iFi audio - Introducing the ZEN DAC Signature V2 and ZEN CAN Signature HFM, Perfectly Balanced As Al

Discussion in 'Product Announcements' started by iFi audio, Aug 23, 2021.

  1. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    https://ifi-audio.com/products/zen-dac-signature-v2/
    https://ifi-audio.com/products/zen-can-signature-hfm/

    Even purer DAC performance.

    The ZEN DAC Signature V2 has been improved to offer an even greater, purer listening experience.

    Just like the original, its sole purpose is to feed an external amp, be it a headphone amp, or an amp and speakers.

    Unlike the original, it has a 16 core XMOS chip instead of 8. This new and improved digital engine is more powerful than ever. We’ve also upgraded the clock circuitry to enhance the purist, audiophile design even further.

    Enjoy music without any distortion or colouration.

    [​IMG]

    Balanced. Blissfully quiet.

    The ZEN DAC Signature V2 incorporates boutique parts and circuitry inspired by the £3,000 iFi Pro range.

    It sports a fully-symmetrical, true differential balanced dual-mono signal stage with direct signal paths to ensure optimal signal purity.

    The new low jitter crystal clock means >20dB better noise reduction. The ZEN DAC Signature V2 will remain quiet wherever it’s used.

    Outstanding components including C0G capacitors from TDK, Panasonic OS-CON and ELNA Slimic II capacitors complete the design.

    [​IMG]

    A ‘Bit’ special…

    The ZEN DAC Signature V2’s digital stage retains its True Native DAC architecture. It delivers Bit-Perfect up to 32-bit/384kHz and native DSD up to DSD256 as well as DXD.

    The iFi-programmed XMOS chip, which processes data received at the USB input, and jitter-eradicating, audiophile-grade oscillators, contribute to exemplary handling of digital audio signals as they are received, processed and converted to analogue form.

    16 core means more…

    MQA an award-winning British technology that delivers the sound of the original master recording.

    Thanks to the processing power of the new 16 core XMOS chip, the ZEN DAC Signature V2 is now a full MQA decoder.

    The ZEN DAC Signature V2 includes MQA technology, which enables you to play back MQA audio files and streams, delivering the sound of the original master recording. The LED glows green or blue to indicate that the unit is decoding and playing an MQA stream or file, and denotes provenance to ensure that the sound is identical to that of the source material. It glows blue to indicate it is playing an MQA Studio file, which has either been approved in the studio by the artist/producer or has been verified by the copyright owner.

    [​IMG]

    Confident connections

    You can trust in accurate, jitter free data transfer from your source device. The USB Type B input is asynchronous, meaning that the data rate is regulated solely by the ZEN DAC Signature V2’s specialised, and now upgraded, audio clock circuitry.

    A pair of RCA sockets provide a single-ended connection to an amp and a Pentaconn 4.4mm output enables balanced signal transfer between compact products that cannot accommodate traditional, bulky XLR connections.

    The full benefit of the ZEN DAC Signature V2’s balanced circuit design can be heard when connected to an amp or active speakers equipped with a balanced input. This can be...

    ...Crucial combo!

    The ZEN DAC Signature V2 works well with both the ZEN CAN Signature 6XX and the new ZEN CAN Signature HFM model.

    These products can be bought separately or as special ZEN Signature Sets, either 6XX or HFM. The sets include a high-performance 4.4mm Pentaconn cable to connect the units together.

    When used together, the two ZEN Signatures make a fantastic, desktop-sized headphone system for both digital and analogue sources, further extending the reputation of iFi’s ZEN Signature Series for delivering exceptional performance and versatility at remarkable prices.

    https://ifi-audio.com/products/zen-can-signature-hfm/

    Your own personal Signature

    Love your HIFIMAN headphones? Then the ZEN CAN Signature HFM analogue headphone amplifier with ActivEQ is for you.

    [​IMG]

    Finely tuned

    The original ZEN CAN, our all-analogue headphone amplifier, had the ability to drive tough headphone loads with a balanced circuit design, vanishingly low levels of distortion and exceptional sonics. The ZEN CAN Signature 6XX pushed this design even further with sonic tailoring specific to the ‘MassDrop x Sennheiser HD 6XX headphone’.

    Now, we’ve finely tuned a brand new ZEN CAN Signature to work with HIFIMANheadphones – the ZEN CAN Signature HFM.

