iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane

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iFi David

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Streaming elevated to a higher plane

Introducing ZEN Stream: a flexible and affordable Wi-Fi audio transport, equipped to unleash the full potential of every digital music source – from online streaming to local network storage



iFi audio ZEN Stream is our latest addition to the award-winning ZEN Series of compact and affordable audio devices, designed to deliver flexible, high-quality network streaming to any audio environment.

Described as a ‘Wi-Fi audio transport’, the ZEN Stream acts as a bridge between your Wi-Fi network and your audio system. It connects to a router via Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable, and outputs to an external DAC via USB or S/PDIF. Its open-source architecture makes it flexible and future-proof; its purpose-built hardware and software deliver excellent sound quality; and its price makes it an eminently affordable solution for high-performance network audio streaming.

Open-source architecture – audio streaming unleashed

Many audio streaming devices lock users into a specific platform. But, if they want to select their preferred streaming platforms and apps without restriction, with the ability to adapt and evolve as requirements change, a device with an open-source architecture offers clear advantages. Raspberry Pi is a popular open-source single-board computer that's effective, inexpensive and not tied to a specific platform. As such it gives the user plenty of streaming options, but also is complicated to set up and has not been designed and optimised for high-performance audio straight from the box.



The ZEN Stream offers the best of both worlds in one unique package. Its open-source architecture ensures the user is not tied to a specific platform or app, offering a wealth of options and the ability to add more via programmable firmware. Its Linux-based operating system offers exceptional flexibility, with the streaming community encouraged to work with iFi to create additional features to add down the line via OTA (Over The Air) updates.

The ZEN Stream has been designed from the ground up for the sole purpose of high-quality audio streaming. The hardware has been built to deliver the best possible sound quality, working in perfect harmony with iFi’s in-house software development. From the device drivers, to the kernel (the heart of the operating system), to the shell (which interfaces with the kernel), to the applications and the user interface, everything is fully optimised for seamless operation and excellent sonic performance.

Superb sound, no matter how you stream

The ZEN Stream’s hi-res audio credentials are top-notch, supporting PCM up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD up to 11.2MHz (DSD256) over Wi-Fi – highly unusual – as well as over Ethernet cable. There are multiple ways in which the device can interface with your music collection or favourite streaming service, depending on the user’s preference, and thanks to the ZEN Stream’s open-source architecture these will expand over time. Here are some of the options provided at launch:

§  Integrated Tidal Connect and Spotify Connect
Users of these hugely popular online music services can stream directly from the Tidal and Spotify apps – simple, seamless and effective.

§  DLNA certification
Any DLNA-compatible streaming app – including iFi’s forthcoming Stream-iFi app – can be used to control the ZEN Stream and access audio content from online services and DLNA-certified network storage devices.

§  AirPlay and Chromecast
Integrated Airplay and Chromecast ensures easy streaming from Apple and Android devices. AirPlay is included at launch; Chromecast will be added as a free firmware update later this year.

§  Roon compatibility
The Roon platform has become the standard-bearer for high-quality digital music management and streaming – a great interface, strong flexibility and high-quality sound are all benefits, although Roon-compatible hardware does not tend to come cheap. At launch, the ZEN Stream is compatible with Roon Bridge software, making in suitable for a Roon environment, and full Roon Ready certification is in the pipeline – a tempting proposition given the ZEN Stream’s affordable price point. With the ZEN Stream, you can add Roon compatibility to any DAC on the planet.

§  NAA operation
The ZEN Stream can operate as an NAA (Network Audio Adapter) in conjunction with Sygnalist HQPlayer software – favoured by many serious music streaming enthusiasts. This means it can direct packets of audio data received over Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable straight to the connected DAC without applying any processing whatsoever.



iFi delivers hot exclusives

An ingenious part of the ZEN Stream’s design is the ability to select between ‘exclusive modes’ – individual settings that deliver fully optimised performance by focusing operation on one particular mode of use. The following modes are provided:

§  All-in-one
This non-specific mode is great for all platforms, audio formats and devices.

§  DLNA streaming
Select this mode to optimise performance when using the ZEN Stream with DLNA-compatible apps and devices.

§  NAA streaming
Select this mode when using the ZEN Stream as a Network Audio Adapter in conjunction with Signalyst HQPlayer software.

§  Roon Bridge streaming
Select this mode when integrating the ZEN Stream into a ROON environment.

§  Tidal streaming
If you’re a subscriber to Tidal’s Masters Tier and use it exclusively, this is the mode for you.

Built for sonic brilliance

Outwardly, the ZEN Stream is encased in the distinctive dark grey aluminium extrusion that houses every device in iFi’s ZEN Series. Its silver-coloured aluminium faceplate sports two multi-colour LEDs – one to indicate internet/intranet connection and speed; the other to show the incoming audio format and sample rate (these LEDs may be switched off if preferred). There are just two buttons: the power switch and a ‘hotspot’ button, the latter used to join a Wi-Fi network.



