iFi Audio Zen Phono Stage Review & Comments

camcroft

Active Member
Same here, I just used my existing RCA cables which are much better quality anyway.

Power cable wasn’t an issue as it just depends down into the cabling nightmare behind my unit that I never, ever look at... 😀
Hows the unit sounding I got mine quite late and the missus wanted to watch tv so I only played one LP and haven't played anything yet as she is listening out for a Mothers Day delivery. Are you using the Subsonic Filter setting.
 

Joe C

Well-known Member
Hows the unit sounding I got mine quite late and the missus wanted to watch tv so I only played one LP and haven't played anything yet as she is listening out for a Mothers Day delivery. Are you using the Subsonic Filter setting.

Been having a good play this morning. As I only upgraded my stylus to Blue (from the Red) earlier this week I’d been wondering whether the Zen has actually had as big a difference as I thought it was.

I’ve got an original press of Paul Simon’s Graceland which is probably the trickiest lp I have to play in terms of the sound has never matched up to a CD.

So, went back to the Red and my Cambridge Audio Solo stage and stuck it on. Sounded ok.

Swapped the CA for the Zen and it sounded a lot better - cleaner is the best way I can describe it.

Then swapped the Red for the Blue and tried again - same cleaner sound but definitely with more detail.

Swapped the stages again, so now Blue stylus and CA stage - sounded a little dirty. Same increased detail as before (down to the stylus) but didn’t sound as clean.

So the Zen has definitely made a difference - I also don’t have to turn my amp up as much as when using the CA (which surprised me given it’s also a CA), which is good as it means I don’t need to turn it down before switching sources, and getting a hell of a fright when I forget.

As for the subsonic filter, I’ve tried both settings and can’t hear a difference. I’ll have to try and find something with a bit of a warp or wobble
 

camcroft

Active Member
Been having a good play this morning. As I only upgraded my stylus to Blue (from the Red) earlier this week I’d been wondering whether the Zen has actually had as big a difference as I thought it was.

I’ve got an original press of Paul Simon’s Graceland which is probably the trickiest lp I have to play in terms of the sound has never matched up to a CD.

So, went back to the Red and my Cambridge Audio Solo stage and stuck it on. Sounded ok.

Swapped the CA for the Zen and it sounded a lot better - cleaner is the best way I can describe it.

Then swapped the Red for the Blue and tried again - same cleaner sound but definitely with more detail.

Swapped the stages again, so now Blue stylus and CA stage - sounded a little dirty. Same increased detail as before (down to the stylus) but didn’t sound as clean.

So the Zen has definitely made a difference - I also don’t have to turn my amp up as much as when using the CA (which surprised me given it’s also a CA), which is good as it means I don’t need to turn it down before switching sources, and getting a hell of a fright when I forget.

As for the subsonic filter, I’ve tried both settings and can’t hear a difference. I’ll have to try and find something with a bit of a warp or wobble
Thanks for sharing that I changed my red stylus to blue a long time ago and sometimes you think am I taken in by what others say I cant judge the phono yet only having listen to a few tracks from one LP and it is a live recording so it is hard to tell I need to sit down and play a few albums that I am familiar with I think we all have those go to albums and tracks in our collections just a note I wouldn't write the Schiit off completely it has given me good service and sounded much better than my previous Rega ( the cheap one ) phono amp. I also couldn't really tell the difference with the subsonic filter on I have a Michel record clamp which is excellent and that helps to flatten any of my can we say wobbly records.
 

spookydarren

Active Member
I can't imagine any intergrated pre amp being better than an external version. Does it offer mm and MC compatibility or alternative gain loading?
 

camcroft

Active Member
IMG_0210.jpg
IMG_0209.jpg
Just chilling listening to some music on the new addition to my system
IMG_0211.jpg
 

camcroft

Active Member
IMG_0212.jpg

Sounding very good indeed
 

Joe C

Well-known Member
What’s the other Zen unit?
 

camcroft

Active Member
What’s the other Zen unit?
Zen Blue Bluetooth receiver also excellent product. light is on but it not being used now only for streaming.
 

Joe C

Well-known Member
Zen Blue Bluetooth receiver also excellent product.

Gotcha - as I recall the CXA60 needed a dongle for Bluetooth?

I know one of my CXA61 or CXN v2 provides Bluetooth - but I’ll be darned if I can remember which.

Anyway, loving this Zen Phono more and more. I’m back on the Red stylus to convince myself that I’m not imagining it for now.

