About the iFi Zen Stream
Say you've got an older stereo or headphone amplifier, and you're using a DAC to get your digital tunes going — why not add wireless streaming to the system while you're at it? iFi's Zen Stream is a versatile network streamer that gives you lots of great ways to enjoy your music. It connects up to your network (either wirelessly or via Ethernet) and lets you cast music from lots of different streaming apps, like TIDAL, Spotify, and more.
If you'd like to play music stored on a USB or networked hard drive, the Zen Stream has you covered there too. You can select either source with iFi's sleek web interface, which is accessible on both computers and smartphones.
Hands-on with iFi's intuitive streamer
I was excited to try iFi's newest offering, the Zen Stream. It was made to consolidate music sources and make the streaming process simpler. The all-metal chassis felt good in my hands, and it visually blended well with my Jamo DS7 powered speakers and sub combo. The Zen Stream doesn't have an onboard DAC, so I plugged my AudioQuest DragonFly® Black into its USB output to handle the conversion. I ran an AudioQuest Evergreen 3.5mm-to-RCA stereo cable from the DAC to the DS7's input.
After taking care of those physical connections, I worked on getting the iFi connected to my home network. It took less than five minutes, thanks to the company's user-friendly web interface. The front panel network indicator helped me make sure the Zen Stream was connected to the internet.
Speaking of the interface, it was nice being able to access it on both my smartphone and my computer. I appreciated that I didn't have to be rooted to a single spot to change sources. I had fun tweaking the UI layout and enjoyed all the little things that could be done to tailor the experience to my liking.
I streamed some tunes from TIDAL with no problem. I also hooked up an external hard drive with a couple Tool and Rammstein albums on it. The folders were easy to navigate using the web interface, and the Zen Stream passed the FLAC signals along to my DAC. The songs I played sounded wonderful and had plenty of depth and detail. Altogether, it was a seamless, customizable experience that integrated well with my existing gear.
- streaming music player
- access music from networked storage devices, USB drives, or streaming music services
- connects to your network via Wi-Fi or Ethernet
- native streaming from TIDAL, Spotify, YouTube Music, and QQ Music
- Apple AirPlay for streaming music from compatible devices
- compatible with DLNA music servers, including JRiver, Audiovana, nPlayer, MediaMonkey, and more
- web-based user interface allows for source selection, playback options, network options, NAS/DLNA configuration, and UI layout changes
- manually selectable system modes for improved performance and stability
- All-in-one, Roon, TIDAL, NAA (network audio adapter), or DLNA
- two front-panel indicators show sampling rate and network status
- back-panel connections:
- S/PDIF coaxial digital output for connecting receiver or DAC (max sample rate: 24-bit/192kHz)
- USB Type-A input for USB hard drives and flash drives up to 6TB
- USB Type-A output for connecting to an outboard DAC (max sample rate: DSD512)
- Ethernet port for hardwired network connection
- USB-C port for system upgrades only
- dimensions (measured by Crutchfield): 6-1/4"W x 1-3/8"H x 5-3/16"D
- warranty: 1 year
- MFR # Zen Stream
What's in the box:
- Digital music streamer
- AC adapter with attached 80" DC output cord (DC output: 12V 1.8A)
- US 2-pronged plug adapter
- 4" Wi-Fi antenna
- 21" Ethernet cable (RJ-45 plugs at each end)
- Plastic screwdriver
- User Manual
- Quick Start Guide
- Warranty card
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More details on the iFi Zen Stream
Features & specs
|Wi-Fi Bands||2.4, 5GHz|
|Max. Digital Audio Bit Depth||N/A|
|Max. Digital Audio Sample Rate||N/A|
|Apple AirPlay 2||No|
|Bose Home Speaker||No|
|Control by app||N/A|
|Parts Warranty||1 Year|
|Labor Warranty||1 Year|
Overview: The Zen Stream from iFi Audio lets you stream high-resolution digital audio from the leading streaming platforms available. It has USB, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi inputs, and Coaxial SPDIF and USB outputs to an outboard DAC, such as the new matching Zen DAC 2. You can choose from several streaming modes that fully optimize the particular platform you're streaming, or an "all-in-one" mode that covers them all. The compact Zen Stream is 6-1/4" wide, 1-3/8" high, and 5-3/16" deep, and weighs 1-1/4 pounds.
Hi-Res Audio Device: The Zen Stream supports PCM up to 32-bit/384kHz over Wi-Fi or Ethernet. It also supports DSD up to 11.2 MHz (DSD256). Note: Zen Stream does not have an onboard DAC.
