Antipodes

HIGH-END AUDIO PRODUCT DESIGNS FOCUSED AROUND HOW THE HUMAN EAR ~ BRAIN ~ EMOTION SYSTEM WORKS
Our designs are based on how the human ear-brain-emotion system works. The joy of music is all about how the limbic brain perceives patterns and connects them to emotions. So what is important in reproducing a musical event is not some general notion of accuracy per se, but accuracy where the ear-brain-emotion process needs it.

Antipodes Audio is primarily a research company that funds its ongoing work by commercialising its discoveries. For this reason we don't have products in every category of audio, just in the ones where we believe we have unique insights that enable us to produce better products.

Antipodes Digital is a division of Antipodes Audio Limited, established in New Zealand in 2004, and located on the magnificent Kapiti Coast. All Antipodes products are designed and manufactured in New Zealand.

Antipodes is pronounced an-tip-uh-deez, and means a pair of opposite things. Which happens to describe Antipodes' founders Mark and Sonia Jenkins - one being an inventive product designer and the other being an expert in small manufacturing processes and quality control. But the word also refers to the part of the world where we are based. Europeans will often refer to New Zealand, Australia and anywhere at the opposite end of the earth as 'the antipodes'.

Today Antipodes has:
      Offices in New Zealand and the United States. 
      Distributors serving dealers and customers in 18 countries around the world.
     Expert service centres, able to perform the full range of repairs and upgrades, located in the UK, USA, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

Our primary emphasis is on continuing to redefine the state of the art in sound quality in high-end computer-based audio. Feature set will always be secondary to sound quality, but by adopting open systems standards, we don't lock our customers into proprietary interfaces, and we can keep bringing them a range of the best available software options, with a simple and intuitive admin interface for setup and configuration.

But customer support is just as important to us as sound quality - we know how complex it is sometimes to integrate a computer-based source with a customer's network, a DAC and a tablet, and so we provide online expert assistance to resolve any problems for our customers. We are music lovers too, so we know how very important it is for you to not be without your music.

Placing high emphasis on customer support is also a key way for us to remain customer focused, to know what customers want and therefore where we need to put our efforts into product and support process improvement.

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Featured

AT 01 MS EDGE
NZ$ 2,950.00 (incl. GST)
The Antipodes DS EDGE is our small-form-factor Digital Audio Renderer (music streamer), and its functions can be extended by user installable 2.5" disks to add full Music Server-Renderer (Streamer)...
OPTIONS         Silver or Black         CD...
AT 02 MS CORE
NZ$ 4,350.00 (incl. GST)
STORAGE  Many of our customers either have a NAS or have recently moved to digital to enjoy internet streaming services like TIDAL. So you can use the CORE without adding any storage, by...
MUSIC LIBRARY SERVERHigh Power V4H CircuitHigh Processing Power & Exceptional Sound...
AT 03 MS DSBASE
NZ$ 3,050.00 (incl. GST)
Digital playback systems must have precise timing for the resultant analog signal to be accurate. But the precision of the ‘clock’ used in a digital playback system is undermined if the digital...
DS-Base supplied standard LESS hard driveUPGRADE to 1TB HDD additional - $150UPGRADE to 2TB HDD...
EXTENDED REVIEW: You don’t what you’ve got till it’s gone. Fortunately, that which is gone I never...
AT 05 MS DX G2
NZ$ 5,500.00 (incl. GST)
The Antipodes DX Gen2 is a reference, integrated digital, medium power audio source,(ideal for all paybeck up to 196 PCM & DSD128) with V3.5X cirduit, providing the ultimate in digital audio...
DX Supplied standard LESS SSDUpgradeable to 1TB SSD for additional - $1,200Upgradeable to 2TB SSD...
AT 05 MS DX G3
NZ$ 6,300.00 (incl. GST)
Every stage of an Antipodes digital source is designed to minimise electronic noise, and then the whole is fine-tuned to avoid noise nodes (when two noise sources generate a noise peak at the same...
DX Supplied standard LESS SSDUpgradeable to 1TB SSD for additional - $1,200Upgradeable to 2TB...

All Products

Music / Media Network players, Streamers & Servers

AT 01 MS EDGE
NZ$ 2,950.00 ea (incl. GST)
The Antipodes DS EDGE is our small-form-factor Digital Audio Renderer (music streamer), and its functions can be extended by user installable 2.5" disks to add full Music Server-Renderer (Streamer)...
OPTIONS         Silver or Black         CD...
AT 02 MS CORE
NZ$ 4,350.00 ea (incl. GST)
STORAGE  Many of our customers either have a NAS or have recently moved to digital to enjoy internet streaming services like TIDAL. So you can use the CORE without adding any storage, by...
MUSIC LIBRARY SERVERHigh Power V4H CircuitHigh Processing Power & Exceptional Sound...
AT 03 MS DSBASE
NZ$ 3,050.00 ea (incl. GST)
Digital playback systems must have precise timing for the resultant analog signal to be accurate. But the precision of the ‘clock’ used in a digital playback system is undermined if the digital...
DS-Base supplied standard LESS hard driveUPGRADE to 1TB HDD additional - $150UPGRADE to 2TB HDD...
EXTENDED REVIEW: You don’t what you’ve got till it’s gone. Fortunately, that which is gone I never...
AT 04 MS DSCORE
NZ$ 5,050.01 ea (incl. GST)
DS Core - New Model release September 2017 - The Antipodes DS Core is a premium version of the CORE, including integrated ripper and pre-installed storage. The casework shell is the same as...
OPTIONS      Silver or Black      Pre-Installed Storage Options No...
AT 05 MS DX G2
NZ$ 5,500.00 ea (incl. GST)
The Antipodes DX Gen2 is a reference, integrated digital, medium power audio source,(ideal for all paybeck up to 196 PCM & DSD128) with V3.5X cirduit, providing the ultimate in digital audio...
DX Supplied standard LESS SSDUpgradeable to 1TB SSD for additional - $1,200Upgradeable to 2TB SSD...
AT 05 MS DX G3
NZ$ 6,300.00 ea (incl. GST)
Every stage of an Antipodes digital source is designed to minimise electronic noise, and then the whole is fine-tuned to avoid noise nodes (when two noise sources generate a noise peak at the same...
DX Supplied standard LESS SSDUpgradeable to 1TB SSD for additional - $1,200Upgradeable to 2TB...

Reviews

This kind of audible result mustn’t be uncommon. Other DS/DX owners must surely be netting similar joy – probably the number one reason why Jenkins is scaling his distribution network to include ‘Murica.
John H Dakop

REVIEW SUMMARY: the DX server easily aces a MacBook Air + Audirvana+ + Resonessence Labs Concero HD combo, even when feeding the digital inputs of Peachtree’s Nova220SE, thus presenting a convincing case for buying an Antipodes Audio server before dropping cash on a more deluxe outboard D/A converter.

You don’t what you’ve got till it’s gone. Fortunately, that which is gone I never want back: the digital glare of the MacMini. I didn’t know the Apple box wasn’t so troubled by the stuff until I spent time reviewing Antipodes (‘An tip uh deez’) Audio’s DS music server for 6Moons during the first few weeks of 2014. 

EXTENDED REVIEW: You don’t what you’ve got till it’s gone. Fortunately, that which is gone I never want back: the digital glare of the MacMini. I didn’t know the Apple box wasn’t so troubled by the stuff until I spent time reviewing Antipodes (‘An tip uh deez’) Audio’s DS music server for 6Moons during the first few weeks of 2014. 

The MacMini was swiftly sold, replaced by a music server that sounded tonally richer and more easeful than the Cupertino computer, even with the Resonessence Labs Concero heading USB-S/PDIF conversion and Audirvana+ taking care of software playback. The Antipodes server is Linux/Vortexbox based so I keep a Macbook Air around for testing OS X-related audio products.

“You can’t correct for mistakes that have already been made”, is head designer and CEO Mark Jenkins’ message. Better to keep electrical noise to a minimum from the outset than attempt to attenuate it after the fact with a S/PDIF re-clocker, USB converter or cable filter. Jenkins refers to these as “band-aid fixes”.

Jenkins builds his music servers to keep electrical noise as low as possible. Not only does he use the highly regarded SOtM cards for USB output but they are juiced with an in-house designed power supply board. Then there’s the Western Digital hard drives that run bespoke firmware and the additional scripting applied to the operating system to ensures the digital signal is babied every step of the way. Think you can do that at home? You’ve got two hopes: Bob Hope and no hope.

“Each design minimises and manages electronic noise interference by parts selection, by firmware and by software; not only managing the processes involved but also managing the speeds/noise spectra of all chipsets…For these reasons our music servers are far from being standard computers.”, runs the website copy.

As my music library crept ever closer to the DS Reference’s internal HDD 2TB capacity, Jenkins stepped in again. Would I like to try the next model up in the range – the DX

Sure I would.

The DX sounds bigger and more spacious than the DS Reference whilst holding fast to junior’s relaxed vibe and tonal colour saturation. It too never took the return flight back to Antipodes Audio’s HQ in New Zealand.

For the remainder of 2014 Jenkins was engaged in further product development, trying out new ideas. This model was being added to the range soon, that model was being phased out. At RMAF in Denver he threw a curveball into the mix by introducing a network extender for those who already owned an Antipodes Audio server but didn’t want to surrender SQ in another zone of the house and didn’t have the moulah for a second server. The DP ‘Extender’ has since been cemented in to the Antipodes range.

The website copy expands: “With an Antipodes music server in your network, you can add these small (200mm x 200mm x 35mm) Extenders anywhere else in your network. Plug in the Extender and it becomes a stand-alone music server (no messy DLNA), but plays the music that is stored on your Antipodes music server. USB Audio 2.0 output…playing PCM to 32/384, DSD64 & DSD128. No moving parts, and no need to copy any music to it…” Pricing on the DP Extender remains $TBC.

With Jenkins recently establishing representation in New York, ready to expand sales into the USA, Antipodes now offers 2 server models: the New DS series III and DX.

The entry-level Antipodes DS ships with a 1TB HDD, upgradeable up to 4TB and features both RCA analog, SPDIF and USB outputs powered by a switch-mode PSU (which separates it from the linear-powered DS Reference that I reviewed for 6moons). This is the only model to come in a small form-factor case. Black or silver available.

The bid daddy is the DX. 1TB SSD upgradeable up to 4TB solid state drives for even lower noise, improved linear power supplies, the best sound of the bunch “by some margin” according to Jenkins. Black or silver available.

All servers come with an optical drive pre-installed and are configured to auto-rip CDs to uncompressed FLAC – which Jenkins swears double-blind sounds superior to compressed FLAC – and can playback up to 32bit/384kHz PCM, DSD and 2xDSD.

Since the move from MPD to Squeezelite as the playback engine of choice, remote control comes via any Squeezebox compatible smartphone app. I recommend iPeng on the iPhone, Squeezepad on the iPad and OrangeSqueeze on Android devices.

