iFi audio ZEN Stream - The Official Thread

AMR / iFi audio

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Streaming elevated to a higher plane

Introducing ZEN Stream: a flexible and affordable Wi-Fi audio transport, equipped to unleash the full potential of every digital music source – from online streaming to local network storage

Southport, England –
From mainstream smart speakers to specialised audio systems, digital streaming – often over a Wi-Fi network – has become the dominant method of listening to music at home. For those who care about sound quality, building a system from dedicated audio components remains the best route to sonic satisfaction – even in the streaming age.

There are various ways in which Wi-Fi streaming can be incorporated into an audio system. Amps with integrated Wi-Fi reception are available, as are dedicated audio streamers, many with onboard DACs – these serve the purpose of a traditional hi-fi source component, such as a CD player. But there are drawbacks – some solutions offer less-than-ideal sound quality, others lock you into a specific streaming platform or ‘walled garden’ system, while some specialised solutions are prohibitively expensive.

Enter the ZEN Stream: the latest addition to iFi’s award-winning ZEN Series of compact and affordable audio devices, designed to deliver flexible, high-quality network streaming to any audio environment.

Described as a ‘Wi-Fi audio transport’, the ZEN Stream acts as a bridge between your Wi-Fi network and your audio system. It connects to a router via Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable, and outputs to an external DAC (or an amp with digital inputs) via USB or S/PDIF. Its open-source architecture makes it flexible and future-proof; its purpose-built hardware and software deliver excellent sound quality; and its price makes it an eminently affordable solution for high-performance network audio streaming.

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Superb sound, no matter how you stream
The ZEN Stream’s hi-res audio credentials are top-notch, supporting PCM up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD up to 11.2MHz (DSD256) over Wi-Fi – highly unusual – as well as over Ethernet cable. There are multiple ways in which the device can interface with your music collection or favourite streaming service, depending on the user’s preference, and thanks to the ZEN Stream’s open-source architecture these will expand over time. Here are some of the options provided at launch:

  • Integrated Tidal Connect and Spotify Connect
    Users of these hugely popular online music services can stream directly from the Tidal and Spotify apps – simple, seamless and effective.
  • DLNA certification
    Any DLNA-compatible streaming app – including iFi’s forthcoming Stream-iFi app – can be used to control the ZEN Stream and access audio content from online services and DLNA-certified network storage devices.
  • AirPlay and Chromecast
    Integrated Airplay and Chromecast ensures easy streaming from Apple and Android devices. AirPlay is included at launch; Chromecast will be added as a free firmware update later this year.
  • Roon compatibility
    The Roon platform has become the standard-bearer for high-quality digital music management and streaming – a great interface, strong flexibility and high-quality sound are all benefits, although Roon-compatible hardware does not tend to come cheap. At launch, the ZEN Stream is compatible with Roon Bridge software, making in suitable for a Roon environment, and full Roon Ready certification is in the pipeline – a tempting proposition given the ZEN Stream’s affordable price point. With the ZEN Stream, you can add Roon compatibility to any DAC on the planet.
  • NAA operation
    The ZEN Stream can operate as an NAA (Network Audio Adapter) in conjunction with Sygnalist HQPlayer software – favoured by many serious music streaming enthusiasts. This means it can direct packets of audio data received over Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable straight to the connected DAC without applying any processing whatsoever.
 

AMR / iFi audio

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iFi delivers hot exclusives
An ingenious part of the ZEN Stream’s design is the ability to select between ‘exclusive modes’ – individual settings that deliver fully optimised performance by focusing operation on one particular mode of use. The following modes are provided:

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All-in-one - This non-specific mode is great for all platforms, audio formats and devices.

DLNA streaming - Select this mode to optimise performance when using the ZEN Stream with DLNA-compatible apps and devices.
NAA streaming - Select this mode when using the ZEN Stream as a Network Audio Adapter in conjunction with Signalyst HQPlayer software.

Roon Bridge streaming - Select this mode when integrating the ZEN Stream into a ROON environment.

Tidal streaming - If you’re a subscriber to Tidal’s Masters Tier and use it exclusively, this is the mode for you.


Built for sonic brilliance
Outwardly, the ZEN Stream is encased in the distinctive dark grey aluminium extrusion that houses every device in iFi’s ZEN Series. Its silver-coloured aluminium faceplate sports two multi-colour LEDs – one to indicate internet/intranet connection and speed; the other to show the incoming audio format and sample rate (these LEDs may be switched off if preferred). There are just two buttons: the power switch and a ‘hotspot’ button, the latter used to join a Wi-Fi network.

While there is no display other than the status LEDs, all information about the music being streamed will be displayed on the control app selected by the user. iFi has taken the decision that it is better to focus on performance and value-for-money, rather than increase cost by incorporating a display that would arguably be superfluous to the end-user.


Around the back, alongside the Wi-Fi antenna, reside an array of sockets and ports. Dual-band Wi-Fi reception supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac for a fast, reliable wireless connection, while a high-grade Gigabit Ethernet port supplies a cabled network option of the highest quality. There’s also a USB-A input, giving the option of playing music from HDD and solid-state storage devices, and a USB-C programming port to upload software/firmware updates (an alternative to OTA updates via Wi-Fi).

