iFi Audio have been introducing new products in 2021 at a rather fast clip and we’re not surprised to see an update to its best-selling ZEN Series of products. The iFi Audio ZEN DAC V2 ($159) will be of great interest to those who use Tidal and want to experience their TIDAL Masters streams in hi-res audio.
The ZEN DAC was already an excellent DAC/Headphone Amp but the iFi Audio ZEN DAC V2 looks like a significant upgrade. It also falls below the new iFi Audio ZEN Signature ($249) lineup which was just released.
This ZEN DAC V2 is the same award-winning hi-res USB DAC/headphone amp as before but with additional decoding power and a cleaner sounding headphone amplifier.
iFi Audio have upgraded its digital engine from an 8 core XMOS chip to a 16 core chip. It’s ultra-capable while still being very affordable.
Compact enough to use as a USB DAC/amp on your work desk and stylish enough to use at home with your favorite active speakers or amp, it delivers a level of specification and performance that makes it an excellent value as well.
The ZEN DAC V2 supports PCM and DXD to 32-bit/384kHz, DSD256 and MQA. DSD remains ‘bit-perfect’ thanks to the True Native Burr-Brown chip design.
With the new 16 core technology, the ZEN DAC V2 is now an MQA Decoder rather than a Renderer.
This 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.
*MQA rendering technology (used in the original ZEN DAC among other iFi products) connects to an MQA Core signal (such as TIDAL) and completes the final unfold of an MQA file. This product will include ‘stream lock’ but is not able to decode an MQA stream or authenticate it.
Power. Drive. Performance.
The iFi Audio ZEN DAC V2 features PowerMatch – switchable gain to perfectly match your headphones.
For IEMs, normally high-sensitivity, leave PowerMatch at its lower setting for hiss-free listening. On/over-ear headphones with relatively low impedance require more power – press PowerMatch to increase the level of drive.
The iFi Audio ZEN DAC 2 also features a balanced headphone output (rare at this price point) and has more than enough power for planar magnetic headphones.
The DAC/Headphone Amplifier has both variable/fixed output settings so you can use it with active loudspeakers or run it directly into an integrated amplifier or preamp as a stand-alone DAC.
For more information: iFi Audio ZEN DAC V2 DAC/Headphone Amplifier (ifi-audio.com)
Where to buy: $159.99 at Amazon