State-of-Art" Music Servers, Music Streamers & Renderers from New Zealand
Exceptional Musicality with Exceptional Transparency for Ultimate Sound Quality

ANTIPODES voted in the  "TOP 4" Music Servers: "Who’d have thought that, of all places, New Zealand would be home to what looks like some of the most advanced digital streaming we have at our disposal at this time?".....Srajan Ebaen – 6MOONS


S60 - Power Supply (small form) Audiophile grade w 2x 12VDC outputs siuts S20, S30,S40.
S20 - Reclocker (small form), suits any Antipodes music server with a USB output
S30 - Music server (small form) Medium power, w DAC and RCA analog& USB outputs.
S40 - Music Serever (small form) High power w USB & Ethernet outputs
K10 - CD Ripper (small form) connect by USB to any (only) Antipodes music servers.
K30 - Music Serever (full width) High power, Dual computer w USB & Ethernet outputs 
K40 - Music Server (full width) High power, Single computer w Ethernet output only
K50 - "The Ultimate" Muisc Serever (full width) High power, Dual computer, Reclocker, w USB, SPDIF, AES3, 12S & Ethernet outputs 

The new K Series and S Series are the first implementation of the OLADRA Project, designed using two key technologies - Interference Spectrum Management and Hybrid Switch Linear (see discussion under "read more tab").

At the end of 2019, after 3yrs of research, OLADRA Project delivered on the initial promise  The first commercially-viable prototypes offered sound quality that was substantially ahead of anything we had heard before from a music server. The biggest and most obvious gains were in sheer clarity. There appeared to be no noise floor at all, together with excellent detail resolution and dynamics. Importantly, timbre and musical expression were outstanding.

Delivered new insights into how to address noise generated by the motherboard, while preserving bandwidth. The science suggested the possibilities but it required painstaking prototype development, burning the prototypes in and then listening, repeating this over and over, to get to the conclusions we employ today. To explain a bit further, we do not develop motherboards. Firms like Intel make chipsets and publish reference designs. Firms like ASUS develop circuit board layouts for those chipsets and reference designs, and make many component choices for the circuit. Antipodes selects motherboards that use the components we like and we tune from there, rejecting the ones that do not perform to our expectations. Nearly all chips on a motherboard have parameters that can be adjusted, that move or spread the noise peaks generated by the chip. This can also be used at a global level to eliminate noise nodes between the noise spectra of multiple chips. It is possible to do this purely by measuring the resulting noise, but the real challenge is to listen and make good judgements about how to optimise the resulting sound quality from a huge number of possible permutations.

Also examined the optimal power supply for each different section of the music server. Antipodes was the first significant music server manufacturer to employ linear power supplies and many others have since followed this lead. It is an easy way to reduce noise interference and results in smoother sound and tone. But it also limits bandwidth because even the fastest linear power supplies are not fast enough for the job. The ideal power supply for a digital circuit would have the low noise of the quietest linear power supplies and the speed of the fastest switched mode power supplies. Some parts of a motherboard circuit sound better with a linear power supply and others sound better with a switched mode power supply. And, of course, it is much more complicated than that as topology and componentry of power supplies, whether switched or linear, vary widely. So we don't subscribe to the view that you just power as much of the music server with linear power supplies as possible. That approach delivers smooth and inoffensive sound, but utterly lacks the life that makes real music exciting. Instead, Antipodes music servers use a total power supply scheme that use elements of linear power supplies and of switched mode power supplies to get closer to the ideal power supply for digital circuits. The interesting outcome of this is not a trade-off to get more musical expression at the expense of perceived noise. In fact, getting this right dramatically reduces perceived noise, increases clarity and preserves the life and emotional expression that is important to all music.

Applying these technologies has resulted in new hardware building blocks, and this section will give you some insights about the different models, as well as the differences from previous models. The key building blocks of the current models are the following new hardware components:

V5.6H Main Board. This is physically the same board as the V4H that was used in the Antipodes CX, but its audio performance has benefited significantly from new ISM tuning. The V5.6H is used in the K50 and K40. In terms of power, this board can upsample and transcode a CD resolution music file to DSD512 using Roon DSP. It has another 5 real cores to handle other functions at the same time as playback, making it very versatile.

V5.2H Main Board. This is a new board with the new ISM tuning that has the same single core performance as the V5.6H board, but has fewer cores. If the playback solution is kept simple then this board can approach the performance of the V5.6H, but it cannot handle the range of concurrent activities with such ease and this will affect audio performance to a greater or lesser degree depending on what you ask it to do. The V5.2H board is used in the K30 and the S40.

V5X Main Board. This is a new board with the new ISM tuning that is a little more powerful and better sounding than the V4X board used in the Antipodes EX. In terms of power, this board can upsample and transcode CD music files to DSD256 using Roon DSP, but requires Roon Parallelisation to be turned on to use all of its cores to achieve that. Like the V4X, the V5X performs well with server apps but excels with player apps like Roon Ready, