iFi audio ZEN Stream

Discussion in 'Product Announcements' started by iFi audio, Jun 25, 2021.

  1. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2016
    Likes Received:
    10,291
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    Better than the others by far in what ways exactly?
     
  2. Woland

    Woland Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2021
    Likes Received:
    1,050
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    a friendly land
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2021
  3. Louisiana

    Louisiana Rando

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2020
    Likes Received:
    17
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Location:
    New Orleans
    Because the sound has actually improved with the ifi Stream - a bigger stage and a rich bass.

    I've been playing around with different Raspberries for over a year and tried out pretty much all OS solutions, I even bought the Superstar license from Volumio.
    I couldn't see any difference between the individual devices. I even bought an LPS for the Allo DigiOne signature because it was recommended in various forums.

    My experience with all the "budget" solutions was that there was always a problem somewhere.

    I connect the ifi stream and just enjoy.
    Furthermore, the USB connections are equipped with Active Noice Cancellation 2, the SPDIF connection with an iPurifier, and an ifi XPower power supply unit is also included - if you buy all of these separately, you are probably already at the 400 € that the device costs.


    At the end of the day it's like everything:
    Everyone has to be satisfied themselves, and I am currently very satisfied with the ifi Stream.
    In my opinion, is the best value for your money!
     
  4. Louisiana

    Louisiana Rando

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2020
    Likes Received:
    17
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Location:
    New Orleans
    @Michael Kelly

    If your Mercury Streamer is available, I'll buy it anyway - I'm curious about it :)
    Unfortunately, I haven't had Pi2AES either, I don't like to order in the USA because of customs ...
     
  5. Tachikoma

    Tachikoma Almost "Made"

    Contributor
    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2015
    Likes Received:
    332
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Dumb question perhaps, but is it possible to use this like a soundcard?
     
  6. Michael Kelly

    Michael Kelly MOT: Pi 2 Design

    Friend
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2016
    Likes Received:
    3,574
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Rhode Island, USA
    Home Page:
    Mercury is not out yet. As for customs, that is a sad fact of life. Nothing anyone can do.
     
  7. GoldenOne

    GoldenOne Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2020
    Likes Received:
    826
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    England
    In case anyone might find it useful, I've been told by ifi that there are no plans for the Zen Stream to be given >384khz >DSD256 support.

    I don't know if this is a hardware or software limitation but it is unfortunate.
    The product itself is great though, but I do wish it could have higher output rate support. If it's a linux kernel limitation then they could use Jussi's custom kernel
     
  8. Michael Kelly

    Michael Kelly MOT: Pi 2 Design

    Friend
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2016
    Likes Received:
    3,574
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Rhode Island, USA
    Home Page:

    This makes me want to ask why the higher frame rates are desirable? The files get bigger more pressure on the streaming mechanisms, i.e. wireless, storage etc. Obviously this question is somewhat self-serving because our products are based on the raspberry pi i2S interface which is limited to 192 kHz at this point in time. If it were to change we would have to do something different because AES audio is also limited to 192 kHz.
     
  9. GoldenOne

    GoldenOne Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2020
    Likes Received:
    826
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    England
    HQPlayer basically.

    For normal bitperfect playback 384khz is plenty (DSD512 is sometimes needed but rarely.)
    But for those using HQPlayer, which can have quite a positive impact on many DACs, the higher the rate the better.
     
  10. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2016
    Likes Received:
    1,435
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Toronto, ON, Canada
    Very unfortunate for people who are buying products for entirely useless, BS marketing only, levels of sampling rates.
    Great for iFi that they decided not to venture into this territory. I already like the product,
    Too bad that I sold my BDP-2, I would like to compare it to Zen Stream.

    But it does not give me what I like the most about PI2AES, which is every output conceivable output I may need, SQ which is possible to to improve but at much higher price.
    And what really caught my attention in this thread is @Woland link to his thread on setting up HQPlayer OS on the Pi2AES PI4 board.
     