Industry veteran P.J. Zornosa is set to handle Antipodes Audio distribution in the USA where a fully localised dealer network will be established to handle sales and support. That sure beats having to buy direct from NZ or ship your unit halfway across the world should anything go awry. Know that neither of my Antipodes servers has missed a beat.

Back at DAR HQ, the DX server easily aces a MacBook Air + Audirvana+ + Resonessence Labs Concero HD combo, even when feeding the digital inputs of Peachtree’s Nova220SE, thus presenting a convincing case for buying an Antipodes Audio server before dropping cash on a more deluxe outboard D/A converter.

This kind of audible result mustn’t be uncommon. Other DS/DX owners must surely be netting similar joy – probably the number one reason why Jenkins is scaling his distribution network to include ‘Murica.

the New Zealand company is a leader in the server/streamer field. And they don’t exploit kiwis, geckos, or tuataras. The Antipodes DS is a supreme achievement.
KEN MICALLEF

REVIEW SUMMARY: The Antipodes DS delivered the promise of digital as I’d never heard before. Well-recorded CDs became extraordinary sounding FLAC rips. The sound was organic, present, tonally-rich, extremely dynamic, resolving, sweet and organic. This was no case of upper frequency enhancement at the expense of low frequency warmth; the Antipodes simply brought more music to the table. The cliché of “hearing my CD collection anew” was in full effect.

EXTENDED REVIEW: Though the bulk of my rig would be considered “high end” – Shindo amplification and DeVore Fidelity loudspeakers — my digital front end is decidedly 2010. Apple Macbook, two Western Digital 4 TB mirrored hard drives, and a cute little Halide HD DAC have provided this vinyl lover with hours of digital audio decency.

Luckily, I’ve reviewed many DACs, beginning with a maze of tiny tot USB DACs for 6MOONS and more recently, the Mytek and PS Audio DSD DAC. As the medium improves, morphs, and ramps up to warp speed, new technologies are introduced that improve on dead tech devices. As some devices, like CD players, slowly disappear, others, better equipped to process digital’s 1s and 0s, take their place. The server, with its onboard storage, ripping, streaming and processing capabilities is the latest to capture the imagination of crafty designers. And for good reason. By eliminating wires and focusing on streamlined internal functionality, servers offer an all-in-one solution while tackling one of digital audio’s biggest problems: noise.

New Zealand’s Antipodes Audio takes a fresh approach to combating the equivalent of digital grunge. To hear the company’s Mark Jenkins tell it, the biggest obstacle to digital audio nirvana isn’t parts selection or bits resolution. And it isn’t the choice between PCM, DSD, or MQA. No, the current blockade between our ears and audio ecstasy is simple. It’s noise.

Computers generate noise. Spinning hard-drive discs generate noise. The neighbor’s washing machine, the always-on TVs, and umpteen computers sharing your building’s power line? Noise, noise, noise. If allowed to freely circulate within our hi-fis, the behemoths of noise — also known as jitter when running rampant within digital conversion — will foul the works resulting in distortion of micro detail, greater glare or edge in transients, and overall sound reproduction resulting in what is commonly called “digititus.” It’s like creating a good marinara sauce, actually. If the sauce’s basic ingredients – tomatoes, olive oil, garlic – aren’t pure and free from contamination before entering the boiling/mixing/simmering phase, imagine what they will taste like in your mouth. Seems simple enough, but when considering the plethora of hard-sounding, noise-spewing digital devices on the market, noise, like pain management, must be grabbed by the balls.

Antipodes Audio puts as much research into eliminating noise in their servers as designing and combining the components that produce their sound. Antipodes implements noise-defeating technologies at every turn, in both the flagship DX Reference and the redesigned DS. From DAC connections to storage options to power supplies, Antipodes founder Mark Jenkins and his team follows a radical, if sensible approach. If feeling your inner Deepak Chopra you could even call their approach “holistic.”

Connections, storage, power“Antipodes Music Servers provide what we have discovered to be a much better solution [to defeating noise] — to feed the DAC with a precision-clocked ultra-low noise digital signal,” states their website.

“Antipodes Music Servers focus on eliminating anything unnecessary, by using a minimal Linux operating system, and by pushing all interaction to your tablet, smartphone or computer; and through minimisation and management of electronic noise at every step of the process that generates the digital signal from the stored file.”

Antipodes’ further claims to noise suppression include keeping RAM activity to a minimum . . . by using a purpose-built VortexBox Linux software suite and customised scripting,” and by following “system tuning through chip selection and customised firmware to tune the chip speeds, which affects not just the amount of electronic noise generated but also its frequency spectrum. Electronic noise in different frequency ranges can have vastly different effects on the resulting sound quality.”

Antipodes prefers USB over SPDIF or Ethernet for DAC connection, purely for USB’s generally quieter properties; another element in Antipodes’ arsenal.

“USB is ideal for an Antipodes server because it is architecturally superior to SPDIF, i2s and AES/EBU, and generates much less noise in the DAC than Ethernet . . . USB is the best solution only when the server is very low noise, and when the DAC manufacturer has done a competent job of isolating the USB receiver from the analog power supply and circuitry…”

Storage options also have an impact on noise. Antipodes put Solid State Drives (SSD) in the DX Reference, and 2.5” hard discs rather than the usual 3.5” discs in the DS. The 2.5” discs “eliminate the heat and vibration issues in the DS” Antipodes believes.

The final element in Antipodes’ noise-killing chain: power supply design.

“Some parts of a music server perform better if powered with a switch-mode supply. The key design issue is selecting a topology that minimises the high frequency noise interference generated . . . One of the key issues is where the power supply noise is placed, in a frequency spectrum sense, and this can be more important than the total amount of noise . . . The first area of saving in the DS power supply arrangement is using an external power supply, and the second is that we use some switching elements in the power supply. However, the regulated output stage of the DS power supply is still fully linear.”

Thankfully, eggheads aside, Antipodes stresses the final determinant of any design choice is listening. Revolutionary! No measurements or fancy parts selection will matter if listening isn’t the most important factor in shaping sound quality. Sounds simple enough, but as the measurement geeks go apeshit, hold on to your ears at all costs.

Jenkins again: “Just as you will find in the design of any other high-end audio equipment, like a DAC, amplifier or speaker,these design decisions are based on massive amounts of time building prototypes and listening to them, and then refining the design over a period of years.”

One sunny morning I found the Antipodes DS in my building lobby, lugged the box up the seven flights to my Greenwich Village man-villa, and hungrily unboxed the goods.

Design. My review sample of the Antipodes DS server: a silver unit with 4 TB of internal hard-disc storage: US$3170. Antipodes offers hard-disc storage levels commensurate with price: 1 TB: US$2750; 2 TB: US$2890; 4 TB: US$3170. There are SSD options too: 1 TB US$3600; 2 TB US$4275; 4 TB US$5625. All internal drives are “sunk” to the external heat-sinks to maximize life expectancy.

“The hard drives are firmly attached to an alloy plate that runs between the two heatsinks,”Mark Jenkins explains. “Any other ambient heat will also tend to heat up the top plate, which also has a firm connection to the heat sinks.”

The Antipodes DS’ cosmetics are subtle and sleek, with minimal external controls. It’s a compact but hefty, squared-off unit encased in a matte-finish aluminum alloy with barely visible heat-sinks protruding from each side. The internal CD ripper’s access slot is visible near the top of the faceplate. Once powered up via a switch-mode power supply, a front panel button brings the DS to life; its blue light also glows from within the DS’s internals through a see-through top plate. Antipodes recommends leaving the unit on 24/7.

The DS’ back panel holds the 12V input jack (for the switch mode power supply), two USB outputs labeled “audio on” and “audio off” (sorted as to whether your DAC requires power from the USB buss or not). A RCA digital out, RCA left and right analog outs, the Ethernet connection, and a “backup” USB port for attaching external storage via the “Drive Mount” app located on the apps setting on the main Antipodes page, once you’ve established the unit on your network.

Using the Linux operating system, the Antipodes DS runs two apps: VortexBox for setup, control, and disc-ripping, and to oversee the music library once ripped, Logitech’s Media Control Center, which worked very well, offered hundreds of demo FLAC rips in every style but metal and electronic, and was very fast compared to my Audirvana/Macbook/external storage drive setup. Antipodes supports formats including WAV, AIFF (my personal choice), FLAC, ALAC, AAC, M4A, MP3, Ogg, DSF, and DFF. PCM-format resolution ramps up to 32-bit/384kHz and double rate DSD. The DS can stream from Spotify, Qobuz, TIDAL, BBC, and many other preloaded services. To maximize functionality, the DS also contains an internal Realtek DAC, which can play files from the USB output, including 24/192 PCM and DSD128.

Setup
Making all the basic connections was easy. I used an off-the-shelf Ethernet cable to connect the DS to my Apple Extreme router, and the included Antipodes USB cable to attach the DS to the PS Audio NuWave DSD DAC (on loan) wired into my Shindo Allegro preamplifier. The older Halide DAC was not compatible with Antipodes’ 2.0 software. I powered the DS, and after some fiddling and mental decoding of the manual, the DS appeared as a shared device on my Macbook. The VortexBox screen provided control options including access to Logitech Media Control Center, CD/DVD Ripper, FLAC Mirror, Network Configuration, System Configuration, Backup (for attaching external hard drive storage), Configure Player (where the DAC appears). But that’s not all there is to setting up a server. Not by a long shot.

Setup appeared to be a no brainer. But for someone who had never before set up a server on a network, my brain went MIA. I had problems with the DS’s various options, including adding external storage (and music files) and accessing Logitech’s volume control. I had problems understanding the two different manuals: one that came with the DS; one downloaded from Antipodes site. I had problems streaming Tidal.

To the rescue came Antipodes extremely competent, fast and friendly New Zealand-based support, aka Tony. After several long emails, more emails followed. If required, Tony would have used the internet to take control of my Macbook and make the necessary setup changes. (This level of support is available to all Antipodes customers.) But after a few questions that resembled those inquiries when you’ve lost your password: “first pet? First car? First job?” Tony realized my new DS was loaded with old software. One week later a new DS review sample arrived.

Bingo! Now the supplied manual made sense, even to a gizmoid-Luddite like me. The directions were easy to follow. I attached the DS to my router; the DS appeared on the Antipodes GUI on my desktop. A menu of apps enabled “FLAC No Compression” — I was off to the server races. The new software provided a cleaner and more eye-friendly interface when ripping CDs to FLAC, with the album cover (and a vinyl LP placeholder) displayed prominently as the CD ripped (approximately four minutes per rip). Once the rip is completed, the DS spits out the disc. The file is then alphabetized within the 100s of demo FLAC files on the DS, and within the “New Music” header in the Logitech Media Control Center (other apps are available for playback, but the Logitech worked well).

