iFi ZEN DAC Desktop DAC Review & Comparison

Welcome to my review of the iFi ZEN DAC which retails for £129. In my video review, I also compare the ZEN DAC to my ZEN Blue and ZEN Can combo,

Key Specs

– Input: USB3.0 B Socket (USB2.0 compatible)
– Formats: 44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192/384kHz PCM, 2.8/3.1/5.6/6.2/11.2/12.4MHz DSD, 353/384KHz DXD
– DAC: Bit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC by Burr Brown
– Line section -Output: Audio 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: < 0.0015% @ 0dBFS (UnBAL/BAL) L)
– THD+N: 280mW @ 32R, > 36mW @ 300R, BAL: > 380mW @ 50R, > 70mW @ 600ROutput Impedance: < 1 Ω (UnBAL/BAL)
– Dimensions: 117(l) x 100(w) x 30(h)mm
– Weight: 491g (1.08 lbs)

The Review

So for this review, I used a number of headphones. These included the HiFiman Sundara and Ananda, Sony MDR-1AM2 in 4.4 balanced, Sennheiser HD599 and a selection of IEMs from Fiio and others. I also listenend to as many different genres as possible from jazz, blues, dance, rap, hip hop, classical, pop, rock, electronic and orchestral.

The ZEN DAC doesn’t need a power supply as it runs via the USB power from your PC or even smartphone. IMO I don’t think you need to spend more money on a stand-alone power supply either. Using just USB power from my laptop, there was surprisingly enough power for both my HiFiman Ananda and Sundara.

With IEMs, there was no floor noise or background hiss. Balanced output using my Sony MDR-1AM2s was fantastic. All my headphones sounded excellent with plenty of dynamics and detail. The mid range had a lovely bit of warmth with it, ideal for some of my favourite classical piano, orchestral and classical tracks. In fact, music genres including jazz, blues, dance, hip hop, rap, pop and rock came across really effortlessly. Good separation and soundstage too.

Compared to the ZEN Blue/ZEN Can Combo

The ZEN Blue/ZEN Can benefit from using external power supplies and therefore are able to add that extra dynamics and sparkle to my music. However as the ZEN Dac is a wired solution, this helps it compensate with some extra clarity. Personally I prefer the combo solution, but then it is twice the price too.

Video Review


I highly capable desktop DAC and headphone amp, in a stylish design that looks good in any room. Highly recommended. 9.5/10.

Useful Links

iFi ZEN DAC more info and latest pricing on Amazon Uk – Click HERE.


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