While there is no display other than the status LEDs, all information about the music being streamed will be displayed on the control app selected by the user. iFi has taken the decision that it is better to focus on performance and value-for-money, rather than increase cost by incorporating a display that would arguably be superfluous to the end-user.

Around the back, alongside the Wi-Fi antenna, reside an array of sockets and ports. Dual-band Wi-Fi reception supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac for a fast, reliable wireless connection, while a high-grade Gigabit Ethernet port supplies a cabled network option of the highest quality. There’s also a USB-A input, giving the option of playing music from HDD and solid-state storage devices, and a USB-C programming port to upload software/firmware updates (an alternative to OTA updates via Wi-Fi).

Two digital outputs – asynchronous USB and coaxial S/PDIF – provide connection to an external DAC, and are regulated by iFi’s femto-precision GMT (Global Master Timing) clock circuitry to eradicate jitter from the digital signal. The USB ports – both input and output – support SuperSpeed USB3.0 and benefit from iFi’s ANC II active noise cancellation to remove distortion from the audio signal. Similarly, the S/PDIF output incorporates iFi’s iPurifier technology.

The ZEN Stream’s circuit design has been painstakingly engineered to deliver superb sound, with processing muscle supplied by a 64-bit, quad-core ARM Cortex microprocessor. This is accompanied by carefully chosen circuit components including discrete, high-grade surface-mounted devices such as TDK C0G multilayer ceramic capacitors and inductors from Taiyo Yuden and Murata.



Regulators with high PSRR (Power Supply Rejection Ratio), low idle current and low dropout voltage are used, together with a synchronous 1.5MHz high-speed power supply controller, further contributing to the ZEN Stream’s pure, distortion-free performance. As befits an audiophile-grade device, the ZEN Stream does not incorporate a noisy fan – instead, iFi has designed low-profile heatsinks to prevent overheating whilst maintaining the unit’s compact size.

Fab and affordable

Fusing state-of-the-art hi-res sound with open-source versatility, the iFi ZEN Stream is a uniquely specified network audio streaming transport at a refreshingly affordable RRP of £399 (€399, $399) – available from selected retailers from 25 June.
« Last Edit: 28 Sep 2021, 01:34 pm by iFi David »

iFi David

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I.Greyhound Fan

Re: iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane
« Reply #2 on: 25 Jun 2021, 05:18 pm »
I like some of the ifi products but I find the web site confusing and not straight forward.  I also find the product line confusion and redundant somewhat.  Is it just me?

Factorz

Re: iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane
« Reply #3 on: 25 Jun 2021, 07:25 pm »
So is this product similar to Auralic Aries mini I currently use or is it used in conjunction with it?

mr_bill

Re: iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane
« Reply #4 on: 25 Jun 2021, 11:54 pm »
Looks like a great product!

John Mulvihill

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Re: iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane
« Reply #5 on: 27 Jun 2021, 04:32 am »
Hi,

IFI makes great products and I am looking forward to this one.
One question though, is it compatible with Amazon Prime Music?
If not, will it ever be?

Thanks,
John   

iFi David

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Re: iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane
« Reply #6 on: 9 Aug 2021, 07:27 pm »
Hi there,

Here are ZEN Stream's connectivity options:

-Stream straight from Spotify/Tidal apps with Spotify Connect and Tidal Connect
-Works with any DLNA certified streaming app (our own app is imminent!)
-Integrated Airplay and Chromecast* – easy streaming from Apple and Android devices
-Roon compatible – basically, it adds Roon to any DAC.
-NAA operation in conjunction with Sygnalist’s HQPlayer software

Thanks!

Jon L

Re: iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane
« Reply #7 on: 10 Aug 2021, 12:24 am »
Hi there,

Here are ZEN Stream's connectivity options:

-Stream straight from Spotify/Tidal apps with Spotify Connect and Tidal Connect
-Works with any DLNA certified streaming app (our own app is imminent!)
-Integrated Airplay and Chromecast* – easy streaming from Apple and Android devices
-Roon compatible – basically, it adds Roon to any DAC.
-NAA operation in conjunction with Sygnalist’s HQPlayer software

Thanks!

Is Zen Stream able to play Amazon HD Music Service?

mr_bill

Re: iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane
« Reply #8 on: 10 Aug 2021, 02:38 am »
Ifi David,
I have an external usb dac.
I understand Tidal direct.
If I want the best way to listen to Pandora or iHeart radio or the audio from YouTube - what would be the best way to do that?

Thanks,
Bill
« Last Edit: 15 Aug 2021, 08:50 pm by mr_bill »

uphoto

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Re: iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane
« Reply #9 on: 9 Sep 2021, 04:43 am »
Incredibly bummed out. I got one last week and it had a few issues and had to ship it back to Bloom Audio…….

