Sufficient Single-Ended Setup without Significant Sacrifices
Pros: Price point ($99 USD), Wide range of supported audio formats
Cons: No balanced inputs or outputs, Provided cables are a bit short
Introduction: I reviewed the ZEN Air DAC over a two-week period during a USA loaner tour of the ZEN Air series products. Many thanks to @Rowan94 for including me in the tour.


Product: The ZEN Air DAC is a high-resolution digital to analog converter (DAC) and headphone amplifier that sells for $99 USD. The DAC supports PCM up to 32-bit/384kHz, full native DSD256, 353/385KHz DXD, and MQA rendering. The kHz LED on the front panel indicates the music format configuration. Headphones are connected via the 6.3mm single-end output on the front of the unit. The rear of the unit has: single-ended RCA outputs, USB-B input, and a DC 5V power input.

Accessories: Two cables are included with the ZEN Air DAC: a (14") blue USB-A to USB-B cable, and a (26") black USB-A DC 5V power cable. Both cables could stand to be a bit longer. I used the supplied USB-A to USB-B cable to both power the unit and input data from my digital source (Windows 11 PC).

Build: The unit design is similar to the non-Air ZEN line, but the housing is a very sturdy high-grade thermoplastic polymer as opposed to metal. While the unit doesn't feel substantial in the hands, it still feels solid and easily stayed in place on my desk. All of the connectors held the cables securely.


Upon connecting the ZEN Air DAC to my Windows 11 PC, I fired up Amazon Music and began listening to some of my favorite tracks. I immediately noticed the first second of every song was being skipped. I downloaded and install the latest drivers from ifi audio but the issue continued. I then downloaded and installed the latest firmware upgrade (v7.2 to v7.4c) from ifi audio and that resolved the issue.

If you are using the ZEN Air DAC's headphone amplifier output, I highly recommend leaving the PowerMatch (gain) enabled unless you are using IEMs to ensure you have sufficient power to drive your headphones.

I connected the ZEN Air CAN (which I was also reviewing) to the ZEN Air DAC. I noticed the boost produced by the XBass+ on the DAC was more pronounced than on the ZEN Air CAN and a bit overpowering for my liking. But if you have tracks or headphones that are severely lacking in the lower frequencies it may be worthwhile to give this a try to give them a hefty boost.

Sound: I listened to many tracks across a wide variety music genres. The sound produced by the ZEN Air DAC was high-quality, detailed, clear and clean -- free from of any noise or distortion. The delivery was smooth and dynamic, making for an enjoyable listening experience for hours on end.

Conclusion: The ZEN Air DAC is an excellent value-for-money, feature-rich, single-ended DAC. Despite the lower price point, ifi Audio's usual level of quality is delivered without making too many sacrifices. I highly recommend considering the ZEN Air DAC for an affordable desktop singled-ended solution. You won't be disappointed.
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Thank you so much for the review!


Headphoneus Supremus
iFi ZEN Air DAC - Enter the Evergreen
Pros: See below
Cons: See below
About Myself: I was a lone audiophile, finding my place where I belonged. Then I became a member of Head-fi in 2010, and still an active member. I even joined Headphonesty for a year back in 2020, but unfortunately, my studies were in the way of the deadlines in 2021, so I was quietly dismissed. It's been over a year since that fateful day, and my writing skills are somewhat rusty. So I'll put some effort into this review.

This intro may seem familiar if you've seen my iFi ZEN Air Blue review.

Also, thank you, Rowan, from iFi Audio, for selecting me for iFi USA Tour so that I could review this remarkable device.


Build Quality: Much like the iFi ZEN Air Blue, the housing is made of a sturdy white and lightweight plastic housing. The imprints of the ZEN DAC are like a tightly woven net. The old-school style housing for the ZEN series makes the Air USB DAC visually pleasing. It's carried on from their older ZEN devices, and consistency is critical for stacking these devices, and iFi found an excellent footing for simplicity and stackability. I also like the matching gold-colored volume dials for the ZEN Air DAC and Headphone Amp. It gives a pleasing aesthetic of simplicity and class.

iFi ZEN Air Headphone Amp on top and iFi ZEN Air DAC on the bottom.

Firmware upgrades: I didn't upgrade the firmware because I already own the ZEN Signature Series, so I didn't want to risk it. The software for the ZEN Signature Series differs from the ZEN Air Series. I wish iFi would have an all-in-one software to nullify this issue. This fix would provide wider compatibility with their current and future audio hardware. I am assuming that it's possible. Anyway, this prevented me from using MQA. So I couldn't test it unless possible, but would it require uninstalling the firmware from my PC?

Accessories: The ZEN Air USB DAC has a 5V to Type-A USB connector. I wish it weren't short because I had to redo my desk layout to connect it to my PC. The more troubling issue is the lack of an RCA cable. Good thing I already had one before I received the review unit. There's also a digital input cable, which provides the proper functionality of the device, such as frequency and connectivity.


Connectivity/UI: The ZEN Air DAC's user interface has a Power Match button (For changing Gain levels), a 6.5mm Auxiliary Output, a frequency LED indicator, and an X-Bass Boost button (Self-explanatory). I hardly used both buttons with my Ultrasone Signature Studio and Penon Audio Volt because both headphones are power efficient.

Supported Formats:

  • 44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192/352.8/384kHz PCM
  • 2.8/3.1/5.6/6.2/11.2/12.4MHz DSD
  • 353/384KHz DXD
  • MQA
LED Mode:

  • Green PCM 44.1/48/88.2/96kHz
  • Yellow PCM 176.4/192/352.8/384kHz
  • Cyan DSD 64/128
  • Blue DSD 256
  • Magenta MQA renderer

Test equipment/software used: Custom PC and Tidal

Sound: Quite good. Sounds slightly warm and technical without X-Bass. X-Bass enabled brings a little life to all parts of the sound spectrum. Especially in the mids. My Ultrasone Signature Studio benefits from X-Bass the most. The Signature Studio will go from sounding moderately sterile to balanced and slightly warm-sounding. The ZEN Air DAC can be stacked with other X-Bass iFi devices. It can be overwhelmingly bassy with double X-Bass boost, even with neutral headphones like my Ultrasone Signature Studio. This means the bass can sound a bit too prominent and surprisingly clean, which is pretty impressive with massively elevated bass.

Otherwise, the ZEN Air DAC provides solid and enhanced bass response for bass-starved headphones. However, the ZEN Air DAC has a different effect for more balanced and warmer IEMs, like the Penon Volt. Without X-Bass enabled, it'll sound very open and airy. However, with X-Bass enabled, the stage becomes somewhat crowded, and everything except for the bass response takes a step back. So if you have neutral-sounding headphones, X-Bass is your friend. But if you have balanced and warmer-sounding headphones, X-Bass might make or break the sound for you.

I heard a clicking sound in the background, and unfortunately, I couldn't get rid of it because I already had iFi software installed on my PC. So I didn't want to risk potentially breaking the Amp/DAC.

Conclusion: In conclusion, the iFi ZEN Air DAC is a solid desktop DAC for $100, and while it sounds clean and detailed, its bass response will wildly vary with X-Bass and other compatible iFi Audio devices. That's not particularly a bad thing. It's great because it gives you wider flexibility to pair your headphones. Despite that, the ZEN Air DAC has some shortcomings that prevent it from truly shining, such as the clicking sounds in the background, lack of software flexibility, and lack of a 3.5mm aux. Otherwise, the ZEN Air DAC is a welcomed addition to the iFi ZEN Series.


  • Clean and detailed sound
  • Overall Balanced sound (With X-Bass off) and slight thick-sounding tilt (With X-Bass on)
  • Compatible with PCM, DSD, and MQA formats (I couldn't test MQA at the time. See why in "firmware upgrades")
  • Nice aesthetics
  • Pairs great with neutral headphones
  • Simple user-interface


  • The power cable is too short
  • No RCA cable is included
  • Some might find X-Bass too bassy if used with other X-Bass devices, such as the ZEN Air Headphone Amp
  • Lacking a 3.5mm aux
  • I couldn't test MQA due to a lack of software flexibility
  • Clicking sound in the background
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Thank you so much for your review!


