We reviewed iFi’s ZEN DAC V2 against the original (here) and loved both. As a cost effective way of adding a standalone USB DAC to a system they were difficult to beat. Adding a great headphone amplifier into the mix only added to the value. The icing on the cake was the pre-amp capability; we paired them with Q Acoustics M20 HD active speakers for a brilliant starter system. 

So when iFi announced its latest ZEN DAC V3 we took note. Most notable is the smart new look of the ZEN DAC V3. Forget budget-DAC vibe, the V3 has an air of sophistication thanks to the two-tone fascia and gold-tinged controls. It all looks very nice. 

Around the back the single input is now USB-C rather than USB-B. As with previous ZEN DACs this can be used to power the device as well as providing the signal. Or treat it to a better external power supply via the 5V input. An iFi iPower 2 was well worth it in our experience. 

Internally the ZEN DAC V3’s headline rates have doubled to 768kHz PCM and DSD512; great if that’s your thing (we’re not convinced, the lower jitter crystal-clock is likely to make more difference). MQA capability is also retained. 

Elsewhere the impressive spec of the V2 is carried over. Run it in fixed or variable-output mode, the latter either single ended or balanced. Both 6.3mm single-ended or 4.4mm balanced headphone sockets sit on the front. Power Match ensures the ZEN DAC can power your chosen headphones appropriately. And XBass boosts the bass where appropriate. This can be subtly beneficial in our experience (we’ve heard it on numerous iFi devices), not least as it’s implemented in the analogue domain, not digitally. 

All of which equates to a nip and tuck rather than a significant rethink. Even with the slightly higher price of £229 / US$229 / €229 the ZEN DAC V3 remains an attractive proposition though.

Alongside it iFi has announced the ZEN Phono V3. Same casework as the original Zen Phono (there was no V2), same new look as the ZEN DAC V3. As before gain can be set between 36 and 72dB to match your cartridge. New is a facia control allowing you to vary input load ( MM/MC-High: 47kΩ, 100/200pF MC-Low/V-Low: 100/400/1kΩ). 

A subsonic filter helps address warped records. On the rear there’s a single-ended input on RCA sockets, plus a choice of 4.4mm balanced or RCA single ended outputs. A 5V power supply is included. As with the ZEN DAC V3 you can use a higher quality one, iFi’s iPower 2 being an obvious choice. We haven’t heard the original model, and at £249 / US$249 / €249 the ZEN Phono V3 is not short of competitors. Were we in the market we’d certainly give it a listen though, iFi has an impressive track record.

For more info see here (DAC V3) and here (Phono V3).