Innuos Zenith Mk3 vs Zen Mk3 + Phoenix


In a perfect world I would have the funds for a Zenith M3 and Phoenix, but I don’t. 

I’ve read somewhere that the Innuos Zen 3 with Phoenix sounds better than the Zenith by itself. Has anyone here heard this comparison particularly on the same system and can describe your observations?

By going with Zen + Phoenix it’s about 25% more than a solo Zenith, so from a value proposition is the combo appreciably better, and the extra money spent worth it? Or is it wiser to buy the Zenith, If the different is small then perhaps add a Phoenix later if budget permits?
ianderson
Ianderson I did not compare the Zen 3 to the Zenith 3 though I did wrestle thinking over the price difference between the two ,.., Is there a appreciable difference in performance between the stand alone Zenith over the Zen 3 ? for that extra $1,500.00 ? that 1500 bucks would go along way purchasing the Phoenix.
However I would imagine pairing the Phoenix with the Zen the Zenith is left in the dust .
The Phoenix is the game changer .

It hurt my brain making that purchase decision on the spot and I ultimately went with the Zenith 3 and Phoenix, I’m very happy with digital playback now .

I have compared the Zen to the Zenith and there is a big difference. Unlike some manufacturers I know, you can clearly hear gradations of improvement, Zen to Zenith to Zenith SE, to Statement. In each case, you can hear the difference, in a few bars of music. I have been trying to get an audition of the Phoenix for some time, no luck with Covid around. The scuttlebutt is that the Phoenix gets the Zenith to near the Statement.

I have a Zenith Mk 2 and think it's one of my best purchases. It sounds great and ripping couldn'tbe easier, which is not true for many competitors.
If I was I was in your position, I would buy a Zenith Mk 3 now and get the Phoenix later, maybe if one comes up used.

Thanks for the feedback guys! This question predicated on the fact my local dealer just took on the line and his initial order started with a Zen and Zen-Mini. The Zen has broken in and sounds very good, knowing the price difference to the Zenith, it great to hear there there is a lot of value in that move and the SQ improvement is well justified.

i reached out to experienced dealer (Dave from Audio Doctor) and explained I was in Canada and in spite of the fact he can’t sell up here, he was gracious enough to spend 40 minutes with me explaining the differences. He’s got a ton of experience, has a lot of lines to compare with, and he confirmed what you guys are saying, the SQ is much better with the Zenith and it’s worth the extra cost. A special thanks to Dave for helping when he had no chance of selling me an Innuos product, by provided me an passionate unbiased view of the digital market space.

I’ve heard the online show demos with and without the Phoenix and on a decent set of earbuds I can hear the SQ improvement. I just wish I could have afforded the Phoenix at the same time. 

I’d also prefer to see Innuos build the Phoenix capability into a Zenith deluxe. When you consider the outboard device forces you to add another USB & Power cable it can add significantly to the investment.

As a result of all the consistent feedback, I’ll order the Zenith. Thanks everyone!

The Phoenix reclocker is a half way house. Asynchronous USB puts the DAC‘s clock in charge of clocking the transport/server. Rather than spending money on a reclocker one should spend the money on getting the best DAC clock possible, ideally a 10Mhz master clock. After adding a 10m Ocxo clock to my DAC, the Zenith MK3 made a quantum leap. It is truly an excellent server/player.
Antigrunge,

What clock did you go with? Perhaps a Mutec, or a Cybershaft? I’ve been doing some in depth reading and learning about them. Having a reference clock synced up to the DAC, Server/Renderer, and network switch seems to make sense. Is that what you’re doing?

My benchmark for 1) the amount I was investing 2) the pieces I was eyeballing didn’t lead my thinking to a reference clock before my purchase, particularly since none of these pieces has a reference clock input.

I did end up buying the Phoenix, And even at a halfway house it is a very appreciable difference and worth the investment to me. It was an easy choice because, I qualified for a special discount courtesy of Innuos promotion - I’m very pleased with the SQ. Particularly when I’ve got my dealers Aqua DAC in the rig (I have an Ayre Codex currently) I suspect the Aqua has a decent clock in it.

When one adds up the investment price is for a good digital rig, and when I compare the system (with Aqua La Scala) to my VPI table / Dynavector cartridge, the vinyl is less than 1/3 of the price and it’s still measurably better.

This digital stuff is a massive rabbit hole that keeps evolving. At least at this point it’s worth listening to, as all my previous digital attempts were hard on my ears. I’m grateful it evolved thus far. It’s good enough for the living room system where my wife and daughter can operate it with ease. I can enjoy it too when I’m feeling lazy, or it’s background music for dinner time etc.. I’ll stick with Master tape and Vinyl in the dedicated room.

Did you do anything with a network switch? I’m thinking that aside from the DAC upgrade, my next investment should be a etherregen, or SoTM switch perhaps.

