Our product arrived in a simple-looking cardboard box featuring an image of it in front. You will also see its name and the company branding on display.
Inside, the Zen One Signature DAC is set on the left, while all accessories are on the right. There is a little box inside, which stores an RCA cable and the power adapter. You also receive a wireless antenna which you can attach to the product after.
As always with the company, their packaging is made from recyclable materials. Going for this way of packing products is a considerate move from the company, which we greatly appreciate.
ifi Zen One Signature DAC Review – Design and Functionality
Is the design of this product good, or is it nothing to bother? How about its functions? Are these efficient enough to get the job done?
Let us continue this ifi Zen One Signature DAC Review and find out.
Generally, the product is a DAC or digital analogue converter. Unlike other teardrop-shaped Zen products from ifi Audio, this DAC does not feature headphone amps or volume controls.
The Zen One Signature DAC can take digital signals from your Mac, PC, TV, Smartphone, or gaming console. It decodes the signal into a line-level analogue stereo signal, allowing other devices to amplify it into music. This product also works this way with gaming/video audio.
ifi Audio ZEN One Signature retains the classic looks and shape of Zen Blue. However, its new colour scheme makes the DAC look more professional and premium.
It is no surprise that the Signature line of products always comes in darker colours. However, we have no complaints because everything appears slick and cool.
The first moment you see the product, you get the impression that this is just a home audio device. In front, an LED on the right indicates the sample rate. On the left, alongside the power button, is a source-switching button.
At the centre of the product is the company logo, which lights up when you switch it on. The BT pairing button also serves as an LED on/off. It is on the far right section of the Zen One Signature DAC.
While writing our ifi Zen One Signature DAC Review, we noticed how the product felt rigid. Everything felt durable and solid, from the silicone stoppers to the outputs.
Given that it is a home device, nothing will cause concern regarding long-term durability. It is solid, smooth, and comforting. This Signature device also has better buttons that feel tighter and more rigid without wobbling.
You have likely noticed that the ZEN One Signature DAC has a small white antenna protruding from its rear. This feature allows the product to receive a stable incoming Bluetooth signal and connect to your Bluetooth source.
If you look at the front and back of the ZEN One Signature, you will notice its digital inputs. Other DACs do not feature these, and what is nice is these are selectable via the front panel push button.
The ZEN One Signature includes a USB-C type B input that connects to the XMOS system.
Aside from that, it has an optical and SPDIF input which is selectable via the front panel selector. As for Bluetooth, the ZEN One Signature DAC has three digital connectors available.
The Zen One Signature DAC has two outputs. One is a set of RCA 2V single-ended analogue outputs, and the other is a 4V 4.4mm-balanced analogue output. You can simultaneously use both while running two amplifiers from the Zen One.
Also, note that both have fixed inputs and no volume/gain control available.
Key Features of the ifi Zen One Signature DAC
Let us continue this ifi Zen One Signature DAC Review and check the product features. What makes it worth considering? Let us find out.
Home Hub DAC
Zen One Signature DAC is the first Zen DAC that supports all hi-res audio: PCM384, DSD256, MQA384kHz, and Bluetooth 96KHz. Its design has no headphone amp or volume control to offer sound, making it the ultimate DAC for all your audio sources at home.
This DAC uses the next-generation HD Bluetooth technology to ensure the best sound from all sources. It supports extensive high-definition codecs, including aptX Adaptive, aptX HD, HWA/LHDC, and LDAC. The product has a high-gain antenna to deliver an extended Bluetooth range.
Transforms and Refines Your Home Music
The Zen One Signature DAC offers True Native Hi-Res DAC, which supports 32-bit/384kHz PCM and fully native DSD. Its 16-core XMOS processor allows it to perform MQA decoding up to 384kHz. It has an upgraded GMT Femto-precision clock and a custom digital filter to eliminate distortion and jitter.
This DAC also has coaxial S/PDIF digital outputs supporting 24-bit/192kHz PCM.
The Zen series is known for its balanced circuitry, and the Zen One Signature DAC continues this legacy. It has an ideal circuit design with Signature-grade circuit components to deliver unparalleled sonic purity with minimal distortion.
This product also has 4mm Balanced and RCA single-ended analogue outputs. You can connect the DAC to an integrated amp, preamp, headphone amp or active speakers.
Burr-Brown True Native chipset
ifi has always used the Burr Brown DAC chips in its digital devices due to the natural musicality they deliver. However, the company utilised the Burr-Brown True Native Multibit integrated circuit for the new Zen One Signature DAC.
This new chipset keeps file formats unchanged and Bit-Perfect, allowing you to listen to music with its original arrangement.