DS demo goodness
Antipodes’ demo FLAC selection of over 300 titles incorporating blues, jazz, classical and folk – with a lack of metal and electronic as previously noted – was incredible. Led Zeppelin, Alison Krauss, Bad Plus, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, the USHER demo disc, a healthy assortment of classical titles, Chesky and David Chesky titles, The Doors, Holly Cole, The Rolling Stones, Stacy Kent, Shelby Lynne, and underrated English jazz singer, Claire Martin, comprise a small portion of the demo material available. The demos were uniformly excellent sounding when the source was excellent to begin with: Sticky Fingers still sounded like a bad ‘70s recording, while Holly Cole’s “Don’t Smoke in Bed” unleashed some of the most gorgeous, room-filling, chair-throbbing bass and hand drum notes I’ve ever heard in my system.

Antipodes’ triumph in eliminating noise was apparent in the FLAC demo of Frank Sinatra’s 1962 recording, “I Get A Kick Out of You.” I know the track well, yet through the Antipodes the song was a revelation. All the grace and swing and feel of Sinatra’s voice were present yet with a band that seemed to have awakened from a 50-year slumber. The wiry grip of the walking bass, the booming bass drum accenting with“kick!,” the larger and deeper soundstage – incredible all the way around! And the song’s resolution was unparalleled in my experience. By lowering the noise floor, the song came alive. And remember, this is a FLAC demo title. All the FLAC demos sounded good, some great, and some like the Sinatra and Cole, exceptional.

Streaming. 
Setting up Tidal couldn’t have been easier. The “Apps” page under the Antipodes GUI led to plug-ins including Tital, Qobuz, BBC, Spotify and many more. Tap on the icon, enter your password: streaming hi-fi sounds.

More on ripping. 
I pulled out a handful of CDs looking forward to some serious ripping downtime. But not every rip went off as planned. Some CDs ripped quickly, some ripped slowly, some refused to rip at all. Everyman Beatles titles went up in a dash, while free jazz from Norwegian drummer Paal Niissen-Love (27 Years Later) was unrecognized and un-rippable. Okay, so that’s a left-of-center title, especially so for a company that doesn’t consider metal or electronic worthy for including in its demo library. But the DS couldn’t manage a rip from Germany’s ECM label either: Thomas Stronen’s Time Is A Blind Guide. (In jazz, ECM is as common as Blue Note.) The DS had no problem recognizing and ripping jazz saxophonist Noah Preminger’s latest CD, Soul Jazz’s 100% Dynamite ska collection, Funci Porcini’s Plod, and Air’s Walkie Talkie. And the rips were uniformly better than any of the onboard demo FLAC files. Side note: the replacement DS was slightly louder when ripping than the outgoing machine.

Would CDs ripped via the Antipodes DS better my Macbook/Western Digital combo? That was answered in the affirmative in the first seconds of hearing the FLAC rip of guitarist’s Pat Metheny’s Day Trip. A trio recording including bassist Christian McBride and drummer Antonio Sanchez, Day Trip was recorded in 2005 at one of New York’s recording palaces of sound, Right Track Recording Studios (now MSR). This production is spacious and deep, with excellent resolution. But I wasn’t prepared for the incredibly long decay trails emanating from Sanchez’s cymbals via the FLAC rip, nor the rock solid, deeply probing acoustic sounds from McBride’s upright. Nor was I prepared for the change in soundstage perspective, which went from simply first row to fully immersive with a greater sense of space between musicians and their respective placement within the recording studio. Metheny’s guitar sound via the DS FLAC rip was similar to my Macbook Lossless rip, but otherwise this was an entirely different listening experience. And the DS FLAC rip experience repeated itself, disc after disc.

Summing up the bits. 
The notion that “bits is bits” was destroyed by the Antipodes DS. I suddenly felt sad. I’ve ripped and sold 1000s of CDs via the Macbook/WD combo, thinking “who needs CDs?” I never realized a server could translate this level of resolution along with the DS’ most impressive trick: its ability to recreate the true depth, width and height of the recording’s soundstage as originally created by the recording engineer and producer. The DS’ immersive soundstage was truly a revelation, and a great musical joy. (Sigh).

Playing and ripping CDs I know well was a revelation. The DS gave me greater respect for the CD format, something I never thought I’d say under any circumstances. By reducing the noise floor of every disc, or rather the rip of every disc, I heard more deeply into the music. There was simply more music and apparently less noise coming through my Shindo/DeVore system. This paid off in improved micro-dynamics, low level detail retrieval, an immersive and better sorted soundstage that also had more air and a greater sense of spaciousness — that last quality even bettering my vinyl rig. FLAC rips via the DS were more fleshed out, though they were still decidedly digital in nature. (I don’t buy into one format being inherently better than the other). The DS also brought out the best from the PS Audio DSD DAC, the already capable unit acquiring a more orderly, resolute, and refined nature than through the Macbook/WD setup.

Banging! 
The Antipodes DS delivered the promise of digital as I’d never heard before. Well-recorded CDs became extraordinary sounding FLAC rips. The sound was organic, present, tonally-rich, extremely dynamic, resolving, sweet and organic. This was no case of upper frequency enhancement at the expense of low frequency warmth; the Antipodes simply brought more music to the table. The cliché of “hearing my CD collection anew” was in full effect.

Is the Antipodes DS a value-added component? US$3170 (DS) vs. US$1299/US$129 (Macbook/Western Digital 4 TB) is no bargain. But the DS clearly betters my current ripping scenario (new Macbooks don’t offer a CD slot); provides a port to attach external storage; streams anything and everything; sits on your network so say goodbye to wires; and is built like a proverbial tank, but whether the quality, not to mention Antipodes’ friendly and efficient customer support, will be similarly available from other brands is anyone’s guess. As Antipodes has proven with their flagship DX Reference, the New Zealand company is a leader in the server/streamer field. And they don’t exploit kiwis, geckos, or tuataras. The Antipodes DS is a supreme achievement.
.........KEN MICALLEF

I’m dreading having to return it.
GARY PEARCE - Witchdoctor

Antipodes have created a fabulous-sounding, easy to set up and control product in the DS1. At around $4,250 it’s a serious investment for the majority of us, but you have to understand that most competing servers cost more, and some require a far greater investment than the homegrown Antipodes.

Better known for its range of cables, Kiwi company Antipodes Audio turns its attention to music servers, and comes up trumps.
SEEN MANY CD players in audio shops lately? Chances are you won’t have, and unless you’ve been asleep under an apple tree for the last five years, you’ll have heard that the compact disc is very much in a state of decline.
 
Music these days is more than likely stored on a computer or some other device, and will either be streamed via a ‘client’ (Logitech Squeezebox Server/Sonos/name your brand) or played from a server with storage on board.
 
WD-Antipodes-ServerI was asked to look at and appraise an example of the latter: Antipodes Audio’s DS1 music server. As the name suggests, the DS1 is made to exacting specifications here in New Zealand, and I had a chance to catch up with founder Mark Jenkins at his base in Meadowbank for a wee chat about the DS1 and audio in general.
 
What impressed me the most was Mark’s thorough research into how the brain receives information via the ears, which is quite a physiological approach to the business of designing audio products. Here’s Mark quoted from his website:
 
“Our approach to designing audio products is not just based on the application of electronic theory, but on how the human ear/brain works.  When we hear real live music we also hear many distortions, through absorption, reflections and resonances, and yet the ear/brain recognises the sounds as real.  When we listen to reproduced music we are rarely fooled into thinking the artists are actually present.
 
Sound is just a sequence of changes in air pressure at our ears.  That we can interpret this sequence of pressure changes into different instruments and voices occupying distinct spaces, and how reflected sound is largely filtered out of our perceptions of sound, is a miracle of our ear/brain process.  But it is also something our ear/brain does whether we like it or not.  The ear/brain process insists on decoding spatial information in what it hears, and this is critically dependent on time-domain accuracy.”
 
Heavy stuff indeed, but it all makes sense. What it does spell out is that Mark, Sonia and their team at Antipodes aren’t just stuffing electronics into a box or buying OEM cables and repackaging them in order to flog them off. They’re extremely serious about producing products that actually cut the mustard in sonic terms.
 
There’s more information available on the Antipodes website regarding their scientific approach to audio which I won’t quote here, but it’s definitely worth a read.
 
The review copy of the DS1 came loaded with excellent quality hi-res and Redbook CD rips, including more than a few albums/artists I also have on my NAS drive at home.
 
Specs
 
The sturdy silver aluminium case has a most uncomplicated front fascia with a slot-loaded disc drive (in this case a DVD drive) and a power on/off button. Around the back is where all the action is (as is so often the case these days), and here you’ll find 2 x USB 2.0 outputs, an Ethernet port and the necessary 12v power input. Included on the back are DVI-D and VGA connections, but these are not wired internally and as such won’t work, although the DS1 can rip and stream high quality video via SMB, DLNA or NFS if so desired.
 
The sample DS1 came equipped with a low-speed 2TB drive, and ripping CDs once set up was a breeze – just load the slot drive and wait for a few minutes, and said album appears on the drive complete with all metadata (including album art). Nice.
 
Antipodes quotes ‘Low Noise Ethernet Streaming’ as a feature of the DS1, and Mark explained they went to great lengths to ensure an absence of RF or spurious noise at the Ethernet input. Antipodes also have a partnership with acclaimed South Korean company SOtM who supply the low-jitter and noise PCI/USB 2.0 output used in the DS1 and other servers in the Antipodes stable.
 
Last but not least, a simple switch mode psu completes the DS1 package. Moving further up the range to the DS2 brings improvements such as the SOtM USB 3.0 card and a heavily regulated internal linear power supply, but the DS1 is at a very good price point compared with a lot of its much-vaunted competition.
 
The Set Up
 
For a lot of hi-fi punters dipping their toes into the wonderful world of music servers and streaming, the DS1 and other similar products would appear to be their worst nightmare: IP addresses, passwords, software to download onto a smartphone or tablet, cables, and on and on. Luckily, the DS1 was a doddle to set up and I reckon most could have it up and running within a matter of minutes or so.
 
Firstly, I placed the DS1 on my rack, connected a USB cable (USB ‘B’ to ‘A’, make it a good one), then the obligatory cable from my Ethernet network switch box (Antipodes don’t include a Wi-Fi card, as they introduce too much noise), then I plugged in the wall wart. Antipodes suggests waiting two minutes to allow the DS1 to power up fully. Having achieved that, I looked at the list of network devices on my router’s home page and wrote down the DS1’s IP address for safekeeping. While on the computer, I then typed in http://antipodes1.local and voila – there appeared the Antipodes Vortexbox front end. Yes, the DS1 runs Linux Vortexbox, a well-known open source operating system specifically designed for music replay, ripping and tagging. So all good so far, but now I had to control the DS1 somehow. Carefully reading the instruction manual (yeah, right) I sauntered off to the Google Playstore on my Asus Nexus 7 tablet, and proceeded to download MPDROID, a control client for Android devices. Once downloaded, I was able to find the DS1 almost immediately, along with its hidden treasure trove of delicious tunes. I was ready to rock, big time! Oh, I also downloaded MPoD for my iPod just to check it out; it’s a bit better in terms of facilities, but essentially both Android and Apple clients do the same thing.
 
