iFi ZEN Phono Launched

Posted on 3rd September, 2020

iFi ZEN Phono Launched

iFi Audio adds a phono stage to its affordable ZEN range.

iFi's ZEN Phono (£149) joins the Southport-based company's Applause-winning ZEN DAC along with the ZEN Blue and ZEN Can. With its stablemates already proving that they more than able to punch above their weight, the pressure is undoubtedly on the ZEN Phono to perform. Thankfully, then, it appears to be well-equipped - especially given its modest price-point.

iFi ZEN Phono

Firstly, the ZEN Phono can handle moving coil (MC) cartridges as well as moving magnet (MM) types. Furthermore, it offers gain adjustment from 36dB to 72dB to make the most of whichever MC cartridge you have hooked up to your tonearm. The four gain settings are: 36dB (MM), 48dB (high-output MC), 60dB (low-output MC) and 72dB (very-low-output MC).

You also get a subsonic filter button. When pressed the proprietary circuit 'intelligently' filters out the unwanted subsonic output without affecting any deep bass on the recording – an undesirable side effect of some warp filters.

iFi ZEN Phono

The ZEN Phono offers stereo RCA inputs/outputs, a 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced output, a grounding terminal and the gain selector switch all at the rear of the unit. The Pentaconn balanced output can be used to connect to an amp or active speakers equipped with a balanced input – either a Pentaconn 4.4mm input, such as the one found on the ZEN CAN analogue headphone amp, or XLR inputs via an adapter. This enables a fully balanced connection, making the most of the ZEN Phono's balanced circuitry which brings us on to the discrete, balanced, dual-mono circuit design employed by this sub-£200 unit.

iFi ZEN Phono

Balanced circuit design has the ability the reduce noise and crosstalk, says iFi, and has long been championed by renowned high-end audio electronics engineer John Curl who is now a technical consultant for iFi. Working with iFi's in-house technical team, headed by Thorsten Loesch, the group has produced a fully balanced, ultra-low-noise design, which “is unprecedented at such a low price point.”

Lift the lid on the ZEN Phono, and we're promised that you'll find top-flight surface-mounted components such as TDK C0G and Murata multilayer ceramic capacitors, also Panasonic ECPU polyphenylene sulphide film devices. None of which are cheap, but iFi states that their class-leading ESL (Equivalent Series Resistance) and individual qualities such as high stability and low distortion pay great dividends in terms of sound quality and the accuracy of RIAA equalisation.

iFi ZEN Phono

In common with many iFi audio products, the ZEN Phono incorporates a custom OV Series op-amp; in this case, the OVA2637, that's said to contribute significantly to the ultra-low distortion (0.0001%).

Finally, iFi knows the importance of a clean power supply and, even in the affordable ZEN Phono, they looked to the best phono stages on the market which create their own power supply off the mains, similar to a mains regenerator.

iFi ZEN Phono

However, keeping the ZEN Phono at its target price point required some creative thinking. Instead, the ZEN Phono creates a power supply with an oscillation frequency of 1.2MHz, which is 20,000 times that of mains electricity. In this circuit, a filtering capacitor with a 10uF rating is equivalent to 200,000uF at lower, audible frequencies – exceptional filtering power. Additionally, the power supply circuitry is located on its own 'island' on the circuit board to ensure there is no contamination of the audio signal – just super-clean +/-12V DC.

The iFi ZEN Phono is available from September 4th, priced at £149.

Head to iFi Audio For More Information


    Jay Garrett's avatar

    Jay Garrett

    StereoNET UK’s Editor, bass player, and resident rock star! Jay’s passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.

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