iFi Zen CAN

iFi Zen CAN

This is a review of the iFi Zen CAN, one of a number of components in the Zen range. The iFi Zen Range is characterised by heavily packed technology in a compact box with fully balanced circuitry at

iFi Zen CAN

iFi Zen CAN on top of the Zen DAC V2 and the Zen Stream

extremely competitive prices. The range draws on learning points from the Pro ranges, like the ‘Outstanding’ Pro iDSD and the matching Pro CAN.

As well as the iFi Zen CAN the Zen range extends to the Zen Stream, which is a desktop streamer, the ‘HF&MS Best of 2022’ Zen DAC V2, a Zen Blue which is a Bluetooth module and a Zen Phono, for a MM or MC turntable cartridge.

There is an Air range as well from iFi that similarly features DAC, Blue, Phono and CAN models at an even more competitive price point. The ZEN Air devices sport a synthetic polymer case with a textured finish, each in a different shade of grey to differentiate them from the Air range.


The iFi Zen CAN features trickle-down technology from the flagship eighteen-hundred-pound iFi Pro iCAN. It has Class A discrete balanced circuitry that offers a claimed 15.1V output at 300 Ohms. That is a large number compared to many and draws a comparison to the 20V balanced output from the Pro iCAN.

The iFi Zen CAN features the 3D special circuit filter that offers additional space, ‘enhancing your stereo image’, inside the headphones as well as their XBass active EQ bass correction method.

iFi Zen CAN

iFi Zen CAN (top) taking power from the Zen Stream (bottom) and fixed balanced input from the Zen DAC (middle)

There are three inputs to the iFi Zen CAN, a standard left/right RCA input, a 3.5mm jack input and a 4.4mm Pentaconn fully balanced input. Output to the headphones is a 4.4mm Pentaconn headphone connection as well as the traditional 6.25mm headphone jack. There are four gain settings to allow the listener to match the headphone output to the particular headphones in use, whilst making full use of the Tokyo Cosmos Electric Co. (TOCOS) multi-track potentiometer (volume control) which prefers a higher setting (i.e. beyond ‘11 o’clock’).


The whole ZEN range is excellent, the metallic brushed outer case is soft to the touch with no fingerprint issues and it stacks neatly with rubber pads that hold the stack in place as you swap headphones in and out. The brushed aluminium front facia on the CAN is totally understated in a good way with no lights or flashing stuff, just LED indicators towards your selection. The front panel has Input, Gain and XBass, 3D settings.

The CAN is 158mm wide x 117mm deep x 35mm high and is just 515g. It is currently priced at £159 in the UK.


Review Equipment

iFi Zen CAN

iFi Zen CAN (top) balanced input from the DAC with fixed output set on the rear

I’m using the iFi Zen Stream as the source, with an Atlas Ethernet cable to the router. This is streaming USB out to the Zen DAC V2 which is doing its thing before offering the balanced Pentaconn 4.4mm output to the iFi Zen CAN. I’m powering the CAN through the Zen Stream USB A power connector provided. I’ve been using an array of headphones including the 99 Neo and 109s from Meze Audio, planar magnetic headphones from Oppo and balanced headphones from Sendy Audio.


I have the Stream, the DAC, and the CAN in an ascending stack with a USB B connection to the DAC (which also powers it). There is a 4.4mm balanced cable connection between the DAC and the CAN, it is a very clean setup. The signal is set from the DAC at the back to fixed output for the balanced output, so the volume pot is disabled in the DAC.

In all the iFi stack has a pretty small desktop footprint and satisfyingly when you turn off the Zen Stream, the DAC and the CAN turn themselves off too.

The XBass works quite nicely and my initial sniffiness at a bass button proved unfounded. So too the 3D treatment which at the end of the day is no different to all the other filters on other headphone amplifiers, like the Mojo 2 for example. I had them both on if I recall throughout the review process.

It is worth noting the CAN could be used as a preamplifier, the balanced output is pretty rare at this price tag, I can’t think of anywhere else you’d find it.

