Innuos’ range of ZEN music servers each have their specific niche, that perfectly suits significant parts of the audio enthusiast market. As its name suggests, the Statement speaks to the high-ender who has a cost-no-object approach to audio, while the ZEN range covers everything from those dipping their toes in the music server world to those seeking a useful high-end solution. As befits the magazine, we’ve tended to look more to the top-end of the Innuos tree, but in many respects the humble entry ZENmini is the device that has the toughest job to do, because it will have to fill in so many different gaps in audio systems.
The ZENmini Mk 3 is the most flexible Innuos product to date. Where the more up-scale models are designed to output purely to USB or Ethernet (because the assumption can be made that the prospective ZEN, ZENith, or Statement user has a network streamer or USB-supporting DAC), the ZENmini Mk 3 makes no such reductionist decisions. The ZENmini Mk 3 might be used in a networked system with one user, into an older DAC with only coaxial S/PDIF connections, into a music system that only has a TOSlink optical input, or to replace a CD player in a system with an amplifier that only has line-level RCA inputs. Moreover, because of this multiplicity of potential audio system options, the ZENmini’s interface needs to reflect a wide range of users, from the tech-savvy enthusiast who dreams in TCP/IP right down to someone who considers the ZENmini Mk 3 to be their first musical venture into the 21st Century.
The flexibility continues at the power end. As standard, the ZENmini Mk 3 comes supplied with a perfectly servicable laptop-style switch-mode power supply ‘brick’, but there is an option to upgrade that with the LPSU linear power supply unit, to bring the ZENmini Mk 3 closer to ZEN Mk 3 performance.
The ZENmini Mk 3 is a small ripping server with 1TB of WD Red hard disc as standard (you can configure it to have up to 8TB of on-board storage). It runs off an Intel N4200 Quad Core chipset with 4GB of RAM, making it on a par with an entry-level laptop in raw computing power. As with most music servers, there ain’t much to see. The half-width cases of both ZENmini Mk 3 and LPSU are almost identical, with the same gently angled front panel with a power button in the bottom right corner. Aside from the obvious slot-loading CD drawer in the ZENmini Mk 3, they look interchangeable from the front. There are no other displays and the ZENmini’s music playback, handling, and management are all removed to either a computer, a tablet, or a smartphone. It’s here, too, where Innuos needs to demonstrate a lot of flexibility. Some will want this to run under its own steam, some will want it to be controlled by a third-party controller like Linn’s Kazoo, some may even want it to operate as a Squeezebox server, or a Sonus server, or even a Roon server. And the ZENmini Mk 3 addresses all these avenues with almost equal aplomb.