iFi Uno versus Zen V2.

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi and General Audio' started by Hodges, Apr 7, 2024.

  1. Hodges

    Hodges

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    Recently, for my birthday, my son bought me a iFi Uno, which I have been driving my Quad 909 with via a passive pre - amplifier - potentiometer in a box. The 909 in turn, drives my Spendor BC1's.

    The whole purpose of my re - vamped/re - kindled interest in my system began as an exercise in down - sizing for a move to a smaller property. The intention was to go mainly over to headphones, but that idea seems to have evaporated for the time being, particularly as my BC1's have been fitted with new ferrite drivers and brought back into service.

    My recently acquired Sugden Bijou head amp sits silently out of service as the 909 is very happy to be driven directly, but it will come into its own soon enough.

    Anyway, all this seems to have sparked my son's interest, particularly as before he gave the Uno to me, he tested it on his PC with Amazon Music. He was astounded at the difference and somewhat annoyed as he had bought what he thought was a good DAC/Audio board for his PC.

    We got to discuss the V2 and as his interest was sparked, he bought one. This plus a new pair of open - back headphones and he was thrilled with the quality. So, I then went and bought a V2, intending to pass the Uno on to his sister for her birthday - along with a Quad 33/303 combination which she has been keen on getting for a while.

    My Zen V2 came with a free noise filter, which sits in line with the USB lead.

    Initial conclusions were how much better the V2 was than the Uno. But listening at quiet levels, although it is silky, particularly with piano music, it sounded a bit pedestrian. Super smooth, but lacking the resonance one gets from a grand piano. Absolutely bang - on at higher levels however.

    However, the Uno, when played at higher levels is very bright - too bright I would say. So much so, I was considering designing some passive tone controls to temper the treble and lift the bass a little.

    However, I decided to listen again to the Uno, at the kind of level I will mostly be listening - pretty low. Suffice to say, the Uno, in my opinion, outshines the V2. The clarity is superb, piano keys resonating beautifully within the frame with all the delicacy I would want from music.

    I suppose an unintended consequence of the low cost Uno is, very little audio shaping appears to be done, almost as if it is raw from the DAC Decoder, which has resulted in the response mimicking the old loudness characteristic, which was so useful when playing music at low levels, 20 - 30 years ago.

    All in all, whilst the quality of the V2 is obvious, so too is that of the Uno and in the case where I shall mostly listen at low level, I shall be buying another Uno, given my daughter is having this one. There is a sweetness to the music which would deceive anyone into thinking it was coming from a much more expensive piece of kit than the iFi Uno.
     
    Hodges, Apr 7, 2024
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  2. Hodges

    Romulus

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    I have the original IFI Zen Dac and simply love it for the sound quality, the solid build and that lovely sumptuous solid volume knob...:)
     
    Romulus, Apr 8, 2024
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    Hodges likes this.
  3. Hodges

    Hodges

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    Agreed, they are really well built and beautifully presented. Styling is to me as different as the Quad 33 was all those years ago and all the better for it, in my opinion. They sound sumptuous too - like Devon Cream tastes!
     
    Hodges, Apr 9, 2024
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  4. Hodges

    Hodges

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    Further to my original post, the Uno died on me which is disappointing. Plus the iSilencer started to fail after about 1 -1.5 hours use. Switched off for a short while it recovered, before failing again after the same 1 - 1.5 hour of use. I suspect it may be a heat problem. However, S.S.A.V. quickly replaced it, after collecting the dud unit.

    The Uno however, came from another supplier and that is proving a little more difficult to get replaced. Ultimately the manufacturer will get involved as the supplier said they would not honour their returns policy as it failed two days after their time limit. All this aside, the Uno is still a lovely piece of kit for the money and I do miss its brightness at low volume.

    However, the V2 is proving to be a real joy to listen to. I have just subscribed to Amazon Music and most of my listening is classical, and in particular Ultra HD, which is still not a very large section, but none the less brilliant. The "Chill" and easy listening sections make superb listening when one is doing some PC work or reading.

    It is interesting - well for me at least - as my 909 runs cooler than quiescent. Even though it is driving my Spendors which are quite sensitive it seems there is enough power from the Class A amplifier section of the 909 to drive them without invoking the Current Dumpers, hence the lower heat sink temperature of the 909. This is exactly what I had hoped to achieve with my 405, which I will test again to determine if it exhibits similar traits. I have seen some interesting articles which indicate the 405 will produce ~ 1 watt of Class A power from each channel. Not knowing this at the time, I was none the less driven to look for a 909, thinking its Class A section would produce more power to enable me to listen at low levels in that mode. It seems my hunch was correct.

    The Uno is destined to go to my daughter, when it is repaired/replaced. In the mean time I am proposing to design a pre - emphasis circuit to use on one of the spare inputs to the Sugden, such that it can be switched - in during low volume listening, to restore the brightness the V2 seems to lack, when compared to the the Uno.

    My vintage 1971 303/33 combination have been superlative performers and latterly my 405. The restored Spendors continue to be regarded as "Reference" speakers, although now, I appreciate they can easily be driven out of their comfort zone with the kind of power that is needed to drive modern speakers.

    However, when driven by the 909 a low - ish volumes, and particularly very low volumes with the 909, they are quite beautiful to listen to. There has been a huge leap in the performance of audio systems since the Seventies. Sugden remain what they are - Masters of Class A. But the Quad 909 is incredible for its lightening - quick "Attack" and infinitesimally low noise and distortion. And the sweetness of sound it produces at low levels has the Hall-mark of Sugden. In conjunction with the Bijou Headmaster, they make a fabulous pair.
     
    Hodges, Apr 20, 2024
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    lawrence001 likes this.
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