Meze Audio 109 Pro (40 Ohms Impedance, Gain Setting 0dB with potentiometer dial (volume) at, 12 o’clock, XBass on)

T+A Solitaire T headphones

I’m going to do the headphones in my order of satisfaction though there is little to choose between the T+A and these 109s. The depth offered by the iFi CAN is only to be commended and the 109s are shown off to their full potential. Listening to Arooj Aftab’s Last Night (Qobuz 24-bit, 96kHz) the detail in the snare vibration, when the song takes off is just spectacular, the room echo is bold and cavernous as the double bass supports the soundstage.

T+A Solitaire T (Passive, Balanced, Gain 0dB, 12 o’clock, XBass on)

These T+A Solitaire T are epic Bluetooth headphones but turn off all the electronics and they are absolutely up there with some of the better headphones, including the 109s.  They’re balanced too, offering that level up in signal quality. Here with the iFi, I need no extra Gain from the CAN and the output is crisp, immediate and clean in tracks like Half The World Away (Qobuz 24-bit, 44.1kHz) by Oasis. Switching to Sault’s epic track Glory (Qobuz 16-bit, 44.1kHz), the bass line is delivered with punch and precision and the CAN handles everything in its stride.

Beyerdynamic DT 900 Pro X (250 Ohms, Gain 6dB, 12 o’clock, XBass on)

The DT900s need driving and as such, I need the gain setting raised one notch to keep the volume setting higher to get the full benefit of cleaner electronics. Here again, the neutral profile is still crisp and cleanest with a run-through of Half The World Away (Qobuz 24-bit, 44.1kHz) by Oasis.

Focal Radiance (40 Ohms, Gain 6dB, 12 o’clock, XBass on)

iFi Zen CAN

Focal for Bentley Radiance headphones

The Radiance headphones are so comfortable being that bit larger. I also needed to put the gain setting to 6dB with the 12 o’clock volume setting. The result is the languid warmer texture that I come to expect from the Radiance, well played to the iFi in reflecting the headphone characteristics so well.

Sendy Audio Apollo (Balanced, 16 Ohms, Gain 0dB, 12 o’clock, XBass on)

The Apollo is even bigger, physically, than the Radiance but is effortless to drive. The output is not shrill in any way and if anything, the sound is warmer but a bit heavier in the ear. These headphones benefitted from the 3D treatment more noticeably than the others, I didn’t feel Half The World Away was as crisp as the other headphones, however.

Oppo PM-2 planar magnetic headphones (32 Ohms, Gain  0dB, 12 o’clock, XBass on)

The Oppo PM-2s are still a delight despite their age and they retain their crisp output as always. The CAN had no bother with the planar magnetic technology over the more traditional drivers above.


I happen to have the Air CAN here as well and a review will follow. If you have no need or care for the balanced circuitry in the Zen Air CAN this may suit your needs with its lighter budget of £99. The Air CAN is a terrific performer in this company and clearly benefits from the thinking that has gone into this Zen CAN but at a more competitive price.


There is such terrific value for money here, it is hard to believe the prices quoted here really. If you’re spending hundreds on a pair of headphones it makes sense to me to invest in the bit that is driving them, I’ve always believed that. There are many desktop companions, but this Zen CAN really is a unique proposition on the desktop, particularly with the Zen DAC.


The more I hear iFi Audio the more impressed I am. This Zen CAN is really outperforming anything I can think of at this price point and it is a really decent upgrade or add-on to the Zen DAC output, which is really the ideal partner on your desk. In the balanced stack here, I would recommend this to any headphone junkie, or discerning listener, seeking to get the most out of their headphones.

copyright HF&MS Ltd 2022


Balanced circuitry
Price point
Volume control
Big sound
Feel like they can drive anything

Gain settings

3 dB gain steps instead


iFi Zen CAN

iFi Zen CAN has balanced input from a suitable source, like the Zen DAC

Full details are on the company’s site.

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