Innuos Zenith mk3 complete disappointment


I have the following setup: Accuphase e480 with dac50 module, Magico A3, Chord SarumT speaker cables, Node2i a streamer only as I use Accuphase's day module. Chord Anthem bnc cable between Node and dac. (ethernet connection to streamer). I also have PSU mod for my Node2i.
I had opportunity to test Innuos Zenith mk3 during this week in my system. The same ethernet connection was used. From Innuos to dac I used entry level USB cable. 

I used Qobuz through Roon in Zenith and through BluOS in Node when testing. From the start Zenith sounded flat compared to Node2 and more I went through different music it became apparent that dynamic range was not on same level as with Node2. Especially the lower bass took a big hit compared to Node.  I also tested some highres music files with Roon and it was shocking to hear DSD with Zenith. PCM was "normal", but DSD was completely muffled, it was like hearing the music from the other room. One of the DSD records I tested was Temporary Circumstances - Clandestine Amigo (PS Audio - DSD64).

With Zenith all the testing I did was with the Roon, as iPeng client which I also tried was utter rubbish. I tried to level the sound volumes with iPhone app, but don't know how good job it did. For me Zenith was a complete disappointment from the sound quality point of view. Roon is Roon and I like it, but I think iPeng client is not on suitable level for the high end device like this. 
The problems with Zenith could be caused of course by my system: dac module on Accuphase or for example USB cable. Still I'm shocked how uninteresting sonically Zenith was compared to Node2i, as from price point of view it should be other way round.
jksec
Very surprising given everything I've read. Too bad you couldn't test both into the same input and with the same cable. 

Another demonstration of how you just have to try everything in your system to truly know how it will sound.
Wow, very surprising too. I was using a Bluesound Node 2i when I upgraded to a Innuos Zen MkIII running into my Chord Qutest at the end of November, so thats a step down from the Zenith you have. I was blown away by the changes, the zen was head and shoulders above the Bluesound, of course at 3x the price, but I heard significant improvements, as did my wife who is not even an audiophile. The Zen was so much more open, detailed but just overall robust and full sounding, so natural. I am running Roon in the experimental squeezelite mode. I tried iPeng and didn't like the interface, plus the experimental squeezelite sounded so much better. The experimental SL sounded better than just running roon core on the Zen.
I have a Zenith Mk.3, the sound is stunning and represents a very noticeable upgrade over the solution it replaced (SGC i5 + LPS for Roon Core, Synology NAS, opticalRendu + LPS).

I am running Roon Core and Roon player from the Zenith. I’m also using a Stealth T-Select USB cable as my primary interface to my Lampizator DAC. After reading your post, I tired my printer cable in place of the Stealth and the sound definitely took a hit. So your USB cable could be a limiting factor.

I don’t know much about the Accuphase DAC.


Another case of USB being a dodgy standard. I run my Zenith Mk3 into an Antelope Zodiac Platinum with Rubidium clock. To get it to sound as spectacular as it can it took the following:
-Intona USB 2.0 Isolator with Intona reference cable
-Acoustic Revive REM-8 EMI/RFI suppressor
-Acoustic Revive RGC-24 ground conditioner
-Acoustic Revive RUT-1 Usb filter
-Low latency setting on InnuosOS
-short Meicord ethernet cable from router/switch
-black ravioli/FinalDaruma feet
That said, it now performs at reference level using Ipeng, roon being a distant second for sound quality.
It was a weird I totally agree. I wanted to make sure that the reason wasn’t Zenith’s firmware version, so I upgraded it to the latest. I need to contact the audioshop to figure out what could have caused the audio problems I experienced. I wondered if I had connected the backup USB connection in the back of Zenith, but no it was the dac USB.
@antigrunge2 Was it straight forward to set up Ipeng?

I’m interested in trying that out.


