ifi Zen Blue Air Bluetooth Receiver and DAC
Add the best Bluetooth to your hi-fi system.
This Bluetooth streamer supports all the latest, highest quality codecs to stream music from smartphones, tablets, PCs, and Macs to any audio system.
The ZEN Blue V2 immediately impresses with its sturdy aluminium enclosure, unusual at such a low price. But what really sets it apart is the circuitry within – iFi has gone to great lengths to ensure that the sound quality over Bluetooth is the best it can be, through both its analogue and digital outputs.
The ZEN Blue V2 features an improved Bluetooth chip and antenna that increases range and stability, along with a new low jitter clock for improved performance.
- Enjoy the best Bluetooth music possible, simply and easily, with the ZEN Blue V2. Every source device is covered at the highest resolution its Bluetooth audio specification will allow, with all the latest 24-bit/96kHz capable Bluetooth audio formats.
- Control your music via Bluetooth with your favourite music app and relax.
- ‘Remembers’ up to eight paired Bluetooth source devices.
- Newest version of the Qualcomm 5100 Bluetooth chip and larger aerial antenna for increased coverage; the original low-profile antenna is also included in the box for versatility.
- New and improved low jitter clock yields better performance.
- Balanced design for less interference and cross talk at the output stage. RCA and balanced outputs at HiFi standard level; 2V SE and 4V BAL and thus is compatible with both HiFi and Pro systems.
Reap the benefits of both analogue and digital connections:
- Analogue – connect via RCA to an amp or active speakers or via 4.4mm output to amp/speakers with a balanced output.
- Digital – use the optical and coaxial connections to connect to anything with a built in DAC and corresponding digital input; your TV, an AV amp or external DAC in your hi-fi set-up.
The manner in which Bluetooth is implemented – the quality of signal processing and the circuitry that surrounds it – has a big impact on performance. Not all Bluetooth sounds the same, and at iFi we engineer our products to obtain the best possible performance from every audio source – Bluetooth streaming included.
All the latest 24-bit-capable Bluetooth audio formats are supported, including Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive and aptX HD, Sony’s LDAC and Huawei’s HWA. Other codecs covered include regular aptX and aptX Low Latency, AAC (the favoured format of Apple iOS devices) and SBC (the ‘plain vanilla’ Bluetooth codec). This means that every possible source device is covered at the highest audio resolution its Bluetooth specification allows. Future codecs may even be added ‘over the air’ through firmware updates.
The LED at the centre of the ZEN Blue’s front panel changes colour to identify the Bluetooth codec being received:
Another LED to the right indicates the sample rate: Blue for 44/48khz, and White for 88/96khz.
The ZEN Blue V2 ‘remembers’ up to eight paired Bluetooth source devices, making it easy to switch from one device to another, with impressive reception range thanks to the latest Bluetooth 5 specification. The DAC stage handles sampling rates well in excess of the maximum delivered by current hi-res Bluetooth formats – of the 24-bit-capable codecs, aptX Adaptive and aptX HD support up to 48kHz, while LDAC and HWA reach 96kHz.
The iFi Bluetooth implementation begins with a state-of-the-art Qualcomm QCC5100 Series chip to process the incoming data – the ZEN Blue V2 features the newest version of this Bluetooth IC. Extensive clock-locking is used throughout the digital stage to eradicate jitter, maintaining the integrity of the digital signal until conversion.
The Qualcomm QCC5100 offers a ‘system-on-a-chip’ Bluetooth solution, with all functions covered including D-to-A conversion. Many manufacturers would simply rely on this chip to deliver the DAC function, but this is not the iFi way.
The ZEN Blue V2 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.
One of the key advantages of the ESS Sabre DAC chip is its Hyperstream architecture with integrated Time Domain Jitter Eliminator, which helps to deliver vanishingly low distortion and high dynamic range. We’ve found that this allies perfectly with the Qualcomm chip to deliver Bluetooth audio that sounds far better than the norm.
None of this would mean much if the rest of the ZEN Blue’s circuitry were not up to scratch. ZEN Blue was the first iFi product to benefit from the input of legendary audio designer John Curl, who has teamed up with the our electronics design team, led by Technical Director Thorsten Loesch, to ensure the circuit design of every product is fully optimised.
The ZEN Blue’s analogue output stage is a balanced design – highly unusual in a DAC at this price point. The balanced design means less interference and cross talk.
It incorporates a range of high-quality circuit components, carefully selected for their performance in an audio context, including professional-grade balanced line drivers, C0G capacitors from TDK and a precision low-noise power supply IC from Texas Instruments.
Plus, for Zen Blue V2, we’ve improved our Global Master Timing (GMT) clock circuitry to give you an even smoother musical ride. It means up to >20db better performance for even more ZEN.
Best of both worlds
The ZEN Blue V2 adds high-quality 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 – these allow connection to anything with a built-in DAC and corresponding digital input, such as an AV amp or an external hi-fi DAC.
Features & Specifications
|Chipsets||Qualcomm QCC 5100 Series (Bluetooth)
ESS Sabre (DAC)
|Input||Bluetooth 5.1™ with AAC, SBC, aptX,
aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC,
3.5mm S-Balanced (SE)
|Frequency Response||10-48K (-2DB) under LDAC|
|Output Voltage @ OdBFS||2.05V (+/-0.05V)|
|Dynamic Range||109dB (A)|
|Signal/Noise ratio||111dBA/106.5dBA (BAL/S-BAL)|
|THD & N @ OdBFS||<0.009% (BAL 6.5mW/2.0V @ 600Ω)
<0.03% (SE 100mW/1.27V @ 16Ω)
|Dimensions||158 (I) x 100 (w) x 35 (h) mm|
|Weight||476g (1.05 Ibs)|