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iFi ZEN Stream Review

The iFi Zen Stream stands out as a unique audio streaming device, offering a unique blend of design, performance, and innovative features.
ifi zen stream

Disclosure: The iFi ZEN Stream was provided by iFi for the purpose of this review. Please read more about our product review disclosure here.

The iFi ZEN Stream stands out as a unique audio streaming device, offering a unique blend of design, performance, and innovative features that cater to the needs of the discerning audiophile. This article provides an in-depth review of the device, from its striking design and build quality to its stellar sound quality, performance, advanced features, and our final thoughts.

Key Specifications

  • Inputs:
    • Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz & 5 GHz)
    • Ethernet LAN
    • USB 3.0 Type A (for USB HDD)
  • Supported Audio Formats:
    • PCM 384kHz
    • DSD256
    • MQA
  • Natively Supported Services:
    • Spotify
    • Tidal
    • Roon
    • DLNA
    • Airplay 2
  • Outputs:
    • USB3.0 Type A
    • SPDIF (Coaxial)
  • Dimensions:
    • Approximately 158 x 100 x 35 mm
  • Weight:
    • Approximately 476 grams


Introduced by iFi, a notable player in the audio industry, the iFi ZEN Stream is a network streaming transport that takes the concept of audio streaming to the next level. Designed to function as a bridge between your digital audio converter (DAC) and music source, this device offers an alternative to Bluetooth by using Wi-Fi or Ethernet for data transmission, ensuring minimal compression and maximum audio fidelity.

Design & Build Quality

In the Box

iFi likes to keep things easy and straightforward, just like its products. So, the box contents reflect this idea. Along with the ZEN Stream itself, we get an ethernet cable, Wi-Fi antenna, power cable, screwdriver for changing the exclusive mode settings, and manual.

External Design

The iFi ZEN Stream boasts a minimalistic, practical, yet elegant design. Its sleek metal casing doubles as a heat sink, ensuring the device remains cool even while performing heavy tasks. Its compact form factor allows it to seamlessly blend into any audio setup without occupying much space. The overall design allows it to be stacked on or underneath other audio devices.

The back of the device features the majority of the connections. From left to right, we have the following: Wi-Fi antenna, Exclusive Mode Selector, Coaxial output, two USB 3.0 Type-A ports (the top for a USB HDD input, the bottom for output to a USB DAC), USB-C port (used only for firmware updates), 1 Gbps Ethernet port, Reset button, and power supply input.

On the front of the device, from left to right, we have the power button, Network status LED, Audio format LED, and the LED/Wi-Fi hotspot button.

Internal Components

Internally, the device is powered by a 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex processor to ensure robust performance. It features advanced circuitry, including high-spec components like TDK C0G capacitors and Murata Inductors, contributing to its impressive sound processing. Additionally, iFi’s proprietary GMT (Global Master Timing) clock circuits are integrated into the device to eradicate any jitter from the audio signal. Lastly, the USB ports and Coaxial connection feature iFi’s Active Noise Cancelling Technology to ensure the digital signal encounters as little electrical interference as possible.

Sound Quality

As you can tell from the previous section, the iFi ZEN Stream is built to deliver the cleanest sound possible for a media transport. It supports high-resolution audio formats up to PCM384 and DSD256 and is fully compatible with MQA. I tested the audio output from the ZEN Stream using the following USB DACs: my iFi ZEN DAC V2, Qudelix T71, and Qudelix 5K. For the audio source, I tested using a music library hosted on a home server (FLAC, MQA, and MP3 files), Tidal, and Roon.

Firstly, the ZEN Stream was able to output to all three USB DACs with no issue, and it quickly identified them all as USB DACs. Secondly, using both Wi-Fi and Ethernet, there were zero issues with audio playback, meaning you can rest assured you will get the same excellent sound experience regardless of connection method.

Otherwise, there isn’t much to say about the audio quality because the iFi ZEN Stream cleanly transports the audio from your source to your DAC. In every test, the audio sounded exactly the same as if I was using the DAC connected to my computer or DAP’s local library. This is exactly what you want to happen for a media transport, so props to iFi for that.


The iFi ZEN Stream functions smoothly over both wired and wireless connections. I encountered very minimal buffering when on Wi-Fi and almost none when using Ethernet. There was also no stuttering or dropped connections. Your wireless experience will vary depending on your home network and distance. Still, in all of my testing, the ZEN Stream performed without issue. 

