Encased in an aluminium enclosure, it features a Qualcomm QCC5100 chip to process the incoming data and handles Qualcomm’s aptX HD, Sony’s LDAC and Huawei’s HWA
Other supported codecs include regular aptX, aptX Low Latency (for synching sound with visual media), AAC (the favoured format of iOS devices) and SBC (the ‘plain vanilla’ Bluetooth codec).
The ZEN Blue has separate digital and analogue stages; to feed the analogue stage, the processed digital signal is routed from the QCC5100 to a specialised DAC chip from ESS Technology’s Sabre family to convert the signal from digital to analogue.
This is the first iFi product to benefit from the input of audio designer John Curl.
The ZEN Blue’s analogue output stage is a balanced design.
The ZEN Blue adds Bluetooth reception to any audio system via analogue or digital cable connections.
A switch at the back dictates how the digital signal is routed. Either through the DAC and analogue output stage or directly to the digital outputs.
On the analogue side, RCA stereo outputs allow connection to amplifiers, active speakers and the like, while a 4.4mm Pentaconn output enables balanced signal transfer to amps/speakers equipped with a balanced input – either a 4.4mm input, or XLR inputs via a 4.4mm-to-XLR cable.
For digital connections, optical and coaxial outputs are provided.
The ZEN Blue ‘remembers’ up to seven paired Bluetooth source devices
The LED at the centre of the ZEN Blue’s front panel changes colour to identify the Bluetooth codec being received, while another LED to the right indicates the sample rate.
Qualcomm’s QCC5100 chip can be updated over-the-air, enabling future Bluetooth codecs to be added to the ZEN Blue’s specification.
Available from October at £129, the ZEN Blue streamer is the first of a range of ZEN Series products, all sharing the same 158x35x100mm aluminium case.
It will be followed by a DAC, which swaps Bluetooth reception for a USB input and adds an integrated headphone amp. Further ZEN Series products are set to arrive in the coming months.
To learn more, click www.ifi-audio.com.
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