We got the chance to try this product for our Ifi Zen CAN Signature HFM Review. And we were glad it arrived on time.
It shipped in a standard cardboard box sporting a mostly-grey theme. In front of the package is an image of the product with its name and company branding. The rear displays extra information about the product.
Inside, the Zen CAN Signature HFM ships with other inclusions. These are the RCA to RCA cables, a power supply, a quick start guide, and a warranty card.
Ifi Zen CAN Signature HFM Review – Design and Functionality
To begin our Ifi Zen CAN Signature HFM Review, we will focus on its design and functions.
The design of this Zen Signature line is the same as the regular Zen Series. However, Zen Signature features a dark blue and black colour scheme that looks fantastic and premium.
For those who are unfamiliar, the series is a collection of somewhat portable products. Plus, these products feature a pagoda shape once stacked, and their chassis consists of aluminium, making it extremely durable.
The features remain the same: three gain settings (6dB, 12dB, and 18dB) and the HFM button. There are Xspace enhancements and a 4.4mm balanced option for your headphones.
Behind the amp are 3.5mm and 4.4mm inputs. Plus, a balanced 4.4mm output for use with external speakers.
Let us continue our Ifi Zen CAN Signature HFM Review and focus on the product features. These elements will tell you what makes the Zen CAN Signature HFM a product to consider.
Key Features of the Ifi Zen CAN Signature HFM
We will share a list of features to give you insights into why it is a product worth considering.
Enjoy All the Gain You Can Get
The Zen CAN Signature HFM features four gain settings in 6dB steps: 0, 6, 12, and 18 dB. Ifi calls this the PowerMatch. This feature allows the product to work suitably with the connected headphones.
0dB or unity gain helps guarantee low noise plus sensitive in-ear monitors. It is while higher gain settings handle the heavier headphone loads to provide outstanding dynamic headroom.
This feature compensates for the in-head localisation effect that happens when using headphones for music listening. It is essential when the audio you listen to is speaker mixed.
It expands the soundstage to provide a better speaker-like experience that is wide and spacious.
ActiveEQ combines active and passive components to form an EQ curve that suits a specific headphone model. It works in the analogue domain without adding noise or distortion.
In the Zen CAN Signature HFM, Ifi tuned this feature for the planar headphones of HIFIMAN. ActiveEQ enhances the texture of the deep bass and increases the immediacy into the upper mid-range.
One EQ for Different Models
The HFM button calibrates the signal to match the response characteristics of the headphones across the frequency range. It will tune the performance of the Zen CAN Signature HFM to work perfectly with HIFIMAN headphones.
Users have seen excellent performance when using the amp with the HE-5, HE-4XX, HE-400S, and Edition X headphones.
Unparalleled Balance of the Ifi Zen CAN Signature HFM
The Zen CAN Signature HFM has a balanced audio circuit with a symmetrical dual-mono design. You can often find this arrangement in high-end headphone amps.
This dual-mono product has a gold-plated 4.4mm balanced connection. It also has upgraded components to boost performance along with the improvements made to the product. These enhancements include the use of Silmic II capacitors and Panasonic OS-CON.
With premium engineering, the Zen CAN Signature HFM lowers the noise floor to whisper-quiet levels.
Drives Headphones with Impressive Detail and Dynamics with the Ifi Zen CAN Signature HFM
This product provides superior drive capability and delivers 1600mW (7.2V) into 32 ohms from the single-ended output. It also has 15V+ available for loads of 600 Ohms or more via the Balanced output.
The Zen CAN Signature HFM continues the legacy of its predecessors and delivers rich detail, ultra-low distortion and engaging dynamics. It can drive headphones without difficulty, and we will discuss this later in our Ifi Zen CAN Signature HFM Review.
Multiple Output Options to Keep You Connected
This amp provides you with 3.5mm and stereo RCA single-ended inputs. It also has a 4.4mm Balanced input and output, allowing you to connect to power amps with Balanced input.
Additionally, the Zen CAN Signature HFM has a pair of headphone outputs. One is a 4.4mm balanced output for a balanced connection. The other is a 6.3mm output for headphones with a standard single-ended connector, which is compatible with all headphones.
More high-quality headphones and in-ear monitors come equipped or have detachable cables that can use a 4.4mm balanced connector. These products can make the most of the Zen CAN Signature HFM, which is ideal for high-impedance headphones.
Combining the Ifi Zen CAN Signature HFM with other Zen Signature Products
You can use the Zen CAN Signature HFM with the Zen DAC Signature V2, which you can purchase separately. These Zen Signature units make an excellent desktop-sized headphone system for analogue and digital listening.
Custom Helix Cable Construction
The 4.4mm to 4.4mm cable has a custom helix design provided by minZ. It has a minimised inductance and capacitance to protect this from EMI and RFI noise.