As an alternative the DS1 also comes pre-installed with Logitech’s Squeezebox Server, and although now not supported by Logitech (those fools), it has a large fan base and active forum. It’ll also allow access to streamed radio services and music streaming via sites such as Spotify, Rhapsody and Pandora – although for how long is anyone’s guess. This also means that those with Squeezedevices can use the DS1 as an external NAS drive, which would prove beneficial for this reviewer (I have no less than 4 Squeezebox players). I didn’t try to control the DS1 using LMS during my listening sessions, preferring to use either MPDROID or MPoD.
 
All that was left to do was settle down with a few nice hot cuppas, a good supply of biscuits, cakes and muffins and an empty house for the purposes of a good old unencumbered listen.
 
The Audition
 
As odd as it must sound to most people, my high-sensitivity Fostex-equipped Voigt Vofo’s sound superb, even using 250wpc Audiolab mono solid-state amplifiers. Yes, it’s overkill and I should be using a little 10wpc SET amp, but the problem is I have a home theatre system tacked on to the system and I couldn’t really see a little tube amp doing justice to quality flicks such as Armageddon or Battleship Earth. So, big solid state it is, connected to my very nice Audiolab 8200CDQ DAC/pre. Cables used were Nordost’s Blue Heaven USB (really, really good), Blue Heaven balanced from pre to power amps (the original Blue Heavens that is), and my trusty old Nordost Solar Wind speaker cables.
 
The Ethernet cable? Some cheap thing from PB Technology I had hanging around. To be honest my four-year-old home was fully wired for Ethernet when built, but I didn’t think about streaming audio as a replacement for CDs back then. Oh how things have changed, and given the chance I’d be far more scrupulous in terms of in-wall cables. The good news though, is that my streamed audio sounds top notch using my existing (and probably un-extractable) supplied –by-electrician cabling.
 
Given the amount of quality music pre-loaded on the DS1 I stuck mainly with those albums and artists, but there were a few tracks I seriously wanted to hear that weren’t present. So I popped into the computer room, fired up the Mac and there was the DS1, available as a network drive. I then simply copied music from the NAS directly into the DS1’s music folder, and within a few minutes the tracks showed up on MPDROID ready to play.
 
Now I could compare the exact same rips played via both the DS1 and Squeezebox Touch – this was getting interesting. First up on the listening block was Alison Krauss and Robert Plant’s Grammy-winning Raising Sand (in 24/96). It’s a well-produced work, although a touch heavy in the bass, yet somehow listening through the DS1 seemed to tighten that aural spectrum compared with the humble Squeezebox Touch. Tracks seemed to be pacier and with better definition, Robert’s breathy vocal on ‘Please Read The Letter’ was full of gravitas and emotion, and the silent pauses between his vocal seemed much darker than the Logitech.
 
Percussion effects such as the shaker (right channel) on ‘Fortune Teller’ seemed more pronounced, while handclaps had more realism and were easier to pick out of the mix. Even better still, soundstaging and the ability of the system to conjure up an image of a band on a stage took a step forward. This was becoming terrific rather quickly. Of course I’m comparing it with a budget offering, but the Squeezebox Touch is renowned as being able to punch well above its weight. It also has the EDO 24/192 plugin installed, but I use SPDIF and not USB – could this be a reason for the differences I was hearing? Well, a quick cable swap later and listening to the Touch using USB did bring about improvements (a ‘quickened’ pace, slight improvement in detail) but still not a patch on the DS1. It did bring home to me the apparent superiority of USB as a connection.
 
So I quickly swapped cables again and selected Bob Marley and the Wailers Exodus. ‘Natural Mystic’ just boogied from the start, Aston Barrett’s bass guitar syncopating nicely with his brother Carlton’s drum backbeat – I closed my eyes and dreamt of cricket on the beach, and the faint aroma of pineapples and ganja floating in the summer breeze. Yep, the DS1 transported me to Jamaica in my mind, but when I opened them I discovered I was still in my living room in West Auckland. Damn.
 
The only thing left to do was check out Dave Brubeck’s ‘Blue Rondo A La Turk’ from his Time Out album. This progressive jazz piece featured unusual time signatures at the time it was written (1959), and apart from being a fine work I wanted to hear how the DS1 coped with small-scale jazz. No worries here: Paul Desmond’s concise alto sax shone through as delicately as I’ve ever heard, Brubeck’s piano had very good timbre and body, and the decay on some notes really sounded great. The next track on the album, ‘Strange Meadow Lark’, highlighted Joe Morello’s subtle brushwork on the snare, and in conjunction with Brubeck’s piano the track really swung, daddy-o. Almost un-noticeable was Eugene Wright’s restrained double bass, underpinning the song without pulling much attention away from soloists Brubeck and Desmond.
 
Conclusion
 
Antipodes have created a fabulous-sounding, easy to set up and control product in the DS1. At around $4250 it’s a serious investment for the majority of us, but you have to understand that most competing servers cost more, and some require a far greater investment than the homegrown Antipodes.
 
Certainly from my perspective it comfortably bested my little old Squeezebox Touch in every department, and I’m dreading having to return it. GARY PEARCE
We recognise the Antipodes Audio Reference Speaker Cable as an Audiophilia “STAR COMPONENT”, duly extending that accolade to every model in the company’s ground-breaking cable range. Congratulations!]
Andy Fawcett
I recall a friend once observing, only half jokingly, that his system was sounding so good he was afraid even to dust it, in case the magic disappeared! Suffice to say that, for the two or so years since reviewing Antipodes Audio’s entry-level Komako speaker cables, I’ve had a very dusty system. In combination with the matching interconnects, they helped me achieve a sound of such intense coherence, refinement, energy and sheer naturalness that I was completely absorbed in the pure pleasure of listening to music, and wanted for nothing more.
 
Even prior to publishing that review, I had accepted the company’s offer to move straight on and sample the top-line ‘Reference’ speaker cable … but things didn’t go entirely to plan. Antipodes’ designer, Mark Jenkins, has been preoccupied for much of the intervening period in turning his long-term passion for music servers into a new product range. And each time he contacted me to say that the cables were made and soon to ship, another message would follow shortly after apologising for the fact that somebody had just bought them (being in no hurry, I’d insisted customers must get first shout). One risk of using the most common lengths, I guess! If that is a reflection of the company’s success in a difficult marketplace, then it is thoroughly deserved. We make many changes to our systems and, once over the novelty period, quickly forget them … but I can honestly say that not for a single day had I ceased to be amazed by the transformation that the Komako speaker cables wrought in the performance of my system, nor failed to be entranced by their sublime reproduction of music.
 
Jenkins also kindly sent over two pairs of his flagship Reference interconnects. These have already been highly praised by colleague Marty Appel, on which basis they would constitute a necessary step in exploring the maximum potential of the speaker cable. I have deliberately avoided refreshing my hazy memory of Marty’s review in order to provide, as near as possible, my own independent appraisal – and shall look forward to correlating our impressions after publication! When the box of goodies did finally arrive, I lent them briefly to a friend in need (and fellow Komako owner), Ted, who was unable to connect up his recently reconfigured system … and he went ahead and bought them, sending me straight back to square one again. Sometimes you just get the feeling that things aren’t meant to be easy!
 
The Science
 
Across three separate reviews of the Komako cable range, I have touched frequently on the highly innovative science, materials and thinking that goes into this New Zealand-based company’s products; but, because I’m nice, I shall reprise it again here. A common constituent of all the cables is high purity silver wire of varying gauges, entirely manufactured in-house from raw ingots to achieve the required crystalline structure and ductility. Silver has the highest electrical conductivity of all metals, but is prone to a damaging fundamental resonance, heard as the treble peakiness that audiophiles recognise as the “silver sound”. By infusing the wire’s outer layer with small amounts of gold and platinum (an Antipodes Audio innovation, unrelated to traditional alloying or plating which bring their own compromises), this resonance is largely dispersed but all of silver’s inherent advantages remain. A microscopically-thin coating of natural oil is then applied, to combat silver’s propensity for tarnishing.
 
The guiding ethos behind the Antipodes range is shaped by Mark Jenkins’ conviction that most audio ills result from distortions in the signal’s phase or time domain, coupled with a radical insight (derived from Mark’s work in related scientific disciplines) into the electrical principles governing signal transmission in audio cables. Interconnects and speaker cables each use their own proprietary geometry; markedly different from the norm, it was developed to prevent the mutual interference between conductors which is a major cause of phase distortion. The unusual electrical properties of these geometries are also claimed to greatly reduce noise pickup – removing the need for sonically-undesirable shielding – and avoid the unpredictable system-dependency of conventional designs. A uniquely thick and dense dielectric of natural, unbleached cotton provides mechanical damping while closely simulating an air dielectric, though it also requires an outer sheath of proprietary formulation to combat the cotton’s hygroscopic tendency. It is not generally appreciated that the audio signal is also conducted in a field surrounding the wire, not solely through the wire itself, and any plastics falling within this extended field will store and later release the signal as it passes, causing time-smear and a distinctive ‘quacky’ colouration. Cables that claim an air primary dielectric invariably, so my survey suggests, place the conductors in (relatively) narrow-gauge plastic tubes, and thus fail to solve the problem they seek to address.
 
Where the speaker cable is concerned, a four-year development process was required to perfect a novel geometry which has the desirable electrical properties of a thin-gauge cable, but is effectively able to fool the amplifier into seeing it as a thick-gauge cable. Despite having had its electrical parameters pre-determined by calculation, almost a hundred prototypes were still required to perfect it; this uncompromised design became the Reference model, with later experimentation determining that an exact halving of the wire count sacrificed relatively little performance in most situations, yielding the Komako. The company’s claims were quite modest – which is what happens when you don’t employ a Marketing Department! – originally stating (if memory serves) that the Komako should achieve 80% of the Reference’s potential, and possibly more in lower power applications.
 
Antipodes Audio’s 'Reference' Speaker Cable.
Antipodes Audio’s
 
The Reference interconnect bears a similarly close relationship to its Komako sibling; this time, the only difference is that half of the wires are replaced with pure gold, also self-manufactured by the company from ingots to exacting specifications. Cables made solely from gold conductors have always been coveted by audiophiles for their exceptional midrange and Antipodes did manufacture them in the past, but achieved superior performance by combining them with the proprietary silver wire, furthering the “balanced resonance” aspect of the design. If you consider that copper costs a few cents per ounce, while silver and gold have recently traded at up to $50 and $1800 per ounce respectively, this has an understandably injurious effect on the price. For several years the company has been trying to find a satisfactory alternative to gold, and even seriously considered dropping the cable altogether due to the low margin that resulted from rising gold prices; the fact is, though, that this is a zero compromise design, representing the finest cable the company can manufacture. Its tariff is still well below most other “uber cables”, some of which even the Komakos have shown a clean pair of heels!
 