New Head-Fier
Pros: -Price/Performance
-Design & Build
-Compact for desk
-Power Match
-Firmware support
Cons: -Lack 3.5mm output
-Lack adapter
-Cable too short (and blue!)


>>I am brazilian and I speak portuguese, so forgive my english, I’ll use translator tools to help<<


iFi Audio is an UK company that manufactures audio products such as: DACs, Amplifiers, DAC/AMPs, dongles, bluetooth transmitters, and other audio accessories in general. The company is actually a subsidiary of AMR (Abbingdon Music Research), also a manufacturer of high definition audio products. This is the first time I have the opportunity to test a product from the brand, and the product in question will be the IFI AIR DAC, which is a desktop DAC/AMP.

Release date: 2022
Price: $99 USD
Colors: Gray/Black



Input voltageDC 5V/2.5A
InputUSB2.0 B Socket
Formats44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192/352.8/384kHz PCM
2.8/3.1/5.6/6.2/11.2/12.4MHz DSD
353/384KHz DXD
DACBit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC by Burr Brown
Power consumptionNo Signal ~0.5W / Max Signal ~2.5W
Dimensions158 x 117 x 35 mm
6.2″ x 4.6″ x 1.4″
Net weight315 g
0.694 lbs
Line Section
Output1V / 3.3V max.
Output Impedance≤50Ω
SNR<-113dB(A) @ 0dBFS
DNR>113dB(A) @ -60dBFS
THD+N<0.04% @ 0dBFS
Headphone Section
Output1V / 3.3V max. (variable)
Output Power>280mW @ 32Ω ; >36mW @ 300Ω
Output Impedance<1Ω
THD+N<0.04% (100mW @ 16Ω)
SNR>113dBA (3.3V)


– Tin HiFi C3
– FiiO FH3
– Tin HiFi P1
– Questyle M15
– Dell Inspiron Realtek HDA (W10)






A brief context. In my journey with in-ear monitors, the search for minimalism and practicality have always been one of the main elements, but I always wanted to build a desktop setup and a portable setup, because most of the time I listen to music sitting down and with my notebook as the primary device. I always saw the iFi HIP-DAC or the FiiO Q3 as good alternatives to use as a desktop DAC/AMP, however, the journey took other paths and brought me to the ZEN Air DAC, the first desktop DAC/AMP that I have the opportunity to test.

Let’s start by talking about design and construction. Like all products in the ZEN series, the ZEN Air DAC is also very beautiful, iFi took great care in the aesthetics of this product. The materials used are of excellent quality, it’s all made of plastic, but it’s not a generic plastic, it is of excellent quality and finishing. To me, it looks like a premium product at just $99 (almost half the price of the ZEN DAC series). The DAC/AMP is very compact, it doesn’t take up much space on the desk, I like minimalism a lot and the product managed to please me in terms of size. In the last photo you can compare the size of an IEM with the size of the ZEN Air DAC (in the end of this page).

On the front panel we have the input for the earphones, the analog volume (volume knob or potentiometer), a RBG LED, and two buttons with the functions: Power Match and XBass+. Power Match is nothing more than the nomenclature used by iFi to refer to the gain button. And XBass+ would be a resource to add a little more bass to the sound.

In terms of weight, we have an interesting detail. The product isn’t heavy, that’s a fact, but I always imagined that these desktop equipment had a greater weight, something that would make me be able to unplug the earphone without having to hold the product, let’s see, that’s not what happens here, cause if I remove the earphone without holding the DAC/AMP, it will slide across the desk. Perhaps this characteristic doesn’t happen when the person uses the stack with the other ZEN Air series devices on the top.

As can be seen from the specifications, the DAC/AMP supports several file types. A RGB LED in the left corner of the panel indicates which format is currently playing: Green (PCM 44.1/48/88.2/96kHz), Yellow (PCM 176.4/192/352.8/384kHz), Cyan (DSD 64/128 ), Blue (DSD 256), Magenta (MQA renderer). For me, only the green light appeared, as I only use 16bits/44.1-48kHz FLAC files and regular audio streaming (Spotify). However, I think it’s important for the product to offer the greatest possible file support.

Cable. The cable provided in the product is type USB-A<>USB-B. Here we already have a first point to be observed. The company chose to use the USB type B connection (like the ones we find on inkjet printers), and in my opinion, the USB type A connection is much more secure in physical terms than the USB type B connection. Another question to be observed are the physical aspects of this cable. First, the size I found too short, I can’t connect it to an USB port on the left side of my notebook and pass the cable behind to leave the DAC/AMP on the right side. I think a 1 meter cable would already solve this issue. Second, the cable material is kind of rigid, not as easy to handle as a paracord cable, for example. And third, they put a blue color cable, and the ZEN Air DAC is gray and black, that is, it doesn’t match with the product colors, I think a black cable would look better aesthetically.


The earphone input is the 6.35mm connection (P10), that is, the standard adopted here is more easy to found in headphones. In this case, as our website is only focused on IEMs, it was necessary to use a 3.5mm to 6.35mm adapter (which is not included in the product). In my opinion, it was good for the company to provide an adapter of the type mentioned. So, keep in mind if you’ll buy the ZEN Air DAC and use IEMs (or headphones with 3.5mm cables).

The product stays on the whole time connected to the computer/device, this is because it doesn’t have an On/Off button, nor the volume knob have this function to turn off. I think it would be interesting to have the option to turn off the equipment. As this is my first experience with “desktop” DAC/AMPs, I noticed this because it’s something I miss about dongles. Dongles are portable equipments, but it is also possible to use them on computers (as is my case), so to turn them off you need to disconnect the USB cable.

The ZEN Air DAC can be powered by an external 5V/2.5A source (not included in the package), however, it can also be powered only through the direct USB connection to the computer, that is, through the USB-B cable that comes with the DAC/AMP. It works for both data and energy.

The product has an analog RCA output on the back that can be used as a DAC/Pre-AMP for an amplifier or speakers. In this case, the company has an exclusive amplifier for this series, the ZEN Air CAN, which can be connected to the ZEN Air DAC by this RCA output.

I tested for approximately 2 hours the IEMs and the ZEN Air DAC with the volume knob at “12h” (twelve o’clock), as well as the Power Match and XBass+ turned on. I didn’t notice any signs of heating on the surface of the product. The test was on a very warm day in my region. Not even the best of dongles could accomplish such a feat.

The product was immediately recognized as soon as I connected to my notebook, I didn’t need to install any drivers for it to work in Windows10 (Plug & Play). Note that the product has been detected and entered the maximum volume of the Windows volume scale (100%), so you need to be a little careful when connecting the equipment for the first time. I left it in this configuration, 100% in the Windows volume scale and I was controlling it only in ZEN Air DAC.

iFi makes firmware updates available for its products in the >support< section of its official website. There you can put the serial number of the product and check if there are updates available. In the case of the ZEN Air DAC, I checked and saw that there was a firmware for the product, however, I installed the program to perform the update and it found that the firmware was already updated with the latest version, so I didn’t need to make any changes.



It must be remembered that this analysis is subjective, based on my experience with the product and also on the synergy with the other equipment I used here. I also already inform you that the more objectivist part of the hobby is not really my beach, so it may be that some information can be limited, I don’t have much knowledge about the technical side of this type of product.

The audio quality of the iFi ZEN Air DAC I found very good. The company uses the Burr-Brown Native DSD1793 DAC chip, in addition to other internal components from the North American manufacturer Texas Instruments. I’ve always heard that some iFi products are more “musical”, in the sense that the sound was something different from other products available on the market, well, that’s not exactly what I noticed here. For me, the ZEN Air DAC’s sound is transparent, uncolored, and faithful to the recordings I listen to. I didn’t notice any noise, distortion or strange sound during the time that I was testing the product.

XBass+. As already mentioned in the physical aspects, XBass+ is nothing more than a boost in the bass region. What I noticed here was a small amount of boost in the sub-bass and mid-bass region. The resource was very well implemented, it’s nothing exaggerated, on the contrary, it’s something similar to changing an eartip, for example, sometimes we lose or gain a little bit of a certain frequency when we change the eartip. Here the change will only impact the region of the bass, and yet, something very subtle. XBass+ gains a little more notoriety when Power Match is on.