It also had no issues with the variety of file formats I used, and integration with the advertised services, such as Tidal, Roon (using Qobuz, Tidal, and local files), and Airplay from an iPad Pro, was flawless. Even using the DLNA connection to my Plex music library worked perfectly.


The following sections will read almost like a walkthrough guide, but I feel they give the best overview of how the ZEN Stream operates in a real-world scenario.

Setup Experience and Mobile Apps

You must use the iFi app or a web browser to configure the ZEN Stream or modify its settings.

When you first connect the iFi ZEN Stream to your network, go to the web address “ifi.local” and you’ll be able to setup and configure the various settings for the ZEN Stream. The setup process is straightforward and user-friendly, and the web experience works well on computers, tablets, and mobile devices.

The iFi app replicates the web experience, but I did encounter some issues and confusion here. On Apple devices (view here), the “Stream-iFi” app works very well. On Android (view here), it’s tricky. The Google Play Store has the “Stream-iFi” app, but it’s an older version and is very glitchy, even being unresponsive at times. Not only that, I was not able to install it on my Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5. The app said it was not compatible with folding devices. It installed fine on my Pixel 6, but as I stated, there were issues. I later discovered an updated version of the app called “iFi Streamer” available on iFi’s download hub. Yes, you must sideload this app to get the same experience Apple users enjoy. It’s trivial for tech-literate users, but the average person buying the ZEN Stream might have trouble figuring this out. I feel iFi really dropped the ball here, and it’s easily resolvable too.

The last thing I want to touch on is that, while the web experience and apps are very functional, the overall UI design leaves much to be desired. It’s very plain and utilitarian. I would really like to see an updated UI with improved organization and layout.

Configuration and Source Settings

Once you’ve connected the iFi ZEN Stream to your network, you have access to many configuration options depending on your needs. In my case, I added a couple of network-accessible folders that reside on my home server. The ZEN Stream successfully indexed them, and I can use the app or web browser to playback the files from there.

Next, you can see the various services you can enable. Roon, Tidal, and Spotify all detected the ZEN Stream as an audio device to send audio to.

Finally, in the Playback section, you can see the ZEN Stream detected my ZEN DAC V2 as an output device. iFi gives users a fair amount of playback control here, even allowing users to select how much audio is buffered before playback.

Multiple Output Options

The ZEN Stream is equipped with two USB 3.0 Type-A ports and an SPDIF coaxial output. One of the USB ports is reserved as an input for USB HDDs, which I did not test. I also did not test the coaxial output as none of my current devices support coaxial connections. The lack of an optical output is disappointing and, in my opinion, a massive oversight as so many DACs and other devices have them instead of coaxial connections.

OTA Updates

One of the ZEN Stream’s standout features is its support for OTA (over-the-air) updates. This ensures that the device’s software is always up-to-date, and users can benefit from the latest features and enhancements without having to manually update the software.

Final Thoughts

The iFi ZEN Stream is a remarkable device that offers an accessible streaming experience for new users and a variety of options and configurations for audiophile veterans. Its excellent build quality, clean audio transport performance, and advanced features make it a worthwhile investment for audiophiles and music enthusiasts. The integration with various popular audio services (such as Tidal and Spotify) and music streaming services (Roon) is nicely executed, and the ease of setup and configuration makes the ZEN Stream a stellar package.

There are a few improvements I’d like to see, though. First, an updated version that includes an optical output, a standard connection in the audio industry. Second, an improved UI for the web interface and app. And lastly, properly list the Android app on the Google Play Store so that users don’t need to hunt down the correct version and sideload it.

The iFi ZEN Stream lives up to the standard we have come to expect from iFi over the years: an excellent balance of design, performance, and features, all at a competitive price relative to the competition. Considering the cost of media transport devices from Eversolo, FiiO, and Bluesound, the ZEN Stream gives you a lot of value and executes its promised functionality without issue. If you’re looking for an easy-to-use, high-quality, versatile media streamer, the ZEN Stream is just for you.

HiFi Oasis highly recommends the iFi ZEN Stream.

We are not always able to cover all details of a product, both hardware and software, in our reviews. If you have any specific questions you’d like answered about this product please feel free to leave a comment or contact us directly.

HiFi Oasis Verdict

HiFi Oasis Verdict
8 10 0 1
Total Score
  • Design & Build Quality
    8/10 Very good
  • Features
    8/10 Very good
  • Sound
    9/10 Amazing


  • Excellent build quality
  • Clean sound output
  • Easy setup and configuration
  • Integration with popular music services


  • No optical output
  • Outdated and sometimes confusing UI
  • Updated Android app not easily accessible
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