Panasonic OS-CON Caps
The Zen CAN Signature HFM uses Panasonic OS-CON caps with 5410uF to keep a low ESR or Equivalent Series Resistance. These caps also reduce noise excellently while providing outstanding frequency response characteristics. With the solid electrolyte, OS-CONs have a long lifespan, and the ESR makes minimal changes, even at low temperatures.
TDK C0G (Class 1 ceramic) Capacitors
The DK C0G (Class 1 ceramic) capacitors provide superior stability and low losses for resonant circuit applications. It reduces capacitor-induced distortion to the lowest possible levels to achieve pure, frequency-constant capacitance.
ELNA Japan Silmic II Capacitors for Power Supplies
ELNA Japan Silmic II Capacitors use silk fibre and Manila hemp combined as electrolytic paper materials. These provide sufficient dielectric to the aluminium electrolytic capacitor to produce high-grade music. As a result, the Zen CAN Signature HFM delivers unrivalled acoustic properties and linearity.
This part of our Ifi Zen CAN Signature HFM Review discusses the product specifications. We will help you determine if this product is ideal for your needs.
Let us start with its inputs: the RCA, a headphone jack, gain, and THD+N (A-weighting). Then for its output impedance, there is BAL of over 2 Ohms and SE of over 1 Ohm. Additionally, it has a balanced line-out of 200 Ohms.
The product SNR is 122dB (BAL) and -122dB (BAL) for its dynamic range. And then, 10 Hz to 200 kHz is the range of its Frequency response (-3dB) and 0.01% for IMD.
Power-wise, the amp has a max output for the following Ohms:
16 Ohms – 3.0V/600mW (BAL) 4.0V/1000mW (SE)
300 Ohms – 5.1V/756mW (BAL), 7.6V/196 mW (SE)
600 Ohms – 15.2V/385mW (BAL), 7.6V/98mW (SE)
Its power consumption is 13W/2.6A, and the product measures 160 x 117 x 35mm. It also weighs 0.85g.
Hands-on with the Ifi Zen CAN Signature HFM
We used a range of HIFIMAN headphones for our testing including the Edition XS, Sundara, and Arya.
The Zen CAN Signature HFM gave a clean delivery and presentation. It also offered ideal resolution, clarity, and background. During our tests, the product had neutral and linear responses, plus excellent transparency in treble and mids.
In terms of treble and mids, it sounded clean, with good balance and spacious staging. It was also crisp, with slight brightness plus mid-forward.
Delivery-wise, it was smooth and neutral with detail that was a step higher than the other Zen lineup. It is also versatile, allowing it to adapt to various impedances.
The Zen CAN Signature HFM traded the bassy, aggressive, and enjoyable output of the original ZEN CAN. Instead, it has a more neutral sound with added detail. We found that it gave us a more accurate and balanced delivery. We noticed a clear upgrade on its soundstage, even without us switching on XSpace. The original ZEN CAN has a 3D feature; however, the HFM variant has a similar feature called XSpace. The XSpace expands the space around an element within a recording and enhances depth perception.
When the tone switch is not engaged, the standard warm sound signature and high-dynamic range remain. It also includes low distortion characteristics and neutral frequency response, which remains balanced and flat.
The HFM feature boosts the bottom bass on the HIFIMAN Sundara and has enough power to run the HIFIMAN Aryas. This combination is ideal when listening to audio at moderate volumes. Doing so at high volume will make the bass response suffer. The HFM feature adds an extra bottom-end kick, which is nice. However, it is not a necessary element, particularly with the headphones.
Simply put, the feature brings out the best and enhances these cans. Plus, it works by adding separation between elements in recordings.
Ifi Zen CAN Signature HFM Review Summary
Audiophiles often enjoy finding the perfect components and equipment to make the most of their headphones. The Zen CAN Signature HFM from Ifi is an excellent solution that delivers impressive synergy. Although simple, it is ideal for those who lack the time and finances for a complex and expensive audio setup.
The Zen CAN Signature HFM delivers fantastic audio quality and dynamics. It is best for those who want to improve the sound of a DAC or listen to music in headphones. This product also works with speakers and an amplifier.
We tested the product for our Ifi Zen CAN Signature HFM Review, and the amp performed excellently. It effectively enhanced the audio of different headsets, which impressed us.
Also, you do not need to use HIFIMAN headphones to enjoy the superior performance of this amp. Although Ifi tuned it for HIFIMAN headphones, the Zen CAN Signature HFM delivers its warm Ifi sound.
This product effectively enhances audio, no matter what headphones you use. It makes music rich and detailed while keeping it neutral and balanced.
Aside from having excellent audio quality, the Zen CAN Signature HFM is well-built. It has a solid all-metal body that makes it feel durable enough to last for years. Plus, its dark colour makes it visually appealing, and it is easy to blend with other equipment.
Overall, we were satisfied with the Zen CAN Signature HFM, and we highly recommend this product. It is ideal for those who want to enhance the background and detail of headphone audio.