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iFi have released a new "network attached end point" type device:

https://ifi-audio.com/products/zen-stream/

https://darko.audio/2021/06/ifis-zen-str...n-for-399/


I am in two minds about this one.

To be positive, it has a very good selection of features and streaming modes.  In addition, it has S/PDIF output.  Opinions vary on this one, but I am of the view that the AES/EBU and RCA S/PDIF inputs on the Devialet sound a touch better than USB, but ultimately this depends on the quality and performance of the device that are connecting of course.

When in negative mode, very high quality S/PDIF is difficult to do.  With S/PDIF, the source is in control of the audio clock, not the receiving device.  So just how good is the iFi, mindful that it is a fairly reasonable price?  (£399 in the UK)  I note that it has iFi's "Femto-precision Global Master Timing clock" to eradicate jitter, but I have no idea just how good this is in ultimate terms.

Something to keep an eye on, in terms of reviews or if anyone actually tries one with a Devialet or similar.

(and maybe the similarly functioning Pi2AES is better?  Or maybe not?)
Review and measurements for the ZEN Stream.

Excellent performance, which is quite impressive when you consider that this is a relatively low cost product.

https://goldensound.audio/2021/07/22/ifi...surements/
last week I decided that I would take a punt on the iFi Zen Stream.

First impressions are good. It is far from a luxury hifi item, but considering it's price point it seem to be very solidly built, it is quite heavy for a small device, and it actually looks and feels a lot nicer than it looks in photographs. It also runs "slightly warm", which is a nice change from stuff like the microRendu that I used to have that would almost burn your fingers if you touched it.

It is by far the simplest NAA type device that I have used with HQPlayer, I connected it up, loaded HQPlayer on my PC, I could see the iFi in the HQPlayer settings, selected the iFi, hit play, got music.  No additional software needed on the PC, no messing about with IP addresses or similar, it just worked.

I spent some time at the weekend comparing it with my SOtM sMS-200ultra and tX-USBultra. This was interesting.  Both devices were feeding my Mutec MC3+USB, the SOtM kit via USB, the iFi by S/PDIF.  What surprised me was just how similar the two sounded, I had great difficulty discerning any difference between the two. It look a few seconds to swap between the two, a case of changing the input settings on the Mutec and the device settings in HQPlayer. With much swapping between the two, there were times I felt that the iFi was a little better, maybe a touch better sound stage, a bit better bass definition. There were other times when maybe I though the SOtM kit was better, a fractionally better mid range.  But to be honest, the margins of difference were small, and with much switching one way or the other I started to wonder if they did actually sound pretty much identical and that any perceived differences were imagined.

I started with a simple plan, try the iFi, if I did not like it, send it back. If I preferred the iFi to the SOtM kit, then the SOtM kit could be sold.

I am now not sure what to do, so in the short term I will keep both, try a few things, then make up my mind. I have a few ideas of things that I want to try and I would rather take my time rather than rush things and maybe make the wrong decision. If nothing else, I'd like to run the iFi for more long term listening in my system and see how I get on with it, rather than messing about with A/B testing.

I have to say that I am very impressed with the iFi, it seems to work perfectly (in my set up at least), and it sounds great.

I am also beginning to suspect that it does actually sound a fraction better than the SOtM kit, and when you consider that the iFi is a fraction of the cost of the SOtM kit, that is rather impressive.

When trying a few things at the weekend, I wondered if would work connected directly to the Devialet via S/PDIF and running DSD64. I gave this a quick try, and it does indeed work. This was just a quick try to check it worked though, I haven't spend any time listening to it in this configuration yet.
Looking forward to more feedback on this unit.  Upsampling to 24/192 and 24/176 via Roon is not without issues via Ethernet on my Devialet 120.  I have the Sonore MicroRendu, but wonder if the Ifi Zen would be a step up?

Please keep sharing. Thanks
@ismarketing - Worry not, I will keep this thread updated. Also @ogs expressed an interest in another thread, and I need to keep him happy.

