iFi audio ZEN CAN Signature 6XX / ZEN DAC Signature !!!
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knorris908

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Just some quick snapshots from my phone. I will take better photos for the review.
Zen Can Signature - Top.jpgZen Can Signature - Front (2).jpgZen Can Signature - Back.jpg
 
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iFi audio ZEN DAC Signature: Tech Note #1

Executive Summary


Premium version of the What Hi-Fi 5-star winning ZEN DAC. The Signature edition simplifies the design and maxes out the audiophile goodness with:
  • enhanced circuit design,
  • end-to-end True Differential Balanced design, and
  • premium parts selection inspired from our $3000 Pro range,
A device that’s deceptive in its simplicity and a beast in performance.

Awesome Home Fi audio
Our best-selling ZEN DAC has a plethora of prestigious awards won, including the 5-stars What Hi-Fi award. We were tasked with an audiophile version of the entry-level ZEN DAC. We listened, delivered and hopefully, beat expectations. In collaboration with Drop (previously Massdrop), we created a powerful system with all audiophile-grade components complemented with state-of-the-art sonic design, drawing many cues from the $3000 Pro iDSD and Pro iCAN. Doubled the amount of audiophile componentry goodness and put the DAC and amp sections in separate products (they certainly won’t fit in the same box anymore). This is how the ZEN DAC Signature and ZEN CAN Signature 6XX were born.



The ZEN DAC Signature offers a purist form designed for the demanding audiophile who is ready for the next level. The unique combination of 4.4mm balanced output, high-grade audio components and native MQA decoding means you enjoy the highest music quality at an approachable price. The product is so simple to control, that you will never have to worry about confusing settings and switches again. Less is more. We believe that simplicity is superior to elaborate embellishment.

Our engineers designed to empower the user with a choice in the ZEN DAC Signature. YOU decide whether or not the ZEN DAC analogue volume control is used. When set to 'Variable', it can be used to control the volume of powered speakers, or its volume as a preamp. If using with downstream equipment with their own volume control - set to 'Fixed' for bypass as if it were a ‘straight wire’ from the digital source to the analog amplifier.

Nothing but the best flagship ‘Pro series’ circuits.
Descended from the $3,000+ flagship Pro iDSD, the ZEN DAC Signature has quite special DNA, making it perform as a DAC on a much higher level sonically than the modest price suggests. Why does it sound so special?



Clean power = Clean sound.
The power supply section is a masterpiece underpinning the digital and analogue section. In this vein, the ZEN DAC Signature uses among others, TI low-noise power supply ICs, well-designed ground planes for the PCB, ELNA Silmic II, Panasonic OS-CON and ECPU, Taiyo Yuden and muRata AND TDK C0G capacitors, and ingenious solutions to cleaning up the power for the DSD1793 chip. SMT and BiCMOS processes are employed to extract the very last bit of signal from noise.



The hard work here pays off, giving performance in excess of what even the specs of the premium DACs and opamp chips used below would suggest.

Brimming with quality technology from end to end
From the USB input, the digital signal goes to the XMOS USB chip for support of all audio formats up to 32bits/384kHz, DSD512, and full native MQA decoding, which then feeds the Burr-Brown DSD1793 conversion chipset.



Jitter from the source is eliminated using the separate Global Master Timing (GMT) circuit inherited from AMR, our high-end audio parent company. Taking audio data from the XMOS and clocking it according to the GMT, the BB DAC chip outputs the converted analogue signal to the end-to-end balanced analogue circuit with custom-designed premium OV2637A opamp, fitted with Vishay MELF resistors for suppression of thermal noise. The music signal can then be controlled by the ZEN’s multitrack analogue volume control (to feed powered speakers or power amps) or directly out to an integrated amp—or, of course, the matching ZEN CAN Signature.
Hmm, it seems to be a similar idea to the design concept of micro iDAC2 . Actually I own micro iDAC2 to feed pro iCAN for the main audio system which is an excellent combination. I wonder which is better, ZEN DAC signature or micro iDAC2. An obvious upgrade path is pro iDSD but...
 
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knorris908

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Hmm, it seems to be a similar idea to the design concept of micro iDAC2 . Actually I own micro iDAC2 to feed pro iCAN for the main audio system which is an excellent combination. I wonder which is better, ZEN DAC signature or micro iDAC2. An obvious upgrade path is pro iDSD but...
DSC_8155-6.jpg
Experience with that too... Thought it wouldn't be fair though.
 
