iFi audio ZEN DAC Review

iFi audio ZEN DAC

9.8

9.8/10

The iFi audio ZEN DAC delivers a level of specification and performance that punches above its super-affordable price tag. Compact enough to use as a USB DAC/amp on your work desk with your much-loved headphones. Stylish enough to use in your home system as a USB DAC. Just add your favourite active speakers or amp.

iFi audio ZEN DAC Review

iFi audio ZEN DAC Specs

InputUSB3.0 B Socket (USB2.0 compatible)
Formats44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192/384kHz 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
Line Section
OutputAudio RCA (UnBAL) — 2.1V fixed
1V / 3.3V max. (variable)
4.4mm Pentaconn (BAL) — 4.2V fixed
2V / 6.2V max. (variable)
Zout<= 100 Ohm (UnBAL)
<= 200 Ohm (BAL)
SNR< -116dB(A) @ 0dBFS (UnBAL/BAL)
DNR> 116dB(A) @ -60dBFS (UnBAL/BAL)
THD+N< 0.0015% @ 0dBFS (UnBAL/BAL)
Headphone Section
Output6.3mm (S-BAL) — 1V / 3.3V max.
12 Ohm – 300 Ohm Headphone
4.4mm Pentaconn (BAL) — 2V / 6.2V max.
12 Ohm – 600 Ohm Headphone
Output PowerUSB power supply:
BAL 4.4mm / S-BAL 6.3mm
32 ohms 330mW / 32 ohms 260mW
300 ohms 100mW / 300 ohms 20mW
600 ohms 45mW / 600 ohms 10mW

External 5v power supply
32 ohms 660mW / 32 ohms 520mW
300 ohms 200mW / 300 ohms 34mW
600 ohms 90mW / 600 ohms 15mW
Output Impedance< 1 Ω (UnBAL/BAL)
THD & N< 0.005% (125mW @ 32R)
SNR> 113dBA (3.3V UnBAL / 6.2V BAL)
Power consumption< 1.5W via USB power OR 5v DC (power supply not included)
Dimensions117(l) x 100(w) x 30(h)mm
Weight491g (1.08 lbs)
Warranty period12 months

I am a big fan of the retro-inspired look of the Zen DAC. It has a 60’s vibe to it, with the angles are brushed metal. The design is “unique” in a way as it doesn’t follow the trend of looking like something from the future. The whole thing has a bit of weight to it, which is nice to have. This sits perfectly on my desk and doesn’t budge at all.

iFi audio ZEN DAC Review

I was a bit confused as to why the Balanced headphone port used a 4.4mm jack. I ended up having to order an adapter online as I didn’t have one in the office. This isn’t a negative point, as I feel the 4.4mm is a more sturdy reliable connection. On first listen I wasn’t a fan of the Truebass, it sounded like too much bass for my liking. But after using it for a couple of weeks, I have ended up preferring it over anything else.

The volume control is front and centre, with a bigger dial in the centre of the DAC. This is very satisfying to use and feels worth the money.

The back has a USB3.0 B Socket, the included cable is only 6″ long, so I’d recommend ordering a longer one. There is a 5v socket, L & R ports, a switch for variable or fixed and a balanced port. There is no 5v plug included, so its USB or you have to buy a plug.

iFi audio ZEN DAC Review

Soundwise, the balance and precision are on point. I found rock music and electronic music sounded a bit better, then other genres. The combination is like liquid gold for your ears and is perfect for hours of listening.

Overall, this is the best sound you can get for under £130. The design is easy on the eyes and will work with any desk setup.

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