Two digital outputs – asynchronous USB and coaxial S/PDIF – provide connection to an external DAC or amp with digital inputs. Both these outputs are regulated by iFi’s femto-precision GMT (Global Master Timing) clock circuitry to eradicate jitter from the digital signal. The USB ports – both input and output – support SuperSpeed USB3.0 and benefit from iFi’s ANC II active noise cancellation to remove distortion from the audio signal. Similarly, the S/PDIF output incorporates iFi’s iPurifier technology.

The ZEN Stream’s circuit design has been painstakingly engineered to deliver superb sound, with processing muscle supplied by a 64-bit, quad-core ARM Cortex microprocessor. This is accompanied by carefully chosen circuit components including discrete, high-grade surface-mounted devices such as TDK C0G multilayer ceramic capacitors and inductors from Taiyo Yuden and Murata.

Regulators with high PSRR (Power Supply Rejection Ratio), low idle current and low dropout voltage are used, together with a synchronous 1.5MHz high-speed power supply controller, further contributing to the ZEN Stream’s pure, distortion-free performance. As befits an audiophile-grade device, the ZEN Stream does not incorporate a noisy fan – instead, iFi has designed low-profile heatsinks to prevent overheating whilst maintaining the unit’s compact size.
 

AMR / iFi audio

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Connection Guide - Our ZEN Stream provides the perfect, easy-to-use entry level solution. For use with your existing gear or to try out with some of ours.

Add the ZEN DAC and ZEN CAN for an affordable, quality system that punches far above its weight.

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Gregadd

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Apr 20, 2010
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So you can stream directly from any source?
 

AMR / iFi audio

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The ZEN Stream - "Exclusive Modes"

An ingenious part of the ZEN Stream’s design is the ability to select between ‘exclusive modes’ – individual settings that deliver fully optimised performance by focusing operation on one particular mode of use. The following modes are provided:

• All-in-one
This non-specific mode is great for all platforms, audio formats and devices.
• DLNA streaming
Select this mode to optimise performance when using the ZEN Stream with DLNA-compatible apps and devices.
• NAA streaming
Select this mode when using the ZEN Stream as a Network Audio Adapter in conjunction with Signalyst HQPlayer software.
• Roon Bridge streaming
Select this mode when integrating the ZEN Stream into a ROON environment.
• Tidal streaming
If you’re a subscriber to Tidal’s Masters Tier and use it exclusively, this is the mode for you.

1625032772608.png
 

Gregadd

WBF Founding Member
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I am happy to report the Zen Streamer arrived today in what appears to be a beautiful cobalt blue. (I think that is black.)
20210728_212806.jpg
 
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sand

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Jul 31, 2021
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I have a setup of Zen Stream, Ifi DAC v2, and hd800s headphones.
Comparing sources Spotify and Tidal, I am amazed at the difference.. Almost everything just sounds so much better from Tidal, even in hifi mode (not even master). Much more detail, more punch. I wonder if it's the Stream or the service. Has anyone else compared, and what did you hear?
 

Gregadd

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iFi Audio zen streamer-setup wi-fi on you tube
You can use the supplied ethernet cable and connect directly to your router. If like me your stereo ls in another room you will need to be wireless
It should be straight forward. If you have issues this video will guide you through.
CAUTION
,DON'T LOSE OR DISCARD THE SUPPLIED LITTLE ORANGE TOOL. YOOU WILL NEED IT.
 
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AMR / iFi audio

Industry Expert
Aug 21, 2019
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ifi-audio.com
I have a setup of Zen Stream, Ifi DAC v2, and hd800s headphones.
Comparing sources Spotify and Tidal, I am amazed at the difference.. Almost everything just sounds so much better from Tidal, even in hifi mode (not even master). Much more detail, more punch. I wonder if it's the Stream or the service. Has anyone else compared, and what did you hear?
This sounds like a great setup! I'm delighted to see it works for you. When it comes to streaming services, since Tidal offers higher resolution than Spotify, it is a better choice for those who pay attention to sound quality. Nonetheless, you require a proper setup in order to uncover the full potential of this streaming service. The Zen Stream makes a difference too. :)
 

Addicted to hifi

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Sep 8, 2020
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I have a setup of Zen Stream, Ifi DAC v2, and hd800s headphones.
Comparing sources Spotify and Tidal, I am amazed at the difference.. Almost everything just sounds so much better from Tidal, even in hifi mode (not even master). Much more detail, more punch. I wonder if it's the Stream or the service. Has anyone else compared, and what did you hear?
Welcome sand and great setup you have there.
 

gryphondiablo

New Member
Aug 27, 2021
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0
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hi guys
Need some advice here for my zen stream. it had been uograded with the Latest firmware on 25th aug.
when i stream Tidal via Tidal connect ( with exclusive mode 3) Zen stream tend to drop signals at times, and the tidal app would hang.
How to rectify this issue? thanks
 

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