In comparison to the ‘regular’ ZEN DAC, the Signature edition is a specialised, purist design. Without the builtin headphone amp, its sole purpose is to feed an external amp, whether this be a headphone amp or an amp and speakers. This simplification of its circuitry provides the opportunity to upgrade the signal path and critical components within it; while the existing ZEN DAC introduced the benefits of fully balanced circuit design at an extraordinarily low price point, the Signature edition further ups the ante with its enhanced true-differential balanced topology.
Various key surface-mounted circuit components have been upgraded to high-end devices, including
Panasonic OS-CON and Elna Silmic II capacitors, while the circuit has been refined to ensure short, direct signal paths for optimal signal purity. This results in even greater sonic detail and expression.
The ZEN DAC Signature’s digital stage retains the True Native DAC architecture of its award-winning sibling, delivering bit-perfect PCM (up to 32-bit/384kHz), native DSD (up to DSD256) and DXD, plus MQA – the hi-res streaming technology, as used by Tidal’s ‘HiFi’ tier. The sample rate of incoming audio data is indicated by an multicoloured LED residing behind the aluminium volume control.
The iFi-programmed XMOS chip, which processes data received at the USB input, and jitter-eradicating,
audiophile-grade oscillators, contribute to exemplary handling of digital audio signals as they are received, processed and converted to analogue form.
Aside from the removal of the integrated headphone amp and associated front-mounted outputs, the
Signature edition’s connectivity is the same as the regular ZEN DAC. The USB Type B input supports the
‘SuperSpeed’ USB 3.0 standard, as well as USB 2.0 for backwards compatibility. It is asynchronous, meaning that the data rate is regulated solely by the ZEN DAC Signature’s specialised audio clock circuitry for accurate, jitter-free data transfer from the source device.