Scarlett Solo 3rdgen (DAC) => Zen CAN => Sundara . Am i good?


So i’m a little nooby in this. Please be gentle with me.
I will first explain my situation and general use, then i will list some questions.

I love sound, i’m a guitarist, but unfortunately i don’t have great budget.
I’m listening to a lot of differents music style, game a lot and so i play guitar.
Talking about gaming… : I love great audio, and also play lots of differents kind of game, but i just don’t care about competition, footstep ect… Just like to enjoy sound of the game.

When playing guitar this is my setup : PC => USB Scarlett solo => Sundara and Guitar.
When NOT playing guitar, for everything else, i have a Sound Blaster AE-7 as PCI-E internal soundcard and just plug my Sundara into this.

So, like this you can see what i already own and how i use it daily.

This is my upgrade project : Buy a ZEN CAN (so, not the combo one) to plug it in my Scarlett Solo as the DAC. Also, get a balanced cable to connect the Sundara to the ZEN CAN, but meh… It’s hard to found cable for this… Question on it later.

Zeos seems to loved the ZEN CAN, this seems really good for the price, and the “Magic Button” seems interesting to me.
But maybe there is better for something AROUND THE SAME price. I’m open to suggestion, but i have to say that the ZEN CAN is really appealing to me. If suggestion you have, can it have also some “Magic Button” please? Or maybe change my mind i’m completely wrong to want to try it…

Also, when i have the money, i’d like to buy a LCD-2C… This mean not soon at all it’s expensive for me…but eh, in the future.

So… Now that you have some context, there is the questions :

  1. Will the Scarlet Solo 3rd gen will do the job as a DAC ? I already own it and if i have to buy a separate DAC, it will surely be out of my budget.

  2. And so, i have to know if everything will work as intended this way, even before you recommand something else if you have a good idea to what to get, i wonder if i’m not planning it wrong :
    -PC => USB to Scarlett => LINE OUT of the Scarlett INTO the RCA INPUT of the ZEN CAN with an adapter (Question 3 comes…) => Balanced cable INTO the Sundara with again a need of an adapter, for the balanced output at least.
    Is the routing good and intended to be used like this?

  3. Cable…
    So, for connecting the Scarlett into the ZEN CAN i need an adapter (JACK 6.35mm => RCA). Also, the LINE OUTPUT of the Scarlett IS balanced… So i saw this article :
    How to Connect a Headphone Amplifier to an Audio Interface – JDS Labs Blog
    Is this the good way to doing it? Will this adapter cable be OK ?
    Also, The ZEN CAN is provided with RCA Cable and power unit i think…

For the Sundara into ZEN CAN, this is the ONLY THING i found available in my location, it’s really hard to find something because of the Y 3.5 input of the Sundara and the 4.4 balanced output of the ZEN CAN… Here is what i found so, is it okay ?


  1. So… If everything i planned work in this way (or not), have you :
    -Better Suggestions
    -Better Amp Recommendations (Im open, but i’d like to have convincing arguments please, i like the “Magic Button” idea…)
  • Better DAC or a Combo recommendations if it’s really needed… I hope not, i don’t have much money…
  1. Is the “Magic Button” good so? Zeos seems to not really be into that kind of stuff and, thought, he still loved it and bought a ZEN CAN for himself
    So, i can imagine it to be really cool and fun… Is the 3D thing good in game? Music?
    Bass fonction? For everything?

  2. My Sound Blaster AE-7…
    I might have done a mistake buying this, or is it actually good? To my personnal taste, i like to listen somewhat loud, and i’m often close to 100% volume knob… I use the “module” of the AE-7.
    Generaly, volume turned up to 75-85%, something like 3-4 o’clock (windows at 100%). The module max seems to be 5 o’clock. Using the normal gain mode “32-149 ohm”. Tried the high gain one that go up to “150-600 ohm”, and it was distorded/noisy.
    What kind of improvement can i have with the kind of upgrade i’m going to do ?
    Will my upgrade be huge or more or less?

  3. Or maybe just buy a new and better audio interface? i’m afraid it will not be as good as an amp for headphone, but it will surely be better for my guitar… Oh and Scarlett is really bad with Sundara, not enough power.

You can just answer to question with the appropriate number. Not needed to quote me.

Thanks for you time… I really need advice please! I don’t have the money to make more mistake…

Up please!

You can just respond to one question if you have the answer…

Here is one more :

  1. Can i use my sound blaster AE-7 as a DAC sending signal into the ZEN CAN/Any AMP?
    Will it be better than my scarlett solo 3rd gen? (Remember, AE-7 is internal, in my PC)
    Just using the 3.5 line output for stéréo/front and left into ZEN CAN 3.5 input?
    It have 2 more 3.5 line output for 5.1 speaker kit (Rear left and right / center and subwoofer)

Hello @Picdelag, welcome to HiFiGuides! Sorry for the wait for the reply.

Sounds like a solid plan.

