The English company iFi has expanded its popular Zen series with four budget models. In fact, these are the same Zen components, but at a lower price, which means with certain design simplifications. The budget series includes the Zen Air DAC, Zen Air Blue, Zen Air CAN and Zen Air Phono models.
Externally, the iFi Zen Air models are distinguished from the usual Zen by the case material. Extruded aluminum was replaced with textured plastic in different colors. The manufacturer claims that this is a “high-quality thermoplastic polymer with additives to reduce brittleness and improve cushioning“.
Balanced connections of 4.4mm are proposed to be considered a “pseudo-balanced” option. At the same time, the upgraded GMT timer is left in the novelties, the same as in the current Zen V2 Blue and DAC without the “Air” prefix. There is proprietary XMOS firmware and digital filtering. New units still decode audio resolution up to PCM 32bit/384kHz, as well as DXD and DSD64, 128 and 256.
The ZEN Air DAC is also equipped with a quad-core processor and ESS Saber DAC, and its Bluetooth with QCC5100 chipset supports aptX Adaptive, aptX HD, LDAC and HWA/LHDC. The ZEN Air Can analog headphone amplifier ditched the four-stage gain control, replacing it with a three-stage one. Both 6.3mm and 4.4mm headphone outputs are retained, although the 4.4mm output is labeled as “not fully balanced“.
The ZEN Air Phono received the same power supply with an increased intermediate frequency. And finally, the main thing: iFi ZEN Air components cost one and a half times cheaper than their non-budget counterparts. ZEN Air DAC and ZEN Air Blue are already available, while ZEN Air Can and ZEN Air Phono will be released in May.
In the UK, the iFi ZEN Air models are priced at £100 across all four devices.
iFi Zen Air DAC Specifications
- Input voltage DC 5V/2.5A
- Input USB3.0 B Socket (USB2.0 compatible)
- Formats 44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192/352.8/384kHz PCM 2.8/3.1/5.6/6.2/11.2/12.4MHz DSD 353/384KHz DXD MQA
- DAC Bit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC by Burr Brown
- Power consumption No Signal ~0.5W / Max Signal ~2.5W
- Dimensions 158 x 117 x 35 mm 6.2″ x 4.6″ x 1.4″
- Net weight 315 g 0.969 lbs
- Line Section:
- Output 1V / 3.3V max.
- Output Impedance ≤50Ω
- SNR <-113dB(A) @ 0dBFS
- DNR >113dB(A) @ -60dBFS
- THD+N <0.04% @ 0dBFS
- Headphone Section:
- Output 1V / 3.3V max. (variable)
- Output Power >280mW @ 32Ω ; >36mW @ 300Ω
- Output Impedance <1Ω
- THD+N <0.04% (100mW @ 16Ω)
- SNR >113dBA (3.3V)
iFi Zen Air Blue Specifications
- Power supply requirement DC 5V, ≥ 0.5A (centre +ve)
- Chipset Qualcomm QCC 5100 Series
- Input Bluetooth 5.0TM with SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC, LHDC/HWA Codec
- Outputs Audio RCA L/R
- Frequency Response 20Hz – 20kHz +0/-0.5dB (44.1kHz) 1Hz – 44khz +0/-3.0dB (>= 88.2kHz)
- Output Voltage @ 0dBFS 2.05V (+/-0.05V )
- Dynamic Range 109dB (A)
- Signal/Noise ratio 109dB (A) @ 0dBFS
- THD & N <0.0015% 10k Load @ 0dBFS
- Output Impedance <50Ω
- Power Consumption <2.5W
- Dimensions 158 x 100 x 35 mm 6.2″ x 3.9″ x 1.4″
- Net weight 295g 0.65 lbs