In Use
 
There is a certain type of audiophile who, rather than obtain their better half’s approval for new purchases, makes them stealthily in the hope they won’t be noticed. If that’s you then you’re right in luck; barring the discrete labels and a subtle change in the colour of the RCA connectors from silver to gunmetal, there is no visual distinction between the Komakos and References, either in the interconnects or speaker cable. To recap, then, the interconnects are satisfyingly thick, with that firm-yet-soft consistency of tightly wadded fabric. While reasonably flexible, allow a good 6 or 7 inches of clearance behind components and don’t bend them too fiercely – they’re plenty robust, but gold is a soft metal and there’s no plastics present to protect it. The RCA plugs fitted are a proprietary design comprising gold-plated, high copper content conductors with an impeccably-finished barrel made from anodised, aerospace-grade aluminium rod, appropriate to a cable of this price.
 
Offering a physically separate run for each pole, rather than the more common conjoined pair, each channel of the Reference speaker cable closely resembles a pair of the interconnects – similar diameter, tactile consistency and appearance. The attractive alloy end-caps lend a discrete touch of class, while slender lead-out wires make connection to the amplifier a breeze. Construction is, as with all Antipodes’ cables, top flight for artisanal products. The supplied instructions suggest that each channel’s cable pair be lightly twisted together once or twice per metre, to ensure they maintain a close physical proximity, with the option of increasing the number of twists to “constrain the cable’s liveliness” … somewhat akin to running a Ferrari in economy mode, I feel, so I didn’t try it! The twisted assembly ends up being satisfyingly bulky, given that we all subconsciously associate thick cable with good performance, so perceived value is still decently high even at a price premium of around 50% over the Komako.
 
Almost overlooked was the fact that I’m still using the company’s jumpers with my bi-wireable speakers; short links of the Reference grade speaker wire, which proved so effective in tandem with the Komako speaker cable. Those audiophiles who believe that bi-wiring is essentially a con, dreamed up by cable vendors to sell more product, will be reassured by the fact that Antipodes Audio have always recommended against it, both on technical and (especially) ROI grounds. If you specifically need jumpers or have previously bi-wired, these are neatly constructed, don’t cost much and – in terms of achieving a continuous run of Antipodes wire – are entirely self-recommending … so I’ll say no more.
 
Burn In
 
Antipodes cables need longer to burn in than other cables, for several reasons – their use of silver and gold (which have heavier atomic weight than copper), the cotton dielectric (which takes longer to cure) and a geometry that places less stress on the wire as it conducts signal. To mitigate this fact, every cable is subjected at the factory to a proprietary, 10-day preconditioning regime (requiring installation in an audio system, not your traditional cable cooking) that reduces the severity of the burn-in symptoms … but cannot ultimately shorten the process. Many people are perplexed by the idea of burn-in, as they cannot rationalise what is happening. The company insists that the audible effects we hear during burn-in are largely caused by the cable gradually adjusting to the system’s ground plane (a theory also supported by Stealth Audio, I note). Crucially, this helps to explain many otherwise perplexing aspects of the phenomenon – such as cables needing additional burn-in when removed from the system for a long period, or after use in another system. It also explains why the duration and severity of burn-in varies so much between systems (being determined by each ground plane’s specific value and direction), and why there is no substitute for leaving the cables in-situ and undisturbed.
 
Jenkins had predicted, based on customer feedback and continuing improvements to the preconditioning, shorter burn-in periods than I’d previously experienced. However, while they did sound much better upon first installation, the Reference cables were ultimately to take almost twice as long to burn in than had the preceding sets of Komakos … during which time I compiled some forty dense A4 pages of shorthand listening notes! In fairness, with all of my previous experience I am now much more attuned to these effects. Plus, my system is invariably a royal pig where burn-in is concerned (that ground plane, presumably); the same cables slotted straight into Ted’s rig with nary a complaint.
 
The whole process was, though, a remarkable education and, in many ways, a living validation of Jenkins’ theories. The extent to which the sound oscillated, on a daily basis, and the sheer range of sonic abberations introduced – narrow or flat soundstage, vague imaging, thin treble, excessive treble, murkiness, dull leading edges, boomy bass, absent bass, smearing, incoherence, harsh sound, unengaging sound … every flaw you’ve ever heard, basically – served as a graphic indication that timing/phase errors alone (for, as a test disc easily revealed, that’s all they were) are capable of causing pretty much all of a stereo system’s failings. This is a hugely important point, which I hope readers will take on board … though the time to reflect upon its implications is not now.
 
Reference Interconnects
 
So, what to expect when you really don’t see how things can get much better? The Reference Interconnects didn’t make me wait long to find out; even replacing just one of my two sets of Komako ICs produced a change akin to fitting the system with a supercharger! Like the Man of Steel emerging from a phone booth, a big increase in the richness and weight of its lower-midrange gave my system a swagger and confidence with the more muscular and dynamic musical genres it has never shown before. Having long been convinced that the speakers were inherently incapable, due to their topology, of moving enough air through this region to do full justice to the more aggressive forms of rock music, for an interconnect change to turn them into rock gods is seemingly just another example of Antipodes cables achieving the impossible! That said, all this was achieved without a major shift in tonality; a corresponding increase in bass power and control, and a real vividness to the top end allows overall balance to remain broadly neutral … albeit with the familiar hint of silkiness and (natural) warmth that applies right across the company’s range.
 
Also on offer is a really surprising hike in detail resolution, but resolution done correctly – ‘inner detail’, as it’s termed, not that wildly exaggerated caricature of musical detail that used to pass for high-end sound in the past – decaying into a backdrop of the most intense, inky silence. The soundstage grew in scale, with a “set in concrete” sense of composure and focus to its imaging that is very relaxing, while an obvious increase in transparency (attesting to the lack of any electronic signature) and presence gave the effect of moving several rows closer to the stage. That undercurrent of energy and momentum, already so vivid in the Komakos, seemed even more unstoppable – which rather undermined any idea of gold cables being “mellow” – though with an effortlessness that could occasionally leave its junior sibling sounding a touch frenetic. Microdynamic definition was still more potent, improving articulation and providing a fresh insight into that universal language of musical expression which all great performers know instinctively, while the glorious fidelity of timbral colours and textures contributed to a sumptuous and unmistakeably realistic presentation of acoustic music. I do believe that much of the preference for vinyl as a playback medium relates to the poor timbral definition typically achieved by many digital sources – yet, with Reference interconnects running to my CD player and the turntable handicapped by its captive arm lead, the gap between them was narrowed substantially.
 
A signature quality of all Antipodes cables is coherence – the ability to dig out all of the various threads within a piece of music, and structure them in a way that the ear recognises as correct and the brain finds easy to comprehend. It is the realisation of that promise of time and phase integrity built into them and, without doubt, the Reference interconnect does even better than the Komako, telescoping me right to the very heart of a performance and revealing the musical message within previously elusive discs. It also has another surprising, and very desirable consequence. Like most naturally analytical listeners, I have spent many years in this hobby obsessing about recording quality … albeit that the Komako cables had already done much to improve the listenability of my poorest recordings. Over the course of this review, the supposed “recording quality” of discs has become almost a non-issue; I rarely gave it a thought as, with only the barest handful of exceptions, every disc I own now sounds at least ‘good’ and most sound superb. I know an audio system is a team effort but, seriously, the Antipodes cables deserve the lion’s share of the credit. While audiophiles love to blame recordings for their sound – including that oft-spouted twaddle “my system’s so good it highlights all the flaws and makes poor recordings unlistenable” – I’m convinced it’s much more often the case that system faults make perfectly acceptable recordings sound bad. When the reproduction chain is working optimally, you will hear the best that a recording has to offer, not its worst.
 
It took back-to-back comparison with the Reference interconnects to confirm an occasional and mild degree of shrillness or treble “edge” in the Komako’s sound, mainly on violin. It’s something that’s always previously been in my system – the Komako had actually minimised it – but as it’s gone now, I guess that every interconnect I’ve used previously (A LOT!!) must have been culpable to some degree. That aside, I could pick no fault in the Komakos, which remain a remarkable value and surely the only cable offered in their price range with such high-quality materials and technology? The visually-identical Reference cable commands a hefty price premium but, unlike most of its competition, you do know where your money’s going; more importantly, they convincingly outperformed the Komakos in every respect, and I really wouldn’t have thought that possible without hearing it for myself. The substantial benefit achieved from installing just a single pair suggested that – in my system’s current state of fettle – the same money could not have been spent more productively elsewhere.
 
Reference Speaker Cable
 
Fittingly, this portion of the review effectively commenced when I lent my Komako speaker cables to Ted (to compare with the Reference cables I’d also lent him!), and returned to the perfectly respectable mid-market set I’d been using previously. The drop in performance was catastrophic, really shocking, but it did at least confirm afresh that the glowing observations in my review of the Komako speaker cable were not the least bit overstated. It’s also a reminder that I have restricted my scope here to comparisons between the two Antipodes models; if you still need convincing why you really shouldn’t be using anything else, please refer to that earlier review!
 
Knowing that the difference between the Reference and Komako speaker cables is just a doubling of the wire gauge inevitably raised certain expectations – ‘more wire equals more bass’ being hopefully the crudest of them! – and these were met easily. Yes, there was more bass power, and also substantially better grip and control of the bottom end, along with clearly increased macrodynamic authority. As with the interconnects, this further extended the system’s confidence and prowess in handling rock and orchestral music. Our unceasing quest for an ever tighter bottom-end often seems to come at the expense of realistic texture and a bass that ‘breathes’ naturally; the Reference cable gives you both. It also has a special finesse in rendering the depth perspective, allowing it to faithfully recreate an impression of huge acoustic space. I still recall having to take a few deep breaths to recover from the most physically and emotionally shattering rendition of a trusty old warhorse – Rachel Podger’s incendiary recording of Vivaldi’s Opus 4 La Stravaganza (CCS 19598) – I’ve ever heard.
 
Not to be outdone by the interconnects, scope was found for still further significant gains in resolution of fine detail and outright transparency … by which point, as you can imagine, the sound quality was occupying some pretty rare air! Microdynamics were also along for the ride with a very healthy improvement in subtlety and finesse evident, particularly illuminating of the lightning contrasts in pace and dynamic accenting with which the Casals Quartet bring Ligetti’s bizarre Metamorphoses Nocturnes so vividly to life (HMC 902062). Counterpointing those fiery dynamics was a liquid sense of unstoppable musical flow that made listening so relaxing and absorbing, which those of us partial to ‘extended’ sessions can appreciate – whether ten minutes or ten hours makes no difference, listening fatigue is absolutely zero. Timbral colours, always a special strength of Antipodes cables, achieved a ravishing richness and beauty. I sense a suspicion of the word “beauty” in some quarters, as if it represents an unacceptable departure from the ultimate goal of “neutrality”. Yet, at a recent performance of Haydn’s “Seven Last Words” in a glorious church acoustic, sitting just a few feet from the musicians and choir, it was the spellbinding beauty of the sound that overwhelmed me above all. Fail to reproduce that, and there is no fidelity.
 
