iFi ZEN DAC discussion + impression
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lambdastorm

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For the very first time, iFi is tapping into the sub-$150 market with the release of ZEN series. Zen DAC is more on the traditional side, a barebone DAC/AMP sporting a USB port, 2 RCA outputs and one 4.4mm balanced output. The front panel sports a 1/4'' jack, a 4.4mm balanced jack, a gain switch, a bass boost button and a potentiometer. There is an optional 5V DC input if you wish to kick its performance up a notch. Zen Blue on the other hand supports Bluetooth and optical inputs. The front panel design is more in line with iFi's more premium offerings and a 5V switching power supply is included with the unit.

I bought the ZEN DAC at Audio46 one day after its release, and the staff there told me their 10% off coupon code does not apply because of the thin margins.

Here I present to you my unboxing video!

Edit: Forget what I said about coaxial inputs in the video. Neither model takes coaxial.
 
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Fawzay

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They do release the ifi zen blue together with ifi zen dac do they meant to stack together?
 
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qsk78

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interesting. For this optional 5V DC power supply...any recommendations?
I'm looking for an affordable DAC for my violectric balanced amplifier. Could be a good option.
 
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Baten

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They do release the ifi zen blue together with ifi zen dac do they meant to stack together?
Don't think so. They're not meant as a stack.
 
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qsk78

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The Zen blue is a bluetooth streamer / DAC, the Zen DAC is a DAC/Amp with regular and balanced inputs / outputs (4.4 mm). So they are very different.
 
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dcime

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interesting. For this optional 5V DC power supply...any recommendations?
I'm looking for an affordable DAC for my violectric balanced amplifier. Could be a good option.
Amazon has many 5v ps with multi tips for about $10. Ifi should have included this as there is no battery/charging option. I mean, you literally have to buy a ps elsewhere then use your DAC. I find our friends from across the pond do many, many things backwards. Even a Range Rover is in many ways backwards!
 
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Fawzay

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i dunno what should i get tho, seems fiio btr5 seems as good as ifi zen blue the only upper hand for fiio Btr5 is that it can connect 2 output devices to achieve stereo 3d effect
 
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dcime

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i dunno what should i get tho, seems fiio btr5 seems as good as ifi zen blue the only upper hand for fiio Btr5 is that it can connect 2 output devices to achieve stereo 3d effect
I think you are comparing apples and oranges. The iFI uses better DAC and amps then Fiio. Fiio btr5 is a portable Bluetooth receiver. It has a battery. The Zen Blue requires a 5v power adapter for mainly home use. Not the sameas the iFI. Ifi also has more Bluetooth formats available.
 
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Fawzay

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i guess i gotta buy both then for home use and for portability. Btw how much does the zen blue cost?
 
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lambdastorm

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Not much point going for a regular $10 SMPS as it already sounds decent powered by the USB port,. The next logical upgrade would be ifi's ipower. But considering the wallet-friendly nature of such products I really don't see why someone wouldn't just go for a $200 DAC instead of throwing another $50.

Many entry-level DACs are just place-holders and will eventually get replaced. How long is eventually though is up to the user himself.
 
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dcime

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Not much point going for a regular $10 SMPS as it already sounds decent powered by the USB port,. The next logical upgrade would be ifi's ipower. But considering the wallet-friendly nature of such products I really don't see why someone wouldn't just go for a $200 DAC instead of throwing another $50.

Many entry-level DACs are just place-holders and will eventually get replaced. How long is eventually though is up to the user himself.
I agree. Didn’t know you could power the ZEN DAC by USB. Not the Blue, the DAC. I also agree that they become paperweights after a while but that’s with any entry level DAC. IFI wants to bring in a larger audience with entry level though specced well with BB DAC. I may buy the ZEN DAC as a knokaround portable DAC I can take with me everywhere.
 
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as there is no battery/charging option.
Are you sure? I think it shoud get the power from the PC via usb anyway, when connected..
 
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