iFi audio ZEN Air DAC - The Official Thread

AMR / iFi audio

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ZEN Air DAC

A breath of fresh Air.​





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USB DAC + headphone amp
Winner of a host of awards since launching in 2019, the ZEN DAC and its V2 successor deliver a performance that competes with DAC/headphone amps at more than twice its price. The ZEN Air DAC redraws the blueprint, offering sound quality that rivals the original ZEN DAC but at an even lower RRP.

Like the ZEN DAC, the ZEN Air DAC includes a high-quality headphone amp capable of driving all manner of headphones and earphones. It can also be used as a DAC/preamp to feed an amp and speakers, or a pair of active speakers, via stereo RCA outputs. It connects to PCs, Macs, smart devices and so on via USB, elevating the sound quality of digital sources to a higher plane.



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Tech highlights
The core DAC technology is the same as the original ZEN DAC, using a Burr-Brown DAC chip that iFi favours for its natural-sounding ‘musicality’ and True Native architecture, combined with custom technology including bespoke XMOS firmware and digital filtering, and iFi’s GMT clock system to tackle jitter. Hi-res PCM is supported to 32-bit/384kHz, alongside DXD, and DSD64, 128 and 256.

Thanks to the Burr-Brown chip’s True Native design, PCM and DSD take separate pathways – this enables both PCM and DSD to remain ‘bit-perfect’ in their native form. MQA is also supported (MQA rendering, like the original ZEN DAC, rather than full MQA decoding as performed by the ZEN DAC V2).

Whilst simplified in comparison to the ZEN DAC V2’s fully balanced topology, the ZEN Air DAC’s analogue stage remains of exceptional quality at the price, with a symmetrical channel layout and audiophile-grade circuit components, including a custom op-amp offering ultra-low noise performance, and low-impedance power supply rails featuring Taiyo Yuden and Murata low-ESR inductors.


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Sonic tailoring and connectivity

The ZEN Air DAC also sports a couple of unique sonic tweaks from iFi.

PowerMatch adjusts the gain of the ZEN DAC Air so it functions at the right level for your headphones. Gain is just a unit of measurement that indicates how loud an audio source is and is measured in decibels (dB).

XBass+ is another user-selectable feature, a sophisticated form of ‘bass boost’. It allows you to tailor the bass to suit your headphones and your personal taste.

Both are designed to improve and personalise your listening experience.

The ZEN Air DAC omits the ZEN DAC’s 4.4mm balanced outputs but otherwise retains the same connections. A 6.3mm headphone output resides at the front, with an asynchronous USB Type B input at the back alongside gold-plated stereo RCA outputs with variable level control. Whether you’re driving a pair of headphones or feeding an amp and speakers, the ZEN Air DAC’s sound quality comes remarkably close to the original ‘v1’ ZEN DAC’s single-ended outputs – at just £99/€99/$99, it delivers an eminently affordable quality boost to digital sound.
 
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AMR / iFi audio

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There is a new driver for Zen DAC Air, called v5.12. Please follow these instructions for a fix if having any issues with the device:
1. Make sure that you have the newest firmware for your Zen DAC Air.
2. Uninstall current drivers on your PC.
3. Install drivers v5.12 or newer (in the future)
4. Restart the computer
 

Ron Resnick

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Hi iFi!

I’m trying to understand what this box does. If I have an iPad loaded with the Qobuz app and I run a wire from the lightning connector on the iPad to an input on the Zen DAC Air, and then I connect the analog outputs of the Zen DAC Air to the analog line-level inputs on my line-stage preamplifier, am I able to play Qobuz off of the iPad but with improved sound quality because the signal is going into your DAC (rather than running through the DAC built into the iPad?
Thank you!
 
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Gregadd

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exactly. So I am not sure where the money goes in ipod. Probably not the dac.
 

AMR / iFi audio

Industry Expert
Aug 21, 2019
1,929
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UK
ifi-audio.com
Hi iFi!

I’m trying to understand what this box does. If I have an iPad loaded with the Qobuz app and I run a wire from the lightning connector on the iPad to an input on the Zen DAC Air, and then I connect the analog outputs of the Zen DAC Air to the analog line-level inputs on my line-stage preamplifier, am I able to play Qobuz off of the iPad but with improved sound quality because the signal is going into your DAC (rather than running through the DAC built into the iPad?
Thank you!
Yes, that is exactly the point of this DAC. It's an external D/A converter it has lower noise, lower distortion, and simply better sound than the ones used in smarphones/PCs etc.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
11,353
6,629
1,365
Beverly Hills, CA
exactly. So I am not sure where the money goes in ipod. Probably not the dac.

Thank you!

You have a great line of innovative products!
 
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Gregadd

WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
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I'll convey that message to Kayo.
 
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