General Information

First of a new range of audio components priced at just £129, US$129 and €149, iFi’s ZEN Blue delivers hi-res Bluetooth streaming to any audio system

Southport, England – iFi kicks off a new range of high-quality, super-affordable, desktop-sized audio products with the ZEN Blue – the world’s first Bluetooth receiver supporting all the latest hi-res codecs for the best-quality music streaming from smartphones, tablets, PCs and Macs to any audio system.


The ZEN Blue immediately impresses with its sturdy aluminium enclosure, unusual at such a low price. But what really sets it apart is the circuitry within – as always, iFi has gone to great lengths to ensure that sound quality over Bluetooth is the best it can be, even if it has to be designed from the ground up.

Bluetooth reception represents a mere convenience for many audio manufacturers, enabled in the simplest and cheapest way to ‘tick a box’ on the features list. But the manner in which Bluetooth is implemented – the quality of signal processing and the circuitry that surrounds it – has a big impact on performance. Not all Bluetooth sounds the same, and iFi engineers its products to obtain the best possible performance from every audio source – Bluetooth streaming included.

With the ZEN Blue, this starts with a state-of-the-art Qualcomm QCC5100 chip to process the incoming data – the ZEN Blue is the first product of its kind to benefit from this new-generation Bluetooth IC.


All the latest 24-bit-capable Bluetooth audio formats are supported, including Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive and aptX HD, Sony’s LDAC and Huawei’s HWA – no other Bluetooth streamer boasts this cutting-edge hi-res specification. Other codecs covered include regular aptX and aptX Low Latency, AAC (the favoured format of Apple iOS devices) and SBC (the ‘plain vanilla’ Bluetooth codec). This means that every possible source device is covered at the highest audio resolution its Bluetooth specification allows.

The Qualcomm QCC5100 offers a ‘system-on-a-chip’ Bluetooth solution, with all functions covered including D-to-A conversion. Many manufacturers would simply rely on this chip to deliver the DAC function, but this is not the iFi way. The ZEN Blue has separate digital and analogue stages; to feed the analogue stage, the processed digital signal is routed from the QCC5100 to a specialised DAC chip from ESS Technology’s Sabre family to convert the signal from digital to analogue.

One of the key advantages of the ESS Sabre DAC chip is its Hyperstream architecture with integrated Time Domain Jitter Eliminator, which helps to deliver vanishingly low distortion and high dynamic range. iFi has found that this allies perfectly with the Qualcomm chip to deliver Bluetooth audio that sounds far better than the norm.

None of this would mean much if the rest of the ZEN Blue’s circuitry were not up to scratch. This is the first iFi product to benefit from the input of legendary audio designer John Curl, who has teamed up with the iFi electronics design team, led by Technical Director Thorsten Loesch, to ensure the circuit design of every product is fully optimised.

The ZEN Blue’s analogue output stage is a balanced design – highly unusual in a DAC anywhere near this price point. It incorporates a range of high-quality circuit components, carefully selected for their performance in an audio context, including professional-grade balanced line drivers, C0G capacitors from TDK and a precision low-noise power supply IC from Texas Instruments. It all adds up to a highly affordable Bluetooth streamer with a sound that punches well above its weight.

It’s all connected

The ZEN Blue adds high-quality Bluetooth reception to any audio system via analogue or digital cable connections. A switch at the back dictates how the digital signal is routed; either through the DAC and analogue output stage, or directly to the digital outputs. On the analogue side, RCA stereo outputs allow connection to amplifiers, active speakers and the like, while a 4.4mm Pentaconn output enables balanced signal transfer to amps/speakers equipped with a balanced input – either a 4.4mm input, or XLR inputs via a 4.4mm-to-XLR cable. For digital connections, optical and coaxial outputs are provided – these allow connection to anything with a built-in DAC and corresponding digital input, such as an AV amp or an external hi-fi DAC.


The ZEN Blue ‘remembers’ up to seven paired Bluetooth source devices, making it easy to switch from one device to another, with impressive reception range thanks to the latest Bluetooth 5 specification. The DAC stage handles sampling rates well in excess of the maximum delivered by current hi-res Bluetooth formats – of the 24-bit-capable codecs, aptX Adaptive and aptX HD support up to 48kHz, while LDAC and HWA reach 96kHz.

The LED at the centre of the ZEN Blue’s front panel changes colour to identify the Bluetooth codec being received, while another LED to the right indicates the sample rate. Qualcomm’s QCC5100 chip can be updated over-the-air, enabling future Bluetooth codecs to be added to the ZEN Blue’s specification.