The Zen One Signature DAC uses the new Qualcomm QCC5100 Bluetooth processing IC with proprietary circuits. As a result, this DAC can create an audibly superior Bluetooth engine. Its aptX Adaptive and aptX HD codecs support up to 48kHz, while LHDC and LDAC reach 96kHz.
This Bluetooth engine of ifi can also have over-the-air updates and may support more codecs.
MQA (Master Quality Authenticated)
The award-winning MQA is a British technology that delivers the sound of the master recording. You can enjoy decoded master-level audio since the Zen One Signature DAC has this feature.
Complex and Costly but Outstanding Vishay MELF Resistors
The metal electrode leadless face resistors have outstanding stability, reliability, and accuracy. These offer optimal power rating and pulse load capability with the lowest distortion and noise.
TDK C0G (Class 1 cEramic) Capacitors
The TDK C0G (Class 1 ceramic) capacitors can provide excellent stability and low losses for resonant circuit applications. It reduces distortion induced by capacitors to make your audio closer to its purest quality.
Panasonic OS-CON Caps
Panasonic OS-CON caps have 5410uF, allowing them to provide very-low Equivalent Series Resistance or ESR. It also has frequency response features and excellent noise reduction capabilities because of the solid electrolyte.
GMT Femto-precision clock
The Zen One Signature has extensive jitter-reduction technologies like the intelligent memory buffer and GMT Femto-precision clock. This crystal clock receives updates to provide better performance by over 20 dB.
This DAC uses the Murata capacitors, which are high-Q multi-layer control-type capacitors. They have an ESR control technology that suppresses noise impressively.
Another essential part of our ifi Zen One Signature DAC Review is the specifications. In this section, we will provide details to help determine if you should consider this product.
The Zen One Signature DAC has DC 5V (centre pin+ve) power and uses Bluetooth 5.1. ifi also integrated a Bit-Perfect DSD + DXD DAC, plus the Qualcomm QCC 5100 Series.
Aside from wireless connections, this product has coaxial, audio RCA L / R, and 4.4mm balanced line-out analogue outputs.
This product has a 5Hz to 80kHz frequency response and 4V/2V max (BAL/UnBAL) outputs. Its output impedance is 72Ω/36Ω (BAL/UnBAL) or lower. Plus, it has a -105dB(A) @ 0dBFS SNR and less than 0.002% @ 0dBFS THD+N.
The power it consumes without signal is ~0.7W, while on max, it consumes ~1.0W. Lastly, the Zen One Signature DAC measures 158 x 100 x 35mm and weighs 485g.
We also appreciate the company for giving the product a 12-month warranty for convenience.
Hands-on with the ifi Zen One Signature DAC
The iFi Audio ZEN One Signature offered an excellent background, good resolution, and clarity. It had a very neutral and linear response with good transparency in the mids and treble.
It has excellent separation, resolution, good dynamics and energy.
The unit sounded clean, with spacious staging and good mid-treble balance. It was clean, a little bright, and mid-forward. Except for the mid-range boost, the sound generally had a linear response.
The resolution and transparency were impressive. Every product we tried or tested from iFi Audio excelled in these two areas.
The bass was not huge and overpowering but was easily trackable and well-controlled.
The mid-bass section was more pronounced than the sub-bass section, and we believe the lows separated smoothly from the mids. In that regard, there is good separation.
The treble was well-controlled and articulated, plus its extension was also good. Its staging performance was a little narrow but good, and the stereo imaging was excellent for this price point.
We used the DAC wirelessly to test its connectivity. To our surprise, its long-range performance was excellent when keeping the transmission in a straight visible line.
Transmitting a solid LDAC signal from the Zen One Signature DAC to a mobile phone was possible. The connection remained stable even with the mobile phone at the opposite end of our home.
We tested having a distance of over 40 feet between the audio source and the DAC. Its signal was stable enough to transmit music without skips, and the audio quality was good.
ifi Zen One Signature DAC Review Summary
The Zen One Signature DAC is an excellent home audio device. It delivers colourless and flat yet detail-oriented audio while retaining energy and dynamics. Plus, it offers good resolution and separation, allowing you to enhance its neutral sound with other gear.
This product delivered excellent performance when we tested it for our ifi Zen One Signature DAC Review. It did not add any unique enhancements to the sound, which we liked. This DAC allowed us to hear the master quality of various music.
The Zen One Signature DAC is one of the best audio solutions from ifi. Its competitive price and clean output make it an excellent option, and its neutral sound allows for customisation. This product has all the essential features of a modern DAC, including comprehensive inputs and seamless wireless connectivity.