Power Match. Also as previously mentioned, the iFi Power Match is the same as a Gain selector. In general, I thought that the gain conferred by the product was interesting, it does make a good difference in the sound. iFi recommends that Power Match when activated would be more suitable with headphones, and off for IEMs, but there is no rule here, you really need to test each earphone with the feature and without the feature activated to define which sound was the best (this is something very individual). In my tests here I liked to use the Power Match on and the volume knob giving low volume.

Amplification. Well, in this aspect I noticed two positive points and one not so positive. The first two positive points are that with the Tin HiFi C3 and with the FiiO FH3, the ZEN Air DAC pushed them with ease, they are IEMs that don’t need extra amplification. The not so positive point was that with the Tin HiFi P1 I needed to activate Power Match and XBass+ so that the sound was more “correct”. In theory, this is not a problem, however, the more I increased the volume on the potentiometer, the more the sound entered into clipping (distortion). So, it’s worth mentioning that I didn’t really like the result of the ZEN Air DAC specifically with the Tin HiFi P1.

I made a comparison with the Questyle M15 DAC/AMP dongle and the ZEN Air DAC, for me, the only difference from the M15 to the ZEN Air DAC was that the M15 presented a little more definition in the positioning of the instruments (imaging), as if the presentation were a little more “clear” in relation to the other, since I could feel more separation between one instrument and another. Remembering that this “a little more” is always good to see as a tiny difference, something very subtle. Also remember that it’s difficult to extract something exact from this comparison, since they are also different equipments, even trying to make sure that both are well leveled in terms of volume, the impedances, the power, and etc, are distinct.


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1000+ Head-Fier
Really good for a starter dac
Pros: Build is good in quality with good implementation inside for beginners
Connection are very good
Usb port connection on Pc for the courrent
Very well neutral warm organic sounding Dac
Very good price for entrylevel and good enough
Dac can be magic on better amp´s
MQA ready
Cons: Housing is not so well but okay
integradet amp inside are a thick thinner as the Can amp,the magic moment missing
Only 6,3 Jmm ack

Thanks to the Ifi Zen Air Tour, some members here had the opportunity to participate in the tour that took place here in the forum.
I would like to thank Rowan for organising this tour and Ifi for agreeing and providing the products.
I must also apologise for the length of the tour, unfortunately I had some private problems which delayed the whole thing unnecessarily.

You had to register for the tour, Rowan wrote to you personally and told you that you were on board.
The rest went 1 to 1 as described in the tour, the products were sent and arrived personally at the familiar home.
Personally, I don't get a fee or anything like that, the tour was absolutely voluntary.
And the products have to be sent back.

Why am I doing this?

I have always been interested in Ifi products, starting with the Ify Hip Dac 2 which I bought a few months ago.
when I'm on the road and I'm very happy with it.
Since then I have continued to be very interested in their products where they develop for the community.
Somehow I had always been interested in testing the small budget products.
And the opportunity was just great to be able to test something without having to spend money.
Of course, it's also a hobby of mine, so why not?

About the Zen Dac Air contents:

Not much in terms of content,the Zen Can unit neatly packaged with dust caps,a hollow plug cable with usb connector,usb cable that's about it.
Rca cables are unfortunately not included, these must be purchased seperrat.

I assume that the cable is simply used to power the Zen Can with a charger power supply plug.
I tested whether it also works via the USB port on the PC and it worked, great surprise.
I connected all the devices to the Audioquest Powerquest 3 via the USB port, which seemed to me to be a very sensible solution.
The cable could have been a bit longer for my taste, I had to use my own as it is a bit longer.
I can't say whether it was intentional not to include a power supply or the true content of the purchase.

Visually, it looks very elegant, and there's not much to it either.
The black/grey plastic casing enhances the look, but the feel is not mine.
But it's okay if you want to offer the customer something.Since Chinese products are also partly strong Konquerenz.

Headphones: ZMF Auteur, Audeze Lcd 2 C 2019 , Letshuore Z12
Zen Dac is connected directly to my Matrix element H Usb card which is powered separately with a Psu power supply.
Software player Audirvana 3.5 linked to Tidal account the MQA renderer is enabled in Audirvana.



The installation of the driver must be downloaded from the Ifi page and only installed after the previous driver has been completely uninstalled from the previous Dac.
Otherwise the Zen Dac will not be recognised in Windows as well as in Audirvana.
It took me a little time to figure it out.
Unfortunately, deactivating the software in the autostart did not work either to save me this procedure.
It makes sense to restart the previous software after uninstalling the PC before installing the Ifi driver and restarting again.
Then there will be no conflicts and the PC will recognise the Ifi Zen Dac without any problems.

The Dac seems to have a neutral but warm signature with good depth in the presentation when connected via the USB port.
It reminds me slightly of the old Wolfson Dac chip that was available years ago in certain Dac's. Musically, the Zen Dac can reproduce a nice broad depth.
The bass range seemed better to me there, much more weighty and with more power and less muddy than with the Wolfson chip, mids and highs have a very good spectrum without missing anything.
The highs have a bit of a spiky approach for me, so let's see how it turns out with the headphones.

Unfortunately there was nothing else, no coax output that I could have coupled with the Singxer Su 2 DDC.
After a short acclimatisation phase and a break, I went straight to the listening impression of the headphones.

Letshure Z12:

Since I disconnected the Can directly and installed everything with the Zen Dac and took the Z12 directly to continue listening, I was closest for the Can and internal Zen Dac comparison.
Can and internal Zen Dac comparison.
The Can seemed to me to be a little sweeter at the top end as well as in the mids and the bass a little more extended with more fullness.
I think it's also due to the Dac the Can was connected to, the Singxer SDA 2 connected to the Singxer Su 2 via I2S, which performed very well on the Nos filter.
very good performance on the Nos filter.
If I just compare the Zen Dac with the Z12, Xbass is off, because there's enough of it and it's in its place.
You don't experience the top end as in the previous setup but it is satisfying.
The mids are very well in place without anything negative to say. The extension could be a bit better for my ears.
The highs are slightly sharper than on the Can, where I experienced more of a gentle roll off at the back, but nothing like that on the Zen Dac.
There, the Z12 is sometimes slightly sharp but forgiving and still balances it out well.
The voices are otherwise very well reproduced, regardless of whether they are female or male voices.
Nevertheless, I miss a bit of the magic behind it, as was experienced at the Can, for example, where there was a bit more extension and more connection to the singer.
What I like is the presentation of the instruments, which is very much in place.
Tonally it is balanced but not perfect.

ZMF Auteur OG:

Where before the pot on the Z12 was at 10-11 o'clock, the pot has already moved to 15 o'clock with Xbass activated.
The reserves for a 300 Ohm headphone are quite tight.
And yet I experience a good, amazing instrument separation at this level without anything starting to distort, so a really good job has been done.
It stays completely clean even though the Zen Dac is almost at its limits in terms of amplification.
Even with the enormous bass of Rhianna - Russian Roulette the Auteur OG has no problems.With other songs I have experienced something similar,seldom such good bass on the Auteur OG.
I was not aware that the Auteur can deliver really good bass.
In terms of sound, it's similar to the Letshoure Z12, everything is there, but it can always be improved.
Even on the Can I share my impression that it was a bit sweeter with the Auteur than on the Zen Dac itself.

Audeze Lcd 2 C 2019:

With the Lcd 2 the pot is set to 14 o'clock it is loud enough,with Xbass there is more bass.
But deactivated the balance is better dosed without what pure bleeds to the mids what can come before, also it booms me too much in the ears.
All in all, you have more reserves at the potentiometer than with the Auteur.
The Zen Dac also does a good job of driving the planar headphones smoothly.
Compared to the Z12, the sound is much more relaxed, with more width and depth in the music.
in the details, but plays deeper down.
The treble range of the Lcd 2, like that of the Auteur, is no longer too sharp like that of the Z12 and is just right.
I enjoyed the Lcd 2 a bit more on the Zen Dac than the Auteur.
With the Auteur I was somehow missing another good 20% except for the bass.
The Lcd 2 was clearly better in voicing,tonal separations,low end and the rest of the spectrum.Although the Can will probably be better than amplification.
For the man of small budget or emergency setup one can say grab it,you will enjoy it too.