Find your ZEN

Available from October, the ZEN Blue hi-res Bluetooth streamer is the first of a range of ZEN Series products, all of which share the same 158x35x100mm (WxHxD) aluminium case. It will be followed swiftly by the ZEN DAC, which swaps Bluetooth reception for a USB input and adds an integrated headphone amp. Further ZEN Series products will arrive in the coming months.


Latest reviews


Previously known as sub30
Pros: Exceptional build quality – really solid and weighty
The iFi design language is attractively unique
Wireless capability with support for virtually every Bluetooth codec
Can serve as a BT receiver for your DAC/Amp stack
Stable Bluetooth connection with remarkable range
Comes with 2 antennae and an RCA cable
Components come from well-renowned manufacturers
Cons: That iFi at the center looks like a low-res pic due to the frosted cover (I don’t know, might just be me)
There’s no on/off switch
No USB input (understandable, but still)
4.4mm balanced output (an included cable in the box would have been much appreciated)

I would like to thank Karina from iFi Audio for assisting me in acquiring a loan unit of the Zen Blue V2. I would also like to express my gratitude to Sir Rico of Egghead Audiohub Philippines (local distributor in the PH) with providing the unit. I am sincerely grateful for this opportunity.

I am not an expert in this hobby nor claim to be an audiophile. I just love listening to music and am fond of writing articles.


The iFi audio Zen Blue V2 is an update of the model with the same name (released 2020). Its purpose is to convert your Hi-Fi setup into one with wireless connectivity. It has both digital and analogue outputs, with only BT input. It can also output via a balanced cable if ever you have amplifiers that support as such. The iFi Zen Blue V2 is available for purchase at the price of 190 USD. TL;DR – it’s as advertised and everything works properly, but I have a few complaints.

These were connected to my phone (Realme GT Master) and laptop via Bluetooth (varying codec), to the Topping L50 through RCA with the transducers used for testing.

Specifications and Measurements (from iFi audio):
ChipsetsQualcomm QCC 5100 Series (Bluetooth)
ESS Sabre (DAC)
InputBluetooth 5.1™ with AAC, SBC, aptX,
aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC,
HWA Codec
Output4.4mm Balanced
3.5mm S-Balanced (SE)
Frequency Response10-48K (-2DB) under LDAC
Output Voltage @ OdBFS2.05V (+/-0.05V)
Dynamic Range109dB (A)
Signal/Noise ratio111dBA/106.5dBA (BAL/S-BAL)
THD & N @ OdBFS<0.009% (BAL 6.5mW/2.0V @ 600Ω)
<0.03% (SE 100mW/1.27V @ 16Ω)
Output Impedance<50Ω
Power Consumption<2.5W
Dimensions158 (I) x 100 (w) x 35 (h) mm
Weight476g (1.05 Ibs)


Package: Unit itself. 2x antennae. Power adapter. User manual. RCA cable. General accessory instruction card.

Design and build:

The Zen Blue V2 follows iFi audio’s iconic design language. It’s a full metal build with the faceplate done in a brushed finish while the dark grey main casing is matte-like, effectively avoiding any fingerprint mark. Being an aluminum case, it has weight which one usually associates with quality and the word “premium.”

At dead center is a circular cutout with a frosted cover. Behind that is the word “iFi” that changes color to represent what codec is currently in use and doubles as an indication that the device is active. At initial pairing, “iFi” will light up with said specific color (please refer to the product page of the Blue V2 under “Tech Lockdown). The smaller circular cutout at the right, meanwhile, is there to show the sample rate. Moving on to that “iFi,”, it is rather undesirable. I have a feeling this was due to the use of that frosted cover, which in turn made the lines of each letter really soft, blurry and unclear, making it look like a poorly printed legend. It looks like a low-res pic.

The only negative I found on the build quality of the Zen Blue V2 is the BT pairing button that also functions to turn off the two LEDs of the device. Design-wise, it fits the whole image of the Blue V2 – color, shape and all of that. But the button just feels so cheap to use – out-of-place, in a sense. It’s very wiggly and when pressed, feels extremely plasticky. I understand that this button would likely not be used all the time. Heck, I’ve only ever pressed it for less than ten times. However, this small detail would have made the Zen Blue V2 perfect, build and design-wise (subjective), excluding the two stuff I will be talking about next.

A subjective dislike I have with the Zen Blue V2 is the lack of an on/off switch as well as the color of the antenna. The former is just a personal need of mine while the latter I find to not fit the color palette of the unit (antenna’s white) *shrug*


Connectivity and Features:

Input is purely via Bluetooth. SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC, and LHDC – these are specifically what the Zen Blue V2 supports. The jump from SBC to aptX HD/Adaptive is significant while aptX HD/Adaptive to LDAC is less apparent though still noticeable if you go back and forth. If you don’t, I say either of the two will satisfy most ears. Choose based on your use case as well as compatibility.

