iFi ZEN Air DAC Review

iFi ZEN Air DAC review featured

In this article, I’m reviewing the iFi ZEN Air Digital to Analogue Converter. The iFi ZEN Air DAC can be used as a headphone amp and as a pure DAC for amps or active speakers via stereo RCA outputs. It’s iFi’s way of bringing affordable high-performance audio to the market. It’s priced at $99.

Disclaimer: This sample was provided by iFi for an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own, based on my experience with the product.

iFi ZEN Air DAC Review
Add your rating here!0 Votes
Laid-back, transparent sound
Small footprint
Feature-rich (Power Match and Xbass)
Detail and resolution
Included USB cable is too short for practical use
Our Score


Table of Contents
ZEN Air design


Let’s start with the exterior of the iFi ZEN Air. Unlike the original ZEN and the Signature series, the ZEN Air forgoes the metal chassis and instead boasts a high-grade thermoplastic polymer to reduce costs. As a result, the device doesn’t feel as premium as the other series’ models but for $99, one could hardly complain about the build quality here.

On the front panel, we find (from left to right) an LED that glows different colours depending on the sample rate of the current file being played, the Power Match button, volume knob, 6.35mm headphone output and the Xbass+ button.

The rear panel features RCA line outputs, a USB input, and a DC 5V input (note: the package does not include a power supply).

If you’ve owned or used other iFi products you might already be familiar with the Power Match and Xbass functionality. But for the uninitiated, I’ll give a brief explanation here. First, the Power Match is essentially a dual-gain function. For low-impedance IEMs and headphones, it’s better to leave PM off. However, if you’re using more demanding or power-hungry headphones then you should turn Power Match On.

ZEN Air rear I/O

enhances the lower frequencies, offering a noticeable boost in bass output. What sets it apart is its analogue approach, which delivers a more authentic and superior sound compared to digital processing methods. While I typically prefer to keep Xbass+ deactivated for a purer sound, I occasionally engage it for a bit of fun and head shaking.

Internally, the iFi ZEN Air DAC boasts iFi’s preferred bit-perfect Burr Brown DAC chip which supports PCM 32bit/384kHz, native DSD256 and MQA formats.

One thing I’d like to add here is that the included USB cable is absurdly short. It might be one of the ways iFi kept the price under $100 but I imagine there will be some consumers who will feel the need to shell out some extra dollars for a better USB cable.

iFi ZEN Air DAC with Feliks Audio Elise amp


For my testing, I used the ZEN Air DAC with various IEMs like the Letshuoer S12 and Simgot EA1000. For headphones, I plugged in the Sennheiser HD650 and FiiO FT3. With Power Match turned off, the ZEN Air performs great with sensitive IEMs and I couldn’t hear any background noise, buzzing or hissing. I found there was ample power for the headphones I tested with Power Match turned on but on some quieter recordings, there wasn’t much headroom left.

I also tested the ZEN Air as a pure DAC, connected to my Feliks Audio Elise via RCA. This is where the ZEN Air showed its innate ability and the result was pure bliss. The synergy between these components notably expanded the soundstage and heightened stereo imaging. This pairing, along with the Sennheiser HD650 with Power Match set to off, sounded fantastic.

I find Burr Brown DACs to sound transparent and uncoloured with excellent staging and the same can be said with the ZEN Air. Granted, it’s not as nuanced or refined as iFi’s higher-tiered models but it’s shockingly good for a $99 DAC.

As I listen to Riverside’s “Shine“, I’m impressed by the dynamic range, resolution, and detail. The track is clear and articulate with good spacial cues and excellent coherency. The timbre of the guitars and drums is accurate and lifelike and I find myself drifting away to the music.

Playing through Anathema’s “Thin Air“, everything sounds pure and unbiased. The vocals are placed on a neutral stage with just the right blend of intimacy and distance as if I’m watching a live performance from a few rows back and slightly above. Everything is well-defined and placed with precision across the stage, creating a sense of depth and dimensionality.


To wrap things up, the iFi ZEN Air DAC is a stellar performer for the money. Not only does it sound great but it’s feature-rich and perfect for anyone looking for an all-in-one desktop device. Recommended.

Recommended award

Stay in the Loop with the Latest News and Updates!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Founder of Prime Audio
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Stay in the Loop with the Latest News and Updates!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x