IFI Zen streamer breathing new life into 272

Recently gained access to Qobuz by using a ifi Zen Stream as a Roon node to my 272/xps Dr/ 250 Dr setup. I also happen to have access to a NDx2/282 with HiCap Dr for comparison…I’m very impressed with the degree to which this inexpensive addition ($300 Canadian) unit provides.

It feels that the xps dr supported 272 is a close second to a DAC/dedicated preamp combo that costs almost $10000 more (assuming you keep the xps on the ndx2)…that’s a big difference in cost for a relatively modest sq difference…

Anyone else heard these two setups and share my opinion?

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If the Zen Stream offers the functionality you like it is superb. I run one with a second system and use an MCRU power supply for it. It’s very good. Both the power supply I added to it and the digital coax cable I use each cost more than the Zen Stream but the result into my Luxman DAC is sublime.

But I admit, that some of the advertised features have not yet materialised and some users have had a very bad experience with the unit. The quality of the output is very high and if it has the functionality you want it is great.

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I agree that for the price it is hard to beat for sound. I used one before I got my Lumin P1.
I have a photo with it sitting between my old Nagra MPA and a (Canadian) Saturn Dac.
Using it as a Roon endpoint works great, I had the Roon Core loaded on an old Laptop I was not using.
You can also improve the sound by adding a linear power supply to it.
The supply I used was Sbooster BOTW.

I compared NDX/282 with 272/XPS at my dealers a few years ago and there was nothing that the NDX system didn’t do better than the 272. That was in the same room with the same speakers to make a straight comparison - a different room and speakers will affect the results enormously.
That isn’t to say that the 272 sounded poor in any way. If I hadn’t heard the alternative I could happily have bought it.

We used to have exactly the same setup - 272/XPSDR/250DR.

It was hearing the ND5XS2/282 (then NDX2) at a dealers which started our upgrade journey. The sound was just more open!

The 272 is a great box and the DAC performs well with the external PSU connected. At demo we found the pre section (with PSU) was somewhere below a 282/HCDR.

However we found the NDX2/282 setup just provided more of everything. With a PSU on the NDX2 we found the gap quite wide from 272, especially on internet radio/Tidal. We tried a demo with 272/555PSDR and whilst this improved 272 further it did not bridge the gap.

During our upgrade journey we also tried
NDX2 into 272 (DAC/pre)
NDX2 into 272 (pre)
iPad into nDAC into 272 (pre)

All 3 options above improved the sound available via 272 (NDX2 doing both streaming/DAC better than just as a transport into 272). The gen1 streaming board seemed particularly weak with internet based services.

If you’re using the IFI then you’re bypassing the streaming board on 272, using only DAC/pre which are likely the better parts.

I think you might find further improvement available by using an external DAC, but of course at that point you have a 272/XPSDR just as a pre which is a bit of a waste, and it would be time to investigate a dedicated preamp.

There are no bad options here really - the 272/250DR is a very enjoyable combo and you could stick where you are.

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