Continued feedback is encouraged everyone. Thanks!
We have a better solution an 432 evo aeon high is a better sounding server then a zenith and the aeon has a super clock ultra low jirtter usb output built in for 6k no need for asecond box powercordand usb

432 evo is the hottest server company ineuope europe and are quickley outpacing innousu
https://432evo.be/index.php/432-evo-aeon-music-server/
https://432evo.be/index.php/2020/05/22/hi-fi-choice-recommended-components-award-432-evo-aeon-ed-sel...
it’s also the best USB source I’ve tested to now…”

The summary of the review:
It’s hard not to admire the dedication shown in the design of the Aeon to do something different and to do it as well as it can be reasonably done.

What makes it for me as a package is that 432 EVO hasn’t lost sight of all the basics that a network storage device needs to perform in the pursuit
of making its brainchild work. This is a stable, silent and very flexible music server that is more than up to the task of supporting a household

Infact  wewere s. Imprespressed wilh the432 evo servers we ditched innous and became 432 evos us distributor

https://www.facebook.com/432evo/

Dav and troy
Audio intellect nj
Us distributor 432 evo music servers usa
@audiotroy what is this business about the evo being "tuned" to 432Hz. Are they saying they de-tune the music (standard 440Hz) down to 432 Hz via some kind of DSP? Or is this some kind of "resonant frequency" business where all of their internal components have been somehow "tuned" to a specific frequency?
@ianderson

I went with a cheap chinese clock found on Alibaba to try out what improvement it would make to my Antelope Zodiac Platinum DAC driven by the Innuos Zenith Mk3 via an Intona Isolator. The resulting improvement for shelling out $100 is easily the highest return quality improvement I have ever experienced. It‘s connected via a cheap 50ohm BNC cable but powered by a Kingrex LPS. The power supply and a quality power cable have a significant impact on the clock as does proper vibration insulation via Black Ravioli. Given the performance, I am reluctant to shell out $4-5k for a Mutec or Cybershaft clock, never mind $6-7k for an Antelope clock.
@jsqt
Yes, it is about taking concert pitch A=440, and lowering it to 432. This means the whole song is dropped via a DSP.  They say it’s more natural and pleasing to the ear and that concert pitch at some point in the past was 432. I suppose whats good about it is you can turn it on or off via a setting and see if you’d like it.
Yes, is is about taking concert pitch A=440, and lowering it to 432. This means the whole whole song is dropped via a DSP.  They say it’s more natural and pleasing to the ear. I suppose whats good about it is you can turn it on or off via a setting.
As a recovering musician it's hard to wrap my head around that... listening to music I've known inside and out for years being pitch-shifted slightly downward would probably be too much of a distraction for me. I also can't believe this would always be entirely audibly seamless, as past experience with pitch shifting software has shown (Ed Selley's review says there are some infrequent but noticeable artifacts). Nonetheless this is an interesting piece of gear. 
@ianderson 

I really have a problem with the a=432 transposition: it‘s not what the musicians heard when they played the music and as such has no business in a high fidelity setup. Either a marketing gimmick or engineers not understanding musicans.
antigrunge,

Musicians used to hear A=432 for a very long time. It is said to be more natural. Here is a little bit of background:

https://www.mindvibrations.com/432-hz/

If someone can build a box that will play it both ways and people appreciate it and prefer it, so be it.

I’m from the camp that anytime one transforms a digital signal, we introduce more distortions. So is the Evo 432 brand product was the best sounding music server even at a=440, then I wouldn’t care. I’m just chasing sound quality.

As a guitar player who has gotten used to a=440, my ears have been tuned there for years. For me it a little weird. Besides, I play in different keys most of the time anyways.

In the end it doesn’t make either right or wrong, just different and a personal choice and there is nothing wrong with that.


@ianderson 

While I agree with your tolerant conclusion, I‘d like to understand the impact of tuning on resultant overtones a bit better: good musicians build harmonies with a keen awareness on matching overtones and depending which string you use on a guitar for the same tone you get different overtones and hence different harmonies. Best I know DSP cannot adjust for that although I fully acknowledge that I don‘t really know what I am talking about😳
@antigrunge2
Ya gotta admire honesty. LOL!
@ianderson 
I don't follow the logic of changing the pitch of a recording as it seems to me that reproducing pitch "at pitch" is job one of any music reproduction system.  Also, A440 tuning is not uniform among orchestras. Some tune higher, some lower depending on the sound character of a particular ensemble.  For instance, NY, Chicago and LA tune to 442; Boston tunes to 444. Berlin and Vienna 444-445. Japanese orchestras tune to 442, I believe.  IOW, tuning carefully is carefully chosen based upon the type of sound character an ensemble is seeking.  This doesn't even address the HIP world of early music which, while all over the place in tuning often based on historical research of period tuning, is generally around A 415, approx a half step below A440. What does this DAC do for early music? Tune to G??? Sorry, to be a curmudgeon, but I just don't get it.  First get the pitch right!