With the so-called iFi Audio ZEN Series, iFi Audio offers a range of products that is aimed at price-sensitive, yet demanding customers. This product range is now being expanded by another exciting solution, namely a phono preamplifier. Even though this is primarily aimed at beginners, it is intended to convince with excellent quality.
iFi Audio is first and foremost a specialist for very compact audio solutions, with a clear focus on products such as D/A converters and headphone amplifiers. But this does not mean that the analogue world is left out in the cold. This is demonstrated, for example, by the latest solution that iFi Audio now presents in the so-called iFi Audio ZEN Series.
While the iFi Audio ZEN Series was previously dominated by products such as D/A converters and headphone amplifiers, the new ZEN Phono by iFi Audio is the first solution for vinyl lovers. The new ZEN PHONO by iFi Audio is intended to be a solution for newcomers, which, according to the company, offers features that are not normally found in this price range.
Like all the other products in the iFi Audio ZEN Series, the new ZEN PHONO by iFi Audio is an extremely compact solution. It measures no more than 158 mm in width, 117 mm in depth and only 35 mm in height. Once again, the cabinet is made of aluminium and has a shape that is probably best described as futuristic. The ZEN PHONO by iFi Audio weighs no more than 515 g.
An essential feature of the new ZEN PHONO by iFi Audio is that it can be used for both MM and MC pickup systems. However, only one drive can be connected at a time, which is not really a disadvantage in this price class. The input is a pair of cinch sockets including ground connection, a change-over switch on the rear panel determines whether an MM pick-up system, a High Output MC pick-up system, a Low Output MC pick-up system, or even a Low Output MC pick-up system with particularly low output voltage is used. Accordingly, the ZEN PHONO by iFi Audio adjusts the amplifier level between 36 dB, 48 dB, 60 dB or even 72 dB.
Of course, a pair of cinch sockets is also available as an output on the rear panel, but in addition – and this is another special feature of the ZEN PHONO by iFi Audio – there is a so-called 4.4 mm PENTACONN Balanced Output.
The front of the ZEN PHONO by iFi Audio has almost no controls, only a main switch and a switchable subsonic filter, including a status LED, are available here. In addition, there are four status LEDs which indicate which operating mode has been selected on the rear panel, i.e. for which type of pickup the ZEN Phono by iFi Audio has been configured using the selector switch just mentioned.
The interior of the new ZEN PHONO by iFi Audio is to feature a symmetrically designed circuit, a novelty in this price class, as the manufacturer emphasises. This is clearly superior to the traditional single-ended circuit approach, because balanced circuits reduce noise and crosstalk, have less interference and therefore ultimately produce a clearer sound.
The manufacturer also states that the new ZEN PHONO by iFi Audio can rely on the experience of its siblings such as the iFi Audio AMR PH-77 and iFi Audio iPhono.
Once again, the developers relied on particularly high-quality components, such as Texas Instruments low-noise ICs, TDK C0G capacitors and Panasonic ECPU capacitors.
One more word about the already mentioned subsonic filter of the new ZEN PHONO by iFi Audio, the manufacturer speaks of an “intelligent” subsonic filter or a unique AI Phono subsonic filter. According to iFi Audio, normal subsonic filters remove rumble and bass and add phase problems, whereas the ZEN Phono by iFi Audio’s subsonic filter would actually filter out any “rumble” on its own.
Great attention was also paid to the power supply, which is an external 12V power supply. Every effort was made to guarantee an absolutely interference-free, precise voltage, so that the phono preamplifier could develop its full potential free from external interference.
The new phono preamplifier from iFi Audio is expected to be available in specialist stores in the near future. The manufacturer states a recommended retail price of € 159,- for the new ZEN PHONO by iFi Audio.
Getting to the point
After the iFi Audio ZEN Series was previously dominated by products such as D/A converters and headphone amplifiers, the new ZEN Phono by iFi Audio is the first solution for vinyl lovers, because as the name suggests, it is a phono preamplifier. The new ZEN PHONO by iFi Audio is intended to be a solution for newcomers, which, according to the company, offers features that are not normally found in this price range.