iFi Audio ZEN Stream Review

iFi Audio ZEN Stream

Some practical cases

My phone is a OnePlus 8 Pro, nothing fancy. It has Spotify installed and I am part of a Family subscription, or however it is called. Open Spotify, select your album or track, click the TV/speaker icon on the bottom left, select iFi Streamer… and done. That easy.

iFi Audio ZEN Stream

The same goes for the desktop app where you simply click on the same icon, this time in the bottom right corner.

iFi Audio ZEN Stream

And the same basically goes for Tidal. Click on the little speaker icon, select iFi’s Streamer and you’re good to go. It can’t be more easy.

iFi Audio ZEN Stream

Can’t find you’re favorite album on any streaming service? No problem. Just get out your phone, go to the iFi interface, find the album on your NAS, click play. Done.

I can keep giving you examples of how incredibly easy it is to use the ZEN Stream, but just take my word for it. And then I haven’t even talked about using the ZEN Stream from any DLNA certified streaming app, Airplay, Chromecast and many others.

Sound Stream Quality

The iFi Audio ZEN Stream is a streamer “pure sang” and it doesn’t have an integrated DAC chip. That means you always need to connect it to an external DAC, which in the end will define the sound quality.

What is more important here is that the ZEN Stream delivers a top quality signal to the DAC, without cracks, without jitter or any additional noise that shouldn’t be there. We should really call it stream quality. After weeks of testing I can only say that my experience with the ZEN Stream in this regard has been nothing but perfect. No pops, cracks or streaming issues in any way. It’s not only been easy to set up and use, but it has proven to work flawlessly at any given time (no connection issues).

End Words

As you can clearly see, my experience with the ZEN Stream has been really good. I don’t have tons of streaming experience, but I do know that I have tried multiple streaming devices which I absolutely did not like and they are somewhere in the attic now, hoping to see a bit of sunlight again one day.

The ZEN Stream has been the first streamer I have used this much, and that says a lot. To sum up the ZEN Steamer:

  • Great build quality
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Excellent streaming / consistency
  • High versatility in regards to connections and sources
  • Integrated iPurifier

The $/€/£399 price tag doesn’t scare me looking at how happy I am with the unit and seeing how versatile it is. The only down side for me is the lack of a screen on which I could see the bit rate/depth and maybe some cover art. But that’s probably asking too much for a streamer at this price level.

Soon we on HFN will be looking at a just released Mid-Fi streaming DAC with screen. So keep you’re eye out on that review as well.

Page 1: iFi Audio, Intro, ZEN Stream, Design & Build Quality

Page 2: Layout & Features, Specifications, Usability Part 1

Page 3: Usability Part 2, End Words

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

8 Comments

  • Reply October 5, 2021

    steve

    no comparison to other streamers? or sound quality depending on different outputs?

    • Reply October 5, 2021

      Lieven

      The reason why there are no comparisons is in the article.
      SQ Coax vs USB? No noticeable difference with this one

      • Reply October 6, 2021

        steve

        Will be looking for your next streamer reviews :). just feels incomplete to have a review without a comparison to other similar products or a benchmark. I do appreciate the fact that there haven’t been streamer reviews in the past on this site

  • Reply October 5, 2021

    Tomas

    Not a review in my opinion, seems more like add, but ok.
    We can understand now it is raspberry pi with volumio and does not have Chromecast.

    • Reply October 5, 2021

      Lieven

      Your comment got marked as spam. I “unspammed” it, though maybe the system was right 😉
      Not everyone is an IT specialist and knows a thing or two about the pi and how to build and configure one. So it’s good to see these kind of solutions from iFi and others.
      Of course for those who do know it, can do it and can put it in a nice enclosure, that certainly is the best/cheapest way to go. So for you this is nothing spectacular, but for others it can be, just take that into account.
      And in regards to this streamer, it really is a simple to use, super versatile one. So yeah, people will/do like it.

      • Reply October 5, 2021

        Tomas

        Thank you for yor answer. I think this is nice product too.I just think your review was flat and you omitted important information for buyer. Also this was your time to say it is not Raspberry pi, because it is not, i was not right.
        Anyway, good luck.

        • Reply October 5, 2021

          Lieven

          I never said this was a Pi. I said that if you know the Pi tech, you can build a streamer yourself 😉
          I don’t feel any info is missing at all though, we disagree there, but thanks for reading/the comments

  • Reply October 5, 2021

    Marc Walbert

    I do own a zen but I found difficult to engage with the streamer
    The price is very sharp and I do not understand all the services you get for that price.

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