The iFi Zen Blue V2

iFi Zen Blue V2 – high-res Qualcomm Bluetooth receiver (review)

100% human
9

The iFi Zen Blue V2 is a Bluetooth receiver that takes a Bluetooth (BT) signal from a phone, computer, tablet or similar and adds audio cabled connectivity to any AV receiver, amp, active speakers, TV or soundbar. To be clear – BT stereo signal in – cabled signal out. But it is a little more multi-faceted than that.

I am an amateur audiophile, and our former audiophile Stephen Dawson could have dazzled you with specs and science. I can but try it and see what sounds good, better, and best.

Setup the receiver

Remember that this only accepts Bluetooth input via an antenna. It is a classic case of garbage in = garbage out. It accepts

  • SBC (16-bit/44.1/48kHz/345kbps)
  • AAC (Apple 8-592kbps)
  • aptX (16-bit, 44.1/48kHz, 325/384kbps)
  • aptX HD (16/24-bit, 44.1/48kHz, 576kbps)
  • aptX Adaptive (variable up to 24-bit, 44.1/48/96kHz, 279/420kbps)
  • LDAC (variable up to 32-bit, 96kHz, 990kbps) Hi-Res certification
  • LHDC.HWA Low latency, High-Density audio Codec (variable up to 24-bit, 96kHz, 900kbps) Hi-Res certification

So, if you have a flagship OPPO Find X3 Pro, by default it pairs at aptX Adaptive or you can select LDAC (and all aptX codecs except LHCD via Developers Options). The Samsung S21 Ultra does not have aptX codecs but can connect with LDAC. I suspect LDAC is the ideal codec for this device.

However, most Android phones and PCs only support the SBC codec. You could add a Creative BT-W3 Bluetooth Dongle with aptX, aptX LL, and aptX HD to a PC to rise above SBC, but it is still not quite hi-res nirvana.

That is only part of the process. You now must look for less lossy or lossless music to transfer to the iFi. It is beyond the scope of this review but look for FLAC, Hi-Res and lossless music to stream from Spotify, Tidal and more. It will also support Apple Lossless streaming and more with an OTA firmware update (only via Android phones at present).

Hi-res content and connection to your phone

Now you have both hi-res content and a hi-res connection to your phone. How do you get it from iFi to an amp? The iFi Zen Blue V2 supports analogue and digital outputs. Analogue is via ESS Sabre DAC chips (digital-to-analogue converter) that can use RCA connectors to the amplifier input. Or you can use the digital setting to output via the optical or coaxial connections (active at the same time) to connect to anything with a built-in DAC or digital input – your TV, soundbar or even an external DAC that may be running hi-res headphones.

There is a 4.4mm 5-pole Pentaconn Balanced output – an audiophile will know how to use it. A balanced audio cable has a ground wire, but it also carries two copies of the same incoming audio signal, called a hot (positive) and cold (negative) signal. You can get a variety of 4.4mm adapters to a 3.5mm, RCA or more. It is active at the same time as the RCA.

iFi Zen Blue V2 Details

Websitehere
PriceApprox $239 from Addicted to Audio and reputable audio retailers
WarrantyOne year
BT ChipsetQualcomm QCC 5100 BT 5.0 SBC< AAC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX Low-Latency, LDAC, HWA/LHDC Codec
DACCS43131
Frequency response20Hz – 20kHz <+0/-0.5dB, (44.1kHz 1Hz – 48kHz (-2dB LDAC) 88.2kHz
S/N111dBA/106.5dBA (BAL/S-BAL)
Dynamic Range109dB (A)
Output impedance<50Ω
Power5V/.5A/2.5A  plug pack
Size54 (I) x 32 (w) x 13 (h) mm x 490g (exc power pack)
Tech ‘low-down’here (PDF)
MoreGadgetGuy DAC reviews here

GadgetGuy’s take

The iFi Zen Blue V2 supports up to 24-bit/96kHz Bluetooth and associated hi-res audio content adding BT streaming to non-BT devices like amplifiers.

There is a lot more to this device, and you should seek professional advice to see if it suits your needs.

I tested aptX Adaptive and LDAC streaming with a Pioneer AV amp and a Samsung soundbar. I noticed a profound difference between SBC/AAC streaming quality and this device – as you would expect.

Rating

It is hard to rate this as we don’t have a baseline. The device is well made, seems reasonably priced, does what it promises, and beats the hell out of standard BT streaming with the right content and codec.

We are rating it at 9/10 – it could be a 10 with the correct use.

iFi Zen Blue V2 Bluetooth receiver
The iFi Zen Blue V2 supports up to 24-bit/96kHz Bluetooth and associated hi-res audio content adding BT streaming to non-BT devices like amps.
Features
9
Value for money
9
Performance
9
Ease of use
8
Design
10
Positives
Solid alloy case and build
Large range of codecs to conect with
OTA updates to cover other codecs like Apple Lossless
Negatives
None if you know what you are doing
9