A purist recording of rainforest birdsong, made close to my home, is among my most played and most useful reference discs; the sounds of nature, especially those familiar from our daily lives, are incredibly difficult to reproduce authentically. Changing from the Komako to Reference speaker cables, each of the multitude of individual sounds woven into its rich fabric was animated with an extra dimension of realism – closing my eyes, I really could have been sitting under those trees as the dawn chorus swelled to a gentle cacophony. This audio disappearing act was equally vivid with more typical musical fare; sound hangs utterly weightless, suspended in air and with no discernable sense at all of having emanated from a transducer. How often have you ever sat in front of an audio system, no matter how good, and been able to forget that you were listening to reproduced music? The very idea probably comes across as an oxymoron; there is always a level of mental engagement required to complete the illusion, which is why we listen differently to our systems than we do to live music – and the sensation we feel is different too. For me, with the Reference cables in my system, that gulf is regularly crossed. But rather than get all zen-like on you, I’ll let a friend (and highly knowledgeable enthusiast) have the last word; at the end of an evening playing a diverse range of music, he commented, ‘I came over to hear your system but, in truth, at hardly any point have I been aware of listening to one!’
 
The company has refined its original advice on speaker cable choice, now recommending use of the Komako with ’speakers known to be easy to drive with low power amplification’ and predicting that the improvement gained from the Reference will be greatest with ’speakers that have a moderate or difficult load, or are known to respond well to high power amplification’. As my hybrid electrostatics fall squarely into the latter category, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that the Reference cable worked as well as it did – though I had happily used the Komako for a good many months with no clear indication of any compromise. Indeed, the only fault as such that my listening disclosed in the Komako speaker cable was a small degree of ‘clanky’ colouration on piano right hand, plus confirmation (albeit by default) that it had been limiting the system’s macrodynamic potential. You’ll have noticed that the improvements I’ve attributed to the Reference speaker cable are of a broadly similar order to the interconnects; as both ostensibly aim to achieve similar goals, that is perhaps to be expected. The magnitude of the gain was less than the interconnects – for the sake of argument, I’d guess that the speaker cable contributed around 30% of the total improvement in my system – but, especially given that I’m using two pairs of interconnects, that makes it a compellingly cost-effective upgrade.
 
The devastating transient speed of ‘FOC’ from Rodrigo y Gabriella’s Live in Manchester & Dublin cuts through the slight murk of the hall acoustic, yet its rhythmic complexity is appreciated not as the system-killing sonic spectacular I used to hear, but as an artfully-crafted, superbly played and utterly uplifting musical statement. Perhaps it is in the unique setting of a live concert that the amazing energy, the sheer ‘aliveness’ of the Reference cables’ sound finds its truest expression; all I know is that they have turned my every listening session into an experience, an alternate reality which absorbs and consumes me entirely. There may, indeed, be systems in which the Komako speaker cable can rival the Reference, but it’s hard to imagine given the gulf that separated them in mine.
 
Conclusions
 
Let us banish forever that preposterous old nonsense about audio cables being ‘tone controls’! A cable is a technical device with a clearly-defined mission; to transmit a signal from one point to another without losing any of the frequency information or its time and phase coherence. It is the extent to which cables routinely and seriously fail at the latter (not the former) part of this task that causes them to function as tone controls. Spend the time that I have examining the cable market and you soon realise there are precious few manufacturers who really have a tale to tell when it comes to the science of signal transmission. Mark Jenkins’ quest for ‘time-domain accuracy’ has shown that distortion of time and phase relationships as a signal passes through a typical conductor underpins a whole litany of sonic ailments. Other vendors may acknowledge some of Antipodes’ design points – the wisdom of avoiding plastics in close proximity to wire has been more evident over recent years – but none comes close to addressing all of them, or does it nearly so uncompromisingly.
 
Family DNA runs strongly in the Antipodes Audio range; one vision, one set of materials, one standard of excellence. In the Reference speaker cable, the conductor count is doubled over the Komako; for the interconnect, half of the silver wire is replaced with pure gold. The very briefest summary I can devise (and it seems to hold for both interconnects and speaker cable) is that the Komako is a delicate-sounding cable with surprising dynamics, while the Reference is a dynamic cable with surprising delicacy. For everything I have loved about the Komakos, the References just keep going in the same direction, coaxing a barely comprehensible amount of extra resolution, energy, coherence, beauty, weight and sheer believability from a system that had lacked none of them. Their ability to much improve the sound of supposedly ‘poor recordings’ was the very thick icing on the cake. The effect of one of these cables, as I have proven before and others have taken the trouble to tell me, can easily surpass a substantial component upgrade.
 
All of that said, the Antipodes cables are not a universal panacea; aspects of their performance, resulting directly from the way they work, need to be understood. They have an unusual – and sometimes protracted – way of burning in, which will likely provide you with an education about your system whether you want it or not! And I’m still not even sure I’ve heard the best of what the Reference cables can offer as, after close to eight months in my system, they are still subtly improving week by week. I also find that they don’t much like being disturbed, taking a little while to find their feet again after even a short period of disconnection so, if you’re inclined towards regular component swapping, bear that in mind. The time and phase coherence that is their raison d’être also results in the speaker cables and interconnects forming a strongly symbiotic partnership; while still able to demonstrate their exceptional quality when paired with conventional cables, once heard in combination one is forced to conclude that (as melodramatic as it sounds) their potential was being not so much reduced as actively undermined! Likewise, it is reasonable to assume that systems with inherently poor phase integrity (perhaps due to a convoluted signal path, or speakers with particularly complex crossovers) will not exploit everything that these cables can do – though I know of no instance where they have sounded anything less than first rate, regardless.
 
These cables represent an obsessive’s pursuit of perfection and, in the context of using only proprietary materials and unique, self-produced wire, their cost-plus pricing has always compared well to the incomprehensible sums charged by many competitors. If value for money is important to you then yes, the familiar law of diminishing returns dictates that the Komako interconnects inevitably offer more bang for your buck … and, I believe, represent one of the great bargains in high-end audio. But our hobby doesn’t work that way and, though it costs substantially more to achieve it, what the Reference interconnects offer is irresistible. With the speaker cables, I think the relatively small upcharge for the Reference cable turns the tables; unless you have forsworn high-powered systems for ever, the scale of performance gain I witnessed suggests that not digging a little deeper for the Reference could well prove a false economy. One thing I do know – when the final shortlist is compiled of cables that are sufficiently ambitious, innovative and inspired to genuinely be the finest in the world, the Antipodes References must be on it. You really will never know what your system might be capable of, and how much more pleasure it could give you, until you try ‘em!
 
[We recognise the Antipodes Audio Reference Speaker Cable as an Audiophilia “STAR COMPONENT”, duly extending that accolade to every model in the company’s ground-breaking cable range. Congratulations!]
……..Andy Fawecett of Audiophilia
The significant sonic delta between ameliorated consumer-grade computer and DS Reference makes intuitive sense - BLUE MOON AWARD
John Darko

In the space of three months, Antipodes’ entry-level music server turned everything I’ve hitherto experienced with digital transports upside down in a good way. Would I recommend existing MacMini transporters sell it all and start clean with the DS Reference? Yes I would! I’ll also take it further. Digital audio newcomers with $4K to drop on a digital front end should opt for the Antipodes server over a MacMini or iMac and lasso it to an entry-level DAC. Think Schiit Bifrost Uber w/ Gen 2 USB (US$519), my current pick in budget converters. The Antipodes/Schiit team will likely provide more long-term satisfaction than pimping out a MacMini/iMac/Dell/whatever and partnering it with a more expen$ive DAC.

Won’t you please keep the noise down? Sound quality optimization in digital audio can be achieved by lowering the electrical noise that causes timing errors in the digital audio stream. These timing errors are often referred to as jitter. Jitter manifests as audible glare, detail obfuscation and diminished dynamics. This image found on the back of the box for iFi Micro's iUSBPower illustrates all cartoon-like how electrical noise can influence the outcome of digital playback:
 
Do you think Apple or Dell pay close attention to the electrical noise that impacts digital audio? They do not. Isn’t this why many of us—myself included—trick out our consumer-grade computers and laptops with USB-S/PDIF converters and power filters? Re-clocking and buffering interventions from the likes of Resonessence Labs and Audiophilleo most likely make an audible difference because my MacMini and Macbook Air are each super noisy to begin with.
 
Not that we can reasonably expect otherwise. Cupertino design computers to first be user-friendly and functional. Expecting them to double as audiophile-grade music servers is a bit of an ask. But we do it anyway. From his Auckland headquarters where he also designs audio cables, Antipodes Audio’s Mark Jenkins says his priority when building music servers/streamers is to optimize sound quality before adding functionality and ease of use. Not that his implementations are hard to use - not one bit (more on that later). At AU$3'992 the DS Reference is Antipodes Audio’s entry-level music server/streamer. Jenkins calls it a streamer. I call it a server. In fact it doubles as both to store and stream digital audio. Let’s look more closely.  
 
Hardware.

The fundamental idea behind Antipodes’ DS Reference is to remove as much noise interference as possible before it reaches the next step in the chain rather than relying on your DAC (or USB converter) to fix those noise-induced timing errors later. On the face of it the DS Reference ingredients look fairly ordinary: Intel Atom CPU N270 @ 1.60GHz, 2TB hard drive and 2GB of DDR2 RAM. However better chefs know it’s not simply the ingredients themselves that affect flavour; it’s the quality of those ingredients, the way they are combined, heated and served. 

 
Almost everything under the DS Reference’s hood has been very carefully selected and in many cases customized or tweaked. The motherboard and RAM combination were apparently chosen after hundreds of hours of listening. The hard drive is a slow-spinning 2.5” Western Digital that runs proprietary firmware. Jenkins is keen to point out that you cannot buy the hard drive in this form off the shelf and his firmware is designed "to make it run the way you would want a music server HDD to run."
 
USB output to your DAC comes from the well-respected SOtM tX-USB card. Here we find the older PCI version which Jenkins swears double-blind sounds superior to the later PCIe iteration.  "The greater speed of PCIe generates noise in a much more damaging place than PCI. Long live 32 bit. It sounds better and we fortunately don’t have a problem getting motherboards with PCI."
 