    [​IMG]

    iFi’s ActivEQ

    Our ActivEQ feature combines active and passive components to create a specific EQ curve to suit a particular pair of headphones. This is performed in the analogue domain without adding any additional noise or distortion.

    The ZEN CAN Signature HFM features an ActivEQ finely tuned towards HIFIMAN’s planar headphones.

    HIFIMAN headphones offer remarkable transparency and present wide-open sound staging. The ZEN CAN Signature HFM enhances the texture of the deep bass and injects more immediacy into the upper mid-range.

    [​IMG]

    One EQ. Many models

    Pressing the HFM button on the ZEN CAN Signature HFM calibrates its signal to complement the headphone’s response characteristics right across the frequency range. This then tunes its performance to work with HIFIMAN headphones.

    Excellent results are found with the Sundara, HE-4XX, HE-400S, Edition X, HE-5 headphones to name but a few. Take a look at our HIFIMAN Curve and Compatibility chart.

    As with our previous ZEN CAN Signature model, this feature can be switched on or off. Without ActivEQ engaged, the ZEN CAN Signature HFM’s performance is cleverly balanced to bring out the best in all other headphones and in-ear monitors.

    [​IMG]

    Nothing beats Balanced

    The ZEN CAN Signature HFM’s circuitry is a balanced, symmetrical dual-mono design – a topology usually reserved for high-end headphone amps – with a number of key elements trickled down from the discrete Class A circuitry developed for iFi’s flagship headphone amplifier, the Pro iCAN.

    Key components have been upgraded to enhance performance in line with the improvements made to the ZEN CAN Signature HFM, including the use of Panasonic OS-CON and Elna Silmic II capacitors.

    [​IMG]

    Cracking combo

    The ZEN CAN Signature HFM
    can be combined with the new ZEN DAC Signature V2.

    You can buy each unit separately and a ‘ZEN Signature HFM Set’ is also available. This includes both ZEN Signature units plus a high-performance 4.4mm Pentaconn cable(worth £69 when purchased separately) to connect them together.

    When used together, the two ZEN Signatures make an unbeatable, desktop-sized headphone system for both digital and analogue listening.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Woland

    Woland Friend

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    Is there an MQA-free model? Or an MQA-free firmware?

    Other than that, looks interesting!
     
  3. TamHo

    TamHo Rando

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    Hi Ifi,
    Why does the Ifi's site write "0.85 kg" for the Zen can hfm but only "550 g" in the manual and the tech lowdown?
    And why is there no Crosstalk numbers at the devices ' specs? Tks
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2021
  4. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    Make this happen @iFi audio or make a SBAF version without MQA *wink*wink.
     
  5. spoony

    spoony Spooky

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  6. TamHo

    TamHo Rando

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    $600 for the set but coming with the ipower2 instead of the ipowerX
    Anyone knows why my IpowerX's led lights still shine even after I unplug it out of power sockets? Tks
     
  7. Alcophone

    Alcophone Acquaintance

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    For the ZEN DAC Signature V1, one of the three firmware versions listed for download (after entering a serial number) is 5.2, which doesn't mention MQA at all in the release notes. I think this was added with 5.3 (along with killing the SPDIF out on devices that have one).

    So: Yeah, most likely
     
  8. Alcophone

    Alcophone Acquaintance

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    Capacitors? Not uncommon with power bricks.
     
  9. Woland

    Woland Friend

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    Thanks! That would help.

    The Topping D90 is offered in MQA and MQA free variants. The user experience seems to be that you pay more for MQA and it hobbles your non-MQA music by limiting the DAC to use only a minimum phase filter.

    The D90 without MQA can switch filter, and I would use that functionality over the MQA imposed one. Linear or intermediate filters seem to give better soundstage. It's not a big difference, but I don't see any reason to pay more and get less.

    For a more technical writeup, read Archimago.
     
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  10. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    +1 for a non-MQA version please. I will never buy this if it has MQA.
     
  11. Alcophone

    Alcophone Acquaintance

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    Huh, interesting. I would have expected the filter to only be forced when MQA is actually sent. Otherwise it should behave like a regular PCM DAC.

    Here are some more details about the firmware versions, it's pretty much the same for almost all iFi DACs.
    • Firmware 5.3c – GTO Filter / MQA / DSD256 (Sub-version)
      Release date: September 10, 2018
      All PCM LED colours will be the same colour due to GTO filter. GTO filter which upsamples USB audio. MQA, DSD256 (Windows), DSD128 (Mac), 384kHz. SPDIF output disabled (on USB to SPDIF capable units). No GTO for SPDIF signal. No DSD512. No 768kHz.

