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Preview: iFi ZEN CAN 3 Headphone Amplifier with xMEMs Support

At $229, the iFi ZEN CAN 3 Headphone Amp is optimized for headphones with xMEMs drivers but will work with what you already have?

iFi ZEN Can 3

If your budget can stretch to $230 for a dedicated headphone amplifier, you might want to consider the new iFi Audio ZEN CAN 3 headphone amplifier. What makes this an interesting entry in the iFi line-up is that it provides xMEMS support and is all analog from input to output. There is no internal DAC but that can be fixed rather quickly by adding the new iFi ZEN Blue 3 that was just introduced.

What Are xMEMS Drivers and Makes the ZEN CAN 3 unique?

xMEMS Montara Plus

xMEMS technology is used in the construction of solid-state, all-silicon micro-sized speakers and is designed to be used in headphones, TWS (True Wireless Stereo) earbuds, and IEMs.

These speakers are voltage-driven, not current-driven like traditional coil-based speakers. 

xMEMS speakers have no phase shift and are close to 150 times faster than regular mechanical drivers. By integrating this technology into the new ZEN CAN 3, listeners can enjoy superior listening quality.

When paired with IEMs featuring the xMEMS micro speakers, the ZEN CAN 3 claims to provide audiophile-level resolution with lightning-fast transient response, near-zero phase shift, and +/-1° part-to-part phase consistency.

Tech Note: iFi first implemented xMEMS support in the previously released iFi Diablo X Portable DAC/Amp.

What Else Does the ZEN CAN 3 Offer?

iFi ZEN Can 3 Front

EQ: The iFi ZEN CAN 3 easily handles music but is built for more. There are 2 new analog EQ modes for Gaming and Movies. Movie mode enhances dialogue clarity, while Game mode makes low-level sound effects. This adds to the ZEN CAN’s other EQ modes. For example, the XBass+ and XSpace options create a more accurate bass response and spacious sound field. 

Power: The new iFi ZEN CAN 3 delivers up to 2,000mW continuous output power and can drive all headphones, earbuds, or IEMs. The ZEN CAN 3 also features 0-18dB adjustable gain, with +6dB steps to match any headphones.

DSP Free: Unlike many similar products, the ZEN CAN 3 is all analog through the entire signal path, there are no digital inputs that require Digital-to-Analog conversion or additional DSP audio processing.

Updated ZEN Design:  The ZEN CAN 3 follows the recent design refresh found with other ZEN 3 series iFi products. Its modern two-tone design stands out among the hi-fi ‘black boxes’ while the revised volume meter and Sunlit Bronze hardware add to a premium look and feel. Finally, the buttons on the front panel are arranged in a smile-like formation which injects character into the ZEN CAN 3.

Additional Components: ZEN CAN 3’s circuitry includes components from Panasonic, TDK, MELF, Texas Instruments, and muRata. The amplification stage boasts iFi/AMR’s own ‘OV’ (Operationsverstärker) series op-amps, outperforming commercial chips that use low-grade copper and inexpensive aluminum bond wire.

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iFi ZEN CAN 3 Internal Circuitry
iFi ZEN CAN 3 Internal Circuitry

General Specifications

  • Analog Inputs
    • 1x Balanced 4.4mm
    • 1 x Single-Ended 3.5 mm
    • 1 x RCA
  • Analog Output
    • 1 x Balanced 4.4 mm
  • Headphone Outputs
    • 1 x Balanced 4.4 mm
    • 1 Single[-Ended 6.35 mm (1/4-inch)
  • Output Power (RMS) 
    • Balanced 2,000mw @ 64 ohms
    • Balanced 1,600mw @ 32 ohms
  • Output Impedance
    • Balanced:  <2 ohms
    • Single Ended:  <1 ohm
  • THD+N
    • Balanced: <0.006%
    • Single Ended: <0.006%
  • SNR 
    • Balanced: >125 dB
    • Single Ended: >122 dB 
  • DNR
    • Balanced: 119dBA @ 0 dBFS
    • Single Ended: 119dBA @ 0 dBFS
  • XMEMS:  >21Vpp (Balanced 4.4 mm, 22 ohms, 11V DC Bias
  • Line Output: N/A
  • Balanced Output: Yes
  • Output Level: 4Vrms(0 dB 200k Ohm load) 
  • Output Impedance:<200 Ohms
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz to 200 kHz (-3dB)
  • Dimensions: 158 x 117 x 35 mm (6.2 x 4.6 x 1.4 inches)
  • Net Weight: 495g (1.09 lbs)
iFi ZEN CAN 3 Rear

Initial Impressions

The iFi ZEN CAN 3 is basic – except for xMEMS support; and it provides an all-analog signal path from input to output – no built-in DAC or DSP features although it does provide analog EQ and Bass settings. 

‘This means that if you have a digital source it will have to have its own DAC with analog output to get the signal to the ZEN CAN 3. On the output end – you have to use wired headphones or IEMs to listen to your music.

The support for xMEMS makes the headphone amplifier unique but until there are a much larger number of IEMs that can actually benefit from that feature — you are rather limited in that regard.

Pricing & Availability 

The iFi ZEN CAN 3 is available to purchase from ifi-audio.com for $229 USD & CAD.

Related Reading

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. ORT

    June 29, 2024 at 2:19 pm

    The iFi Zen series is strikingly different in a good way. The style, while not quite my preferred homage to “Metropolis” is enough so that I am tempted to become an owner of one or maybe even two of these devices.

    Having said that, I would prefer that the balanced in/outputs used XLR connectors as they look cooler. Shallow?

    Damn right I am! 🙂

    Thank you.

    ORT

    • Ian White

      June 29, 2024 at 7:17 pm

      ORT,

      The ZEN series has always been very highly regarded and these look like winners to me. The prices are very low considering the features and performance.

      Sir Ian

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