This discussion does make me feel better about my decision to avoid USB as a streamer > dac interface. Thanks for that...
I actually made the same decision, to be future proof and to be able upgrade dac I need something more reliable.
@jayrossi13

On InnuosOS connecting ipeng was a total no-brainer, I use an Ipad via wifi. Soundquality is fabulous but some of the detailed displays truncate information.
Overall I am happy with it, I was running Puremusic on a Mac Mini before moving to the Zenith mk3 and consider that one of the best things I have done over many years. Supposedly Innuos will incorporate its own player in an upcoming update, albeit that‘s been repeatedly delayed.
@antigrunge2

Thank you, I’ll fool around with it tonight and let you know what I think.
USB sounds amazing on my Zenith 3  to Mojo Audio Evo dac.  USB is not, in itself,  a problem.  Something else going on here.,..,no doubt.  I do suggest getting a good USB cable for sure. This is a must to get the most out of the Zenith. The USB cable quality is vitally important! 


Can your dealer lend you a better USB cable to try out just in case that's the problem?
I agree with @grannyring.  I have no doubt you heard what you heard, but something somewhere seems wrong.  I haven’t traced through your setup to identify where specifically the issue may lie, but I know if I were you I’d take the time to figure out whatever it is because the rewards should be well worth it.  Best of luck. 
@jksec I am a bit confused with your comparative setups. On the Node 2i your are streaming via Wifi over your network. What is serving as the Roon core? Yet when using the Zenith Mk3 you have a direct entry level USB connection to your DAC. The Node 2i is used a SPDIF coax cable with BNC connection to the DAC. Which make and model of cable is that?

I just want to stop right here and say that if you are running a system of Magico A3 and a Zenith Mk3 you should not be using an entry level USB cable. Also in this quality of system, and I know some here may disagree with me and that is fine, but I feel that using a BlueSound Node 2i with no USB out is below par for that system. You should seek to use a quality streamer with USB output. There are plenty of examples. You can spend similar money as the Node 2i and get an Orchard Audio PecanPi or you can get a used LUMIN U1 mini. Those and other USB out units will likely give you better streaming. By the way, what is the power supply unit modification on the Node 2i you are referring to?

With all these questions I am not sure what is going on. But I think you should IMO rethink the USB cable being used here, and make a more apples to apples comparison. But something is up here, because the Zenith Mk3 is a superb sounding unit which I know from having auditioned the entire Innuos line prepandemic and from owning a Zenith Mk 3. Remember your system, when it is of high quality is only as good as its weakest link. 
I use the Innous as well in my system and think is fabulous.  I have replaced a Auralic and Lumin streamers with my Zentih and have been extremely satisfied with its performance.  System is Avant-garde Uno Nano with SW1X Audio Dac III, Esoteric F-05 integrated, Sonic Weld Diverter, Enklein cables.
OCD Hi=Fi Guy did an extensive breakdown of the  Zenith III and commented that all the internal components are cheap and off the shelf .
No custom items .A cutting critique .
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNO_bDskM7M&t=1131s
Did you buy one of his pieces? Compare it to the Innuos or any other streamers/players?  
Like I said earlier, I totally agree with the comments related to comparing Node with Zenith. It should have been done with a proper USB cable, unfortunately the distributor in this case didn’t have anything else to give me and I don’t own any USB cables yet myself.
I have Chord Anthem coax cable for Node and I tried to get loaner for Chord Signature or SarumT USB cable for Zenith, but at the moment these are not in stock with the vendors I’m working with.

The most suprising thing with the Zenith was the DSD sound quality, which was just really bad. I have no way of testing is the problem Accuphases dac or Zenith, but through the Node (coax) the same files sound very good. Still it might be dac’s USB connection causing the trouble. 
It would have been ideal to test Zenith with the same coax cable I use with my Node, but unfortunately only USB output available in Zenith. The reason for the test was that I know my streamer (Node) is not on par with the rest of my system as it is also case with my current dac. I’m looking significant improvement for the both dac and streamer, but the test with Zenith was not what I expected. Maybe I need to rethink my options, which were Innuos, Auralic and Aurender.
I agree with all said regarding better usb cables. It’s all about implementation in both streamer and Dac, as to which format is best spdif vs usb. Some designers prefer one over the other and pay close attention to their favoured format, with the other connections getting less attention. Worth looking at the your Ethernet feed too, good cables, a switch between router and streamer, will all have an impact on the the streamers ability to perform. Another streamer worth listening to if you don’t need built in ripper and sever is the bricasti M5. It’s one of the best streamers I’ve heard under £5k and it’s a relative bargain $2.5k. 
I think those unit are WAY over priced for what’s in them.
There’s a channel on YouTube called
OCD Hifi guy. He opens one up and shows and talks about what’s on the inside.
I feel there is no doubt that your systems resolution is showing you exactly what that innous sounds like.