There’s not a lot of features to talk about. It can function as a BT receiver for your setup via its digital output. There are also analogue outputs – the standard RCA and a 4.4mm balanced that puts out ~2x the amount of Vrms.

Oh, I forgot to mention – it has this neat feature wherein a voice prompt is heard as you pair your device with the Blue V2, also including what codec is currently in use.

Now, onto sound… wait, how do I go about this?
*reviewed as a BT DAC

While the BT chip that iFi opted to go with for the Blue V2 is considerably higher end, it serves one purpose only – receive BT signal and provide support for whatever codec your device uses. The one that converts the signal itself is an ESS Saber DAC. Now, what model exactly? I do not know. It isn’t disclosed and the pic of the “guts” of the Blue V2 has the model name blurred out. Why they did that I also have no idea. There are screws at the back that suggests the unit can be “opened up.” However, as this is a loan unit, I have to respect iFi audio as well as Egghead Audiohub Philippines and ultimately decided not to do so. I did read on the internet, however, that as per iFi audio themselves, it is a “specialized DAC chip from ESS Technology’s Saber family to convert the signal from digital to analogue.” It may be safe to assume that the DAC chip is a custom-made model to serve the needs of iFi for its use in the Blue V2.

Moving on, the Blue V2 was “stacked” with the Topping L50 via RCA. For those that are concerned with the numbers, third party measurements can easily be found online. Said data suggests that the DAC part of the Zen Blue V2 is decent at what it needs to do and is nothing exceptional. Now, how does this sound like with transducers I tested it with? If you’re curious, read the section marked as a spoiler. You see, there comes a point where with DACs, it is simply highly subjective, where the power of the mind comes into play. I do not trust myself in this situation unless I have equipment with me that can level match these DAC paired with the same amp and the same transducer with the help of another individual (there’s also the filter used which may actually be the biggest difference between these DACs as well as how much voltage it outputs). Even with that, whether I can “hear” a change and confirm that it is not merely imagination or confirmation bias cannot be determined at the current time of writing this review. I simply cannot state with certainty and confidence how a change in DAC can produce audible change/s on the bass, midrange, treble and technicalities of the transducer.

The next sentences will be highly subjective (inconsistent, even, with my previous statement) and I cannot assure that your experience will be similar to mine. This is just to give an idea for readers that may buy the Zen Blue V2 not just for its wireless capabilities but also for its “sound.” To determine the change, I went back and forth with the Zen Blue V2 and the HUD100 MK2 (bypass mode, high power). There is really only one difference worth mentioning – the latter, somehow in some way, produced a more highlighted treble region. The former made no such change with the “sound.” I tried my best to volume match the two setups by ear. The HUD100 MK2 had this unpleasant sharpness, that while isn’t apparent at low volume level, became distractingly and fatiguingly harsh as I increased volume. The Zen Blue V2, meanwhile, maintained a neutral response without highlighting any frequency region whatsoever, consistent to any volume level.

Now, is this just my imagination and my mind playing tricks given that I have always heard of iFi having that “smooth” signature while the HUD100 MK2 has been described to be neutral (or bright-neutral, depending on who you ask)? No idea. Take from that what you may.

I am also on the table that as long as the DAC maintains a clean signal without objectively undesirable distortion (read: audibly bad measurement), it is more than enough. Also, I lean more towards the better measurements = better DAC table, most especially if one’s capacity does not allow them to possess several DACs of different “flavor.” If you need some change or want to tweak a frequency, there’s always EQ for that *wink*.


Battery Drain:

Not applicable as the Zen Blue V2 has its own power supply. Battery drain of BT connection is also negligible in today’s gadgets. But, generally speaking, the higher quality the codec, the less battery efficient it is.



1. There’s no 4.4mm to 4.4mm balanced cable included in the box. As it is a rather uncommon I/O in desktop setups, it would have been greatly appreciated if iFi provided as such.​
2. Bluetooth is nice, but where’s the USB input? I do understand that the Blue was purposefully designed and built for wireless connectivity as its feature. However, this makes it a one-trick pony with a beautiful chassis for close to 200 USD. That’s considered expensive in several areas of the world. There IS the Zen One Signature that has said input but that one’s around 300 USD. And just recently, iFi has announced their new Air lineup, specifically the Air Blue. That one will be selling for ~100 USD, albeit without the balanced out, digital out and now a plastic case material. Specs, when compared to the Zen Blue V2 suggests similar DAC performance.​
3. Again, like what I’ve mentioned before, why is there no on/off switch or button?

