The iFi ZEN Phono is the company’s first entry level phono stage and takes its place among the ZEN desktop lineup.
iFi Audio’s quest to provide music enthusiasts with a range of quality yet affordable desktop audio products has led to the ZEN DAC, ZEN Blue DAC and xDSD DAC / Headphone Amp, among a number of others too. Now the range is joined by the ZEN Phono, a phono stage that promises adjustable gain, a subsonic filter and class leading ultra-low-noise performance.
Despite the emphasis on affordability, it should not be forgotten that iFi Audio can draw on considerable expertise and experience when it comes to their products and it recently launched a flagship phono stage in the shape of the £999 iPhono3 Black Label model and is also associated with sister company AMR who have a the PH77, a reference-class phono preamplifier costing £12,000.
However, even though the ZEN Phono is at the other end of scale it still has some interesting features which aid it in its quest to boost the output of a cartridge to a line level input signal ready for amplification.
Using a balanced, symmetrical dual-mono design - a topology usually reserved for high-end audio products - results in reduced noise and crosstalk, thus increasing sonic clarity. The use of high quality, high stability surface-mounted components with class-leading ESL (Equivalent Series Resistance) also pays dividends in terms of the accuracy of RIAA equalisation.
The ZEN Phono regenerates its own power supply from the mains and creates super-clean +/-12V DC from circuitry located on its own ‘island’ on the circuit board to ensure there is no contamination of the audio signal.
Since phono cartridges vary greatly in their technical characteristics, it’s often not possible for low cost phono stages to handle all the moving coil (MC) cartridges in addition to moving magnet (MM) types. However, the ZEN Phono has four gain settings in total: 36dB (MM), 48dB (high output MC), 60dB (low output MC) and 72dB (very low output MC) which enable it to take even the more exotic MC cartridge types in its stride.
Another useful feature is the subsonic filter which is used to remove any unwanted subsonic output - for example on warped records - without affecting any deep bass on the recording.
As well as the usual stereo RCA inputs and outputs, which are gold-plated for optimal signal integrity, the ZEN Phono’s rear sports a 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced output which can be used to connect to an amp or active speakers equipped with a balanced input. This enables a fully balanced connection that makes the most of the ZEN Phono’s balanced circuitry - something not usually seen at this price point.
The iFi ZEN Phono is available from selected retailers from 4 September, priced at £149.
Source: Press Release
Image Source: iFi Audio