I wouldn’t pay that kind of money for what you get.
Rushfan sure you do not need to listen to a Innuos Zenith after the OCD HiFi guy complained about it...I seem to think he later apologized for his remarks ,...Then we have John Darko along with every other reviewer of a Innuos server must of conspired together to rate them so highly .

The OP obviously is having a problem somewhere and I think it’s more then just a bad USB cable .
@rushfan71,

reminds me of a quote of I believe it was Matisse: when asked why a painting of a mere 4 lines should cost so much he responded: if it were only 3 lines it‘d cost double.
Was it a new Zenith MK3?  I have heard that the unit takes around 200 hours to burn in. I know a few users that said the exact same thing your saying but once burned in everything changed for the better. Also, you can’t use an entry level usb cable with it and expect good results. You need something like a curious evolved or some other comparable cable as it makes a difference. Now if your going to tell me the unit has been burned in then I will say something is wrong with the unit or the synergy in your system....but if your happy with the sound of the node 2i keep it and be happy you saved thousands.
So what you are saying is a $4000 server is so noisy it needs an Uber expensive USB cable to work? Why not just use a low cost low power PC and a USB isolator at that point?
@in_shore
I could listen to it after I build it for a FRACTION of the cost. That’s my point. I don't get wrapped up in what "reviewers" have to say about a product. Im looking at what's in the box and the cost of those parts that are available for the public to purchase.

@antigrunge2 I like to actually get something for my money. Not a big fan of over priced fancy boxes.
@rushfan71,

I suggest you go and listen to a Zenith rather than just posting about it
The magic of the Innuos, and really any high-end audio gear, is the quality of the power supply design. 
@antigrunge2.    I set up Squeazebox/Ipeng, it was very easy. 

I was surprised by how much better this solution was than Roon; the music was clearer, the background was quieter and there was greater dimension. 

I really love the Roon interface and didn't want Squeazebox/Ipeng to sound that much better--but, it did. 
@antigrunge2
I suggest you go re-read my post about not over paying for products that value doesnt equal price instead of telling me what I should do.

Rushfan you seemed to be wrapped up with anything HIFi guy says , well go ahead and build one for fraction of the price,..

To repeat John Darkos comments on this very subject while reviewing a Innuos server , For those whom nash their teeth and get angry claiming they can build a server / streamer for fraction of the price , by all means go ahead .

Darko went on to say , I wouldn’t think about walking into a coffee shop and complain to the manager that I can make just as good coffee at home for a fraction of the price ,,.If you have the skill and knowledge then go ahead then arrange for a direct comparison of a Zenith MK 3 to your build . However first thing you should do before believing and commenting anything people claim is to listen for yourself first . 
@in_shore 

Not wrapped up in anything hi-fi guy or any other reviewer or YouTube channel has to say as I have already mentioned.
I don't subscribe to the channel either but I have seen some of his videos and I point this out only because he takes one apart on video for all too see what's inside. That's it no more no less.

That video may be useful to someone considering one. That's why I mentioned it here.

I understand some may not have the knowledge to assemble the parts and set up the software. But when YOU can buy the parts minus the case, I'm sure you could pay a high school student to, and the total cost is still WAY less. Which was my original post. Over priced.

Seems like someone is wrapped up in what Darko has to say though...

Or maybe it's just because he agrees with how you feel about it.

Either way,

Enjoy the music

I have the Zen Mk3 going into an Yggy DAC through Audioquest Diamond.  It’s drop dead stunning.  I put my spare Audioquest Forest (cheap) in there just for grins, and all the magic went away.  Could be part of your problem.
 Rushfan again making assumptions about components you haven’t listened to then finding fault with people who have because you watched a YouTube video of a know it all narcissist i find pretty funny,,.
Im looking at what's in the box and the cost of those parts that are available for the public to purchase.
OMG another kenjit.  @rushfan71 — You’d never buy any audio component if you think the only value of it is the cost of the individual parts.  I know how to make a good bolognese sauce, but give me and a good chef the same ingredients and I’m pretty sure I’d prefer eating his sauce.  Ingredients/parts are only one small part of the equation, so please don’t play that ignorant and useless card here — you’ve been well beaten to it. 

