Drop x iFi ZEN DAC Signature Review and Measurements

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by purr1n, Jul 20, 2020.

  1. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    Great write up! I may have missed it, but did you use the Zen balanced outs using the 4.4mm output or SE outs only?
     
  2. Noodlz

    Noodlz Almost "Made"

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    oh good point, actually i only used the SE out. i need to order an adapter for the 4.4 to dual xlr to test that out still. i imagine it could be a significant upgrade like the modius was.
     
  3. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    It's worth a try, ZEN DAC is internally fully balanced front to back and we got lots of feedback that it sounds... well, I won't spoil the surprise ;)
     
  4. Noodlz

    Noodlz Almost "Made"

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    ordered an Ifi 4.4 to dual Balanced cable yesterday~ Can't wait to try it out
     
  5. Noodlz

    Noodlz Almost "Made"

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    Quick update. Tried out the zen sig V2 with balance cables, better clarity and imaging, but the characteristics remained the same so it’s not quite what Im looking for. Also The difference between bal and se isn’t as drastic as it was on modius (though it’s a very noticeable upgrade). For someone who wants a neutral-just-slightly liquid smooth crisp dac with good soundstage and good details, and just wants to connect to usb, this would hit it out of the park, but im kinda looking for a desktop version that is very similar in flavor to the ifi nano BL, so unfortunately the v2 isn’t for me.

    that being said, I noticed that the initial impressions and reviews were probably that of the V1, which from the sound of the review may be similar to the tone and flavor of the nano BL. Am getting one now to see if it fits the bill better for me.
     
  6. WoodyLuvr

    WoodyLuvr Friend

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    I am in the same boat as you. I too really, really like and prefer the warm n' gooey presentation of the iFI iDSD Nano BL. Any luck with the V1? Very interested to hear if you successfully landed a white whale. Cheers.
     
  7. Noodlz

    Noodlz Almost "Made"

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    Just got my V1 ifi Zen Sig. I'm stunned on how good it sounds.

    Disclaimer - since doing the original spider chart i've gotten a pair of iLoud Micro active speakers for my pc, and my initial tests are comparing the DACs fed from PC via USB into these speakers. When I had the V2 i did not have speakers setup yet.

    For some reason, the V1 sounds AMAZING with the iloud. Significantly cleaner, more focused sounding than the soekris 1321. It's also got the fluid, engaging dynamic sound that was looking for in my Nano. Very Very happy. I'm set on using these for the actives.

    Also doing some preliminary tests fed from a battery powereed pizero into the zen sig (no power attached), feeding into the ZMF pendant, with ETA gen Gs. It's already slightly edging out the Modius XLR out (Jenson J-Iso conversion to SE) in terms of soundstage and fluidity. Fidelity is about equal. Flavor is bang on, fluid and slightly sweet with out ever being muddy.

    I'm starting to think the V2 i got was just a dud, or since this V1 unit i got was used maybe the V2 needed an extended break-in period. Regardless im gonna be keeping this thing foeva lol. just like my nano bl.

    @WoodyLuvr i was writing this last nite before falling asleep lol. but yea i would 1000% get the v1 should you find one. it’s not quite as sweet and gooey sounding as the nano but it’s got the flavors with loads more clarity and staging. a very very good thing.

    i’m tempted to get a v2 again just to confirm the differences/see if the previous one was a dud or maybe the v1 just has more flavor, but with the zen one signature out i would probably rather buy that so i can feed my pi2aes to it
     
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    Last edited: Jan 18, 2022
  8. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    ^ I too am wondering if something "behind the scenes" such as the supply chain squeeze caused a crucial part to be substituted out or something similar... although yes, just as likely it could have been a "bad unit" also caused by the supply chain squeeze or "something else".

    Please share if you get another V2.
     
  9. señorhifi

    señorhifi Friend

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    BTW, the fact you liked the V1 more are great news. In Spain (not sure about the rest of the EU), the V1 costs around 30-50€ less than the V2. You save bucks!

    EDIT: I forgot to mention it, but when I talked about the Zen DAC Signature here before, I had the V1 unit as well. The V2 was more expensive because it runs MQA, so it made no sense to me at all. Also, I was running the Zen DAC Sig. via its single ended output. In fact, I have yet to try BAL on this.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2022
  10. WoodyLuvr

    WoodyLuvr Friend

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    And of course, for the life of me, I am unable to source a V1 over here! Everything is V2 now :(! Guess my Nano BL and Modi MM are getting a new lease on life! That is if this suspected Mojo 2 releasing on the 31st doesn't somehow steal my heart first via the use of black magic... I have also been eyeing the Geshelli Labs J2 which is also tempting.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2022
  11. billbishere

    billbishere Facebook Friend

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    i can't seem to find a thread on the V2. I am considering picking up the Ifi Zen DAC Signature V2 but, if the V1 is better then I will go that route. Is there anymore impressions or comparisons someone can point me too maybe? it seems like maybe this v2 being talking about here was a lemon or something.
     
  12. Noodlz

    Noodlz Almost "Made"

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    It might have been. I mean the v2 i had wasn't bad at all. matter of fact it sounded really good, but just wasn't my cup of tea. it was very clean and neutral, but i was looking for the ifi sweet slightly syrupy fluid flavor i get from by Nano BL, and the V2 unit I had didnt have that at all.

    The V1 i got though was exactly what i was looking for and i could see what the original review posted early in the thread was talking about. It's very fluid, detailed, just slightly sweet and checks all the boxes for me plus more. I thought about buying another V2 to compare but in the end im not likely to do that since i'd rather use those funds towards other projects.