  11. Alcophone

    Alcophone Acquaintance

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2018
    Likes Received:
    56
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    San Francisco
    Chords M Scaler is supposedly a very good addition to a Chord Dave, but it's expensive and uses an unusual connection in the form of two SPDIF connections (I suppose transferring each channel separately at 384 kHz) and as far as I know relies on the receiving DAC to do some more upsampling, making it even more proprietary.

    With HQPlayer's filters and a Holo Audio DAC with support for 1,536 kHz audio via USB, it may be possible to extend these benefits to people who don't want a DAC that looks like it was designed by an intern.

    It's not necessarily about wanting giant FLAC files, though presumably if the M Scaler does something useful, such a recording would as well. But many DACs internally operate at > 192 kHz already, with built-in filters, so think of > 192 kHz interface support as a way to have more filter flexibility.
     
  12. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2021
    Likes Received:
    1,692
    Trophy Points:
    93
    With regards to Pi2AES, different market.

    On Zen Stream, I don't think the $399 is expensive at all for a product that one simply needs to plug into the wall, a computer, and a DAC.

    The Pi2AES takes a bit more elbow grease to get going. People (in and out of SBAF) have actually paid me (actually my son) to build Pi2AES' - so add that on to the cost. I almost never got to Pi2AES myself because I was scared, too busy, etc. as to how to proceed. The reason I gave it shot was because of members' reports to its sound quality, particularly from the AES outputs. This is why I eventually put one together and in the process wrote my dummies guide here: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...-to-pi2aes-throw-away-your-pc-or-laptop.8878/

    And even then, the Pi2AES doesn't suit all comers. Volumio is janky when it comes to the UI. Moode and others also have their idiosyncrasies. I can deal with Linux all day; but really, I'd rather fart around with Linux when I get paid for it for work. I use Roon with Pi2AES, but I am not sure I will continue to keep it if Qobuz goes kaput. (I dislike Tidal for personal reasons, i.e. MQA and Kanye, so I refuse to give them my money).

    The Zen Stream provides a streaming to external DAC solution for people who do not want to or cannot build and mess with stuff. Native streaming is supported for the Tidal, Spotify, YouTube Music, Qobuz (my family subscribes to three of those). AirPlay and Chromecast are icing on the cake. After all this is taken into account, the cost doesn't seem excessive. (Software is BITCH, way way more than hardware).

    And we know the support is there. iFi is a real company with real support people who use a real ticketing system. iFi isn't Topping, which is more or less a faceless manufacturer in China, with the exception of that dickhead Topping "intern/consultant" John Yang at ASR who shits on Topping's competitors (SMSL, Geshelli, Schiit, etc.)

    As for iFi's advertising: think gamer motherboards. It's tailored more for the HF crowd. It works for me in that I can filter out the extraneous stuff so that at least, it's still informative.

    Put it this way:
    • iFI Zen Stream for my wife and daughter (Apple people)
    • iFi Zen Stream for my son (because he doesn't want to dick with stuff - seriously, he hated putting the pi2AES together even though he was being paid good money)
    • Pi2AES for me (already have two)
     
    • Like Like x 12
    • Epic Epic x 2
    • List
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2021
  13. Woland

    Woland Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2021
    Likes Received:
    1,050
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    a friendly land
    You're thinking HQPlayer NAA software on the Pi - streaming the upsampled data which has been generated elsewhere - right? Sounds sensible.
     
  14. Woland

    Woland Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2021
    Likes Received:
    1,050
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    a friendly land
    Having played around with a few now, I lump streamers beyond the Pi / Zen level with thousand dollar cables and hundred dollar fuses. "Lifestyle pieces" is a kind phrase to make people who have already bought them feel ok.
     
  15. Gazny

    Gazny Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    May 11, 2020
    Likes Received:
    1,361
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    SoCal
    Gonna throw my 2 cents in, ifi did build a carrier board for their Rock Chip SOM. Has some of their tech, but also the software needed to be developed was pretty big(getting the ok from tidal). Not sure if you all know about the tidal streaming api, but ifi did developed software for some aarch64 systems to stream tidal. it was uploaded online a while back and quickly forked. While it did work it no longer does since the release of the project. It makes sense, Tidal is the one trying to protect their IP, im no lawyer or anything but I think they have to due to trademarks.