Yes, I couldn't resist testing the Ifi Zen Dac's output. The dac it's connected to is the Feliks Euforia, and it's being used
with the ZMF Auteur OG as well as the Lcd 2.
But here I have to point out one thing:
The poti on the Zen Dac has to be turned up for you have to find your own sweet spot. A button would have been really helpful to limit the whole thing directly to 2V.
I activated the Xbass, and I'll tell you why.
Without it, it seemed a bit thin. When I turn the pot all the way up, it bleeds right in the mids and is too much when it's activated.
My sweetspot was set to 15 o'clock in order to get a good amount of active XBass and above all to avoid clipping, which also occurs.

The listening impression with the Auteur Og:

It was definitely better than on the Zen Dac, which is normal because the Euforia is a completely different amplifier.
The amount of bass is really good, which I personally wish the Euforia would bring that out of the box.
The female and male vocals are really excellent and very forward in the combination.
With Jessie Reyez - Figures she almost screams at me with the suffering in her voice that almost makes my eyes wet.
With Brian Mcknight - Anytime I got goose bumps when his voice started to sing full of heartache how much he misses his lover and could really feel with him.
Together with the whole composition of the softly playing piano it really got under your skin.
If I had recently experienced traumatic events, I would definitely have been in tears, because everything would have come up at that moment.
In short, I experience the Zen Dac in its purest form with an excellent amplifier by its side.
The rest of the ensemble is also excellently presented at this level, with flutes, pianos, guitars, etc., coming out much better.
And also in a very natural way that I personally like.
And a good tip is to use a potent tube amplifier and this Dac as a Dac and you will experience a good, decent audio quality.
decent audio quality.
Does it beat my Singxer SDA 2 with its Su 2 behind.In short yes,the Singxer doesn't manage with its Ak 4497 chip to come across as natural and clear
in terms of instruments and vocals.

Audeze Lcd 2:

The setting on the Zen Dac was also unaffected here.
The instruments have a good tonal weight and are slightly inferior to the Auteur, but still within the limits.
Also on the vocal level but neat to listen to.
The rest can also be taken from the Auteur description, but with a little less weight of everything.
All in all, you have to be 2-3 metres away from everything to experience the goosebump moment.


Purely as a Dac, the Zen Dac is surprisingly good.I like the natural what it reproduces together with the Auteur and Euforia this had definitely been my highlight,
that I really have to think about.
Because it beats the Singxer SDA and SU 2 directly although both are connected via I2S.
Even though the Singxer is a bit livelier, I always missed the natural sound of the instruments, which it can't reproduce and is certainly a personal taste.
It's a shame that the Zen Dac doesn't have a coax output, otherwise it would be perfect for me.

The Dac section can do wonders with a mid range/high end headphone amp as well as the Can can with headphones.
I personally didn't see that coming.Ifi has really outdone itself here.
All units have their advantages and disadvantages, strengths and weaknesses.

Let's get back to Zen:
The Zen disappointed me slightly in its amplification, but for the price it's okay.Iem's and low-ohm headphones benefit much more in terms of performance,
than high ohm headphones, and planar headphones can certainly do better. But hey, we have the Can when the budget is tight for a decent amplification with some reserves in it.
The Dac section is excellent MQA capable, by the way I didn't do the firmware update even though there was one.
The Dac is extremely natural in its reproduction when the amplification behind it is right, very musical to the point as it should be.
Dynamics,depth,smoothness is right,it lacks a touch of micro and macro detail but otherwise it is really very very good.The question is do you need it if you don't know it?
I also rarely heard compositional errors and it was forgiving in that respect.
I have also seen that the Zen Dac is available as a signature version with a mains plug and fixed/variable switch for those who need something like that, a good compromise to find the sweet spot.
The coax output is unfortunately missing and is forced to go to Usb.
With the Zen Signature I would have liked to have it, also because you could have connected a streamer directly.
With the simple Zen Dac it would have been okay to do without it in order to remain competitive.
That is my only criticism where I can say.
Good detailed review, these are great devices for the price.
However, there is one "but".
My question is about the potentiometer.
I have owned all ZEN DAC, CAN models and they all suffered from channel volume imbalance at very low volume with high sensitivity headphones - just turn the volume down hard and you will notice that one channel is no longer playing while the other is still playing.
This was very annoying.
Is this model free of this shortcoming of the "cheap potentiometer" and it was replaced with a $5 more expensive one?
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Thank you for the kind words.
I didn't have any problems with the potentiometer on the unit I got.
It is possible that this has been fixed.
I definitely didn't notice anything that was out of balance, not even with the Iem's.
I know what you mean though, I have this with my Ifi Hip Dac 2 just after turning it on. The more I turn it up after a certain point it gets better and I have the full range of volume evenly.
Thank you so much for this detailed review! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it! :)
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500+ Head-Fier
iFi ZEN DAC V2 Review
Pros: Value, excellent tone, good build quality, ease of use, can be used as direct to amp pre
Cons: not for difficult to drive headphones.

My background is in music. Yes, a bland and generic statement, yet it indeed is true. Though I have no poetic inspiration that inspires great prose to roll off my tongue like a Greek master, nonetheless, it is true that I studied Classical Music on the dollar of University of Tennessee. One of the things you get to do as a 'music major' is Ear Training. What a beautiful course, and I wish all college courses were the same. If you master the material early, you get your 'A' and never go back to that class again. In fact, you may enroll into the higher levels, and before you know it, you have 2 years of credit in a month.

Yeah, I was one of those kids. I passed first semester Ear Training in a single week. I have always had the ear for the subtleties in music. One of the more basic exercises is a simple tuning test. The subject must listen to a series of pitches all within a few 'cents' of each other, and must match them exactly with no assistance. Only your ear can be your tool.

No problem.

How that helps me as an audio technology critic, I am not sure. My hope however is my ear is just as attuned in this task as it was there many years ago in the Ear Training Lab. Readers can be the judge of that. But for now, let me be the judge of the subject of this entry. The iFi ZEN DAC V2.

iFi Audio, a part of AMR Audio, has offered budget but excellent sounding technology since 2012. The first product to the market was the semi-portable iDAC. It was based on ESS technology, and received decent reviews in the audio press. iFi continued to build on their early success, finding a popular niche in the portable and 'head-fi' scenes. Interest in what this company was doing is how I became interested and involved in the 'head-fi' scene.

iFi, at that time under the technical leadership of Thorsten Loesch of DIY fame, left behind the ESS 'ready made' reference standard, in favor of the Burr-Brown/Texas Instruments DSD1793 chip, which would become the backbone of iFi tech. iFi pushed the limits and continues to push the DSD1793 beyond what its original Japanese engineers ever considered possible.

One of the more appealing aspects of the chipset is it has a separate logic that processes DSD in its native format, bypassing the onboard Delta-Sigma Modulator. Many would consider this 'pure' or 'native' DSD processing, as the DAC output 'switches' groups of resistors to act as a Moving Average FIR filter with only 8 clock cycles/bits of delay for the taps. It is an excellent choice for DSD playback, as well as PCM via its own unique process. Click here for my in depth explanation why this chip was chosen by iFi.

Internal to the ZEN DAC V2, the DSD1793 shines, although in this case it has limited features as compared to some other iFi products. In higher end iFi hardware, the chip can process Double DXD over 700khz, and DSD up to 1024fs. NOT HERE though. This ZEN V2 is limited to 1x DXD at 352.4 and 384khz, and DSD at 256fs. (click here for more info on the venerable chipset)

So how does the iFi ZEN DAC V2 stack up to its peers? After a thorough review, it acquits itself quite well.