If you’re so damn smart and are confident you know so much better, then instead of spouting off your nonsense here go design, build, and sell your own streamer/server that performs as well as an Innuos for a lot less.  If you’re right you’ll be rich and Innuos will be out of business.  My money’s on Innuos.
I’m hoping to try out a high quality USB cable next week, but I’m a bit skeptical if it will have enough influence to bring Zenith to the level several of you have described. I’m not saying that Zenith could excellent in your system, rather that something else needs to happen in mine that I would concider Zenith to be far better compared to Node. We’ll see what kind of impact cable makes.

@rushfan71
Since people spend significant money for the Zenith for improved sonic benefit, comparisons should be made sonically. A simple A/B sonic comparison keeping all other things constant. Your claim of just matching parts without regard to execution yield the same sonics is false. Listening is the true measure of comparison.

Also, there seems to be discontent (ripoff) between cost of parts and the price of the Zenith. There’s a BIG difference between building a unit at home vs bringing the product to market aka running a business. What’s your time worth? If it took you 8 hours to build a unit, how much should you mark up the product? What about the time for other jobs like shipping, ordering parts, bookkeeping, etc? What about time/expertise in accounting? Like yourself, people are trying to earn enough for a living. Talented people don’t come cheap. What about the building? Utilities? Equipment? Expensive R&D? Bottom line - running a business isn’t easy or cheap - profit from sales must cover these costs.
Clearly your experience is not typical, and signifies that something is not right.  I highly doubt that the USB cable is at fault (although a good cable can help get the most from a component).  
I have owned the Zenith Mk3 for almost two years and have never had any issues with its sound quality.  I have had some software related issues that were quickly resolved by their service tech (remotely, I should add).  
It would be worthwhile contacting them to ask for their take on this before you give up on it.  It's not out of the question that your unit has a problem that explains the poor SQ.  

Small Green Computer I9 Transporter 16 TB SSD computer feed fiber optically to Signature Rendu Tier II has beat out everything.
Wolf streamer with linear power supply, the best I have heard. My journey has included lumin and innuos . Great company with wonderful support.

https://wolfaudiosystems.com/
The following is reply from Innuos related to the problem. I’m using default settings for the Roon, which are enabled when Roon core is enabled in Zenith’s settings. I’m really disapointed to the way everyone involved (vendor and Innuos itself) are avoiding to take responsibility even with Roon which is integral part of their product. If this is what happens before purchasing decision, what happens to their support after the sales. Innuos should be highend product vendor, but based on what I have seen so far is far from that, no remote troubleshooting, no device log collection, it seems they have no way of analyzing what’s happening with the device. 

”The customer should firstly make sure that the ZENith is on the latest 1.4.6 as this has a few key engine upgrades. Most importantly though, it includes new options in the DSD section of my.innuos.com -> Settings.

The customer should try out the different modes available to see if there is any difference.

Ideally, the ‘Native DSD’ should be the one to use, but it is also worth testing the ‘DSD over PCM – DoP’ and maybe even the ‘Transcode to FLAC’ which will change the stream to a 32bit DXD format.

Do note that these options only apply when using iPeng & Squeezelite to playback from the server – when in Roon Core mode, it has its own DSD behaviour. In the case of Roon, I would also suggest using the normal Roon Core mode and NOT the experimental Squeeze version. I’d also make sure all the Roon DSP is turned off, any Upsampling/Oversampling etc.”


One more update, I transfered Roon core to my laptop and tested with direct USB connection to Accuphase’s dac with the same cable. Sound quality was as expected, so no problems with USB connectivity on dac50. Based on this, I would say that Innuos Zenith with Roon has problems with DSD, is it the device or some wider problem with the latest software version (1.46) impossible to say.
Squeezelite setting sounds best by a good margin as an FYI 
Grannyring is right, squeeze sounds way better than the Innuos Roon implementation. Given Innuos‘ imminent launch of its own player software there may be method to the madness. That said my Zenith Mk3 makes me very happy. And by the way, a player heavy on DSP and other goodies will never sound as good as a minimalist version.
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