After the success of the Zen line of devices, iFi now wants to offer their qualities at an even lower price point. The new "Zen Air" series includes a D/A converter with integrated headphone amplifier, a Bluetooth DAC, an analog headphone amplifier as well as a phono preamplifier. While the basic design is the same as the standard Zen series, the housings are now made of synthetic polymer instead of aluminum. All new units also have generally simplified circuitry as well as simplified balanced circuit topologies – which is why balanced 4.4mm connectors are no longer included.
2 new D/A converters
The Zen Air DAC follows the Zen DAC V2 by being a D/A converter with headphone amplifier that can also be used as a preamplifier (read our review of the Zen DAC 1 here), albeit with a simplified analog circuitry. It also features the same Burr-Brown DAC chip, as well as the same USB-B input, handles signals up to PCM 32-bit/384kHz and DSD 256, and has an MQA renderer. "PowerMatch" gain switching and the "XBass+" feature are also present in the Zen Air DAC, as are a 6.3mm headphone output and a pair of RCA output jacks on the rear.
For wireless connectivity, the Zen Air Blue joins the new series: a small version of the Zen Blue V2, the newcomer is a D/A converter that receives its signals via Bluetooth. Compared to the Zen Blue V2, the most important downsizing is said to lie in the field of its analog circuitry. Also, the Zen Air Blue only offers analog RCA outputs, and thus loses the option to output the singal digitally via optical or coaxial connectors.
The analog devices
The Zen Air Can is designed as an analog headphone amplifier, based on the Zen Can. The new device is also completely analog and balanced with discrete components, even though the circuitry here is supposed to be simpler. iFi specifies the output power at 1200mW into 32 ohms, and has also given the Zen Air Can "XBass+", "XSpace" and a three-stage gain adjustment. A 6.3mm as well as a 4.4mm headphone output can also be found, the latter of which is not fully balanced, but is supposed to benefit from iFi's "S-Balanced" circuit design, like the 3.5mm input. There are also two pairs of RCA inputs.
Lastly, the new series also includes a phono preamplifier, the Zen Air Phono, which follows the Zen Phono. Just like the latter, the Zen Air Phono offers MM as well as MC equalization – here realized with two gain stages instead of four – and a switchable subsonic filter. The Zen Air Phono's power supply has a filter capacitor to clean the mains, and is also said to be separate from and not affect the rest of the circuitry. Thanks in part to the special OVA2637A operational amplifier, the new phono preamp is said to offer particularly low noise.
The Zen Air DAC and Bluetooth-controlled Zen Air Blue from iFi are said to be available now*, with the Can and Phono Air models to follow in May*. Each of the new Zen Air devices comes with an MSRP of approximately €100* each.
*Availability and prices for Germany.