Compared to other iFi offerings, this is quite a simple DAC to operate. Install the necessary software if you have a PC, plug in the DAC, and voila! Macintosh is simply plug-in-play, however DSD must be transmitted via DoP. Although Roon doesn't recognize the iFi ZEN DAC V2 as ROON READY, Roon spots the DAC and you can configure it as a USB device via the Roon control panel very easily. (Want true ROON READY ethernet/wifi connectivity? The iFi Stream is easily added and is the subject of an upcoming review)

Once you have decided how you will deliver sound to the DAC, it is easy pickin's. Every software I have thrown at it from Roon to Jriver and Audirvana to Foobar, comes accross without a hitch.

The ZEN DAC V2 can be used as a standalone DAC with analog volume control. In this case, there is a switch on the back that toggles the output from 'VARIABLE' to 'FIXED'. Variable mode with volume control at maximum will produce a higher voltage output than fixed mode, and can allow one to bypass any extra preamplifier in favor of a direct amplifier connection. None of my tests were conducted this way. All were conducted in fixed mode.

The front headphone output is always variable regardless of the switch on back. Also, iFi is kind enough to take any guesswork on what the gain need be via headphone output. It has a 'POWER MATCH' button on the far left of the front panel. This is a necessity for allowing compatibility with different headphones. My test reference Sennheiser HD650 were underpowered with the power match turned off. A push of the switch and all was well. No longer did volume need to be at 100 percent for average listening levels. Now I can listen at average to high levels with the volume dial around 40 to 50 percent.

Headphone outputs come in two forms. The 1/4 inch single ended headphone output, as well as a 4.4mm fully balanced Pentaconn output. Pentaconn output is also available on the back, allowing a short jumper cable to attach to other Pentaconn devices such as the ZEN CAN headphone amplifier. Standard RCA stereo terminations are included if you do not have a Pentaconn device, although there are several aftermarket solutions that breakout standard XLR pin L/R terminations from a single Pentaconn connector.

One final feature found on the front panel is a 'TRUEBASS' button. True to its word, it gives a noteworthy boost in bass frequencies, however, this boost is only applicable to the headphone outputs. The amount of boost offered is visible in our MEASUREMENTS SECTION, below article.

Power for the iFi ZEN DAC V2 comes from the 5v bus on the USB input. However, also supplied is an external switching supply that is said to provide better performance. I noted no measurable difference; however it is admitted that measurements only tell part of the story. The human auditory system is very complex and not completely understood. It is possible one may find a subjective listening advantage. For disclosure all my tests were conducted using a iFi iPower 5v external switching supply.

Now came the time for some listening. The listening notes you read below come via a HP all-in-one PC running Roon. I am evaluating the DAC with its own headamp, while Sennheiser HD650 headphones are the listening transducer of choice.

I opened Roon and queued up a few of my reference tracks to see what this budget powerhouse can do. First up was the Allegro from Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor op. 71. Performed by Akiko Suwanai in 2002 with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Sakari Oramo, it is recorded in native DSD64 by the impeccable Polyhymnia team and is part of the Philips Classics Decca library. A good DAC can transport one into another world with this recording. It can be a transcendent experience that defies the mundane daily routine.

What strikes first is the excellent tonality. The violin sounds like a violin. The overtones send shivers down the spine, and there is nothing that sounds clinical here. It 'rings' and I mean ring in a good way. I call it 'ear candy', and I could get lost in this beautifully musical presentation for hours on end. It is not the most detailed presentation of this recording, yet nothing seems missing while you are in another world of musical bliss. Criticisms are small, and considering the price of this kit, more nitpicky than anything. The overall orchestral soundstage is slightly congested with tones that can sometimes be a bit wooly. The brass section on the other hand, is powerfully dynamic and beautiful. Brass comes across as powerful and low distortion, and the tight intonation of the BSO players is done no injustice. Rather the effect sends goosebumps running down my arms. Backgrounds are quite black, and there is aways a good sense of the recording space. We are off to a great start with this little DAC that can.

Next up on my listening chart was "Ballads for Audiophiles" performed by Aldo Zunino, Alfred Kramer, Paolo Birro, and Scott Hamilton. The album was recorded at the Hotel II Castello – Palazzo di Scoto di Semifonte in Stereo DSD64 on the Pyramix Recorder using a DCS ADC for the Fone label. I cued up the track "Everything Happens to Me". As a concert pianist, I appreciate when the recording engineer gets the piano just right, and it is very right here. The sonority and the decay is captured perfectly, and the ZEN DAC V2 doesn't shortchange anything. The placement of the piano in the mix is slightly behind and to the left, and once again the ZEN is powerful enough to call attention to the small details that can fool us into thinking we are right there in the room with the players. It makes all the difference in the listening experience. Lesser DACs can make a saxophone sound 'honky' and somewhat indistinguishable from a few other reed instruments, but here, the ZEN DAC V2 nails the tone and sonority. Fine detail is present to complete the illusion. Every breath and keypress is there to help create the 'live' illusion. The drums present with no unnatural distortion or harshness. Cymbals have a natural tonality. The bass line is very good, but can get a bit wooly and indistinct at times. Overall, the presentation of this piece is very, very nice and quite frankly for the money, may be hard to beat.

No review is complete of this DAC without mentioning it is a full MQA decoder and renderer. The next demo I queued up was from Tidal Masters. "Blues from Before" on the album "Four" performed by Bill Frisell. WOW what a sound. I know the arguments about MQA, and it has its lovers and haters. All I know is, it sounds GREAT. I don't know why, (actually I have my reasonable suspicions) but it is just good listening! The iFi ZEN DAC V2 brings outstanding MQA playback to this entry level price bracket. Guitar is captured with outstanding tone and nuance, while drums sound realistic and live, with excellent depth and layering. The distinct 'bell like' tone of the clarinet is captured and reproduced commendably here. Things sound just right, and there is excellent 'space' for all instruments to 'breath' and interact.

Having heard quite a few DAC/headamps in this price range, I have yet to hear anything exceed the iFi ZEN DAC V2 for under $200. Of course I have not heard every DAC in this price range, but I am confident that if you are looking for an entry into real hi-fi and have a smaller budget, or just don't think the incremental improvements that come with higher priced kit are worth it, the ZEN DAC V2 is a DAC for you. How it might compare to the newer Signature edition I do not know. What I do know is you cannot go wrong with this excellent DAC/headphone amp. However, if your primary use is with headphones, stick with phones that are reasonably powered. Some of the more power hungry cans out there will need a separate, more powerful headamp, such as the matching ZEN CAN, currently under review.

CLICK here for factory specs.

our lab measurements: (please note that graphs are at bottom of article)

DAC measurements:

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB+0.02, -0.18
Noise level, dB (A)-114.1
Dynamic range, dB (A)114.2
THD, %0.00205
THD + Noise, dB (A)-90.9
IMD + Noise, %0.0024
Stereo crosstalk, dB-95.5
IMD at 10 kHz, %0.00226

Headphone amp measurements:

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB+0.03, -0.32
Noise level, dB (A)-94.9
Dynamic range, dB (A)94.8
THD, %0.01807
THD + Noise, dB (A)-71.7
IMD + Noise, %0.015
Stereo crosstalk, dB-78.1
IMD at 10 kHz, %0.010

The iFi ZEN DAC V2 has right at 19 bits of resolution.

All PCM rates below 352.8 khz are oversampled with a FIR Linear Phase filter with sharp rolloff.

**Of interest is the original ZEN DAC could receive a firmware update that enabled the iFi 'GTO' filter. The GTO filter is a very short linear phase FIR filter with small amounts of pre and post ringing, slow rolloff and less image rejection above Nyquist. As far as the iFi ZEN DAC V2 is concerned, I cannot find any confirming data saying it can be updated to use the GTO filter.**

The iFi ZEN DAC V2 frequency response is flat impressively flat.

Channel Balance is absolutely superb via both single ended RCA and balanced Pentaconn outputs.
Via headphone output, Left and Right channels have a slight imbalance of less that half a decibel across entire frequency range. In practice this should not be of any notable detriment.

BASS BOOST, an analog process that preserves bit-perfect integrity of the digital signal, provides a healthy if not hefty boost to frequencies from approximate 200 hz extending downward into the infrasonic, with what appears to be about a 10db gain at 20hz.

is well controlled here. iFi/AMR has always used a buffer system and a reclocker to reduce jitter, and that process has seen considerable improvement as their products have evolved. LSB harmonics at 16 bit are very close to expected levels, and the noise floor at both 16 and 24 bit is very clean, free of PSU sidebands, hash, or idle tones.