    Ifi zen streamer isn't just hardware, but also software developed.

    While It isn't for me, it is for some who want the features.

    Personally I am still waiting on a streamer to take over the spot of opticalRendu, I can just hope someone can add a dang sfp cage to their streamer. \/
     
  16. Metro

    Metro Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2016
    Likes Received:
    1,421
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    San Francisco
    Yes, absolutely. I think you may have a misunderstanding of the streamer market.

    The Zen Stream competes against plug and play consumer streamers such as Bluesound Node, Volumio Primo, Sonos, and integrated amps that have built-in streamers. Pi2 Design is such a small operation that I imagine iFi barely knows about it and doesn't regard it as competition. I don't even think of Allo, HiFiBerry, and Pi2AES as being in the mainstream consumer market.
     
  17. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2017
    Likes Received:
    1,180
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Many places.
    Home Page:
    I have to agree with that ;)
     
  18. bol14

    bol14 Rando

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2021
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
    Location:
    Europe
    Hi

    A couple of questions about the Zen Stream.

    I have speakers (with a TI DAC) which I feed using AES or S/PDIF. I have been using a Pi streamer with a WM8804-based HAT and RopieeeXL / MoOde (so MPD) for DLNA playback of network content and internet radio streams. I have had a lot of problems with pop / clicks on track start, change and a few seconds after playback stop probably associated with digital stream starts and stops (this is without any sample rate changes). Testing using a Sony UBP-X800 as a streamer instead improved this to just a click at playback start.

    Question 1: is the Zen Stream with DLNA to S/PDIF completely clean of such pops / clicks (or maybe this depends on the receiving DAC as well)?

    Question 2: does the DLNA renderer have a volume control (like MPD) or does it appear fixed in DLNA controllers?

    Thanks!
     
  19. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

    Staff Member Friend Contributor
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2015
    Likes Received:
    7,301
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    gone
    ^ sorry, i can't answer any of the above. onward with a few final impressions of iFi Zen Stream:

    1. with my demo time coming to a close, using Roon to Zen Stream as a Wifi streamer SPDIF out (Bifrost2 + Yggdrasil A2) has been flawless with no network hiccups. Audio devoid of pops or clicks, nor any interruption of service. Unit runs slightly warm to the touch. the inclusion of the uber clean 5V iFi Power is a great feature.

    2. I won't claim to know what power filtering, kernel/software optimizations iFi put into the volumio distribution but Roon did upgrade the Roon Bridge software a couple weeks back upon release. zero problems.

    3. When comparing the Pi2AES SPDIF out vs. the Zen Stream SPDIF out to the Bifrost2, I slightly preferred the Zen Stream.
    the presentation changed slightly to something a bit wider and a bit more precise around the edges of strings, cymbals, etc.
    maybe it's the Zen cleaner power or internal filtering? For folks who consider Unison USB a bit too much on Bifrost2, certainly a Zen Stream or Pi2AES SPDIF is worthy of consideration.

    BTW, love the Roon Group feature to send the same audio output to both streamers so:

    4. When comparing the Pi2AES AES out vs. Zen Stream SPDIF into Yggdrasil A2, here it gets harder to hear deltas.
    can't discern much difference, could be track dependent or placebo. certainly no obvious presentation changes.
    maybe the input guts of the Yggdrasil A2 are more consistent with Adapticlock or something.

    TL;DR
    For folks wanting a supremely easy set-up for ethernet / wifi streamer, with SPDIF output to a quality DAC look no further than iFi Zen Stream, especially if you don't want to fiddle with a rPi build.
    For those needing AES/I2S outputs from a streamer, these features are not in Zen Stream so best to keep a solid rPi + Pi2AES rig for higher end DACs with those inputs.

    quality choices these days = a good thing!

    thanks as always to @iFi audio for the demo!
     
    • Like Like x 10
    • Epic Epic x 1
    • List
  20. Michael Kelly

    Michael Kelly MOT: Pi 2 Design

    Friend
    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2016
    Likes Received:
    3,574
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Rhode Island, USA
    Home Page:
    Thanks for the kind words for our PI2AES!
     

Share This Page