Streaming Sources: The Zen Stream is an open source device, making it compatible with many of the leading platforms and apps. You can easily stream from Apple and Android devices. Zen Stream also lets you connect to the following sources: Spotify, Tidal, QQ Music, Roon, Qobuz (via Roon), YouTube Music, nPlayer, MediaMonkey, JRiver, AirPlay, Audirvana, VLC, and DLNA.
Wi-Fi/Ethernet: The Zen Stream can connect to your router or modem via an Ethernet connection (RJ-45 on back panel) or through Dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac - 2.4 GHz/5 GHz). A Wi-Fi antenna is included. You can also connect to a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot from your phone or other portable device. If your router/modem is nearby, connecting via Ethernet may provide a more secure connection to your internet service. You'll need to use your smartphone to pair connect Zen Stream to your local Wi-Fi network.
USB 3.0 Ports: On the back panel are two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Type A ports. One can be used to connect a USB storage device for playing music files. The other can be used to output the digital stream to your DAC. The USB ports are equipped with Active Noise Cancellation II which cancels out noise by adding a second (and opposite) sound wave. If the USB output is being used, the coaxial output switches off. If your DAC can be run from USB power, you can use the USB output port to power the DAC with noise-free 5-volt USB power.
Coaxial Output: In addition to the USB output, Zen Stream also has a Coaxial S/PDIF output. The coax output's maximum output frequency is 192kHz. You can also play DSD files up to DSD128 through the coaxial output, which converts them to PCM 192kHz. The S/PDIF output features built-in iPurifier technology to reduce jitter.
Front Panel: The brushed aluminum front panel has two simple controls and two large LED indicators. The controls include a power switch and the Hotspot switch, which connects the Zen Stream to an available Wi-Fi network. The LEDs indicate the Network Status and Audio Format as follows:
|Network Status LED||Audio Format LED|
|Color||Network Status||Speed||Color||Audio Format|
|White||Internet||Fast||Green||PCM 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 kHz|
|Cyan||Slow||Yellow||PCM 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384 kHz|
|Green||Local Network (no Internet)||Fast||Cyan||DSD 64, DSD 128|
|Yellow||Local Network (no Internet)||Slow||Blue||DSD 256|
|Red||No Connection||---||Off||No streaming|
Mode Selector: Zen Stream offers five "exclusive" play modes to optimize the streamer for specific platforms to deliver the purest possible performance. To set the desired Exclusive Mode, you'll need to turn the recessed dial on the back panel with a screwdriver. A small plastic screwdriver is included. The Exclusive Modes are numbered as follows:
- All-in-One: This mode is non-specific to any platform, this mode can be used for all platforms, audio formats, or devices.
- Roon Bridge streaming: This mode should be used when using the unit with Roon.
- Tidal streaming: This mode is optimized for streaming from Tidal.
- NAA streaming: The NAA streaming mode is for using the Zen Stream as a Network Audio Adapter in conjunction with Signalyst HQPlayer software.
- DLNA streaming: When using DLNA-compatible apps and devices, select this mode for optimum performance.
Internal Components: iFi utilizes many high-end technologies and components to make Zen Streamer a true audiophile device. The device includes:
- A 64-bit, quad-core ARM Cortex microprocessor
- iFi's femto-precision GMT (Global Master Timing) circuitry to eliminate jitter from the digital audio signal output by the USB 3.0 port and the Coaxial S/PDIF and sent to your external DAC.
- A high-performance Ethernet switch with a low-power integrated 5-port Giga-PHY.
- A synchronous 1.5 MHz high-speed power supply controller that reduces noise and distortion.
USB-C: The Zen Stream is future-proof through system firmware updates when they become available. Firmware updates can be downloaded through Wi-Fi (OTA), or through the USB-C port on the rear panel.
- Input Voltage: DC 9V/1.8A to 15V/0.8A; AC adapter: 100-240V 50/60Hz
- Input: Wi-Fi, Ethernet, USB Disc, HDD, etc.
- Formats: PCM 44.1 kHz to 384 kHz, DSD64 to DSD256 (MQA fully compatible)
- Output: Two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Type A ports, Coaxial S/PDIF
- Power Consumption: No Signal ~6W, Max Signal ~10W
- Dimensions: Width 6.217", Height 1.381", Depth 5.184"
- Weight: 1.258 pounds
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