The SoTM card is juiced via its 12V Molex connector from Antipodes’ internal custom power supply: regulated, linear and designed to shift residual noise out of musical bounds. "If you use a poor quality power supply (e.g. SMPS) the battery supply sounds quite nice in contrast but with a properly designed linear power supply the battery supply sounds inferior to ours", Jenkins adds. This same regulated linear power supply also feeds the clock that times the output stage. You can probably tell by now that this regulated linear supply is central to the Antipodes server’s sound. "If you took the DS and replaced just the transformer with say a high-quality toroid or C-core, the sound would be horrid and I mean really bad – lots of electronic hash and grunge." In keeping with the electrical noise minimization mandate there is a complete absence of internal cooling fans. The case here works as a heatsink to run hot to the touch, requiring plenty of ventilation space on all sides. Similarly there’s no WiFi. The DS Reference must be hard-wired to your router using the supplied Ethernet cable. 
 
Software.

At the core of the DS Reference is Vortexbox, a version of Fedora Linux specifically developed for music server deployment. However Jenkins has taken a standard Vortexbox install further. Much further. The DS Reference uses "a shit load" of custom scripts that optimize the flow of digital audio and minimise jitter. And there are two buffer and reclocking stages.

 
Music isn’t streamed direct from the hard disk. That would result in increased noise and a wandering bit rate at the first step. Instead the Antipodes box uses scripts and MPD tweaks to ensure that music files are guided through the server in a way that keeps timing tight and minimises noise interference. The main scripts are managed and maintained by Andrew Gillis at Vortexbox with whom Jenkins has reaped the benefits of collaborative work scale. Further scripts are added by Jenkins to the final product. You could say that the Antipodes music server babies the signal at every step. The data is read from hard disk to RAM, buffering approximately 1GB. It is then clocked out of RAM to the output card where it is buffered and high-precision reclocked again before being sent to the DAC, which in turn buffers and reclocks it yet again in the—usually asynchronous—USB input. Even as UPnP server pushing digital audio out over its Ethernet connection, Jenkins claims less noise and better sound than a standard Vortexbox appliance.
 
Getting music onto the DS.

Whilst this server is capable of streaming music from a NAS, it’ll sound optimal with self-hosted tunes. Getting music onto the Antipodes server is easy. Existing music libraries can be dropped onto the server over the network. I dragged over 1.5TB of FLAC onto the DS Reference’s (Samba) shared folder without issue. 

 
The very wonderful Bliss server app comes pre-installed to help you (re)tag, add artwork and re-jig the file and folder structure of your digital music library. I’ve been using Bliss for a good few years now and find it indispensable. Got physical? Insert a CD and your disc’s corresponding meta data and artwork will be retrieved from the Internet before being ripped to uncompressed FLAC and filed in your library’s folder structure. All rips are executed in paranoid mode to ensure bit-perfect transfers. Hooking an external hard drive into the motherboard’s USB port initiates the DS Reference’s back-up process.
 
Support.

You don’t need to be a Unix guru to use this server. You don’t even need to possess any Linux command line knowledge. If you do hit a bump in the road to getting up and running, you can give Jenkins permission to connect to your home computer via a Citrix-based remote login client which he says he finds far more expedient than email explanations. Such support is second to none.

 
Control.

In the DS Reference’s playback engine room sits Music Player Daemon (MPD). It can handle PCM up to 32 bit/384kHz and DSD64/DSD128 via the DoP standard all played back bit-perfectly with zero gaps or glitches between songs. Gapless playback isn’t as common as you might think but here it’s all present and correct. Hallelujah!

 
As this is a headless server, it can sit on your shelf or hifi rack without the need for the usual monitor, keyboard and mouse appendages. Only IEC power, Ethernet and USB connections are required to get up and running. System configuration is executed via Vortexbox’s standard web interface. With no keyboard or mouse attached, playback isn’t a point and click affair as per JRiver or iTunes. An MPD client is required. Antipodes recommend mPAD for the iPad, mPOD for the iPhone and MPDroid for Android devices. Clients also exist for Windows (Cantata) and OSX (Theremin, see below) both of which provide potential for slamming the door on household WiFi. A long list of control clients can be found here. 
 
I sat in my listening chair with MPDroid in hand. What I like most about this app is its ability to browse the music library via its folder structure and not just a database of indexed artist and album tags. Play/pause was instantaneous. Gone was the 2-3sec. buffer-loading lag that presents itself with iTunes/Audirvana+ on a MacMini. At my writing desk, Theremin reigned supreme. Here folder structure browsing isn’t browsable.
 
DAC dates.

Deep inside the Fedora-based Vortexbox OS lies Andrew Gillis’ beta kernel specifically designed to keep DAC play as broad as possible. A single script on top makes it plug ‘n play for nearly any DAC you throw at it. Onboard audio always turns up as device 0 and a connected USB DAC as device 1. The DS Reference ships with Mytek and Hiface v1 drivers pre-compiled and installed. All other USB interfaces are handled by the native Linux driver.  

 
I plugged 'n 'played the following DACs without issue:
Aqua La Scala MKII
AURALiC Vega
Metrum Hex
Resonessence Labs Herus
Resonessence Labs Concero HD
Resonessence Labs INVICTA Mirus
Schiit Bifrost Uber w/ Gen 2 USB 
 
Listening.

The business end of any review. All the explanatory preamble would be for naught if the Antipodes didn’t measure up sonically. But boy oh boy does it deliver. Prior to inserting the DS Reference at the very front of my system, I’d been using a MacMini (US$599) tricked out with the following:

Audirvana+ US$74
MacPlatform US$350
iFi iUSBPower US$199
Resonessence Concero HD as USB-S/PDIF converter US$850
Zu Audio S/PDIF cable US$150
Light Harmonic LightSpeed USB cable US$999
 
Even with the LightSpeed USB cable omitted (which made the leap to the new server), this Macintosh transport total still tips $2'200. The jump from souped-up MacMini to Antipodes DS Reference was reminiscent of two previous revelatory listening experiences: 
 
1) leading a DAC with the Audiophilleo2 
2) switching over from Apple iPhone to Astell&Kern AK120.  
 
I’ll say it loud 'n' plain. The Antipodes DS Reference sounds better than the Apple box by a significant margin. Looking down the hill, the Kiwi contrasts the MacMini+iFi iUSBPower+USB converter+Audirvana+ as grayed out and emotionally neutered; something you wouldn't necessarily pick hearing in isolation.
 
Even at first blush with the DS Reference, the richer bass lines that bounced forth from the title track of Paul Simon’s most successful album Graceland and into the listening space had me immediately doubting my return to the MacMini as digital transport……and I haven’t except to double- and triple-check that I wasn’t imagining things that first week. Nope, none of the DS’s avidity or superabundance with aural nourishment was wishful thinking. Its advantages are all very real. It’s emphatically more lit up, more dynamic and smoother. It serves up deeper saturated tonal colour that's more vivid, more alive and less washed out than our suited-and-booted friend from Cupertino.
 
Most tellingly, the Resonessence Labs Concero HD makes not one iota of difference when interceding between DS server and DAC. Presumably the Antipodes box keeps the noise-inducing jitter sufficiently low prior to vacating the SoTM card’s USB port that the Concero HD has nothing to correct.
 
Wordy wrappinghood.

In the space of three months, Antipodes’ entry-level music server turned everything I’ve hitherto experienced with digital transports upside down in a good way. Would I recommend existing MacMini transporters sell it all and start clean with the DS Reference? Yes I would! I’ll also take it further. Digital audio newcomers with $4K to drop on a digital front end should opt for the Antipodes server over a MacMini or iMac and lasso it to an entry-level DAC. Think Schiit Bifrost Uber w/ Gen 2 USB (US$519), my current pick in budget converters. The Antipodes/Schiit team will likely provide more long-term satisfaction than pimping out a MacMini/iMac/Dell/whatever and partnering it with a more expen$ive DAC.

 
Fence sitters who complain of paucity of emotional involvement with digital when crossing over from vinyl might find the DS Reference a solid baseline from which to fork their journey into digital. The significant sonic delta between ameliorated consumer-grade computer and DS Reference makes intuitive sense. The former can be tricked out with external bits and bobs in a bid to correct jitter after the digital audio horse has already bolted – but it won’t match Antipodes performance. The latter runs a custom power supply, firmware-tweaked hard drive and heavily customized operating system to ensure after-market correction isn’t as necessary. Its physicality might not be as slick as offerings from Aurender or Lumin but the Antipodes has CD ripping and wired control on its side. Moreover the DS Reference sets a new standard in digital audio transports by which all others will be judged. Game on!
Lets be clear.......I am talking about a richer and more rewarding musical experience.
Michael Lavorgna

REVIEW SUMMARY: I was very much impressed by the Antipodes DX from the get go. Over time, I became more and more enamored with its ability to serve up an infectiously musical signal clearly outperforming the MacBook Pro as music server. If you are looking to get the most out of your file-based playback including streaming from services like Tidal, I'd recommend putting the Antipodes DX on your A-list of servers to audition.

EXTENDED REVIEW: Unlike computers, music servers have but a few simple jobs to do—store, stream, and serve music. This seemingly simple task, easily accomplished by the even the doggiest of computers, is actually fraught with issues. Noise, noise, and noise being just three of them.

New Zealand-based Antipodes Audio make a line of music servers ranging from the least expensive Antipodes DS, to the mid-tier Reference Series DV Music Server, to the top of the line unit under review, the Reference Series DX. Every server in the Antipodes lineup supports PCM up to 32/384, DSD64 and DSD128. The DX offers two options for USB output depending on your DAC's USB input; if your DAC's USB input is self-powered, like the Auralic Vega which I used for this review, then you can connect to the DX's USB Audio 2.0 5v Off output thereby eliminating one potential source of noise getting into your DAC. If your DAC relies on the USB bus for power, then use the USB 2.0 Audio 5v On output.

There's also an Ethernet input which allows you to connect to network attached storage via DLNA and you can also connect a USB hard drive to the unit's USB Backup port and the DX will access and play its contents. Antipodes recommends using the DX's internal storage for best sonic results. However, the DX server is limited to 2TB of SSD storage. The stock unit comes with 1TB. So for those music lovers with large libraries, you'll have to use your NAS or hard drive to house the spillover. I'll talk about how this sounds shortly.

The Antipodes servers run on VortexBox, the free, open source Fedora-based Linux distribution that turns any computer into a music server. This means you can use your favorite UPnP/DLNA remote app for playback or the browser-based SqueezeBox Server. I preferred remote control using my iPad running the iPeng 8 app. The DX also allows you to stream from Tidal (yeah!) using the iCkStream plugin, Qobuz, Spotify, and Internet Radio. The Antipodes also support gaplass playback.

Once connected and powered on, the DX shows up on your network-attached computer as a shared device. To copy music to it, just drag and drop. The DX also includes an auto CD ripper using Paranoid-mode that saves your CDs as uncompressed Flac files. I ripped a few CDs and all of the associated metadata, including cover art, showed up.