Bizarrely I have found one album that sounds murkier - original clear green press of Troublegum by Therapy? - genuinely sounds better with the CA stage. Can’t explain it.

Only thing I’ve found so far though. Listening to Pearl Jam’s Ten (again the original, none of the remix or remasters) was like when I first heard it as a kid again. Genuinely breathtaking
 

camcroft

Active Member
Gotcha - as I recall the CXA60 needed a dongle for Bluetooth?

I know one of my CXA61 or CXN v2 provides Bluetooth - but I’ll be darned if I can remember which.

Anyway, loving this Zen Phono more and more. I’m back on the Red stylus to convince myself that I’m not imagining it for now.

Bizarrely I have found one album that sounds murkier - original clear green press of Troublegum by Therapy? - genuinely sounds better with the CA stage. Can’t explain it.

Only thing I’ve found so far though. Listening to Pearl Jam’s Ten (again the original, none of the remix or remasters) was like when I first heard it as a kid again. Genuinely breathtaking
Its the CXA 61 with built in Bluetooth you are correct the CXA 60 did have a dongle the iFi Zen Blue knocks the socks off that it has such an array of codecs its like if I had an onboard bluetooth provision like the external phono stage I would use a external unit like the Zen Blue. I am listening to music now and some of the parts I have never heard it's like the musicians were hiding away and the Zen has dragged them out onto the stage.
 

Researcher

Active Member
Mine arrived last night. Out of the box I was amazed at how small it was - yes I had seen the dims!
What a beautiful little product, it looks and feels really good.

This morning it was installed and I had a short test of it, I'm very happy. It's one of those products that you like to own.
 

acgingersnaps

Active Member
Better be good. Having been following this thread, I've finally buckled. Arrives tomorrow and I'll be suing the lot of you if it disappoints!
 

CC75

Standard Member
I’d be interested to know how you get on, I’ve got a elicit r. So probably the same phono as the Elex r.
 

acgingersnaps

Active Member
I’d be interested to know how you get on, I’ve got a elicit r. So probably the same phono as the Elex r.
I'll update in the week.
 

DrH

Active Member
It would be good to know how it sounds compared to the Rega phono mm
 

CC75

Standard Member
I think your Rega Fono mm mk3 would be a step above the one in the integrated amps, but the Zen also offers mm/mc which is the plus. I’m looking forward to reading the comparison and opinion.
 

acgingersnaps

Active Member
Right, so it's been plugged in for 30 mins. I've played the start of a few records through the Elex's internal stage and then through the ifi. In a few cases swapping more than once. Couple of early observations. Testing was done through my headphones.
1. The Rega's louder. This surprised me. I had expected to have to volume match the other way.
2. I think the noise floor means that the ifi sounds a bit better. It's marginal though and i need a lot more testing to make sure. At the moment, if I was able to randomly play one, without knowing which it was, I doubt I'd be able to tell which it was.

My initial thought is that it's a keeper, if nothing else because, it gives me greater cartridge options in the future. However, kudos to the Elex. Not shown up at all, so far. I'll report again once I've had more time to play.
 

acgingersnaps

Active Member
An ifi/schiit stack.
 

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camcroft

Active Member
I have definitely heard a differerence between Zen Phono and my Schiit Mani I have played lots of albums that I am familiar with and the difference is night and day the volume thing maybe you are right but that is not really an issue. Enjoy
 

camcroft

Active Member
iFi stack
IMG_0210.jpg
 

Researcher

Active Member
I've read that to get the best sound they have to be run in for 100 hours. I don't know why though. 🤔
 

Researcher

Active Member
Right, so it's been plugged in for 30 mins. I've played the start of a few records through the Elex's internal stage and then through the ifi. In a few cases swapping more than once. Couple of early observations. Testing was done through my headphones.
1. The Rega's louder. This surprised me. I had expected to have to volume match the other way.
Have you tried the different gain settings?
 

acgingersnaps

Active Member
I've read that to get the best sound they have to be run in for 100 hours. I don't know why though. 🤔
Given thatvthete are no moving parts, I'm very sceptical of claims like this. My ears may adjust a bit however.

Have you tried the different gain settings?
No. I'm using a MM cart, do figured there was no need. The other 3 are for MC carts, so I assume increase the gain.
I always thought it was lower gain, higher volume, for clean sound (Unless you're trying to rock an electric guitar, of course!). Might give it a go anyway though.
 

camcroft

Active Member
Hows everyone getting on with their new toys, I for one am enjoying mine
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