Incoming - Innuos Zen Mini mk3 + LPSU

We have the Innuos Zen Mini mk3 + LPSU on home loan over the holidays.

It would be great to hear from other users about your experiences with this little marvel. Particularly interested in any top tips, for optimal set-up and performance, to get best results / SQ.

Having used the Zen Mini for a few days, we now know how it works. So, it’s more interesting to hear about the detailed stuff that comes from living with it long term. Good and bad.

Background notes…
We are looking for a shoe box size solution, (to sit alongside the Naim olive shoe boxes) to archive and replay our 1000+ CD collection. SQ needs to be good, without breaking the bank. Hence considering the Zen Mini. It looks to fit all our requirements. The fact it is also a streaming product is a bonus.

At its best - c/w LPSU and digital out through the nDAC - it’s pretty impressive, ( considering cost). However, we will probably use it as a two box solution, analogue out, direct in to the NAC72 Pre-amp. We think it’s good enough for our needs, in this system.

So thoughts on getting the best from this music making machine please…

Thanks in advance

KR
R

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In which case the Zen Mini will do the trick :grinning:.

KR, J (Zenith Mk III user)

You could experiment with using it in off-line mode, but otherwise it should be pretty much plug and play if you’re using its internal DAC.

Update…

The loaner has gone back to the dealer. But liked it enough to go ahead and place an order for a new Innuos Zen Mini mk3 (1TB) and the separate LPSU. Both in black.

So, the system (in this room), is returned to vinyl only again.

We enjoyed having the Zen Mini around. It is remarkably simple to use. We were impressed with the sound quality, with LPSU added. It met our requirements, which is a simple way to access and enjoy our CD collection - in this room - with shoe size boxes (to match the olive shoe boxes), good SQ and without breaking the bank.

While we are waiting for the new Zen Mini to arrive, time to contemplate a few things…

Ripping -
Which format to rip? We have 1000+ CD collection. (As an aside, we ripped about 700 of these to a computer a few years back. These are now on a WD USB portable HD, in ALAC format). Our dealer advises ripping in FLAC file format.

We want to get this bit right. As we may end up moving the stored archive onto other devices at a later stage. (Maybe we end up with better, more capable HiFi items, using the ripped copies in time)

Interconnect cable -
Need to decide on how best to connect to the NAC72. We can go RCA to RCA or RCA to DIN? I’m thinking RCA phono out from the Zen Mini (using its internal DAC) to DIN in, on the Naim Pre-amp. Maybe a budget of up to £250 ish. So, something like a Chord Clearway or Shawline.

Local streaming -
Initially, we think we will use it for CD replay only.
I like the fact that you only see the CD rips, (if you don’t add a music streaming subscription).
Maybe we might add a Qobuz subscription only later, once we’ve ripped our CD collection and have got used to using it.

Also, it will be connected to our Network. Amongst other bits, an EE8 switch is incoming, to sit in the network headend.

Please do let me know if there is anything else we need to consider. Thanks in advance.

KR
R

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It seems a shame not to use the NDAC you had before with the Zen, although if you do, you really ought to find the space to avoid stacking the Zen and PSU on top of it.

I wouldn’t get too hung up on format, as long as it’s lossless, which means WAV, FLAC, ALAC or AIFF. Besides, you can easily convert between formats later if you really want to.

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Thanks @ChrisSU for your thoughts

We have other plans for the nDAC. It will go into another room we intend to set up for more music. Including our CD5XS and other digital sources. To be fair, it did make a nice difference with the Zen Mini. (We added the nDAC just to see how far we could go with SQ from the Zen Mini).

For the Zen Mini, we also tried / demo’d alternative DAC’s, e.g. the Chord Qutest. So, that’s a future option, for this room.

Thank you for the feedback on file formats. I’m tempted to just import the back-up HDD of c.700 ALAC files, instead of re-ripping all those CD’s to FLAC. That saves me ripping them all again, just for the sake of having them all the same file format.

Thanks again.
All thoughts and comments are welcome.

