iFi ZEN CAN Headphone Amplifier Released
iFi Audio reveals the third instalment in its affordable ZEN range.
iFi's ZEN CAN follows the remarkable-for-the-money ZEN DAC and ZEN Blue which we will have reviews on soon.
Just like its ZEN stablemates, the ZEN CAN promises great sound-for-pound coming in at only £149. For that, you get a headphone amplifier that can drive practically any headphones, boasts a balanced circuit design, offers versatile sonic tailoring options and comes wrapped in an attractively shaped and finished aluminium enclosure.
iFi's latest desktop head-amp has been designed to connect to sources with an analogue output, such as the headphone output from a DAP (Digital Audio Player), a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone. Alternatively, from the RCA outputs from a CD player or phono stage. Additionally, it can be paired with the ZEN Blue to add Bluetooth reception, or combined with the ZEN DAC to upgrade the DAC's headphone amp stage. You could even use the ZEN CAN as a pre-amp to feed a power amp and speakers or a pair of active speakers.
iFi ZEN CAN Amp Tech
Rocking a balanced, symmetrical dual-mono design the ZEN CAN's birth has been guided by renowned high-end audio electronics engineer John Curl, now a technical consultant for iFi, along with the company's in-house technical team, headed by Thorsten Loesch. We are told that the result is an analogue circuit of exceptional quality for a device of this kind.
The ZEN CAN is said to deliver 1600mW (7.2V) into 32 ohms from the single-ended output, with 15V+ available to loads of 300 ohms or more through the balanced output, ensuring the ZEN DAC takes even current-hungry planar headphones in its stride.
Under the hood, you'll find many discrete, high-grade surface-mounted components that are said to maximise sonic purity, such as TDK C0G and Panasonic ECPU capacitors and ultra-low-distortion thin-film resistors. iFi's custom OV4627 quad-amp stage features four independent FET op-amps using a 'folded cascode' design, with low-impedance feedback circuitry to optimise performance, says the manufacturer.
A further custom op-amp is used for the input stage, which features automatic level matching and feeds a TOCOS precision potentiometer.
iFi's £1,700 Pro iCAN lends the ZEN CAN its fully discrete, balanced, complementary bipolar output stage Class-A buffer as well as the 'stealth mode' voltage conversion in its power supply circuitry. The latter includes linear regulation, noise filtering, and physical isolation from sensitive audio circuits. With a 4,000uF capacitance, there should also be ample power in reserve to respond to musical transients.
The ZEN CAN even utilises FET-based switching handled by a microcontroller, which only 'wakes up' when you change a setting-this is said to eradicate any sonically harmful interference.
The ZEN CAN's fascia is home to four selectable gain settings – 0dB, 6dB, 12dB and 18db with unity gain (0dB) ensuring low noise with sensitive in-ear monitors. Higher gain settings are said to make the most of tougher headphone loads. Additional sonic tailoring is offered by way of the latest versions of iFi's XBass and 3D options.
You get a 6.3mm output for headphones that have a standard single-ended connector and a 4.4 Pentaconn balanced output for headphones offering balanced connection, like the ZEN DAC. Around the back, the ZEN CAN offers stereo RCA and 3.5mm single-ended inputs, plus a balanced 4.4mm Pentaconn input. A 4.4mm balanced output is also provided, to connect to power amps and active speakers equipped with a balanced input.
The iFi ZEN CAN is available from July 31st with the first 1000 units being bundled with iFi's ultra-low noise 'iPower' AC/DC power adapter, which further enhances performance and as a special package price sells for SGD $239.
For more information, head to iFi Audio.
StereoNET’s resident rock star, bass player, and gadget junkie. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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