The iFi audio Zen Blue V2 is a wonderful device – IF you desire that Bluetooth connection in your setup. It has an abundance of outputs that should cover everything (both digital and analogue), supports virtually every BT codec in the market, with a beautifully designed case (IMO) and decent DAC performance based on measurements available online. However, there are certain areas worth looking into before you decide to buy the Blue V2. And, there’s the Air Blue, so it would be better to wait for reviews for that product and see how the Blue V2 performs against its little brother.

Test Setup:
Phone/laptop -> Zen Blue V2 -> Topping L50 -> Hifiman Edition XS/Sundara, Sennheiser IE400 Pro, Moondrop SSP, KZ DQ6, Smabat M2s

****If you have other questions/concerns with the DAC mentioned, feel free to message me****​


Headphoneus Supremus
iFi Zen Blue Review
Pros: Does what it says on the Tin
Easy to Use
Cons: Bluetooth is a limited format
a bit thin and sharp sounding in DAC mode
Simple, but effective
Hi Guys,

Todays review will be a bit shorter than normal as the piece of gear we are talking about is actually quite simple. The iFi Audio ZenBlue. The ZenBlue is a member of iFi’s slowly expanding Zen Range, and has the same form factor as the rest of the line. It offers a up very simple functionality as a bluetooth receiver and DAC. There is no volume control, headphone amp, XBASS or 3D features. There is one button on the front to pair with a device, and one on the back to switch from a Digital to Digital function, or use the internal DAC and operate via RCA outputs. You can also use a 4.4mm balanced pentaconn output on the rear, either to connect to another member of the Zen series (which makes sense) or a 4.4mm to dual 3pin XLR into an amp. The problem with that is pentagon to dual 3pin XLR cables will cost almost as much or more than the ZenBlue itself, so perhaps not the economical way to do things.

The ZenBlue is very simple in how it works. You screw in a short antenna which comes in the box, and plug it into the 5v included DC power brick. You then decide if you want to use it as a DD convertor into whichever DAC you prefer, or as a DAC itself using its RCA outputs. You then press the pair button on the front of the unit, which makes it searchable, and then on the device of your choosing, you pair with the ZenBlue. Thats it. Totally easy, totally simple.


I initially tried the ZenBlue as a DD converter into my Rockna Wavelight DAC. This worked well, and there was no latency between selecting songs on my computer, and hearing them come out my headphones or speakers. The same can be said for when I tried it as a DAC directly into my Kinki EX-M1 integrated amp.

Bluetooth as a technology does limit you to less than lossless levels of transmission. As far as I understand, it currently cannot transfer losslessly regardless of the CODEC you use. I did a bit of research and it seems that 320kbps mp3’s or the equivalent in other file formats are the best it can manage. Now, I personally don’t believe the difference between a 320kpbs mp3 and lossless is that big. The difference can be hard to hear, but there is certainly a slight difference, especially with material you are familiar with. With all that being said, as lossless streaming is becoming more and more common, and more and more affordable, I can’t recommend the ZenBlue for someone who is going for ultimate sound quality. Perhaps iFi’s newly announced ZenStream would be a better choice for those people. However, if you need an affordable, small, transportable DAC package that does bluetooth, maybe for a secondary non reference system, or in the kitchen for listening to tunes while you cook, or something similar, the ZenBlue would be perfect.

iFi’s new ZenStream, worth consideration for those who need “more.”
As a DD convertor, I didn’t notice it having a tremendous amount of influence on the sound. It simply passed through what it was being given. As a DAC, it was a bit thinner and sharper sounding than I am used to gear sounding from iFi, but again, for its price and use case, it is totally fine. Again, not for a reference system, but certainly ok for other uses. Not every piece of gear has to be top of the line, and its always neat to see a manufacturer coming up with other ideas and trying new things in the more affordable “entry level” market space.

ZenDac with ZenStream
Overall, the ZenBlue does what is says on the tin. It is an affordable, handy, and simple bluetooth receiver. Its not the best DAC I have ever heard, and bluetooth itself is a limiting factor, but within those boundaries, the ZenBlue actually works very well. If this is the sort of thing you have been looking for, and you feel it fits your use case, then I would recommend it highly. If it doesn’t, I would certainly check on the ZenDac, or again, the new ZenStream 🙂


100+ Head-Fier
iFi Zen Blue REVIEW
Pros: Balanced output
bluetooth connectivity
digital and analogue outputs
Cons: No option to turn off the front lights
About me:
Music lover and earphone enthusiast, most of my previous reviews are in spanish.