There are some ways to get the magic button that most Ifi devices have. One of which is to buy the Ifi Zen DAC and use it as a DAC. That Zen DAC can be used as a DAC and a stand alone amp/DAC, but IMO it performs best as a DAC. So how do we get the magic button to other amp? We can do this by setting the Zen DAC in a variable mode which then will pass through the magic button to the RCA/4.4mm line output.

I think it will do just fine. I have something else in mind, but I’ll talk about it later.

Yes it will do just fine, but you must be careful with the Scarlett’s output since it’s a balanced one.

Sooo I think this one is kinda tricky. In my opinion, the way that was suggested by JDS Labs is not the best way to connect the Scarlett to the amp. It will do just fine but I think it can be done in a better way, but feel free to ignore this method if you are tight in budget because it’s kinda tricky to buy the tools needed.

Method 1 (balanced to balanced)

So since the amp that you want to buy is the Zen Can, why not just connect everything in balanced? So maybe you can have a 6.35mm to 4.4mm interconnect cable. But here comes the problem. That interconnect problem is not common. So I think you need to custom order this cable. I would recommend to order from Hart Audio Cable, but then in this way you would need to spend more time and wait for the cable to come.

Method 2 (a more proper way to convert balanced to single ended

There are several ways to do this. You can choose to buy:

  1. ART CLEANBoxPro
  2. Passive Line Level Isolator and XLR to RCA

But I realise that you have to buy 6.35 to 3 pin XLR cable first. So, yea not so straight forward.

Looks okay to me, but of course you can always consider to buy cable from Hart Audio Cable or Viking Weave Cable and such.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of the Zen Can. It will do just fine, but for its price, I think it can do even more. So what I was thinking is for you to buy the Zen DAC (to get that magic button) and then buy a Schiit Asgard. But I think you are located in Europe (unless I’m mistaken. I just see it from the amazon link), so the Schiit stuff is kinda hard to get and also it will go over your budget. So in that sense, I think the Can is a pretty good one.
I’ll give you under $200 amp showdown done by WaveTheory.

The magic button consist of the bass boost and the 3D thing (sorry forgot what it’s called). The bass boost is a nice one IMO. It can help many headphones which are a little bit shy in the bass region or if you are a basshead, it can satisfy your need. I think the bass boost is kinda addicting. It’s not the cleanest one (bleed a little bit to the lower mid), but it’s addictive for sure. The 3D thing is a hit or miss IMO. It’s more of a gimmick than a feature, although someone in this forum has said that they find it useful for some music.

I don’t really have any experience with the AE-7, but from your description, the Zen Can will deliver you a louder volume and a more controlled sound, especially from the balanced output. Other than that, I think you will find a difference in sound signature. Might be a subtle one or a big one, can’t say for sure since I never tried the AE-7.

Hmmm… What if you buy a new audio interface (for your guitar) and buy a JDS labs atom? The atom has enough power for your Sundara and you get a better interface for your guitar. I think this is a viable option if you want to prioritise your guitar setup.

Yea you can do that, although you might hear some noise, but I’m not too sure because I don’t have any experience with the AE-7.

Hmmm I’ve been thinking, maybe you can consider this. Selling the Scarlett and then buy a new interface for your guitar, and from the money that’s left buy the amp of your choice since now you have that extra money.


I was afraid no one will respond…
And today it’s my birthday, i take that as a gift :birthday:

So to beggin, my priority right now is to ennhance the listening experience with my Sundara.
I’d like to upgrade my scarlett also, but it will surely be latter because again i lack the knowledge to make a good choice actually, and more important, surely some money…
Scarlett is a really cheap one, only 100€, i’m not sure i can sell it for so much, and the upgrade will tank on my money again… Because it seems (for my knowledge) that upgrading this will cost at least 300€ to have an upgrade worth.
But this is an other story for the future i think…


I’m at least happy to see that i was almost right for the cabling.
I saw your 2 method solutions, and yes it’s too expensive for me actually… sadly.
If the cabling i was thinking of work at least, i think i will start here… If it didn’t have a big loss.
All of the cable + the ZEN CAN will cost me around 230€~
I will be able to try on the SCARLETT and AE-7 as DAC, and chose wich is best.

For the cable seller you suggested, none have something compatible it seems! it need to be Y 3.5 jack => 4.4 jack
And if i understand the viking website… Holy shit it’s expensive!
Also, with every thing on my list actually, i can just buy everything else in one purchase at Amazon.

Yeah i was really interested by the asgard, but as you told, it’s just IMPOSSIBLE to find one here in France actually… I searched, but failed to found…
Is the Atom good so against the ZEN CAN?
You’r mentioning buying the ZEN DAC + an other amplifier but i fear it will be too much for my budget…
I can maybe go 200€ max for a combo. (ZEN CAN will “only” be 160€ and no need for an other DAC hoping AE-7 or Scarlett will do the job)
I also envisaged the Topping A50S, but it’s seams to have a sound maybe too…analytical, sterile, cold and other adjective like this.
Yes, powerfull and clean, but if it’s not a “fun” listening experience, i’m not sure it will be my kind of amplifier…
But i don’t know much, and there is surely other names i don’t know that can be interesting to think about.

