This is the mode that you’re going to use your ZEN Blue more often than not. This is the real point of this device; a good performing Bluetooth Streamer. And it’s pretty good at it. If you want to transfer your music wirelessly, this is one of the best options in the market. You can smoothly utilize its blazing-fast Bluetooth connection and you can get rid of the USB transfer this way.
For sound, it is also a better device in the digital mode as well. When you disable the analog mode and use your DACs and amps, the sound is very satisfying, more so than the analog mode. My favorite has been the optical connection to the Hugo and Hugo2. You don’t use any USB connections in this way. and the sound is glorious with my studio monitors. You certainly gain more than a few steps in the sound department.
Of course, that would depend on the device you put after the ZEN Blue. Yet, the ZEN Blue lets the other devices in your music system to shine with its fast Bluetooth processing ability. In a blind test, I don’t think people would easily hear a big difference between a classic DAC sound and this.
The ZEN Blue presents a detail-oriented and flat sound. This is the beauty of this device for me. Because you can add the character of your other gear on top of that flat and neutral signature. I think it’s good that this device doesn’t add anything special to the sound.
So subjective matters like warmth, bass quantity, treble sparkle are not there to distinguish. The ZEN Blue produces the sound as flat and detailed as possible so that you can modify the sound to your liking with other gear you attach to it. Resolution and transparency are very good once again. You get a nice black background, good stereo imaging, and separation. The sound overall is on the analytical side with a slightly mid-forward approach.
Nano iOne Comparison
I reviewed the iOne 2,5 years ago so it’s been a long time. I still use it with my TV to enhance the sound experience in movies and TV shows. It is also a very good device but I simply think that the ZEN Blue is more feature-packed for a wireless experience.
The ZEN Blue has a longer range and its 5.0 version of Bluetooth is much faster. It also supports all codecs you can think of, compared to the standard aptX from Nano iOne. The ZEN also powers up from an adapter and it doesn’t rely on USB power. It also has a 4.4mm BAL output.
Sound-wise they’re not much apart but the ZEN Blue has a flatter and more clinical sound to me. It also has better transparency. Of course, the aptX HD and LDAC codecs make a difference in Bluetooth connection and the ZEN has the advantage here. It also has a lower MSRP at $129 compared to iOne’s $199.
So I think the ZEN Blue is the better choice for home audio, but the Nano iOne is still good. If you want a USB DAC and a BT DAC combined in a single package, the Nano iOne makes more sense of course.
You might have special CD players or DACs already in your home system. However, you can still be surprised by the BT sound quality of the ZEN Blue. And it gives you the comfort to switch your music wirelessly. To me, the ZEN Blue proves itself as a very good home audio device from start to finish. Considering the competitive price and the clean output, I think this is one of the best solutions from iFi.
You might be a bit cold when people talk about Bluetooth audio. But devices like this allows you to have great sound over the air. Sure, you’re not going to get a performance as a HiFi DAC gives. There’s always a trade-off between comfort and sound quality. But if you’re ready to make a slight compromise in sound, then iFi ZEN Blue is the perfect solution.
As a result, the iFi ZEN Blue makes its way to our Best Wireless Recommendations List!