    Circling back, depends on what you're looking for i guess. If you want a very good resolving, clean crisp neutral sounding dac, even with the V2 "lemon" unit i had you'd probably still be happy with it. If you want a fluid sweet sounding one though, not sure if you'll get it with the V2. YMMV i guess~
     
  13. billbishere

    billbishere Facebook Friend

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    Honestly just looking for more feedback... If anyone else experienced V1 having a better sound than V2. If there are several people saying they think the V1 is sounding better then I would consider it over the V2. Just not looking to make that choice over a single persons feedback is all. Thanks.

    There doesn't seem to be anything about the V2 specific in the forum other than the little bit of talk in this thread.

    Anyone else have any feedback regarding V1 vs V2? Can't even find any comparisons from any youtube reviewers or anything either.
     
  14. señorhifi

    señorhifi Friend

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    This DAC is pretty much a SBAF hidden gem at this point. The only person I have ever seen saying anything about the V1 vs V2, is Noodlz here (great job with the posts BTW!!!). I had the V1 as well. Still the best DAC I have heard (I need to get my hands on a Bifrost 2 asap).
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2022
  15. billbishere

    billbishere Facebook Friend

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    Well, I just purchased the V1. There just isn't much difference between the V2 and V1, and I reading about the upgrades I could how it could effect the sound in the wrong way. Seems it's meant to be "cleaner" with the improved clocks and jitter, better distortion numbers. it may just be that distortion that is giving it that "gooey" sound we all are looking for. outside of those things the only thing with the V2 I would have liked is the MQA decoder whereas V1 is just a renderer. But I only play MQA on tidal so really the render is all I need anyway. and also looking at some spectrums of the difference between FULL hardware and software decoding of MQA doesn't have much change either. the improvements that were gained were gained in the hybrid config were the same as the full hardware decode. so having the decode over the render doesn't show any more advantage at least on the spectrum analysis I saw.. Here is the link to that if any cares...

    https://archimago.blogspot.com/2017/02/comparison-hardware-decoded-mqa-using.html

    so after all that I just decided with the opinion in this thread I would just save $50 and get the v1.

    it will be here in a couple days. ordered from headamp. they still have 1 V1 left if there were other looking for a V1.
     
  16. WoodyLuvr

    WoodyLuvr Friend

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    I purchased an iFi Audio Zen DAC Signature V2. Unable to source a V1 over here in Siam I am still quite satisfied with the V2 that has landed on my desk. Wow! Been listening to it, all day, everyday, for over a week now and it has converted digital splendidly. I have already gifted away my aging iFi Audio Nano iDSD BL and first generation Schiit Audio Modi Multibit, as well as just sold my Denafrips Ares II that I bought maybe six months ago... just didn't like it for some reason due to bad synergy with my tube headAMP... no disparagement at all it was/is a great DAC nonetheless.

    I am running the Zen DAC Signature V2 using the external DC power supply but I honestly can not discern a difference between it and USB bus power which I usually can with other older USB-powered sources. Output is set at "FIXED" and I am using the RCA outputs as my tube headAMP is Single-Ended.

    The Zen DAC Signature V2 takes what I love about the Nano iDSD BL and expands upon it perfectly without losing that relaxing, easy listening, warm sounding, ear friendly sound that I prefer. Nor does it add any unwanted digititus with the improved and expanded resolution and wider soundstage. Regarding low volume performance, which is a critical requirement for me as I listen to music sometimes ten plus hours a day, the Zen DAC Signature V2 performs flawlessly in this regards and sounds just as lively at low volume as when it is cranked up to high heaven.

    I completely concur with the assessment made by @purr1n that the Zen DAC Signature V2 offers a much livelier sounding presentation heard on the Nano iDSD BL... totally more balls and real oomph! I was seriously contemplating to bite the bullet and test drive a Schiit Bifrost 2 (twice the price here due to taxes and import fees) but after hearing and using the iFi Audio Zen DAC Signature V2 in my system I find myself rather content and satisfied now. Chalk it up to my being one of those squirrelly TI Burr Brown fiends!

    Thank you @Noodlz; @señorhifi; and @purr1n for the awesome recommendation and pointing me in the right direction. Beyond pleased to say the least! Cheers.
     
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    Last edited: Feb 8, 2022
  17. señorhifi

    señorhifi Friend

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    I am actually really curious. Here in Spain, the Bifrost 2 would cost me almost 1000€... Can anyone here compare it to the Zen DAC Signature? That would be some great information!
     
  18. EagleWings

    EagleWings Friend

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    Bifrost2 is going to be a step up in almost all areas from the ZDS, but most noticeably in midrange timbre, stage depth, layering and overall realism. ZDS has a bit of digitus in the upper treble, whereas the Bf2 has a bit of a strident character in the lower treble. For synthetic music, the gap may not be that big, as the strengths of the Bifrost2 doesn’t shine there. But put on music with acoustic instruments and you can immediately notice the more convincing/realistic timbre of the Bf2, and is especially more noticeable on speakers.
     
  19. WoodyLuvr

    WoodyLuvr Friend

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    Feel you mate. Over here a NIB Schiit Bifrost 2 costs $1,243.31 and that is if you can find one! I mainly listen to ambient electronic so I have a feeling the Bifrost 2 may not wow me that much. I have learned of a Bifrost 2 not too far from where I live and plan to go and have a listen nonetheless and compare it to my iFi Audio Zen DAC Signature V2.
     
  20. kkl10

    kkl10 Rando

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    Synergy-wise, iFi Zen Can, Magnius or THX One Linear?
     

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