I can provide an interim update. I mentioned in the 4th August post above just how I was surprised at just how similar the Zen Stream sounded to my sMS-200Ultra / tX-USBultra when feeding my MC3+USB. Which is interesting considering both the price difference between the two and the fact that one is feeding the MC3+USB via S/PDIF, and the other via USB.

I have now been able to spend some time with the ZEN Stream.

As a quick and simple A/B comparison between the iFi and SOtM kit was a little inconclusive, I decided to simply listen to one for a few days, then swap to the other, just to see if I noticed anything when casually listening and not consciously trying to notice anything. (if that makes sense)

This seemed to work. What I found is that in general, I enjoyed listening to pretty much everything when the iFi was feeding the MC3+USB. Much the same with the SOtM kit in play, except every now and again there might be something that was a little irritating or niggly in the sound. Revisiting the subject tracks with an A/B test, and I think yes, I do prefer the iFi - those occasional niggly sections of music do sound a little cleaner and little "fuller" with the iFi, so less irritating.

We are talking very fine margins here, but I have finally decided that with my ears and system, I prefer listening with the iFi in play.

All of the above is with the very specific use case of feeding a Mutec MC3+USB. This is important to me, but I guess of little interest to anyone else. Later this month I plan to try a few other things with the iFi. I was thinking of doing a direct comparison of the iFi feeding the Devialet direct via S/PDIF, in comparison to the SOtM / Mutec MC3+USB / REF10. I am thinking that I could set up both as Roon Zones, then I could run them simultaneously and compare each by a flick of the remote. I could even add RAAT streaming to the Devialet CI board into this mix, although I think CI board RAAT will always need to be played first as it will lose connection when the Devialet inputs are changed. (not sure about this, but I will find out when I try it)

I am not sure what the above will tell me, but I am interested to try and see what might be observed from the experiment. This is reasonably easy for me to do with my current set-up, so why not? Note that I am currently using the iFi in HQPlayer mode, I have not tried it with RAAT yet, but what I can say is that in HQPlayer mode the iFi has been absolutely 100% stable, not one drop out or issue, it just works. Even if you turn everything off then back on again, the iFi is there, connected, talking to HQPlayer and ready to go, zero hassle. Will this be the same with RAAT? Time will tell.

There are some other things I also want to try, for example the Zen Stream via it's USB output, these are on the to do list.

I shall update this thread as I when I get the time (and a quiet house) to try this stuff.

Meanwhile, I am very much enjoying just listening with the iFi in the chain, a good little product.
@Confused - Have you tried comparing the two, but this time, make sure you disconnect the unused input from the Mutec? e.g. you are using SPDIF from the iFi, so while testing the iFi, make sure the USB input from the SOTM is physically disconnected from the Mutec? And vice-versa when listening to the SOTM.

IMO a lot of the sound character comes from the cables you have physically connected to your devices, forming a network of ground and noise paths. So to get a more accurate comparison you'd have to disconnect the unused inputs or cables.

In addition it would also be interesting to compare the WiFi vs Ethernet input on the iFi. WiFi testing with the Ethernet cable physically disconnected. My personal preference is usually WiFi since it avoids another cable for the noise to travel through.
(06-Sep-2021, 20:35)What great, detailed information. Thank you. I’m specifically interested in a simple set up. Specifically the coaxial out of the Zen into the coaxial input of the Devialet with nothing in between. If you can check that and comment, that would be great.   Thank you. Wrote: [ -> ]@Confused - Have you tried comparing the two, but this time, make sure you disconnect the unused input from the Mutec? e.g. you are using SPDIF from the iFi, so while testing the iFi, make sure the USB input from the SOTM is physically disconnected from the Mutec? And vice-versa when listening to the SOTM.

IMO a lot of the sound character comes from the cables you have physically connected to your devices, forming a network of ground and noise paths. So to get a more accurate comparison you'd have to disconnect the unused inputs or cables.

In addition it would also be interesting to compare the WiFi vs Ethernet input on the iFi. WiFi testing with the Ethernet cable physically disconnected. My personal preference is usually WiFi since it avoids another cable for the noise to travel through.


