ZEN CAN by iFi Audio – Powerful Class A headphone amplifier
Symmetrically designed, implemented in pure Class A, this is how the latest addition to the iFi Audio ZEN Series, the ZEN CAN by iFi Audio, is to be presented. Like all solutions of this product series, it shines with a very compact design and simple handling, but above all, it should offer remarkable quality and especially a very high output power.
The company iFi Audio specializes primarily in headphone amplifiers and D/A converters, whereby both functions are usually combined in one device. The iFi Audio ZEN Series plays a special role here, as it provides solutions that are designed to offer impeccable performance in a particularly compact form and are also available at very attractive prices. This is also underlined by the latest addition to this product series, the ZEN CAN by iFi Audio.
The new ZEN CAN by iFi Audio is once again a headphone amplifier, and the decision was made to concentrate entirely on this one task. The new ZEN CAN by iFi Audio does not have an integrated D/A converter, leaving only the analog interfaces, but this solution is supposed to have a perfectly balanced Class A circuit and a particularly high output power, so that almost any headphone can be controlled without problems and its full potential can be used.
The manufacturer’s statement that the new ZEN CAN by ifi Audio is based on the same principles as the iFi Audio Pro iCAN, the company’s flagship product, has attracted particular attention. These are very high expectations that one wants to raise here.
The new ZEN CAN by iFi Audio has exactly the same design as the other solutions in the iFi Audio ZEN Series, i.e. a very flat, somewhat futuristic-looking housing made entirely of aluminium measuring 158 x 117 x 35 mm and weighing 515 g.
On the rear panel there are three inputs available, one designed as a pair of RCA jacks, one “single ended” in the form of a 3.5 mm stereo mini jack, and one balanced in the form of a 4.4 mm pentacon jack. A similar connection is also available as an output to loop signals through to other devices. Power is supplied by an external 5 V 2.5 A power supply.
The front panel features a centrally located, generously sized volume control, flanked by another gain control, a button as main switch, a button for input selection, a button for activating special circuits, and of course a 6.3 mm stereo jack socket plus a 4.4 mm 4-pin balanced output.
As already described, the inner workings are based on a balanced circuit in Class A. In fact, it’s a so-called dual mono construction with the Texas Instruments OV2637A J-FET Op-Amp in the center. In addition, the manufacturer lists a number of other fine components that can be found in the ZEN CAN by iFi Audio, such as Panasonic ECPU capacitors, TDK COG Class 1 ceramic capacitors, MELF resistors and a Tokyo Cosmos Electric Co. multi-track potentiometer for particularly precise volume control.
By the way, the output level (Pre Gain) can be adjusted in steps between 0, 6, 12 and 18 dB to the respective headphones, and, as already mentioned, two interesting options are also available.
First of all, there is the XBass function, which is intended to allow appropriate adaptation, especially for headphones with weak bass. In addition, there is the special 3D Special Sound Circuit, which is intended to prevent the notorious “listening in the head” without distorting the sound signal. The manufacturer expressly emphasizes that no digital components are used here, everything was actually realized on the analog level alone. This is why the manufacturer also refers to the XBass Analogue Bass Correction System or the 3D Holographic Dual-Analogue Matrices.
We have already mentioned it, one of the essential features of the new ZEN CAN by iFi Audio is its high output power. The manufacturer states that a remarkable 1,890 mW at 64 ohms is available at the balanced output, while at 300 ohms it should still be 385 mW. The unbalanced output also provides a remarkable 1,600 mW at 32 ohms and 196 mW at 300 ohms.
This also shows what distinguishes the new ZEN CAN by iFi Audio from its brother, the ZEN DAC by iFi Audio. In addition to the integrated DAC, it also offers a headphone amplifier, which may well offer fine performance data, but is nevertheless clearly inferior to the new ZEN CAN by iFi Audio. So if you own a high-quality D/A converter, the new ZEN CAN by iFi Audio is just the right solution.
The ZEN CAN by iFi Audio is already available from specialist retailers. The recommended retail price is € 165,-.
Getting to the point
The new ZEN CAN by iFi Audio is once again a headphone amplifier, and the decision was made to concentrate entirely on this one task. The new ZEN CAN by iFi Audio does not have an integrated D/A converter, leaving only the analogue interfaces, but this solution is supposed to have an impeccable balanced Class A circuit and a particularly high output power, so that almost any headphone can be controlled without problems and its full potential can be exploited.