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ifi Zen DAC and Headphone Amp Review

dealpapa

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Sep 5, 2021
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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.
does the driver support windows 11?
 

Veri

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

Not really. UAC2 supports WASAPI mode if you want it. If you need ASIO support however you will need the manufacturer's driver.
 

dealpapa

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if I have (rca to amp and speaker), and headphone connect to this dac at the same time. Will they working at the same time?
 

FireLion

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Does anyone know about stuttering issues on the v1?

A fiend of mine said he had issues and hadn't been able to troubleshoot it. I suggested checking for a firmware update.
 

mbp1

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With HIFIMAN HE400SE, would you recommend the Ifi Zen DAC V2 or Schiit stack?
By "Schiit stack" I mean the Modi DAC and the Magni 3+ or Heresy (I can't tell the difference)
 

mbp1

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no more love to ifi. they increase price from 160 to 190. we go buy topping
That's temporary on Amazon. It'll be $159 again...
Edit: and you didn't mention which specific Topping product(s)
 
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dealpapa

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That's temporary on Amazon. It'll be $159 again...
Edit: and you didn't mention which specific Topping product(s)
lol you must work for us gov and fed, tell us that the price increase is temp.
 

mbp1

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lol you must work for us gov and fed, tell us that the price increase is temp.
Sorry, just going off assumption based on past price (and that holds no weight whatsoever). Maybe the change is permanent, maybe not.
What is the Topping product you speak of?

chrome_3d9EG9IcQu.png
 

dealpapa

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Sorry, just going off assumption based on past price (and that holds no weight whatsoever). Maybe the change is permanent, maybe not.
What is the Topping product you speak of?

View attachment 166720
Topping DX3Pro+
you can even get from aliexpress for 185
 

chrispdx

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May 10, 2021
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With HIFIMAN HE400SE, would you recommend the Ifi Zen DAC V2 or Schiit stack?
By "Schiit stack" I mean the Modi DAC and the Magni 3+ or Heresy (I can't tell the difference)
Consider the newish iFi ZEN CAN Signature HFM with filter option tuned specifically for HIFIMAN cans including yours.
 

mbp1

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Consider the newish iFi ZEN CAN Signature HFM with filter option tuned specifically for HIFIMAN cans including yours.
I actually already bought a Schiit stack :confused:
Might buy something from Ifi in the future to have something to compare against.
 

chrispdx

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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!
Please share specifically what “appropriate adapter cables for utilizing the balanced outputs” you purchased. There are outfits selling adapters that claim to turn unbalanced to balanced, but rarely is this actually the case. Also take it to your local shop and try the balanced headphone output with a truly balanced cable/cans (remove the adapter as a test). What are you using with the balanced output on the back to determine that it works fine?
 

Jimbob54

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Please share specifically what “appropriate adapter cables for utilizing the balanced outputs” you purchased. There are outfits selling adapters that claim to turn unbalanced to balanced, but rarely is this actually the case. Also take it to your local shop and try the balanced headphone output with a truly balanced cable/cans (remove the adapter as a test). What are you using with the balanced output on the back to determine that it works fine?
I would guess our friend has bought a 4.4 male to 3.5/6.35 mm female adapter and is running single ended headphones from a balanced output.

These don't, won't and shouldn't work. Sadly I think we've both seen some advertised that claim to.
 

G-rig

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Hi guys,

I'm still using the iFi Zen DAC (v1) with a Matrix M-stage headphone amp which pairs up nicely (but have a THX 789 coming, which has balanced inputs).

Currently using some Tara Labs Prism 300i RCA cables. Is it worth getting a 4.4mm pentaconn to dual XLR balanced cable? I realise that balanced cables have mostly been developed for long runs of cable to limit interference, reduce noise leak etc. Besides a neater setup (0.3m long would be ideal), is it worth the money? The iFi cable is about A$150 which is most of the cost of the unit so have ruled it out almost (the specs sound impressive, oxygen free blah blah), there are chinese handmade options on ebay etc at 1/3 of the price (not too much info on them).

It's always fun to try new stuff but agree that once you hit a certain minimum level of gear, upgrades often result in changes to sound as opposed to major sonic improvements, and the laws of diminishing returns. For such a shot cable length I don't think you'd hear any difference (unless the other cables were dodgy or of very cheap quality. Even the purple RCA that comes with it are probably fine but had the Tara labs sitting around.

Thanks,
 
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LaL

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Hi guys,

I'm still using the iFi Zen DAC (v1) with a Matrix M-stage headphone amp which pairs up nicely (but have a THX 789 coming, which has balanced inputs).

Currently using some Tara Labs Prism 300i RCA cables. Is it worth getting a 4.4mm pentaconn to dual XLR balanced cable? I realise that balanced cables have mostly been developed for long runs of cable to limit interference, reduce noise leak etc. Besides a neater setup (0.3m long would be ideal), is it worth the money? The iFi cable is about A$150 which is most of the cost of the unit so have ruled it out almost (the specs sound impressive, oxygen free blah blah), there are chinese handmade options on ebay etc at 1/3 of the price (not too much info on them).

It's always fun to try new stuff but agree that once you hit a certain minimum level of gear, upgrades often result in changes to sound as opposed to major sonic improvements, and the laws of diminishing returns.

Thanks,

Get the $22 Balanced cable, it does sound a little better than the single ended.
https://Amazon.com/dp/B07WTQ9M9B
 

G-rig

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Get the $22 Balanced cable, it does sound a little better than the single ended.
https://Amazon.com/dp/B07WTQ9M9B
Yes, have been looking at that exact one, Amazon claim end of March or April (delivered to Aus). I've found the same one on eBay which would be the end of the month ( from China). It's probably the most I'd want to spend and looks tidy, the iFi one is pretty excessive cost and still too long.

Ta
 

G-rig

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Ordered the cable from eBay anyway, pretty neat solution with the 0.3m cable. Can always sell as a bundle down the track if upgrading
 
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chrispdx

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May 10, 2021
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Consider supporting a small company (with nice folks that answer the phone and respond to emails) based and making their cables in-house in Tyler, Texas ... Hart Audio Cables. I use their balanced TC-3: 4.4mm Pentaconn to Dual 3-pin XLR to connect the Zen DAC Sigv2 to Schiit Freya+ and it sounds great.
TC-3-R_300x.jpg
 

G-rig

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Those look really nice mate!
It's just a case of the shipping a fair bit (probably) if posted outside of the US (unless it's on Amazon).
No doubt it's better than the chinese one.

That little tube amp looks the goods too, nice stack being the same width.
The funny thin is the M-stage and iFi Zen both have stainless finishes so looks ok, just the M-stage is very deep
Ideally would like the same kind of stack but no rush.
Cheers,
 
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