Since the Antipodes provides very little information on the DX server, I asked my contact at Antipodes if he could provide some. Here's the response I received from Antipodes' founder Mark Jenkins:

"The parts are not necessarily special apart from the power supply design. It is a bit like a high-end speaker – the parts may not be special but how the parts work together as a system is where the value is added. "People talk about linear power supplies as if one is much the same as another. With a server most common linear power supply designs don’t sound any better than a cheap switch-mode power supply, in fact the most common designs sound worse because of where the noise is placed (in a frequency sense). And most transformer designs sound terrible if they are placed inside the server. Our actual transformer and power supply design are a critical part of the DX.

"The motherboard derives from a standard board that happens to have the mix of the chips we like, with some minor changes to onboard power supply. But the big difference with the motherboard is the way it is tuned. All chipsets generate electronic noise that will interfere in some way with the signal carrying the digital data, and the level and frequency of the noise has an audible effect on the analog output of any DAC. It is easily heard – it just does not fit with the simplistic accepted digital theory of how these things work.

"So the key to the design is how we tune the chip-set speeds across the whole server – from power supply through to output card, and the fundamental technology capability comes from the motherboard manufacturer that we work with. The insights into where we manage and place the noise for best sound are our speciality. The effect on the final outcome is very significant and swapping the standard setup of the motherboard into the DX brings the sound quality down several notches.

"The motherboard itself uses a quad-core Atom and 4GB of DDR3 RAM. But other chipset choices on the motherboard are also important. With RAM, we get people that are worried that we should use more than 4GB, but they think that more RAM is needed because they are used to bloat-ware servers (not Linux) where you need a lot of RAM because of all the activity. We could easily run our servers with 1GB of RAM given the low level of activity during playback, but the added RAM means we can cache more of the playlist in RAM for playback directly from RAM and manage the transfer from disk to RAM in a better and more consistent way, which does improve sound. Exactly how the files are placed into RAM and read out of RAM to the audio output is very important to the sound quality. In reality, in normal use, you won’t hear any difference between using 2GB and 4GB, but the extra is useful if playing during say a library rescan or ripping.

"The DX currently uses Samsung SSDs with 3D V-NAND technology, but we are always testing new drives that come onto the market. Each server is tuned to work with the particular drives used as each can generate a slightly different noise spectrum.

"We prefer to use open source software and believe in the eco-system of SqueezeBox Server and VortexBox as the best way forward (now that Logitech is out of it). It might not fit the ‘rock star’ mentality in high-end audio, but there are a number of audio firms that have got stuck in narrow technology silos by insisting on doing something on their own.

"In the end open source software is better for the customer. The software capability of our servers continues to get better, and be widely supported, with or without us. All of our customisation is at the script level. There is a lot of customisation involved, but by keeping it at the script level it can remain proprietary in a Linux license environment." Interesting, no?

The DX has an aluminum front panel and a high gloss finished metal chassis. Sitting dead center on the front is the CD slot drive, a power button underneath which is illuminated by a ring of blue when powered on, and the company's logo and "DX" printed in subtle gray on silver on right side. I connected the DX to the Auralic Vega DAC with a length of Light Harmonic Lightning USB cable. The Vega was connected to my Pass Labs INT-30A via XRLs from Kimber, and the Pass drove my DeVore Fidelity The Nines. I ran DX for a few days, including overnight, before settling down to listen.

"Shhh"/"Peaceful"

Once everything was set up, I dragged and dropped a bunch of music from my Synology NAS to the DX. The first record I listened to was the subtly stunning Ibeyi and within the first few notes I knew, without a doubt, that this was going to be a fun review.

While I could have written this review after that record, I dug in and enjoyed myself and my music library for a few weeks. As usual, I played all maner of music and file formats including CD-quality, higher resolution PCM and DSD up to DSD256. I also streamed from Tidal's lossless streaming service. The takeaway through all of this listening was some of the most musically engaging sounds I've experienced through my reference system. The DX delivered improved sound quality in every aspect of music reproduction as compared to my MacBook Pro.

Bass was richer and fuller and the sound image was rock solid and vast where called for, delivering with pinpoint precision the location of the performers with recordings that contain such information. Miles Davis' In A Silent Way (24/176.4 HDtracks) being one example. This record begins without Miles, with the boys in the band laying out at beautifully slow yet funked up foundation. When Miles steps in, dead center, I was initially shocked at how in-the-room his trumpet sounded. The DX also allows your DAC to shine with its fullest and brightest tone colors, 0 to 60 in a snap dynamics, and as much micro detail and macro musically moving force as it can render.

Comparing the Antipodes DX to my MacBook Pro as server was rather sad since everything I've just described was delivered by the MacBook as if someone had put a filter between my music and me. Every aspect of the reproduction took a few big obvious steps back and away from the DX's stunning clarity. Let's be clear—I am not talking about hearing chair legs squeak against floors, audience members coughing (although I must admit I'm amazed at how many cannot control their coughing), or the sounds of the second violinist's indigestion. I am talking about a richer and more rewarding musical experience.

Another thing you get when you reduce noise, and I'm fairly certain that's largely what we're talking about with the DX as compared to the MacBook Pro, is a better sense of scale. Low level details become much more sonically relevant which in turn makes larger scale sonic events that much more impactful. I know we've talked about noise in terms of cables but noise is not picky or choosy. It is not only endemic to computer-based audio, it is also agnostic in terms of where it goes.

To try out external storage, I just selected my QNAP NAS from the Home menu and browsed its contents by Album. The Antipodes was connected to my network with a length of AudioQuest Cinnamon Cat. 7 Ethernet cable. While very subtle, the same music playing from the QNAP appeared to be duller, for lack of a better word, as if a much less intrusive filter than that heard with the MacBook was placed between my music and me. While the DX playing music from my NAS still outperformed the MacBook, I'd say if you want the best from the DX, use its internal storage.

Which raises the obvious question—is 1 or 2TB enough storage for your music? In very general terms, 2TBs strikes me as the minimum amount of storage one should have available in a music server, especially if you have, or plan to have, high res recordings. While my musical appetite is bigger than my budget, I still like to plan for expansion so 2TBs does not cut it for me so I'd have to rely on the QNAP's 4TBs of storage which makes me feel more at ease.

While I have reviewed other music servers including the Aurender S10, and the Aria Music Server, it has been too long since they left here to offer any kind of in-depth comparison. While both of these servers cost more than the DX, they also offer more storage albeit of the spinning disk variety. What I will say is that if you own one of those servers you should enjoy them and live happily ever after since they are great performers.

What about streaming? I connected to my Tidal account from within the iPeng app and was streaming away in CD-quality in no time. The obvious improvement in sound quality over my MacBook was as apparent as serving up stored files. Is it enough to say it simply sounded more musical? I think so but then you might feel short-changed. Using the DX as Tidal streamer, there was a clear sense of greater dynamics, a lower noise floor, and a more distinct sense of the voice of each individual in a recording. From Kendrick Lamar's latest, Jamie xx's In Colour Preview White Label, some Schubert and Bach piano music, and more. I will also note that the DX excelled at presenting the full body of solo piano music causing me to listen to lots. Bach, Schubert, Soler, and more. Nice.

In A Silent Way

I was very much impressed by the Antipodes DX from the get go. Over time, I became more and more enamored with its ability to serve up an infectiously musical signal clearly outperforming the MacBook Pro as music server. If you are looking to get the most out of your file-based playback including streaming from services like Tidal, I'd recommend putting the Antipodes DX on your A-list of servers to audition.
......... Michael Lavorgna

Manufacturer's Response

Michael,
Thank you so much for your thorough and insightful review. You've described the sound of our servers very well: lots more detail, but all in proportion so that it just conveys the musical event better. We're grateful that you've pointed out that a laptop, while convenient, does a poor job as a music-source compared to a well-designed server. As you've theorized, noise is a major factor here, but there are many other contributing factors which we'll get into another day, rather than prattling on here.

Regarding the DX's storage: the DX is technically capable of utilizing four SSD units, for a total of 4TB storage. However, we've not been happy with the slight degradation in sound quality heard when we add the third and fourth SSDs, caused by having all four devices with the same noise footprint. For some time now, we've been conducting a thorough examination of the problem; we believe we are on the right track with technology to resolve the issue, and will eventually be able to offer a 4TB DX with sound quality and noise levels identical to the 1 and 2TB units. Given the lengthy, thorough test protocols we implement before offering any new product, we expect that it may well be a year before the 4TB unit is available.

Regarding your observation of a decrease in sound quality when playing back music from the NAS using DLNA: in general, this is true. But if you'll allow us to assist you in setup mounting the QNAP, you'll find that the difference in sound quality between the internal storage and the mounted NAS is very small -indeed, tiny. We'd be happy to help you in the setup process, just as we would with any customer; the improvement in sound quality compared to playback through DLNA is well worth the minor effort involved.

We're very pleased by this positive review, and honored to receive the Greatest Bits Award. As we expand our dealer network throughout the US, we hope that many of your readers will come to hear the immersive and enjoyable listening experience our servers provide. We're also very keen to meet many more American audiophiles when we exhibit at THE Show at Newport Beach in May.

Thank you again for your efforts!
....... Mark Jenkins, Founder & CEO, Antipodes Audio Limited

Testimonials

it is like drinking the best red wine you have ever had.
Hi Terry,
"I have had a good change to listen to the,  Antipodes Server and AURALiC DAC, and after listening to music for over 40 years I can honestly say I have never been happier with the sound.  

Before I would have to change cables and set up to suit the type of music I was playing going from classical to hard rock or compromising and setting up for something in-between. Well that is all over with the Auralic and Antipodes handling anything you can throw at it with and it does it with ease.  

To sum up it is so good at bringing all the detail out and in such a soft and rich way, it is like drinking the best red wine you have ever had. Thank you for taking me down this road, I have waited a long time to get there".

.....….Martyn :)
I think I have an excuse to sell my vinyl?
Hi Terry,
I think I have an excuse to sell my vinyl?

Very, very happy with the Antipode’s DXe Music Server & Auralic Vega DAC combination, I cannot believe the step up from the Tricked out Mac mini with Linear power supply and SSD, this into the NAD M51 DAC with all the fruit hanging off of it, IFI USB power supply, IFI USB to SPDIF converter IFI USB Filter etc. etc.
…..Murray

Count me impressed!
Hi Terry
Just dropping you a pre-Xmas note to let you know how much I'm enjoying the Antipodes DV (new model DX). It's not an exaggeration to say that - together with the Chord 2Qute DAC - it has transformed the sound of my system. I've gone from spinning 95% vinyl and playing 5% CDs to 95% digital files via the Antipodes and 5% vinyl. The sound is at once ultra high-rez, but also completely unfatiguing and natural, with no hint of digital "hardness". Count me impressed!
Cheers
Martin