I thought I would give a quick recap of how the iFi shootout is going so far.
The first item to receive major tests was the iFi ZEN STREAM. WOW! What a device. Other than 'quirky' startup instructions, to put it nicely, the actual performance of this device is stunning. It sounds great, and importantly, 'IT JUST WORKS'. So far I have tested it as a ROON READY device, and also used DLNA/UPnP via Audirvana.
Both methods of streaming worked without any hitch. And the sound was notably better with either, compared to my good ol' faithful Mac Mini 2014 model w/upgrade LPS.
The only frustration experienced so far is with JRiver Media Center. I have followed every direction provided by JRiver customer service, and I have tried many fixes suggested on various audio forums. I have yet to have any luck.
I chalk this up as a problem with JRiver, though. All other software across both PC and MAC platforms have worked flawlessly, including DLNA/UPnP. Nevertheless, I keep buggering on, knowing that others have success streaming to the iFi Stream via JRiver.
So far, this is a GRADE A product, with slight markdowns for difficulty of setup, especially for those who are not at least somewhat tech savvy.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Subjective testing just started on a iFI ZEN stack.
Giant killers? That remains to be seen, as both have seen less than 24 hours of warmup. What I CAN say is the balanced PENTACONN connection is the way to go.
Tested here is the iFi ZEN DAC V2, paired with the original ZEN CAN.
So far, I can say these have a forgiving sound that can be listened to for hours on end with no ear fatigue. Not just minimal fatigue. It is not hyperbole to say one comes away with NO fatigue, period.
I have tried connections via Single Ended (Kimber Tonic RCA cable between devices) but there is very notable increase in perceived fidelity using balanced connections for the entire signal chain.
The ZEN DAC and ZEN CAN are easily connected by a short jumper cable with Pentaconn made terminations on each side. Short jumper cables are available separately from both iFi and third party brands.
This convenient, now stackable configuration along with a Pentaconn balanced headphone cable, leaves the end user almost stunning audio fidelity at this price.
At some point soon, I will try and complete the stack to see if the ZEN STREAM offers as dramatic improvement as I experienced through the iDSD PRO.