Disclaimer: iFi graciously lent me the Zen Blue in exchange of my opinion

Gear used:
Schiit Asgard 3, iFi Zen Can, Elemental Watson 2, Sennheiser HD560s, Fostex T50RP

About iFi:

iFi audio is a company with headquarters in the UK that since 2012 has launched more than 30 high quality audio products with one aim in mind "to improve your music enjoyment." You can find more in


Power:DC 5V
Input:Bluetooth 5.0TM with AAC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX Low-Latency, LDAC, HWA/LHDC Codec
Output:Optical/Coaxial, Audio RCA L/R, 4.4 Balanced Line out
Frequency Response:20Hz – 20kHz <+0/-0.5dB (44.1kHz)
1Hz – 44khz <+0/-3.0dB (>= 88.2kHz)
Output Voltage @ 0dBFS:2.05V (+/-0.05V)
Dynamic Range:109dB (A)
Signal/Noise ratio:109dB (A) @ 0dBFS
THD & N @ 0dBFS:< 0.0015% 10k Load
Output Impedance:< 50Ω
Power Consumption:< 2.5W
Dimensions:160(w) x 107(d) x 35(h) mm
6.3″ x 4.2″ x 1.4″
Weight (Gross):0.8 kg (1.8 lbs)


Accessories and design:

The Zen Blue comes well protected in a recyclable white cardboard box. Inside we´ll find accessories such as an RCA cable, a power adapter, bluetooth antenna and the warranty card.

The Zen blue´s design also keeps the characteristic grey metallic finish of the rest of iFi Zen products, if you have tried the Zen Dac, phono or Can you'll know what im talking about. This design is unique and the aluminium finish feels durable so i think it was a good idea to keep the same design for all of the Zen amps and dacs.

In the front of this device we'll find the bluetooth pairing button that also works for waking up the Zen Blue (it sleeps after some minutes when no device is paired). Next to this button there's the bluetooth codec display that changes up to 7 different colours depending on the format and also there's a bluetooth pairing display that will alternate between blue and red colour.

In the back we'll find all the digital (coaxial,optical) and analogue (rca, 4,4) outputs. To choose between these 2 kinds of outputs there's a switch that we'll have to manipulate.


How to use?

The Zen Blue automatically turns on after plugging the 5V adapter, next it will try to pair to any available bluetooth connection. There's no much explanation here, just connect one of the available outputs to your headphone amp, active speaker or dac and enjoy.


Daily use:

The Zen blue is easy to pair to any kind of device, no matter the bluetooth codec it will achieve the correct pairing. It also supports all bluetooth audio formats and uses one of the newest QCC5100 Qualcomm SOc so your only concern here is to use the latest codecs of your phone or PC to achieve the best audio quality.

I used almost daily the Zen blue and it never got warm. The bluetooth connection is very stable, has a very good range and I never experienced loss of signal in normal conditions. One important thing is that the sound quality achieved with the zen blue is directly related to the bluetooth codec used so i highly recommend you to use at least aptx.

For ease of use, the Zen blue remembers previously paired devices so you'll only need to turn on the bluetooth of your phone or tablet and it will connect.



For this description I'm going to base on analogue mode in which the Zen Blue uses a ESS sabre Hyperstream DAC.

Neutrality and cleanness are two words that can be used to describe the sound of this device. Bass is fast and controlled with no extra weight on it so expect a response according to the songs you play. Using the Elemental Watson tube amp adds the bass more weight and a softer impact that benefits pop, rock and rap songs while using the Zen Can the bass feels tighter and with a deeper punch.
Mids are transparent and detailed, voices and instruments have good texture and weight. With amps like Schiit Asgard 3 the midrange feels warmer and there's a notorious improvement in soundstage depth and imaging compared to the tube amp.
Using the Zen Can (4.4mm output) i experienced the best treble performances amongst the 3 amps used for testing purposes. This amp produces clean and energetic high frequencies unlike the smooth representation of the tube amp or the more relaxed treble of Asgard 3 and thanks to the neutrality of the Zen Blue´s sound these differences were very notorious.



I wasn't expecting this kind of sound from a bluetooth device, the Zen Blue made me forget for a moment the regular USB DACs thanks to a solid sound performance and a reliable bluetooth connection. It paired really well with the headphone amplifiers I used and I found no fails or inconvenient on this product.
The latest firmware for zen blue allows you to have the lights off and you can connect to the zen blue from different paired Bluetooth devices without having to put the zen blue in “pairing mode.” Great firmware support from ifi on this device!


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