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HD650 and Zen Can Signature (2).jpgZen Vs SMSL SP200 (2).jpg

It's like freaking Christmas today! So among other exciting things that arrived, the Drop Zen CAN Signature. Ultimately, I'm pitting my similar-price bracket amps against each other: Schiit Asgard vs DROP Cavalli LCX +SDAC vs SP200 vs DROP Zen DAC Signature. Then iFi-only: Drop Zen DAC Signature vs iFi xCAN vs iFi Micro iCAN SE vs iFi Micro iDSD (original) vs iFi Micro iDSD (Black Label) Any requests for specifics? (Yes, I will try it with my Argons too!) :wink:
Amazing! I can't wait to hear your thoughts comparing it to the rest of the iFi line-up. Specifically, the micro BL since I have it, but good to know how it stacks up against the whole line-up.
 
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Just some quick snapshots from my phone. I will take better photos for the review.
Zen Can Signature - Top.jpgZen Can Signature - Front (2).jpgZen Can Signature - Back.jpg
Definitely gives some early impressions Ken! Considering how much gear you have at your disposal at the moment =)

Sounds like you're going to be keeping yourself busy for a longggg while...
 
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So confused about the curve, is it based on a speaker in the room type thing? It seems like it’s almost meant to keep the 650/6xx while helping the most commonly noted shortcomings which could work well.
 
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Marketing hoopla makes me nervous. Low to low-mid tier getting increasingly competitive. Long wait, but ASR measurements eventually. Kinda, sorta, sometimes, nah not really take into consideration consensus of headphone review sites that don't measure. Even if can't hear subtle differences, best to know things I may buy measure at or near top-rung in their given category.
 
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hamachan

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Perhaps you could copy it here for those who don't have a Drop account.
OK, here you are;

verifonix asked;
So between iDac2 micro and ZEN sig, which would win?

ifi audio responded;
Hi there! DAC Sig and iDAC2 would be closely matched.
i. Because of the similar architecture. B-B chipset, Elna Silmics, etc.
ii. BUT the ZEN DAC Sig shades it is because in key areas it has improved parts quality and because it has a direct balanced out to the (fixed) line out, which the iDAC 2 lacks.
Overall, a lower noise floor fed by a better power supply from the iPOWER (iDAC2 is USB power only). Much of the following tech notes apply to the ZEN DAC Sig too (bar some parts and ANC but with Balanced circuitry):
https://ifi-audio.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/The-iDAC2-part1.pdf
https://ifi-audio.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/iDAC2-Spilling-the-Sauce-2-of-6_-9-Nov-2015.pdf
https://ifi-audio.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/iDAC2-Spilling-the-Sauce-3-of-6_-11-Nov-2015-1.pdf
https://ifi-audio.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/iDAC2-Spilling-the-Sauce-4-of-6_-13-Nov-2015.pdf
https://ifi-audio.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/iDAC2-Spilling-the-Sauce-5-of-6_-17-Nov-2015.pdf
As a result sound quality ranking:

BAL Line:
1) Zen DAC Sig
2) Zen DAC orig
iDAC 2 lacks balanced out.

SE (line)
1) Zen DAC Sig
2) iDAC 2
3) Zen DAC orig

hope this helps!
 
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Thinking about buying this...

I'm curious iFi - what has Sennheiser's reaction been to the project? Did they collaborate? Do they even agree about the notion that there is a slight veil over the treble?
Sennheiser did not collaborate on this product as far as I am aware... they specifically designed the HD 650 (and HD 6XX) to sound the way it does. Sennheiser also has their own DAC/amps, currently the HDV 820.

Sennheiser designed the HD 650 as a variation née from the HD 600, with the HD 650 specifically made to help mastering professionals who have to use their headphones all day for work. Over time, our ears are fatigued first by the upper midrange/lower treble, right where Head-Fi and iFi’s graphs show the “dip” in response. The carefully designed dip is audible as a bit softer in that range (which our ears are quite attuned to, as female vocals and violins among other instruments often hit these pitches), though it isn’t muffled like a literal cloth would cause if it was set over the drivers as a veil. Our brains actually get used to the HD 650 sound, and a professional can still accurately make mix adjustments based off of what they’re hearing from the HD 650.

So, here iFi is making the frequency response similar to the HD 600 (or adding a bit more of the highs to an HD 600)... while also increasing the bass and sub bass for both models. The original sub bass levels were deemed natural sounding, but of course personal preference comes into play, especially when listening for fun and entertainment.

A HD 650/6XX specific amp certainly is interesting though, and I applaud the inclusion of the Pentaconn 4.4mm connector. I am curious to hear the Zen CAN Signature 6XX for myself :D
 
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