Updated iFi Zen DAC 3 follows in five-star footsteps, but will it deliver sonic bliss?

iFI Zen DAC 3
(Image credit: iFi)

iFi has revealed the two newest members of its popular Zen line of affordable hi-fi accessories: the Zen DAC 3 and the Zen Phono 3.

Building on the success of the superb, What Hi-Fi? Award-winning Zen DAC V2, the new third-generation Zen DAC has been designed to cater to a wide variety of users, from gamers and casual listeners to dedicated audiophiles.

The new DAC and headphone amplifier extends its support of high-resolution files to 768kHz PCM and DSD512 alongside full MQA decoding, promising to reproduce the nuances of your digital music "with remarkable clarity and detail". With fixed and variable output gain options, the Zen DAC 3 can be connected to headphones, amplifiers or even active speakers.

The compact DAC offers two 4.4mm balanced outputs – one for headphones and the other for hi-fi products – and it has a 6.3mm headphone socket and a new USB-C input. Its internal design is aimed at minimising distortion, crosstalk and unwanted noise. iFi's XBass+ and PowerMatch processing modes, which respectively add more lower-end oomph and change the internal amp’s gain for easier headphone matching, add further personalisation to your listening experience.

iFi Zen Phono 3 inputs closeup

The Phono 3 offers a subsonic filter for removing imperfections and works with MM and MC cartridges. (Image credit: iFi)

Released alongside the Zen DAC 3 is the Zen Phono 3 phono preamp that works with both moving magnet and moving coil cartridges. Making its debut to coincide roughly with this weekend's Record Store Day celebrations, the Phono 3 is designed to enhance your records' clarity and refinement. The Phono 3 features a bespoke "subsonic filter" which selectively removes sonic imperfections and flaws in a vinyl recording while maintaining the music's overall integrity and musicality. The unit's RIAA equalisation circuit, meanwhile, helps to maintain a consistent frequency response for preserving your records' original sonic characteristics. 

The Phono 3 offers 4.4mm balanced and RCA line outputs, while a high-precision power supply controller and adjustable gain offer further compatibility and versatility with your cartridge of choice. With our Vinyl Week celebrations in full swing and Record Store Day approaching on Saturday 20th April, the timing couldn't be better. 

The iFi ZEN DAC 3 is available now for £229 / $229 / AU$229 (which is a step up in price from the outgoing Zen DAC V2's £159 / $159 / AU$229), while the iFi ZEN Phono 3 is also on the market for £249 / $249 / AU$249.


Read our iFi Zen DAC V2 review

Or our iFi hip-dac 3 review

These are the best DACs: USB, desktop and portable digital-to-analogue converters

Harry McKerrell
Staff writer

Harry McKerrell is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. He studied law and history at university before working as a freelance journalist covering TV and gaming for numerous platforms both online and in print. When not at work he can be found playing hockey, practising the piano or forcing himself to go long-distance running.

  • Kenneth Fernandes
    An integrated stereo speaker amplifier alongside the headphone amplifier in the Zen DAC would be an even better option. And a dedicated power supply unit to power the speakers.