In the graphs show below is the filter response curve at 44.1 khz and 96khz.

Not shown is the imaging test conducted at 44.1 khz.
A single 19khz tone at 0db intensity will image a tone at 25.1 khz, above the Nyquist cutoff. The 25.1 khz aliased image was suppressed by over 90db.

The iFi ZEN DAC V2 measures well. All our tests came back close to the specifications advertised by iFi. Jitter rejection is especially impressive here.

Again, highly recommended DAC/headamp at this price, and should be making a few more expensive DAC/headamps sweat it out.

OUR RATING: (0-10 scale. 8 or higher numbers represent best of industry. For the final score calculation, each category is given a (undisclosed) weighting and is tallied for final score. Although perfect 'fairness' is unlikely, our system tries to be as unbiased as possible.

sound quality: 8.0
build quality: 9.0
ease of use: 9.5
measurements: 8.0
value: 10.0

TOTAL RATING: 86.5/ 100


DAC Frequency Response 24/96


HEADPHONE 4.4 OUT Frequency Response (44.1khz)

Headphone Out with BASS BOOST



Spectrum of 1 khz at 0db 20bit dither

44.1 khz Impulse Response Linear Phase Filter

J-TEST 16 bit 44.1 khz harmonics correct level

J-TEST 24 bit 44.1 khz

44.1 khz filter response

96 khz filter response

Mike Foley

100+ Head-Fier
Bargain priced DAC/amp from iFi.
Pros: Great sound.
Decent build.
Cons: No fixed output option, so docked half a star.
iFi ZEN Air DAC review.
First of all I would like to thank Rowan94, and iFi Audio for the opportunity to review the ZEN Air components that are out on tour here on head-fi.
I’ve already reviewed the other pieces from iFi’s ZEN Air range, the Air Phono, Air Blue, Air Can, and finally it’s time to have a listen to the Air DAC, a USB DAC and headphone amplifier, which like the other ZEN Air components, sells for £99.00.
The Air DAC is basically a stripped down version of the ZEN DAC V1, in a less expensive plastic case, and lacking balanced outputs and losing the option to set the line outputs to fixed. On the Air DAC the rear RCA sockets are variable output only, controlled by the front mounted volume control. This also sets headphone volume, via a 6.3mm socket. Also on the the front panel are a switchable gain control, called powermatch, and also XBass+, a form of bass boost. The internal DAC is an MQA renderer, and supports pcm up to 32/384, along with DXD, and DSD 64, 128, and 256.
I mainly used the Air DAC with my laptop, and once I’d installed the relevant driver, I had no operational issues at all. Listening was with HiFiman Sundara. The quality of sound was a big improvement over the Schiit Fulla2 that I regularly use with the laptop, with instruments and vocals having a more natural and accurate tonality, along with a much soundstage. The Schiit is a good sounding amp, but in comparison to the iFi, music sounded one dimensional, a bit boring even. The Schiit sounded much nicer than the laptops own headphone output, whilst the Air Can made music.

Next I plugged in my iPhone, via CCK, and made a most ungainly portable system, totally unsuitable for use on the move. It sounded great though! I could see myself using an old phone or tablet with this DAC as a compact streaming system in a bedroom, or garden shed. It gave a much more full bodied sound than the Dragonfly Red I often partner with the phone, especially with Sundara.
My only real criticism of the ZEN Air DAC is the omission of the fixed output option for the RCA connections. To use as a pure DAC, through a speaker amplifier means turning the volume up to full on the Air DAC, and then remembering to turn it down before plugging in headphones. Deafness and blown headphones are not fun!
In conclusion, the iFi ZEN Air DAC is and excellent DAC/amp, especially for the price. I’m seriously considering retiring the Schiit, and getting one of these!
Thank you so much for taking your time to write this review! I enjoyed reading it! :)


100+ Head-Fier
iFi ZEN Air DAC - More than nice enough
Pros: Price
Sound quality
Ease of use
The option to use an external power supply
Cons: Short cable
No fixed volume on line out
Not much else, really
I have the DAC, CAN and Blue units on loan from iFi, on the "Official ZEN Air Tour".

I'll post this first words regarding the range as a whole, on all the individual units impressions, as I feel the range deserves it (sorry for the repetition).

Look and feel
As a range, the similar form factor and materials used brings a family look that makes for a nice setup. And the form factor links to the more upscale ranges, also. The various shades of grey of each unit are elegant and help giving a certain individuality.

The ZEN Air units are light, and altough the plastic used on the enclosures feel good, it's not a premium material, but rather price apropriate. And more than good enough, with the nice embossed pattern and logo.

They feel well built, with a nice smooth action on the volume and decisive click on the buttons (wich have some play, but not to the point of feeling too loose). There is some light leakage between the front panel and the enclosure, but only noticed it in the dark.

The front panel is a fingerprint magnet...

With heavy cables, they might tend to slide away on a table top or on a rack. I've used QED Connect cables, as I like them and feel that they are a good pair for a budget setup, and not heavy at all.

The volume knob and 6.3mm phone output are too close for a confortable use, and so are the volume buttons on the DAC and CAN, if stacked. Or I have fat fingers...

The feet have a good friction but pressing the front buttons, and inserting or removing a phone jack caused the units to slide, if I didn't hold the units down.

All in all, a rather good looking setup for the asking price. I feel that the combo looks pricier and more upscale than each unit by itself. And they can be stacked so as not to take too much space on a desk.


Just a USB-A to barrel connector for power with each unit, plus a USB cable with the DAC.

The cables provided are too short! And it would be nice to have RCA cables. If the Air range is directed at the entry level, many buyers will not have all the necessary cables. And those are my main gripes with ZEN Air range (also the lack of space around the volume knobs).

Power supplies would be nice also, but at this price, and considering that everybody has some USB brick lying around, it's ok. And the DAC can be powered by the source PC or streamer's USB connection.

About me
You can read here about me and how I've listened to the ZEN Air range, but I've mainly used a Raspberry Pi4 with Volumio, playing Qobuz, Radio Paradise and personal FLAC and DSD files.

And here and here are the reviews for the other ZEN Air devices.

The ZEN Air DAC is a breeze to set up and use. Just connect the provided USB cable to a digital source, like a PC or streamer, then connect a headphone (or external amp or active loudspeakers), and you're good to go.

The DAC can decode almost everything, certainly the popular file formats including DSD and MQA. I've used MQA on TIDAL up to a few months ago, but turned to Qobuz for a better (for me, on my setup) sound quality, so I can´t comment on that. The big soft LED on the front changes colour to indicate different file formats.

The volume knob is smooth and nice, it controls both the headphone and RCA outputs. I would like to have the option to fixed line level on the RCA, but it's a personal preference and use case.

I'm not much into EQ and filters. I've found that I preferred the Xbass+ button turned off, but again, personal preferences and different phones will make this option useful.

The Power Match was always off, as the headroom with my phones was always more than enough, even with the 300 ohm HD6XX.

There is an optional power connection but the USB port also powers the DAC from the source connection. More on this later.

I've started listening to the DAC on its own, connected to a Raspberry Pi4 with Volumio, directly to some headphones (Sundara, PSB M4U 1, Koss KPH40 Utility, Beyerdynamic DT150, and Drop HD6XX) and also through Ruark powered speakers in a desk setup.

My findings were pretty similar with all the pairings, the DAC sounded mostly "natural" while giving a good amount of detail. Both the DT150 and HD6XX, with 250 and 300 Ohms impedance, were a bit more difficult to drive, naturally. The DAC gave a respectable performance, even if a little veiled. The other headphones, with 32 and 60 Ohms sounded pretty good.

The DAC sounded always polite and a little bit soft, in a good way. It would have been good to have a bit more dynamics, but at this price point, I prefer the iFi approach. Others have more detail on the treble, but sound harsh more often than not.