Problem is they don’t have any to replace it with right now so not sure if I’m going to stick with trying to get a replacement. There is a really good thread on Roon labs forum about these units and peoples experiences. There are some issues people run into, mine wouldn’t connect to Apple Music and sometimes wouldn’t show up as a unit to stream to for Spotify or Roon. Put in a ticket with iFi and they were sort of helpful but couldn’t figure out what was wrong. This is where I got a bit irritated, they wouldn’t send me another unit!  They wanted me to send it to them to work on…….that’s not how you take care of issues for a brand new unit, so just a heads up to others.

mr_bill

Re: iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane
« Reply #10 on: 9 Sep 2021, 03:38 pm »
If iFi David is going to have a Circle on Audiocircle and questions are asked about the product they should be active to answer and interact.  My post was Aug 10 and crickets and I asked because I am really interested in some of their new products - Zen Stream, Iphono3, Zen Phono......
Let's see if there is some follow up. 

uphoto

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Re: iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane
« Reply #11 on: 9 Sep 2021, 05:20 pm »
I think they are in over their heads with the stream unit. Lots of owners think they released it too early and there were bugs, I think they have had a tough time keeping up.

I had two tickets in for service and nothing got fixed. Been some issues with bad power supplies, retailers taking the power supply out and putting generic ones in, signal issues, etc.

But I guess that if you get a good one they are an absolute steal, and one of the best units on the market for the price. I’m really hoping I get one back soon but I’m not happy with the support and that’s concerning

mr_bill

Re: iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane
« Reply #12 on: 9 Sep 2021, 05:57 pm »
I bought a Zen Stream and just received it.  Have to unbox and install and replace my Logitech Touch that I still love using.
Hopefully it will work well!

iFi David

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Re: iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane
« Reply #13 on: 15 Sep 2021, 06:51 pm »
I bought a Zen Stream and just received it.  Have to unbox and install and replace my Logitech Touch that I still love using.
Hopefully it will work well!

I trust that it will!

Also, let me encourage you to use our free Stream-iFi app for Android and iOS respectively here:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ifi.ifistreamer&hl=en_US&gl=US

...and here:

https://apps.apple.com/ao/app/stream-ifi/id1574466165#?platform=ipad

I had two tickets in for service and nothing got fixed. Been some issues with bad power supplies, retailers taking the power supply out and putting generic ones in, signal issues, etc.

If you can provide me with your support tickets via PM, I can check where our support staff is with them, ask internally if needs to be and help out if I can.

---

Also folks, rest assured that I'll be far more frequent visior here than thus far, that's a promise  :)



mr_bill

Re: iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane
« Reply #14 on: 15 Sep 2021, 09:59 pm »
Ifi David,

I have an external usb dac.
I understand Tidal direct on the new Stream.

If I want the best way to listen to Pandora or iHeart radio or the audio from YouTube - what would be the best way to do that with the new Stream?

Thanks,
Bill

John Mulvihill

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Re: iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane
« Reply #15 on: 16 Sep 2021, 12:18 am »
Hi IFI David,

Thanks for telling us about the new app.  I went to the sites to see what they were about and I read what was there.  Honestly, I am admittedly not the most app capable person out there, so I have no idea what they do and how they would help me.  Please explain in common English.

When it works with AOL Prime Music, I will rush to buy one.

Thanks,
John

iFi David

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Re: iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane
« Reply #16 on: 16 Sep 2021, 10:41 am »
Ifi David,

I have an external usb dac.
I understand Tidal direct on the new Stream.

If I want the best way to listen to Pandora or iHeart radio or the audio from YouTube - what would be the best way to do that with the new Stream?

Thanks,
Bill

Bill, our Stream-iFi app features the 'Web Radio' tab that might do the trick for you. Can you please try it?

Hi IFI David,

Please explain in common English.


Stream-iFi is essentially an app designed to control ZEN Stream, change its settings and provide a very easy to use intuitive interface to play music.   

mr_bill

Re: iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane
« Reply #17 on: 16 Sep 2021, 03:25 pm »
Thank you David, any idea of when Chromecast will be added?

iFi David

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Re: iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane
« Reply #18 on: 16 Sep 2021, 07:42 pm »
Thank you David, any idea of when Chromecast will be added?

We're aware that people want it, but I have no specific date (or any confirmation that Chromecast is coming) at this time.

uphoto

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Re: iFi audio ZEN Stream - Streaming elevated to a higher plane
« Reply #19 on: 16 Sep 2021, 09:58 pm »
I trust that it will!

Also, let me encourage you to use our free Stream-iFi app for Android and iOS respectively here:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ifi.ifistreamer&hl=en_US&gl=US

...and here:

https://apps.apple.com/ao/app/stream-ifi/id1574466165#?platform=ipad

If you can provide me with your support tickets via PM, I can check where our support staff is with them, ask internally if needs to be and help out if I can.

---

Also folks, rest assured that I'll be far more frequent visior here than thus far, that's a promise  :)

I appreciate that but a bit too late and not your fault.  They finally got back to me today on the ticket saying they might be able to send me another unit but this was a full week later and I already sent it back to the retailer.  Replacement unit (open box.....) will be here tomorrow and I'll let you know how it goes.