I’ve read the topic GETAMPed by WaveTheory also, and this convinced me a little bit more about the ZEN CAN (No Schiit available here…), but i might search more about the Archel 2 GMR. Don’t know much about it.


I ordered a 2.5mm cable because it said ‘compatible with Hifiman Sundara’ but there’s three versions of the Sundara it seems like:

  • Pre-2020 pads with 2x2.5mm
  • Pre-2020 pads with 2x3.5mm
  • 2020 version (always 2x3.5mm)

Don’t be like me. Pick any 3.5mm cable and check if the holes in your Sundara are 2.5mm or 3.5mm :stuck_out_tongue:

Happy birthday buddy :partying_face: :partying_face: :partying_face:!!! Hopefully you can have a wonderful birthday!

Ah yea I forgot to say about this. So, you will need to custom order the cable. If you go to Hart Audio Cable, there is a custom shop tab and in there you can order anything that you want, as long as you describe it clearly, but you will have to wait for a while to have it made. So, I think the cable solution from Amazon is enough.

Haha yeah, it’s on high demand lately and the company itself doesn’t produce enough of it, so I guess it is what it is.

I think in terms of it being better or not is arguable. It’s cleaner, in the sense that it does not change the sound. It’s quite clinical, but not as clinical like the amps from Topping or SMSL. I was suggesting the Atom because maybe you want to consider buying a Zen DAC and an Atom, but then if you have to import it as well, everything might become way more expensive.

Yeah I agree with you. I think for your case the Can is the best option.

Yes agree with you as well, and also the topping A50S is kinda tricky. It needs higher voltage for the RCA input. So, for most DAC, the power output will actually be lower than what was advertised.

Archel 2 GMR is also good. It provides a cleaner sound presentation and performs better (but not by a lot) in the technical side (sound separation, layering, etc.), but then I think you need to import it to get it to your place, so I kinda afraid that it will end up to become more expensive plus you need to wait for quite a while.

I also don’t know how good the Archel will be paired with the Sundara. Maybe other people know. So, yea personally I think your choice to get the Can is a great choice. Can’t wait to hear your experience with it.

Edit: And ummm about the Viking Weave Cable, I think you saw the wrong viking shop lol. How you get Viking Weave Cable is through contacting @skedra or emailing [email protected]. That other viking cable is for the expensive cables lol

Thanks both of you!

I will respond this way because i’m not sure how to quote what i want…

Oh thanks i was not aware that Sundara can be in 2.5mm…
But my unit is from 2020 and i’m sure it’s 3.5! (with Dekoni elite Sheepskin :kissing_smiling_eyes:)
Tought interesting, was not aware…

Thanks! Interesting.
To respond in a general way… Yeh!
I think i’ve done the right choice.
Was not sure about anything because i’m a total noob in audiophile territory (i’m coming from an internal PCI-E SoundCard you know?), but glad i managed it well…
Other options are more expensive or more tricky to get it (and get it done well for the tricky things you told about the A50S…)
Sadly, things are harder to find here in Europe, and even more in these times…
But i think i will be pleased with my choice… One of my DAC will surely do well (i hope?), and the ZEN CAN seems a good pairing with the Sundara.

Also, this will be much more easy to me to keep it as planned :
I can just grab everything in one purchase via Amazon and their customer support is great if i have a problem…

I think i’m a Planar Guy, so going with LOW impedence headphone should not be a problem, and seems to be good with CAN and his fonctions for good fun listening/BASS boost for open Planar that lack them (Even if i already use EQ actually, but this could be interesting in their analog way…).

“Can’t wait to hear your experience with it.”
Well, good call! :wink:
I was not thinking about feedback about my experience, but now i know i will do it!
When i have it with some time to experience it, i will provide feedback for those interested/in need of help.
I will do it in this same topic.
In 2 weeks or so…

So guys… If i’m not doing a mistake anywhere… I think i’m all good!

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Received the ZEN CAN today!

First toughts : Pretty good!

But i’m waiting for the cables to connect to the scarlett tomorow.
Actually using the AE-7 as DAC, will compare them here soon and give a more complete feedback after some listening.

Sadly, this month is hard and i was not able to buy the balanced cables and adapter (60€). This will surely be the next month.
Running unbalanced so right now.

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I have a Scarlett 8i6 that I use in my main system and I think pro audio interfaces make great dacs. I do a very amateur radio show and like to do a lot of vinyl rips so using an interface makes a lot of sense in my situation functionally but I have to say it sounds really good to me too. I also run an older Marantz Reciever into the same amp the Scarlett runs into and there is no contest. The Scarlett is clearer, more open, and just makes better sense out of the music than the Marantz does. Keep that Scarlett around, they sound just fine.

Right now I’m using an older Schiit Magni 2 Uber for headphones with TRS to RCA adapters with no problems. I do have an itch to get a balanced amp at some point but I’m pretty happy with the set up at the moment.