I found myself turning to the DAC with HD6XX in the night, for the soft and relaxed presentation, great to unwind (the Beyerdynamics gave a similar sound, in a closed-back manner).

Prefer a more lively sound? Well, connect something like the Koss KPH40 Utility, and you'll get more sparkle on the top, and a lot more meat on the low frequencies, including a bit more attack, while maintaining the naturalness. I've found this pairing too dark to my taste, but not by much. And the KPH40 signature plays a good part in that result.

And then the PSB… what a match! The closed-back 32 ohm dynamic headphone shined and sounded like something much more expensive! Alive, fast, but natural and cohesive from top to bottom. I could live with this combo if the budget was tight.

With the Sundara I found a similar sound signature to the PSB, naturally with the differences that an open back planar costing twice the PSB would make you expect. Another winning combo.

Imaging and soundstage were correct and more or less similar on all phones, giving the obvious differences between them. Nothing too spectacular but more than good enough.

So, it seems that the DAC is more at ease with lower impedance phones, which could be expected as I imagine the amp inside was not the first priority when designing this device.

Now… remember the option to use a dedicated power supply instead of the USB connection? It so happens that I have an iFi iPower lying around… more detail and attack, and better and more extended bass with all the headphones is the clearly heard result! The differences between the various phones are less apparent, as the DAC is now more capable of driving the higher impedance ones. It adds ~60% to the price, but you can delay that upgrade.

What if I use an iPowerX? Yes, it's a power supply that costs more than the DAC itself but… yep, sound quality goes up another level, although on a minor scale. Does it sound like a €200+ DAC? I'd say it would stand proud against many competitors in that price range. And it's not night and day when compared to a €599 Cambridge 200M (DAC + preamp + headphone amp).

Compared to a similarly priced Topping D10s (with no volume or phone amp), there are minor differences. It's more a question of preference than one being better than the other. Topping is more live and detailed, iFi more natural and cohesive… pick your poison… and remember that the Topping needs an external headphone amp (I just use it as a DDC).


I've quite liked the iFi ZEN Air DAC on its own. It gives a natural and relaxed sound, in a good way, even if a little veiled. It's obviously happier with lower impedance phones.

But adding a dedicated power supply really allows it to better control more difficult phones and make them sing.

As stated above, I could live with this DAC as my only desktop option. It can be used as is or as the heart of a budget friendly system that can grow in the future, with the addition of a power supply, dedicated amp, better phones, etc.

At this price point and with the scalability of the optional power supply, I would buy!
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Thank you so much for your review! I enjoyed reading this and will be passing on to the R&D team on what you said about entry level buyers and cables :)


500+ Head-Fier
Great little setup
Pros: * Price
* Performance
* Ease of use
Cons: * Very short cable
* Built in amp sufficient but not great
* RCA output is linked to volume control
Disclaimer: I have the iFi audio ZEN air CAN on loan in return for my honest impressions. This has not influenced my opinion. Thank you to @Rowan94 and @iFi audio for the opportunity :)

The iFi audio ZEN Air DAC is an entry level DAC/AMP which accepts many formats, and can output via RCA or directly through a built in amp with a SE 6.5mm output.

In the box you get the ZEN Air DAC, a USB B to A cable and some quick start guides. You'll need your own RCA interconnects to link it to your amp if you so desire. The cable is extremely short so unless you're right next to your PC you'll need an extension/longer cable.




Price point in Australia is $149.

The unit is well built and pretty tiny, made of plastic but looks nice enough. The back as a USB B input, DC 5v input (optional if your USB source doesn't provide enough power) and 1 x RCA output. I used this by itself and coupled with the Air CAN amp. On the front you have a power match button (seem to do some auto gain), volume control (controls RCA and 6.5mm output volume) and a XBass button.


Input voltageDC 5V/2.5A
InputUSB2.0 B Socket
Formats44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192/352.8/384kHz PCM
2.8/3.1/5.6/6.2/11.2/12.4MHz DSD
353/384KHz DXD
DACBit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC by Burr Brown
Power consumptionNo Signal ~0.5W / Max Signal ~2.5W
Dimensions158 x 117 x 35 mm
6.2" x 4.6" x 1.4"
Net weight315 g
0.694 lbs
Line Section
Output1V / 3.3V max.
Output Impedance≤50Ω
SNR<-113dB(A) @ 0dBFS
DNR>113dB(A) @ -60dBFS
THD+N<0.04% @ 0dBFS
Headphone Section
Output1V / 3.3V max. (variable)
Output Power>230mW @ 32Ω ; >36mW @ 300Ω
Output Impedance<1Ω
THD+N<0.04% (100mW @ 16Ω)
SNR>113dBA (3.3V)


No complaints with the DAC, I'm someone who can't tell a difference between most DACs (FPGA / R2R aside) and the same is true here. It does the conversion just as well as my Topping D90. From the above you can see it covers most of what you would want and anyone looking at this should easily be covered.


I would have preferred a clean RCA output however whatever settings you have (volume, power match, XBass) influence the output to your amp. For the price point it's understandable, and not a big deal as you can set and forget if you're using an amp (plus you can use XBass if you so wish), but a clean toggle would have been nice.


Comparing the output here to the CAN it seems a little muddier. I did a fair bit of volume matched switching and the CAN was certainly superior, with everything just sounding cleaner and all around better. If your budget is limited this would be a good starting point and you could add the CAN in down the track. You can also double stack XBass with the DAC and CAN which was an interesting experience :)

By itself it sounds perfectly fine, and comparing it to my laptops 3.5mm out it's a massive step up in clarity and punchiness. I found it struggled with some hard to drive cans, I could get an acceptable level of volume on my Liric's however they didn't sound great. Moving towards my entry level and easier to drive cans/IEMS these powered them without an issue, the Rode NTH-100, Grado SR325x, Sennheiser IE300 all sounded great through the DAC.

Bringing it all together:

As a DAC it's great, if you want RCA output and don't mind the points I mentioned above I'd recommend. As an amp I think it lacks a little however as an entry point I'd still recommend it as you can easily add a different amp to your chain down the road. iFi have done a great job with the Air series and they certainly punch above their weight.
Thank you so much for your review, this has been a wonderful read! :)


100+ Head-Fier
I can't even complain about the price!
Pros: Price, sound, performance, a solid contender in the budget section...
Cons: Amplifier is not the greatest when pushed, casing is plastic (understandable at this price point)...

The iFi Audio Zen Air DAC has been loaned to me directly by iFi Audio for me to test it and share my opinions.

iFi have made no requests, as usual, therefore my review will aim to be as unbiased and sincere as possible.

You can find more info on the Zen Air DAC by visiting the official page here:

As always, this is a non-affiliate link and I have no ties with iFi Audio (or any other brand).



The Zen Air DAC is a recent release from iFi that is aimed at the budget end of the audio market. I actually believe this is the cheapest product that iFi has ever released (without counting things like IEMatch or purifiers etc.) but I could be mistaken, so please correct me if I am wrong.

As you may all know by now, I do like to focus on budget oriented items on Acho Reviews, seeing what options are out there for those who are maybe starting out in the audio world, or those that just don’t have the budget for some of the higher priced items out there. It is always great to be able to come across items that are aimed at those who can’t, or simply don’t want to, spend a lot of money on improving their audio experience.

So when iFi reached out and asked if I was interested in trying out the Zen Air DAC, which comes in at under 100€, I was of course very happy to do so.



The presentation of the Zen Air DAC is a little simpler than other iFi products that I have reviewed in the past but is still very much along the lines of iFi in how it is packed and shipped.

A simple white box with the product on the front opens to reveal the DAC, a brief quick start guide and an accessories box containing the usual iFi blue USB cable.

So we don’t get a whole lot in the box and the cardboard may not be a premium feeling as the higher end models, but we do get what we need, the DAC and the cable.


Build and aesthetics…

The first thing I noticed about the Zen Air DAC, other than the colour, is how light it is. As this unit opts for a plastic case rather than the usual metal offerings from iFi, the weight is reduced quite a bit. Following the usual Zen shape of their other models, the use of plastic is obviously to help reduce costs, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t put some effort into the casing.