Sounds like you need a streamer so you can share the music on that ZEN!

Yes, I would just put a copy of those files on the Zen, or just give them acccess to the existing files over your network - UPnP servers are versatile things.

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First idea - sounds about right :wink:
I’ve been following various recent forum discussions - ND5 XS2 + nDAC vs NDX2 - with great interest. Loosely thinking about adding a ND5 XS2 down the line.

Second idea, sure, thanks for that steer.

KR
R

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At about a grand the zen mini is a cracking product.Mine is the mk2.I use it with a DacV1
Easy to set up and use sounds great and the sense app smooth

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Like you, we think the Zen Mini is a lovely box of tricks. Especially at the price point.

We tried all the combinations to figure a few things out : (1) bare Zen Mini, both analogue and digital out (with our nDAC) ; (2) Zen Mini + LPSU, both analogue and digital out (with our nDAC) .

The best combo was Zen Mini + LPSU + nDAC. The external DAC makes a real difference and elevates the Zen Mini. But, the Zen Mini c/w LPSU is still quite musical.

Also, we found the CD5XS just edged it, (when used as a transport, with nDAC). We will continue to use our CD5XS, for “best” CD replay. But in another room.

Actually, we feel it is exceptional value, (when compared to larger siblings Zen and Zenith). Both larger servers are obviously better. But the Zen Mini has so many other features that are beneficial …

We like the small boxes.
Has a built in DAC. It’s not too shabby.
It also provides streaming (for Qobuz, Tidal etc).
UI (Innuos Sense) is so easy to use.

Horses for courses. For us, it meets our requirements, which is a simple way to play back CD’s in this room, with good SQ, without spending a fortune.

Would be very interested to see how the internal DAC compares with Naim DAC V1, which is how you use yours.

What interconnects do you use?

KR
R

Flac is the mainstream answer for storage format. However, close listening makes me wanne use the original. (Aiff in my case for apple.) See for yourself if you hear a difference.

And yea, i know, the technical response is that its the same file… Seems the unfolding of the data in the sound file can influence the sound.

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Hi everyone,
I have a NAC 272 and I was thinking about adding the Innuos Zen Mini.
I listen to Tidal, IRadio Flac (with the solution built by Kurt) and flac files via front USB.
In your opinion, better to use Zen only as a server (LAN connection and Naim app) or also Tidal and IRadio (SPIDF connection and Innuos app).
Will Tidal / IRadio be better with 272 or with Innuos?
thank you…and sorry for my english
Mauro

Better really listen by yourself. You will find very different and sometimes opposite points of view on forums.
Some say that a Raspberry Pi is sounding better vs the 200 more expensive Nds/555 dr.
People tend to agree that adding a 555 dr on the 272 is a big upgrade.
You can read an old thread “ Innuos zenith 3, Roon Core, 272”. It may help.

Thanks for your thoughts.
Seems like FLAC is most people’s choice.

I have most of my CD collection already ripped to ALAC. Which is now on a portable back up HDD. It’s quite straight forward to load either just one album or the whole back up HDD to the Zen.

As an experiment, I loaded a few albums to the Zen Mini and listened, comparing to same album ripped using FLAC. However, on this system, couldn’t really tell them apart.

Thanks

Hi. Thanks for the enquiry.

I am not familiar with the 272 and it’s sound signature. So, I’m not sure if I’m the right person to help with your questions.

The Innous Zen Mini can be used : (1) as a server - play back of ripped CD’s from its HDD; (2) streaming from internet music streaming platforms, like Tidal, Qobuz, etc ; (3) for internet radio. Also, the Zen Mini has an internal DAC. So you can use it as a complete solution, just as an audio source. But it can also be used to stream to other devices, across your network.

The Innuos Sense UI is very easy to use. A friend of mine uses a Zenith server, with a Naim NDX2, controlled from the Naim app, which I’ve used a few times. My only thought here is the Naim app works differently to the Innuos User Interface, which is an App called “Sense”. But the solution works fine, using Naim app as UI.

