We often recommend investing in a decent entry-level phono stage to complement the growing market of budget record players, or as an upgrade to the phono stage built into the main amplifier. However, in doing so, we might be guilty of making it appear there are more out there than is actually true.
The arrival of the iFi Zen Phono has swollen the ranks of decent entry-level phono stages. You certainly won’t find one with a better spec sheet, or that is better built, but most importantly you’ll also struggle to find anything at this price that’ll make your records sound cleaner.
LPS + ZEN = MAGICAL COMBO.
You’ve spent years building your dream LP collection. We know because we have done the same!
The ZEN Phono is a wonderful enhancement to your vinyl setup. It will max out every MM/MC cartridge.
Choc full of AMR/iFi trickle-down vinyl technology, it will have you poring over your LPs into the wee, small hours.
SPEC’D TO MAKE YOU SMILE
Unlike any other entry-level phono stage. The ZEN Phono has:
- MM/MC from 36dB >72dB gain. Super-silent noise floor -151dBV
- Precise RIAA with Balanced output, performance comparable to +$1k phono stages
- An intelligent sub-sonic filter. Addresses warp without eliminating bass
Flagship phono amplifiers create their own power supply off the mains, like a mains regenerator. This is fundamental to a well-designed phono stage. Without this, it will struggle to amplify the signal without added noise. This is why phono stages ‘hiss’ so annoyingly.
Unusually, the ZEN Phono has its own high-tech clean power supply. It creates a 1.2MHz power supply (20,000x mains frequency of 60Hz). In this circuit, a 10uF filtering capacitor = 200,000uF at lower, audible frequencies. With serious levels of noise filtration, it performs at the level of classic LC filtering circuits as found in classic tube amplifiers. On its own ‘island’ PCB, it is isolated so there is no noise pollution of the analogue stage.
Just super clean +/- 12V DC.
Measured EIN (Equivalent Input Noise) is -151dBV. It is 20dBV quieter than some Stereophile Class A+ phonos which are -131dBV.
The EQ circuit uses multiple TDK C0G capacitors in parallel. This is for best stability and the least distortion. They beat polystyrene capacitors and are close to Teflon. Read more here.
Already using the lowest tolerance capacitors combined with multiples in parallel, tolerance is exponentially improved by the square root of the number of capacitors. This is quite a natty circuit design.
The RIAA EQ tolerance level (+/- 0.15dB) is impressive as it is en par with hand-selected capacitors!
WITH GREAT CIRCUIT COMES GREAT COMPONENTS
The ZEN Phono has some seriously good audio components backing up the fab circuit design which has trickled-down from its ultra-fidelity AMR PH-77 and iFi iPhono siblings.
Scroll down for more on the most consequential circuit highlights/boutique components.
The intelligent sub-sonic filter is from the iPhono range and is quite special. Normal sub-sonic filters remove ‘rumble’ and bass and add phase issues. Our unique AI phono sub-sonic filter removes ‘rumble’ only.
|Gain settings:||MC (v lo)@|
|72dB (+/- 1dB)|
60dB (+/- 1dB)
48dB (+/- 1dB)
36dB (+/- 1dB)
|AI Sub-sonic filter:||Remedies only the 'warp' in LPs||No negative impact to bass response|
|Max Output Voltage (RMS):||20v RMS bal output into 100k (< 1% THD & N)|
13.5V RMS bal output into 600R (< 1% THD & N)
|200 Ohm resistive|
100 Ohm resistive
|Signal/Noise Ratio:||94dB(A) MM re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL|
80dB(unweighted 80kHz BW) MM re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
84dB(A) MC Hi re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
71dB(unweighted 80kHz BW) MM re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
90dB(A) MC lo re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
79dB(unweighted 80kHz BW) MC lo re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
79dB(A) MC vlo re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
69dB(unweighted 80kHz BW) MC vlo re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
|EIN (equivalent input noise):||0.6nV|/Hz (unweighted) MC lo/vlo|
6.5nV|/Hz (unweighted) MM/MC hi
|-151dBV (A weighted)|
-130dBV (A weighted)
|Harmonic Distortion:|| < -110dB / 0.0003% MM re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL|
< -80dB / 0.01% MC lo re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
< -86dB / 0.005% MC vlo re 2V BAL/1V UNBAL
|Power Supply:||DC 5V / 500mA|
|Dimensions:||158 x117 x35 mm|
6.2" x 4.6" x 1.4"
|Weight:||515g (1.14 Ibs)|
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