Sporting a light grey colour, the plastic is textured and has the iFi logo on the top. This does make it look a little more premium than if they had just gone with a simple smooth plastic (especially in black) that so many other budget orientated models opt for.

The front and back panels are of a shiny black plastic which gives it a bit of a black glass look, along with a central volume knob which is also plastic but knurled and finished in a titanium style colour, making for quite a pleasurable feel.

While the plastic build is obvious, I have to say that I am a fan of the looks and none of the buttons or the knob give off too much of a cheap vibe or feel. The reduced weight means that this can also be easily transported in something like a laptop bag without being too bulky.



The Zen Air DAC is a simple unit but does have a couple of the features that iFi are known for.

On the front of the unit we have the center knob, with a 6.35mm SE connector to the right, followed by the XBass button to the far right and the Power Match button to the left with a kHz light on the far left.

Moving around to the back of the DAC, from left to right, we have 2 RCA’s for the single ended output, a USB B socket for the digital input and a DC5V socket off to the right. iFi don’t include a power supply with the Zen Air DAC (or at least they didn’t in the one I was sent) but it is nice to know that it can be powered by an external PSU if your USB should be noisy, or if you want to reduce the battery consumption of the source you are using.

There really isn’t much to explain as to how this works. You plug in the USB cable at the back, your 6.35mm jack in the front and your RCA’s in the back for the DAC output.

The Power Match button is just iFi’s way of calling the gain selector, giving you two options, low and high. There is a small white LED that illuminates to the right of the Power Match button, which will let you know if you are in high gain.

It is certainly nice to see that iFi have included the XBass function on this model as I know it is something that many people love about iFi products. As always, the XBass is a bass boost in the analog realm, meaning it doesn’t interfere with the digital signal at all.

Another thing that iFi have kept in the Zen Air DAC is the capability to render MQA, if that is something that you are interested in. In fact, the DAC supports PCM up to 32bit/384kHz and fully native DSD256 also.

I have had no issues with the functionality of the Zen Air DAC, except for it refusing to work when connected to my docking station in the office but that is something that I have experienced with many DACs (especially iFi) so I am guessing it is the dock that has issues (although Schiit DACs do seem to work).



Here we are with my favourite part of a DAC/Amp review, explaining the sound (that is actually a little sarcasm). However, in this case, it is actually not that difficult and this is the part that makes up for any of the cost saving in any of the previous sections.

The Zen Air DAC sounds just like I would expect an iFi DAC/Amp to sound and my understanding is that it is due to them using the same internals as on the ZEN DAC V2. Basically the Zen Air DAC is like having the Zen DAC V2 but without the balanced circuitry.

That means that at less than 100€, you are actually not getting something that is reminiscent of the iFi sound, you are actually getting the Single Ended part of what is probably one of their most sold models, at around half the price.

So, for those of you that have heard about the smoothness, the warmness and the musicality of the Burr-Brown chips that is the iFi house sound, now you can stop wondering what people are referring to and actually give it a try.

Ok, enough of sounding like a salesman (please remember I am not affiliated with them in any way 😁) and on to the actual performance of the Zen Air DAC…

Starting off with IEMs, I have to say that the performance of the Zen Air DAC is very pleasing, driving all of the IEMs I tried with authority and giving a nice touch of that iFi sound. The performance is a bit behind the Gryphon, as far as details and overall sound are concerned, but I really can’t pick faults with the performance that this little unit provides for less than 100€.

Moving over to headphones is where I found the amplification section to struggle a little. I have to be fair and say that, somehow, I have ended up with a collection of headphones that are either planar or quite high impedance, which does makes things a little more difficult for the device. With some of the easier to drive planars, like the Ananda or HE1000se, it was not such an issue but when moving to more difficult sets, such as the Arya, I did find that I had to push the Zen Air DAC around 50% on the dial (on high gain) in order to reach my usual listening levels, which are not really loud levels. When trying to push them a little further, I found that I could start to hear distortion start to appear before things got too loud. The Zen DAC Air will make them sound loud but the result is not the best.

Again, this is with planars that are rather difficult to move correctly. Moving on to dynamics, the Custom Pro Studio (which are 80 Ohms) still needed a fair bit of power on the dial to reach my usual levels, probably more than the planars, but didn’t seem to present signs of distortion as early as the planars as the Zen Air DAC was struggling less to perform.

With the HD6XX (300 Ohms), I again found that the DAC/Amp needed to be around 60% (on high gain) for a listening level that is around my normal level and that the sound was a little “dull” with this combination. It doesn’t sound terrible but it is missing some of that magic that I have found these headphones can create when paired with the correct chain. Now that is not really something I can say is a real complaint on my side, as I have a love/hate relationship with the HD6XX.

Where I did find the Zen Air DAC to be a very good performing device is a standalone DAC, which is logical seeing that it is called the Zen Air DAC and on the Zen Air DAC/Amp (even if it is a combo unit).

Running it into the JDS Labs Atom, I found it to be a very pleasant combination that I enjoyed and would happily use this instead of the Modi 3+ DAC that I usually pair with the Atom. I don’t think it is because the Zen Air is actually “better” (a very subjective term) than the Modi 3+, I am just a fan of the iFi sound and this DAC gives a little bit of the iFi flavour while keeping the performance of the Atom.

Paired with the THX789 it also worked well, again giving the overall sound a taste of iFi. This is another pairing that I found worked well with over ear headphones, taking some of that analytical sound away from the SU-8 + THX and making things a little more relaxed.

Paired with the Felix Audio Echo Mk2, I found it to be ok but not amazing. To be fair, we are talking about powering an 800€ tube amp with a little sub 100€ DAC and comparing it to the EF400 (which is my usual choice for feeding the Echo), so I can't really pick faults with the result. It performed well enough for me to enjoy it and I feel that this is the important thing in a device like this.

As far as the XBass, it is another flavour of iFi XBass. I am not sure if it is identical to the one on the Zen DAC v2 (as I don’t have it) but it is slightly different (to my ears) than the one on the Gryphon or Go Blu (the two iFi devices I have on hand.

I must say that I don’t use the XBass too much (personal preference) but I can’t say that the one on the Zen Air DAC isn’t good, it works great for when something needs a little more of that low end and much appreciated on a device in this category.



The iFi Audio Zen Air DAC is obviously aimed at the budget end of the market and I think that it hits the target. There are two groups that I really see this being a good option for. The first is for those who are either starting out in this world and wanting a solution that doesn’t break the bank. This DAC offers good performance and also features an onboard amplifier that will run IEMs and easy to drive headphones quite easily (absolutely no issues with various Koss models and the M40X, which are the only easy to drive headphones I have available at the moment). There are other DACs at similar price points but not many include an onboard amp in the same package. Some of the other contenders will also prove more difficult to source for those of us in Europe.

Or maybe you are already in the DAC world and are just looking for something for a secondary bedroom or office set up. I know I would be happy with this and something like an Atom to pair with it.

The second group I would say are those who are wanting to experience the iFi house sound to see if it is something they enjoy, as iFi really does have its own “flavour”. In this case, I feel that the Zen Air DAC is a perfect first stepping stone, giving you a good sense of what the house sound is all about and maybe helping you decide if you want to move up in the iFi ranks to some of their other models with more features and/or performance.

Is the Zen Air DAC perfect? No. But I don’t really feel that there is anything glaringly wrong with it that would lead me to not consider it in this range of prices. I feel they have made savings in the correct places and kept the important parts intact, by which I mean the sound.

Yes, I would prefer a better amplification section. Yes, I would prefer more digital inputs than just USB. But for what you get for the money invested, I feel it is a very powerful contender in the sub 100€ market.

There is a whole line of Zen Air products, including both a Zen Air CAN and a Zen Air Blue (BT receiver), all priced at the sub 100€ mark, so it would be very interesting to hear them paired together and see what you can get in a full stack set up for a very reasonable investment.

So I guess I can add the Zen Air DAC to the list of iFi products I have tried and liked, this time without even being able to complain about price 😉

As always, this review is also available in Spanish both on my blog ( and on YouTube (
What a lovely, detailed review! It was great read, thank you! :)
Nice review, Loved reading. Thanks.