Zen Stream/Zen DAC v2 a Surprisingly Good Combo

I picked up a Zen Stream a couple of months ago to use in my main system with the intention of getting a 'higher' end DAC to use with it. Maybe something from Schiit, Denafrips, Topping or Geshelli. In the meantime I took the Zen DAC v2 off my desk and connected it to the Stream to test out in my main system. Wow!

The Zen DAC has been performing headphone and powered speaker preamp duties on my desk for the past couple of years and doing it well. I never thought to try it out in my main system and wish I had done so sooner. Suffice it to say, I'm no longer in the market for a DAC from another company the Zen Stream/Zen DAC v2 is an excellent match for my main system (Kinky Studio EX-M1+ and Buchard s400 MKII).

I'm using the Stream as a Roon End Point. Setup was easy and I have had no issues with connectivity and stability over Wifi since I started using it in my system. I also upgraded to a iPowerX for the Stream and it made a slight noticeable difference to the sound in terms of soundstage.

Overall, I'm very happy with the Zen Stream/Zen DAC v2 combo and highly recommend this setup for those that don't need the tiny screen or AIO convenience of the Neo Stream. The $700 combo of a Zen Stream/Zen DAC v2/iPowerX is a streaming solution that can hold it's own with the likes of Bluesound Node and CA CXNv2 or MXN10 streamers in terms of sound quality. However, Bluesound and CA options provide a better native software solution for those that don't use Roon. 

Ag insider logo xs@2xmindhead1

@vinylvalet  It remains a bit of a mystery to me. I tried the $109 iPower X 15V with my ZS, as people had commented that 15V renders better sound compared to 12V. I also plugged it into the power conditioner. However, I didn't notice any sonic difference and, as such, experience the expected benefits from this conventional wisdom.  But, that is just me and YMMV.

@lanx0003 At least a half dozen reasons why that might be. I wouldn't worry about it and enjoy the music.

I often find this to be true when I insert one "tweak". But when I insert four, five or more, then it's obvious. I don't bother to go back and sort it out.

Also, with hard to hear improvements, after a tweak has been applied, it leave it there for a month or two and then take it out. If find I can hear a degradation of sound better than an improvement in sound.

All the above is IMHO and with my messed up, old ears.

Lots of great streaming options available under $1K. My point was that the Zen Stream is the best as a pure streamer for Roon. The only thing that comes close is the Raspberry Pi streamer I put together. A cheaper package in terms of parts, but requires some technical know how to get working. Thus, I give the nod to the ZS for ease of use. Although I may have thought differently had I purchased the product 6-12 months ago when it was still very buggy.

As for the power supply upgrades. I notice slight improvements when I make these changes but I’m not always certain they are worth the extra money. My thinking is they would be more definitive if I had a bad power situation in my house. I also, rarely, take the time to go back and see if I notice taking the upgrade away. 

The only time I’ve gone back is with speakers. This, far my upgrades have been worth it in that I no longer wish to listen to the speakers that were replaced with the new. 

An update to this string. I acquired a Geshelli Labs J2S 4499 DAC w/ Sparkos Op Amps a few weeks ago and connected it to the Zen Stream (Roon Endpoint) and wow. The J2S is a winner. Compared to the Zen DAC v2 Soundstage, clarity, and dynamics are all improved. The ZDV2 still sounds really good IMO. The J2S as I have it configured is 3.5x the price of the ZDv2 and I would say worth the premium.

While not as nice looking when stacked the ZS and J2S make for a nice pairing over USB. I’ve been updating my system over the past few months and now feel like I’m in a good place for the foreseeable future. The J2S was the final piece of the puzzle.

Current setup:

  • Kinki Studio EX-M1+
  • Buchardt s400 mkII
  • Geshelli Labs J2S 4499 w/ Sparkos
  • ifi Zen Stream
  • Project Debut Carbon Evo w/ Moonstone