As an all-analogue headphone amp, the ZEN CAN has no digital input of any kind,
USB or otherwise. It connects to any audio source with an analogue output, such as
the headphone output from a DAP (Digital Audio Player), a laptop, a tablet, etc.
In common with the other ZEN Series products, the ZEN CAN sports a sturdy,
smartly finished aluminium enclosure, neatly sized at 158x35x100mm (WxHxD). In
the centre of the front panel is a smooth-acting rotary volume control, flanked by a
range of sockets and buttons. On the left, beside the power button and input
switch, resides a control for selecting the appropriate gain. Four settings in six dB
steps – 0dB, 6dB, 12dB and 18db – enable the amp to precisely suit the connected
headphones; unity gain (0dB) is useful to ensure low noise with sensitive in-ear
monitors, while the higher gain settings make the most of tougher headphone
loads, delivering excellent dynamic headroom.
Next to the headphone sockets is a button to engage the latest versions of iFi’s
‘XBass’ and ‘3D’ sonic tailoring options for headphones. XBass adjusts frequency
response to enhance low frequency performance – particularly useful with openback headphones that ‘leak’ deep bass. 3D compensates for the ‘in-head
localisation’ effect that often occurs when using headphones to listen to music that
was mixed using a pair of speakers, effectively widening the headphone soundstage
to deliver a more speaker-like experience. Both XBass and 3D engage purely
analogue processing and may be bypassed entirely if preferred.