Minimal enjoyment of analog records using the iFi audio “Zen Air” series

Over the past decade, the style of providing mainstream music content has changed dramatically. I think everyone is already aware that CDs, which have been the mainstream until now, have gradually shifted to the distribution of digital sound sources, and now streaming playback is becoming the mainstream.

I think it’s quite a unique phenomenon that analog records, the physical media of the good old days, are attracting attention again despite such times. The jacket (so-called record case) is 30 cm square, so it looks “shiny” even when displayed, and the playback procedure itself that drops the needle on the record is fun. What is there is “comfort of sound”.
With analog records, the entire process, from the first part where the sound is picked up by the stylus from the grooves of the record, to the sound being sent to the speakers, is done with analog signals, making it a completely opposite system to the current digital audio signal. (Of course, there are devices that convert the analog signal from the player to a digital signal and transmit it). As a result, you can enjoy a comfortable tone that permeates your body. This familiar sound itself can be said to be the greatest attraction of analog records.

However, since the media itself for analog records is large (12 inches = about 30 cm for a typical LP record), the player is also large and requires a considerable amount of space for installation. In addition, it is vulnerable to vibration (the needle will fly), and even the longest recording time of the LP record is only about 30 minutes per side, so it needs to be replayed frequently. It seems that there are quite a few people who feel that the threshold is quite high before introducing it, such as the problem of installation location.

So what I would like to recommend is a way to easily enjoy analog records with earphones/headphones, etc., without making any major changes to your audio system. If this is the case, you can enjoy it with a player, a phono equalizer, and a headphone amplifier, and you can use the headphone amplifier you currently own as it is. Eventually, I would like to recommend that you enjoy it with speakers, but why not first experience the charm of analog records with your familiar earphones/headphones?
In the first place, a phono equalizer is an essential device for analog record players. As a mechanism, it can be said that it is like a special amplifier that amplifies the audio signal generated from an analog record (the audio signal is very small because it is a mechanism that uses the up and down movement of the needle to generate electricity with a coil). However, in order to make up for the weaknesses of the record itself, special audio recording is performed, and a corresponding band correction (called a correction curve in the world of records) is required, and MM (moving There are cartridges with different output voltages, such as magnets) and MCs (moving coils), and if you want to use both, you need a dedicated product that supports both. (By the way, there are various other names, but most cartridges are classified into either of these two as a common recognition in terms of usability).

In fact, there are some record players that have this function built into their main bodies, making them even easier to use, but most of these products can only be used with MM cartridges. In addition, the sound of the phono equalizer is slightly better with the stand-alone product. If you want to enjoy analog players to the fullest, even a slight difference can have a big impact on the sound, so if you’re going to the trouble, I’d recommend installing a stand-alone phono equalizer. In such a case, this “ZEN Air Phono” is a perfect product.

This is because “ZEN Air Phono” has a very reasonable price. When it comes to analog record-related products, hundreds of thousands of yen are common, but several million yen is the mainstream, and some even exceed 10 million yen. On the other hand, the “ZEN Air Phono” achieves outstanding high cost performance with an actual selling price of 20,000 yen or less while ensuring basic functionality and good sound quality.
In fact, the iFi audio “ZEN” series has an existing model called ” ZEN Phono “, which was also well received for its good cost performance, but furthermore, the adopted parts and basic configuration were reviewed, and functions such as omitting the 4.4mm balanced output were added. By narrowing down the gender, the price is even more reasonable. It is a perfect product for those who want to enjoy analog records easily.
However, it can be said that the appeal of the iFi audio “ZEN Air” series is that it is neither cheap nor bad. In fact, “ZEN Air Phono” has enough contents about basic performance. First, the cartridge system supports both MM and MC. By the way, in the high-end model “ZEN Phono”, the MC system settings were divided into three types (it also supported MC cartridges with fairly low output), but in “ZEN Air Phono” it is a very common MM/MC Although there are two types, there is no inconvenience at all. In addition, iFi audio’s unique “subsonic filter” is also installed. With this, you can enjoy a stable sound by removing the “rumbling sound” caused by the warping of the record board, which is called rumble.

The other “ZEN Air CAN” is a headphone amplifier with an all-analog circuit configuration. iFi audio has a lineup of various headphone amplifiers bearing the name “CAN”, but among them, this is a product located in the entry class. With 3 inputs and 6.3mm standard stereo and 4.4mm balanced headphone output, the simple configuration achieves both sound quality and reasonable pricing.

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