Like the ZEN CAN, the ZEN Air Can has no digital input of any kind; it connects to any audio source with an analogue output, such as the headphone output from a DAP (Digital Audio Player), a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone, or the RCA outputs from, say, a CD player, or a phono stage like the ZEN Air Phono. It could also be paired with the ZEN Air Blue to add Bluetooth reception, or perhaps combined with the ZEN Air DAC to upgrade the DAC’s headphone amp stage.The ZEN Air Can retains the use of discrete, high-grade components and a separate, symmetrical layout between channels. Power available is 1200mW into a 32-ohm load. iFi’s quad-amp circuitry features custom OVA-series FET op-amps using a ‘folded cascode’ design, with specialised feedback circuitry to optimise performance. The input stage features automatic gain matching between inputs and feeds a TOCOS precision potentiometer, while the discrete, complementary bipolar output stage utilises the same Class A buffer found in more expensive iFi headphone amps. The power supply circuitry includes ‘stealth mode’ voltage conversion, with linear regulation, noise filtering, physical isolation from sensitive audio circuits and more than 4,000uF capacitance to keep ample power in reserve to respond to musical transients.
Alloy shielding within the thermoplastic polymer outer case protects sensitive signal paths from interference. FET-based switching between settings is handled by a microcontroller, which only ‘wakes up’ when the user changes a setting, thus eradicating any sonically deleterious interference. XBass+, iFi’s bass enhancer, and XSpace, which widens the soundstage to compensate for ‘in-head localisation’ effects, are both present. Gain adjustment to precisely suit the connected headphones is also provided, with three steps, 0dB, 9dB and 18dB.The ZEN CAN’s dual headphone outputs of 6.3mm and 4.4mm are also repeated here, although the 4.4mm output is not fully balanced as it is on the ZEN CAN. Instead, it benefits from iFi’s S-Balanced circuit design, which cuts noise and crosstalk by 50 per cent with single-ended headphone connections. Similarly, the ZEN Air CAN sports three analogue inputs, but here, the 4.4mm balanced input is swapped for an extra pair of single-ended RCA sockets, providing two stereo RCA inputs and one 3.5mm S-Balanced socket in total.