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IFI Zen Blue question

shep1968

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Aug 20, 2007
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Hi all. I've just seen the IFI Zen Blue reviewed in what hifi. I currently stream to my naim amp via an iPhone with apple lossless through an apple airport express which is very tempramental. Do you think that the Zen will be a significant upgrade on the airport express for sound quality?
 

Gray

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Nov 27, 2015
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Hi all. I've just seen the IFI Zen Blue reviewed in what hifi. I currently stream to my naim amp via an iPhone with apple lossless through an apple airport express which is very tempramental. Do you think that the Zen will be a significant upgrade on the airport express for sound quality?
If your current listening is lossless, then no.
 

Gray

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Nov 27, 2015
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That's interesting thank you. If I were listening in a compressed format then presumably it would be then?
Possibly.
That Zen is probably about as good as Bluetooth gets. But Bluetooth itself won't better what you're currently using...if it is actually lossless. I say that because I'm not famiiar with Apple. I understand that Apple lossless is at least CD quality, but was unsure if there was any compromise between your phone and the Airport Express.
(Zen would almost certainly be more stable for you though, if nothing else).
 
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jjbomber

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Dec 22, 2006
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I understand that Apple lossless is at least CD quality,
No, it's compressed and lossy. It's a banned format in most bootlegging sites for that very reason. They post spectral analysis of the sound waves to show the compression. I have to admit it's all too technical for me, but all anyone needs to know is the bottom line, It's lossy.
 

Gray

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Nov 27, 2015
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No, it's compressed and lossy. It's a banned format in most bootlegging sites for that very reason. They post spectral analysis of the sound waves to show the compression. I have to admit it's all too technical for me, but all anyone needs to know is the bottom line, It's lossy.
I have never owned any Apple products.
However those that do, might (reasonably) expect lossless to mean lossless!:(
So shep, the Zen could sound at least as good as your 'lossless' streams.
 
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shep1968

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Aug 20, 2007
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Well I wasn’t aware of that. I have an iPhone and have ripped all my cds as apple lossless onto my hard drive in the belief that the lossless format would sound better. I even bought an iPhone with a higher storage capacity to do so. I can hear a difference between streaming and a cd on my Naim and was thinking that the gap may be reduced with the zen but as you say probably not.

I don’t want to re rip all my cds so will stick with the airport express for now.
 

JonB1001

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Jul 31, 2014
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I recently installed the Zen Blue as a cheap streaming option and am very pleased with it. It’s running through my pathos classic remix amp into neat iota alpha speakers. I’m using an Apple IPhone XR with Tidal and Spotify. I have no other streaming system to compare it to so all I can say is that compared to my other hifi inputs it does an excellent job even with the lower quality Spotify. It really suits rap and electronic. Less so rock. Unbelievably easy to set up and use. Seems worth the money to me.
 

iMark

Well-known member
May 16, 2008
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No, it's compressed and lossy. It's a banned format in most bootlegging sites for that very reason. They post spectral analysis of the sound waves to show the compression. I have to admit it's all too technical for me, but all anyone needs to know is the bottom line, It's lossy.
I think you're mixing up two formats: Apple Lossless and AAC. Apple Lossless (or ALAC) is very similar to FLAC and is (of course) a lossless format. When you rip a CD in Apple Lossless is will be bit perfect af decompressing, just like FLAC. I have ripped all our CDs in Apple Lossless. I could convert all the files to FLAC if needed or to WAV or AIFF. I can burn CDs from ALAC files and they will sound exactly the same as the ripped CD.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Lossless

AAC is similar to mp3 and is a lossy format. One of the problems with ALAC and AAC is that they use the same file extension: m4a. Without analysing the file it is impossible to know whether the file is in a lossless or a lossy format. That's why bootlegging sites don't like it.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MPEG-4_Part_14#.MP4_versus_.M4A
 
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Gray

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Nov 27, 2015
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I think you're mixing up two formats: Apple Lossless and AAC. Apple Lossless (or ALAC) is very similar to FLAC and is (of course) a lossless format. When you rip a CD in Apple Lossless is will be bit perfect af decompressing, just like FLAC. I have ripped all our CDs in Apple Lossless. I could convert all the files to FLAC if needed or to WAV or AIFF. I can burn CDs from ALAC files and they will sound exactly the same as the ripped CD.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Lossless

AAC is similar to mp3 and is a lossy format. One of the problems with ALAC and AAC is that they use the same file extension: m4a. Without analysing the file it is impossible to know whether the file is in a lossless or a lossy format. That's why bootlegging sites don't like it.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MPEG-4_Part_14#.MP4_versus_.M4A
I thought 'lossless' should mean just that (y)
 

jjbomber

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Dec 22, 2006
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I think you're mixing up two formats: Apple Lossless and AAC. Apple Lossless (or ALAC) is very similar to FLAC and is (of course) a lossless format.
Nope.

There are 9 encoder levels for FLAC, the first 5 of which are lossy. The top uncompressed level is actually a bigger file size than WAV. Lossless FLAC starts at Encoder Level 6. ALAC is between Level 2 and Level 3.
 

Gray

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Nov 27, 2015
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Nope.

There are 9 encoder levels for FLAC, the first 5 of which are lossy. The top uncompressed level is actually a bigger file size than WAV. Lossless FLAC starts at Encoder Level 6. ALAC is between Level 2 and Level 3.
FLAC can be lossy?.....as in, some of the music can be chucked away?
Now that really would be news to quite a few a people.
 

iMark

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May 16, 2008
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I think @jjbomber needs to read up on lossless compression.

The lossless encoders ALAC and FLAC having lossy levels? Absolute nonsense. Lossless is lossless.
This discussion explains more about the different lossless compression levels for FLAC. The explanation is better than I could ever manage: https://www.forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/if-flac-is-lossless-why-does-encoding-level-matter.140499/

Some more information on lossless compression: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lossless_compression Lossless compression is exactly what it says on the tin: lossless. Sometimes compression can be done at a higher level. The encoding of the file will take longer and result in a smaller lossless file. But decompressing the file will reconstitute the original file bit for bit, whatever the lossless compression level.

I will repeat once more: lossless is lossless.
 
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iMark

Well-known member
May 16, 2008
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@jjbomber
There's nothing to disagree about. Lossless is lossless.

But I'm fascinated where you get this completely wrong information from. Could you post the links to the "independent sites" that have led you to believe that lossless isn't always lossless?
However, there is of course the fact that lossy material (like mp3) can be upscaled or upsampled to a lossless format. That's been around for years. I remember upscaling mp3 files to AIFF in order to be able to burn them to a CD. It would sound as the mp3 file but at least you could listen to the files. This was in the days before we had mp3 players. It's obviously a problem for bootleggers and they would have to analyse files to determine what the original sampling rate/quality was. But it's a completely different issue.

In the meantime here's some more interesting reading material for you from an "independent" forum: https://hydrogenaud.io/index.php/topic,94187.msg790714.html#msg790714
 
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12th Monkey

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Aug 31, 2015
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Hi all. I've just seen the IFI Zen Blue reviewed in what hifi. I currently stream to my naim amp via an iPhone with apple lossless through an apple airport express which is very tempramental. Do you think that the Zen will be a significant upgrade on the airport express for sound quality?
I use the Zen Blue for convenience listening, going through my CDP's DAC. It's pretty good, though not as good as CD for serious listening

It isn't at all temperamental though, which would bug me beyond endurance. It works well with my eldest's iPhone, but also with my Android devices
 
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