    • Firmware 5.3 – MQA / DSD256 (Cookies & Cream)
      Release date: March 27, 2018
      Full MQA major code optimisation
      important.

    • Firmware 5.2 – DSD512 (Limoncello – Subversion 5.2A & 5.2B)
      Release date: May 13, 2016

      Fixed issues surrounding DoP standard; including ‘clicks’ when changing tracks and sonic differences to native DSD.
      Small code optimisations from previous firmwares.
    5.2 supposedly works with all DACs, while 5.2A is for the nano iDSD and micro iDAC2 only, and version 5.2B for the micro iDSD only.

    https://ifi-audio.com/mqa-firmware/ explicitly mentions MQA only for 5.3, but also says "once firmware v5.30 is installed, the correct MQA filter is activated during MQA playback". So I would not expect the filter to be influenced when non-MQA content is played.

    I'm sure @iFi audio can chime in to confirm that certainly with firmware 5.2 you don't have anything to do with MQA.
     
  12. Beefy

    Beefy Almost "Made"

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    There was a thread some posts about it recently from user @GoldenOne. On mobile, so it would be difficult for me to find and link.

    Anyway, from memory, it was the Topping D70 D90 and some other products, including from iFi. They definitely applied the MQA filter no matter what the content, and no matter what filter the user selected. It seemed to be a deliberate choice and a necessity to prevent pops and clicks when switching from MQA to non-MQA content. Newer/better products seem to circumvent the issue in firmware.

    Either way.... I'm in the "if it has MQA, no buy" camp. It provides no tangible benefit, solves no provable problem, and I refuse to give any money to the people behind it.

    EDIT, I went searching, here it is: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?posts/352206/
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2021
  13. Alcophone

    Alcophone Acquaintance

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    Very interesting, thanks for that! I did play some white noise at 44.1 kHz using foobar2000 and ASIO into the iFi ZEN DAC Signature V1 (not the V2 announced in this thread) and recorded the single ended output with a Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 Gen 2 using Adobe Audition, 24 bit, 192 kHz. I prefer using Acon Acoustica, but it somehow refused to work with ASIO today. But I used Acoustica to look at the spectral histogram. I don't see the MQA bumps. I'm using the stock 5.3 firmware. This device does not have a filter switch.

    [​IMG]

    @GoldenOne Any thoughts?

    How much that says about the V2, I'm not sure, since specifically the MQA behavior is said to be improved.
     
  14. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    That's correct!

    We both know that's not possible ;)

    Still, I'll ask about FW without MQA.
     
  15. GoldenOne

    GoldenOne Friend

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    On a lot of products, the MQA filter is forced. This is due to the fact that MQA causes issues with gapless playback and the only way around it is to have the MQA filter permanently enabled regardless of if the incoming content is MQA or not.

    The pic you posted does not look like the MQA filter so that's good.
    Whether the V2 is doing the 'MQA filter for everything' thing or not we'd need to get someone to check.

    On the iDSD diablo the normal firmware would enable the mqa filter when needed and then swap back to the stock filter for PCM so I'd hope the v2 is the same.
    BUT, when on the 'GTO' firmware, the 'GTO' filter (which is actually seemingly identical to one of the MQA renderer filters) was always used.
     
  16. YMO

    YMO Scatologically ribald obsessive

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    DAC itself is $300, @Bloom is selling them if you want to pick one up.
     
  17. Alcophone

    Alcophone Acquaintance

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    Great, thank you for confirming.

    Agreed.

    Ah, so would you say your experience that some iFi products force the MQA filter is limited to the 5.3c firmware with the GTO filter? That would be more like what I would expect from iFi.
     
  18. GoldenOne

    GoldenOne Friend

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    Correct.
    The products themselves do not force the mqa filter. If you are on the 'gto' firmware it does, but that's because it seems the gto filter IS the mqa renderer filter, just re-marketed (ifi even says that they had 'assistance' from mqa in the document explaining gto)
     
  19. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    That's correct, yes.
     
  20. Bloom

    Bloom MOT: Bloom Audio

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    This stack is pretty legit. Impressed with how good they sound. I haven't spent a ton of time with them yet, but my colleague Steve just posted a video review.
     

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