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iFi Releases New Phono Preamplifier - HomeTheaterReview

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iFi announced its latest version

, ZEN Phono preamplifier. ZEN Phono may be small and affordable, but its customized OVA2637 operational amplifier and impressive pedigree make it promising. In addition, the new phono preamp has a 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced output in addition to the traditional gold-plated RCA input and output. The retail price of ZEN Phono is US$149.


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iFi continues to expand its award-winning ZEN series of affordable desktop-sized audio equipment-phono stage (or phono preamp, if you prefer) with ZEN Phono, with unparalleled performance for only $149. we

iFi's pedigree in the design of the stage of the record player is considerable. The company’s recently launched flagship model, the iPhono3 Black Label, offers top-notch ultra-low noise performance at a price of £999, while iFi’s sister company AMR’s PH-77 is a reference phono preamplifier with a list price of US$15,000. ZEN Phono is the first record player made by iFi for less than $200, and it is a truly outstanding device in terms of sound per pound.

For anyone obsessed with vinyl revival, ZEN Phono is the ideal companion for the turntable of their choice. It provides unparalleled price specifications and performance, can perfectly match all types of cartridges, whether it is a moving magnet or a moving coil.

Each turntable needs a cartridge to amplify the low-level output of the cartridge to "line level" and apply RIAA equalization. Some integrated amplifiers and preamps have built-in phono amplifier stages, but they vary in quality and are hardly as well-designed external phono amplifiers placed in the signal chain between the turntable and the line level input on the amplifier level.

Designing a truly high-performance turntable stage is no easy task. On the one hand, it is difficult to amplify the delicate output of the cartridge without amplifying the noise. In addition, the output from different cassettes varies greatly, which means that many phono amplifier stages only work best on certain types of cassettes. These problems are more serious in the entry-level market of the phono-level market, where basic circuit design using common off-the-shelf components can usually bring ample performance-entry-level products are okay, but you can spend more money Easily surpassed.

The design of ZEN phonograph aims to break the limit that can be reached at the entry stage phonograph stage. Its circuit design has the advantage of high price, and its series of precisely designed settings ensure true versatility. Whether it is a turntable or a turntable, ZEN Phono always provides first-class performance.

ZEN Phono's circuit uses a balanced, symmetrical dual mono design-due to complexity and cost, this topology is usually reserved for high-end audio products. The balanced circuit design has the ability to reduce noise and crosstalk, thereby improving the clarity of the sound, and has long been advocated by the famous high-end audio electronics engineer John Curl-his analog amplifier design (including multiple landmark phono amplifier stages) It has been praised since the 1970s.

Curl is now iFi's technical consultant. He worked with the iFi internal technical team headed by Thorsten Loesch to produce excellent quality circuit designs for this affordable phono stage. At such a low price, this completely balanced ultra-low noise design is unprecedented.

ZEN Phono's balanced circuit includes surface mount components of exceptional quality in entry-level designs. For example, the capacitors used include TDK C0G and Murata multilayer ceramic types, and Panasonic ECPU polyphenylene sulfide film devices-these are not cheap, but they have first-class ESL (Equivalent Series Resistance) and unique qualities such as high stability Performance and high reliability. Low distortion is of great benefit in terms of sound quality and accuracy of RIAA equalization.

Like many iFi audio products, ZEN Phono contains a customized OV series operational amplifier-in this case OVA2637. Due to the ultra-low distortion (0.0001%), this also makes a huge contribution to price-destroying audio performance.

The best phonograph player on the market generates its own power source from the mains, similar to a mains regenerator, in order to amplify the audio signal of the cassette tape without adding noise. ZEN Phono achieves this goal, but not in a conventional way. It creates a power supply with an oscillation frequency of 1.2MHz, which is 20,000 times the mains. In this circuit, the filter capacitor with a rating of 10uF is equivalent to 200,000uF at a lower audible frequency, which has excellent filtering capabilities. The power circuit is located on its own "island" on the circuit board to ensure that the audio signal is not polluted-only ultra-clean +/- 12V DC.

The technical characteristics of phono cartridges vary greatly, but in addition to moving magnet (MM) types, phono-grade cartridges priced under £200 can also handle moving coil (MC) cartridges, not to mention further adjustments to gain. To take full advantage of any cartridge used by the user, choose to hire.

The ZEN phono is an exception. It offers a gain setting range from 36dB to 72dB, which is impressive even in the expensive phono stage. There are a total of four gain settings: 36dB (MM), 48dB (high output MC), 60dB (low output MC) and 72dB (ultra low output MC). This allows ZEN Phono to make strides to adopt more exotic MC cartridge types.

At this price level, another rarity is the subsonic filter, which is activated by the front panel button to process the large subsonic signal output caused by the distorted recording. This proprietary circuit is the function of all iFi phono stage, "intelligent" filters out unwanted subsonic output without affecting any deep bass in the recording, which is an undesirable side effect of some distortion filters.

This is how it works: The vinyl cutting lathe contains a so-called "elliptical filter", which means that the low-level bass on the LP is always mono and only produces the horizontal movement of the stylus. Therefore, any low-frequency vertical movement of the stylus when tracking the LP can only be the result of recording deformation. iFi's subsonic filter eliminates the effects of recording distortion in the vertical direction, effectively completing the work without the common disadvantages of attenuating any low bass or increasing group delay.

The rear of the ZEN Phono and the usual stereo RCA inputs and outputs are all gold-plated for best signal integrity, while the rear has another phono-level rarity-the 4.4mm Pentaconn balanced output. It can be used to connect to a power amplifier with balanced inputs or active speakers-Pentaconn 4.4mm input (such as the input on a ZEN CAN analog headphone amplifier) ​​or XLR input via an adapter. This allows a fully balanced connection to take full advantage of ZEN Phono's balanced circuit-at this price level, no other phono can provide balanced output options.

A ground terminal is also provided. Connect the turntable's ground wire here to avoid ground loop problems that may cause hum. Even the way ZEN Phono switches between settings has been designed to ensure the transparency of the sound and is handled by a microcontroller that "wake up" only when the settings are changed to avoid any electronic noise that is harmful to the sound.

ZEN Phono is the fourth product in the ZEN series to join iFi. The mission of this series is to make high-performance audio easier to use than ever. Just like



, It offers unprecedented specifications and performance at its price point. iFi ZEN Phono will be on sale at some retailers from September 4th at a price of US$149.