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iFi Zen DAC

djh1697

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2008
56
6
18,545
Does the iFi DAC do a full MQA unfold? Does it support DSD?
My March DAC will do DSD64, which is mind blowing! I use it as a Roon Endpoint, which I guess the iFi will also do?
 

stefano-mbp

Member
Jun 9, 2020
1
0
20
iFi should clearly declare in the ZEN dac specs that it is only an MQA renderer, not a decoder, thus it will not be able to perform MQA unfolding if you don’t use a software to perform the first unfolding (like Tidal app, Audirvana, …).
It is very disappointing this kind of misleading information by iFi.
 

pef99

Well-known member
Mar 26, 2011
1
0
18,520
I've had one of these in my desktop setup since the beginning of 2020 (Dell desktop>iFi ZEN>denon DM41+Sub). I mostly listen to high res files via Qobuz (up to 24/96), as well as my own downloads on iTunes. It sounds fantastic both through my system and as a headphone amp. In the latter role it comfortably drives my Sennheiser HD 580's as well as a pair of AKG K 550's. The ability to use it it fixed or variable output modes is useful in this respect, as is the hi/lo gain button, which I usually leave on high. Even the Bass Boost button is useful, giving a subtle but through lift to the lower frequencies, though I rarely need it, The one thing I would say is that, though you can just run it from the USB feed from the PC, it does sound much better if you use an external power supply, giving the sound more solidarity and weight. It's even better if you use iFi's own low noise power supply; it really gave the sound more focus and weight, when I added it. A fantastic little unit! Looking forward to picking up aZen blue for my main Hifi, as i have balanced inputs on my amp. I'll probably try the new Zen Phono on my desktop system too, to replace the Rega Fono Mini I'm currently using...
 

d1versify

Member
Oct 24, 2020
1
0
20
I've had one of these in my desktop setup since the beginning of 2020 (Dell desktop>iFi ZEN>denon DM41+Sub). I mostly listen to high res files via Qobuz (up to 24/96), as well as my own downloads on iTunes. It sounds fantastic both through my system and as a headphone amp. In the latter role it comfortably drives my Sennheiser HD 580's as well as a pair of AKG K 550's. The ability to use it it fixed or variable output modes is useful in this respect, as is the hi/lo gain button, which I usually leave on high. Even the Bass Boost button is useful, giving a subtle but through lift to the lower frequencies, though I rarely need it, The one thing I would say is that, though you can just run it from the USB feed from the PC, it does sound much better if you use an external power supply, giving the sound more solidarity and weight. It's even better if you use iFi's own low noise power supply; it really gave the sound more focus and weight, when I added it. A fantastic little unit! Looking forward to picking up aZen blue for my main Hifi, as i have balanced inputs on my amp. I'll probably try the new Zen Phono on my desktop system too, to replace the Rega Fono Mini I'm currently using...
Hey man. I found a 5v/3a for 6 euros. You think I should get the official ifi one? Is it that much of a difference?
 

djh1697

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2008
56
6
18,545
I have to say that the choice of 5 stars for sound quality was premature by WHF, I purchased one of these DACs from a local retailer, and the service from the retailer cannot be faulted.

However, there is a serious design flaw! When using Roon (or Tidal) playing an MQA track results in a popping noise when the unit switches to or from MQA mode. I spoke to iFi in Southport who said they are aware of the issue! I have raised a ticket with then, but if this is not resolved I will be taking the unit back for a refund, a great pity really!

The power supply upgrade will not resolve the issue.

A positive note, MQA does sound great, perhaps I'd place below a FLAC stream, maybe slightly higher than DSD
 

Geepstar

Member
Nov 13, 2020
1
0
20
Ok, for a lot people it will be an upgrade. But 'strange' enough not for me. I have a RME Fireface UC, that doesn't do MQA or DSD, but I used Audirvana for testing (and next to in also an Ifi iDSD that just came out). Both the Ifi Zen Dac AND the Ifi had less detail and sharpness, while the RME Fireface is 'limited' to 192 kHz 24BIT and as I said, doesn't do MQA unfolding, but apparently the software unfolding (also tested on Tidal Master with same outcome) didn't do as much as just a better sound chip. And it wasn't just a little bit, it was quite a difference. Both on MQA and DSD64. Strange? Or does the RME is a different leage because it is a bit more expensive too?
 

HiRes88

Member
Nov 15, 2020
3
0
20
You can update to GTO firmware from their site. It does add a bit more detail as far as what I am reading in other forums. It is a warm and natural sounding DAC so you may be getting a more clinical sound which some perceive as more detailed. I have a Zen CAN and plan on adding this along with my a balanced connector to mate things up.
 

SteveR750

Well-known member
Mar 11, 2005
530
21
18,895
I'm looking for a desktop DAC to run off my PC streaming Amazon HD tracks, I've got a Cambridge Audio Dacmagic XS which is fine with IEMs, but wasn't up to the job of driving a pair of full size phones; so I've been looking for something with more power output. I wish I had kept my DacMagic Plus, but I'm not spending £350 on a new one just to use with a pair of headphones.
The zen dac looks interesting, but a couple of things I'm not sure about: is there enough power to drive a decent set of 250ohm phones? Does adding a separate PSU make much difference? I'm not buying one for portability, so having to power it from the mains is OK for me.
What cable would you need to connect it to a phone, although I've got an LG V30 which isn't too shabby in its own right.
 

HiRes88

Member
Nov 15, 2020
3
0
20
You can find alot of ZenDAC discussion on Head-Fi. If I were you I'd get a PSU for it. It doesnt have to be iFi. My ZenDAC is on its way and looking forward to pairing with my Zen CAN. Interesting you have the V30. I am running G7 with xCAN for my portable and its a very good unit with ESS chipset. I'd agree with your comments there. Being strictly WFH I was recharging the xCAN more that I wanted so decided to get a desktop kit and use the PC. I am looking forward to hearing the BurrBrown chipset with my Fidelio X3s. The X3s are fantastic but they have some extra treble I am hoping the slightly warmer ZenDAC with tame. Regardless, Im enjoying my setup. IFI did a great job here.
 

SteveR750

Well-known member
Mar 11, 2005
530
21
18,895
I've only just joined headfi though read lots of posts previously when researching stuff. Tbh I need to sort out my music streaming service having realised that amazon HD is anything but,and I'd be wasting money on a new DAC.
 

thundom

Member
Dec 25, 2020
1
0
20
Does the iFi DAC do a full MQA unfold? Does it support DSD?
My March DAC will do DSD64, which is mind blowing! I use it as a Roon Endpoint, which I guess the iFi will also do?
It does full unfold for MQA, and there is alternative firmware on their website, with default one you can do full unfold of MQA and DSD 256, with alternative firmware, you lose the MQA full unfold but you can do DSD512 decoding.
 

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