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iFi ZEN DAC discussion + impression

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  1. lambdastorm
    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.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2019
    starence likes this.
  2. Fawzay
    They do release the ifi zen blue together with ifi zen dac do they meant to stack together?
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2019
  3. qsk78
    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.
  4. Baten
    Don't think so. They're not meant as a stack.
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2019
  5. qsk78
    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.
    Baten likes this.
  6. dcime
    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!
  7. Fawzay
    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
  8. dcime
    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.
  9. Fawzay
    i guess i gotta buy both then for home use and for portability. Btw how much does the zen blue cost?
  10. lambdastorm
    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.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2019
    dcime likes this.
  11. dcime
    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.
  12. qsk78
    Are you sure? I think it shoud get the power from the PC via usb anyway, when connected..
  13. dcime
    I believe the ZEN BLUE is around $170.
    Fawzay likes this.
  14. dcime
    No battery in the ZEN BLUE which means it needs to be always tethered to pc or iPad/Tablet for constant power.
  15. dcime
    Power: DC 5V From the Zen Blue tech specs.
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