In our specific situation, I think we will probably just use it for CD replay initially. So, using it as a server, with audio output, through its internal DAC, coming out of the Zen Mini as analogue direct to our pre-amplifier as a source input. We found this works well for our needs.

It reads like you might stream over your wired network, to your 272. In which case, the DAC inside the 272 would be used to convert to analogue, etc. My guess is that would work fine. You’ve also mentioned digital connection using SPDIF from Zen Mini to the 272 as another option. Are you asking which option might offer better sound quality, Zen Mini or 272. On this specific question, maybe set up a home demo’ and find out. If you do, please share your findings and let us know.

Hope that helps?
Good luck

Kind regards
R

I spent the Christmas holidays ripping my CDs on my Zen Mk3, previously all my rips stored on the Zen were ripped by dbpoweramp. There was a really nice increase in sound quality on ripping via the Zen (more detail, bass was clearer and tighter, just more of everything) and by using FLAC the space used on the hard drive dropped from 300 gb to about 240gb (I think), I had been using the AIFF file format. I ripped about 600 CDs.

I plug my 272 straight into the Zen, was a big step up going from 272 and a NAS plugged into a switch. I’m a big fan of the Zen. I tested with a Zen mini, but went with the Zen as I didn’t need the DAC. Money well spent.

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That’s really interesting.
Thanks for sharing those experiences

So perhaps I should spend a bit more time listening to the ALAC files, (originally ripped by a computer disc reader), comparing to FLAC copies ripped on the Zen Mini.

I suppose I could always load the back up HDD with 700 ALAC albums, onto the Zen Mini. Then over time, rip again in FLAC and replace them one at a time.

How long do you think it took you to rip those 600 CD’s ?

In our case, as we wish to use the Zen Mini as a stand alone source, the internal DAC is useful. But, appreciate the larger Zen sibling is most likely a better machine (for sound quality of playback). We intend to use it connected into an Olive shoe box system - 72-HC-140.

How are you connecting to the 272 - maybe streaming over your Ethernet network ?

Thanks again.

thanks for the advice,
so, if there are no certain opinions, it means that the Innuos alternative is good and can compete, it will be my ears to decide who will win.

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You’ll really just have to try in your system. In mine, with a different Naim streamer and a different Innuos server, Qobuz sounds better via the Innuos.

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The initial attraction of the Zen to me was I could plug the 272 directly into the Zen and do my streaming directly from there, it removed a switch and associated power supply and a network cable. The logic behind that was the music was going through less hardware to colour the sound (and a little less clutter) The Zen is then connected to my ISP router to connect to the internet for Spotify and Internet radio.

I was able to borrow a Zen mini + LSPU and I only needed to listen to half a song to realise there was an improvement, (I also tested the entry level Melco which was about the same money as the Zen Mk3 , it wasn’t even close to the Zen mini and it took a lot longer to transfer some music files over), I didn’t need the DAC so I spent a bit extra and got the Zen Mk3). It was a breeze to set up as well, it took 20 minutes to do the OS update and then took about an hour to import all the music files from my NAS (about 600 CDs).

I was happy with the sound quality but I thought I would rip a few of my reference albums on the Zen to see if there was any improvement. There was, so that was my Xmas project to rip all my CDs. Most CDs took about 5 minutes, some a little less, some took up to 10 minutes. I had a couple fail to rip so I cleaned them with a drop of dishwashing liquid and water, only had one CD that refused to rip. Some box sets of CDs, the metadata got a little muddled but it is pretty easy to correct with the Innuos app. I ripped them alphabetically via Artist, I deleted the As and then ripped the As etc. I got the 600 CDs done in about 10 days. The upside is that you can also copy the files from your Zen to your PC. I also backed up the Zen to my NAS , so hopefully I don’t have to go through the process of ripping them again. As I mentioned I’m a big fan, just a really nicely thought out bit a kit that I thought was a huge uplift in sound quality compared to my Synology NAS.

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