[quote pid="103339" dateline="1630956944"]
@Confused - Have you tried comparing the two, but this time, make sure you disconnect the unused input from the Mutec? e.g. you are using SPDIF from the iFi, so while testing the iFi, make sure the USB input from the SOTM is physically disconnected from the Mutec? And vice-versa when listening to the SOTM.

IMO a lot of the sound character comes from the cables you have physically connected to your devices, forming a network of ground and noise paths. So to get a more accurate comparison you'd have to disconnect the unused inputs or cables.

In addition it would also be interesting to compare the WiFi vs Ethernet input on the iFi. WiFi testing with the Ethernet cable physically disconnected. My personal preference is usually WiFi since it avoids another cable for the noise to travel through.
[/quote]
@Confused The iFi has the iPurifier for SPDIF built-in. Might this be an improved version of the original circuit? (Stream has more internal space so this is possible) ...so far I'm very happy!
(06-Sep-2021, 20:35)hardcore Wrote: [ -> ]@Confused - Have you tried comparing the two, but this time, make sure you disconnect the unused input from the Mutec? e.g. you are using SPDIF from the iFi, so while testing the iFi, make sure the USB input from the SOTM is physically disconnected from the Mutec? And vice-versa when listening to the SOTM.

IMO a lot of the sound character comes from the cables you have physically connected to your devices, forming a network of ground and noise paths. So to get a more accurate comparison you'd have to disconnect the unused inputs or cables.

In addition it would also be interesting to compare the WiFi vs Ethernet input on the iFi. WiFi testing with the Ethernet cable physically disconnected. My personal preference is usually WiFi since it avoids another cable for the noise to travel through.

Regarding your first point, the simple answer is no, when comparing the iFi and SOtM kit both have been permanently connected to the Mutec MC3+USB. Of course, when I am trying rapid A/B comparisons, this is how things need to be, it would take far to long to swap cables between listens. Although when I am long term listening to one device or the other it would be simple enough to disconnect anything that is not in use.

One point I would make is that I cannot say that I have noticed much difference listening with the SOtM kit with the iFi still connected, versus the past when I did not even have the iFi. Then again, I have never listened to the iFi with the SOtM's USB not connected to the Mutec. So you point is well received. This is one of those things that is easy and cost free to try, and I am always willing to try anything if it is easy and cost free!

With respect to trying the iFi via WiFi, this is something that I had thought about trying, it is on my "to do" list. Currently I have an EtherRegen plus some DX Engineering ISO-Plus Ethernet RF filters. For the record, when trying A/B comparisons between the iFi and SOtM kit, I have simply left the EtherRegen etc. out of the chain and connected both devices direct to a conventional switch, this is in the interests of a fair and like for like comparison. I tend to reinstate the EtherRegen and the filters when long term listening to one device or the other, which I guess is a similar approach to you idea of removing the "unused" connections as appropriate.

But yes, the prospect of using the iFi by WiFi is an interesting one, and something I certainly plan to try.

@ogs - I am a little confused regarding exactly what the Zen Stream includes with respect to the iPurifier. iFi's Website states that the S/PDIF output includes the iPurifier, plus some press releases mention the iPurifier 3. (which is a USB device) So I think the USB has the iPurifier 3 innards, and I guess the S/PDIF has the iPurifier 2 innards, but I am not 100% sure on this point.
Basically, I'm a little confused Smile with so much talk on the forum about external streamers.

What you don't like about internal streamer - e.g. UPnP and/or Roon?
Why do you need external streamer?

The point of Devialet architecture should be usage as all-in-one device, with one unique clock for all parts of the system, the shortest signal path, minimum possible jitter, etc...

Of course - I'm talking about current Devialet Expert generation - Pro with CI.

I don't see what cheap external solutions could bring (I've tried some, of course) and higher class streamers are far from cheap and it's questionable whether it's reasonable to put them in the system with Devilalet.
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