I have Sennheiser HD598 headphones (50 Ohm impedance) which I love and have not realized any issue with this headphones so far therefore I asked ifi-Audio to replace (and upgrade for extra charge of course) this DAC but the new v2 has the same problem!!!

According to the official iFi-Audio site:

********************

Headphone Section
Output Power (@1% THD)4.4mm Pentaconn (BAL)
[email protected] Ohm; [email protected] Ohm;
16 Ohm - 600 Ohm Headphone

6.3mm S-BAL (SE)
[email protected] Ohm; [email protected] Ohm
16 Ohm - 600 Ohm Headphone

**************

So my 50 Ohm Sennheiser HD598 has to fit both unbalanced and balanced headphones outputs (16 Ohm < 50 Ohm < 600 Ohm) but the support office of iFi-Audio did not help me. (They wrote: my headphones is not compatible with ZEN DAC...)
However, it is extremely strange to me that no one else could hear this failure (I could find just one same error report on the internet so far).

Is there someone to explain me what the problem is?


Thanks in advance!
 
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Shadez

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Aug 11, 2021
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It uses a standard barrel type 5v adapter. I got a cheap 10 dollar 5v3a adapter off amazon that works great.

The plug dimensions are "Outer diameter 0.3 inches (5.5 mm), Inner diameter 0.1 inch (2.1 mm)."

You probablly already have one laying around I would guess lol.

And thanks for the reply!
They recommend a linear power supply, they make several but the cheapest is half the cost of the unit, mixed listening reviews of their adapters although the v2 recently released I haven't heard a comment on yet.
 

Countach

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Aug 24, 2020
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Poland
Guys, I've got a question regarding fixed/variable selector. I understand that fixed setting disables the volume control on DAC for RCA outputs. But what about the headphone outputs? Does the volume control still works on them when the selector is in the fixed position? Thx!
 

SilverWolf

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May 22, 2021
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Yes from me also, wife used it while I had my headphones on the Zen Can at the same time but allowed differing volumes.
 

Shadez

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Aug 11, 2021
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I upgraded to the Zen-Dac-Signature and just heard the ground loop. It turns out it's not the Zen-Can amp - but actually the balanced 4.4mm lineout socket on the Dac. The alignment must be slightly off and the poles don't quite align and you can hear the buzzing hum - but push the jack right or left - or pull the jack out a tiny bit and it goes away.

(Edit) I just pushed in the the back panel on the case and it now feels like the 4.4mm Jack is clicking in more securely. I think the back panel was not seated correctly and was preventing the jack from going in all the way)

The Siganture-Dac does sound better than the regular iFi Zen-Dac particularly in the highs, it's definitely cleaner and has more separation.
I bought it as an open box from Amazon for £217, so I have 30 days to return it - but if the issue does not come back I'm going to keep it as it sounds really great.

I am thinking of changing out my topping e30 for the Zen Dac signature, I want the balanced output and the fact that on variable it can output up to 6.2v so could push some fairly serious mid tier balanced amps hard although the fixed 4v would normally be absolutely fine. I will get one from Amazon and b2b it with my E30 with my amps and headphines as see what I think is probably best, it won't measure on here as world beating but it won't be as sterile as the toppings and AAA's either
 
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Hxx

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Apr 20, 2021
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Hello dear audio community
So I’ve been noodling over getting one of these dac amps , specifically the zen dac v2. I have a beyerdynamic tygr 300r , which has an impedance of 32 ohm but sensitivity of 96db ish I believe of course unbalanced .
Would this v2 unit putting out 230mw be able to drive this to hearing loss levels ? … not that hearing loss is a goal I have lol but I sometimes I like cranking up the volume on some edm tracks
also for those of you gamers out there would u recommend this dac amp for gaming ?
Your response is much appreciated

Edit: I think i answered my own question. Sounds like the V2 should be able to drive the 300rs to "painful" levels
 

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dealpapa

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It’s the same with possibly less jitter. They were forced to upgrade the xmos chips as the old xmos shit they were using is not manufactured any longer. Other than that it’s exactly the same.

cool. thanks. noodles.

when are they going to have promotion? lol
 

Hxx

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It’s the same with possibly less jitter. They were forced to upgrade the xmos chips as the old xmos shit they were using is not manufactured any longer. Other than that it’s exactly the same.
there were a several firmware updates with the gen 1 release which supposedly fixed a bunch of the initial issues. This is just my subjective thought from reading some comments here and over at headfi. I think it would be helpful to see a re-test and measurements but yeah i wouldnt be shocked if it still measures pretty average.
 

dealpapa

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there were a several firmware updates with the gen 1 release which supposedly fixed a bunch of the initial issues. This is just my subjective thought from reading some comments here and over at headfi. I think it would be helpful to see a re-test and measurements but yeah i wouldnt be shocked if it still measures pretty average.
last firmware for v1 is from 3 years ago. so ......
 

olavrb

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Apr 27, 2020
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Just got this for 1000 NOK including shipping (NOK to USD), 50% discounted because the norwegian distributor wanted to sell the v1 off as they're getting the v2. Killer value, will have it at my office desk. It sounds good to me, also like the bass boost feature for the heavy hitting techno sets I listen to when scripting PowerShell.

Have anyone found measurements with and without external power supply, just for comparison? Or USB 2.0 vs 3.0 out from the computer? It has no trouble driving my Sennheiser Momentum M2 (SE) and HD 650 (pentaconn), but would be interesting to see if it made any difference.
 

FireLion

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May 25, 2018
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FYI everyone, I got a v2, and it's pretty darn good. No noise even in high gain with IEM's. I did have to buy a new USB cable as the stock one was super short, perhaps the shielding on that helps? I do have a K5 pro to compare it to and when I have the Zen Can, I will compare it to the A30 pro. As a pure IEM source solution, it works very well. I do have a 5v adapter on hand, non ifi, but I don't see a need for it.

6ft cable: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KCZW1XF/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 (looks better in hand)
Youkamoo interconnect: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08279BFXS/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Magic

1632246046002.png
 
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MarekRMac

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Sep 22, 2021
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This is the standard UAC2.0 driver behavior here. Install iFi's ancient driver if you need all rates.

Hi, I've bought Zen Dac V2 lately, the driver is truly ancient (package 3.2 from 2018 but driver file from 2015).
At first, I connected it without drivers and it worked ok.
But to check firmware I've installed the driver (3.2) and in Windows I don't see any 384 kHz option on the list.

Are there any disadvantages of using a standard UAC2.0 driver? (i don't need lower rates)

Without installing the driver, I had one device with an exclamation mark in the device manager.
 
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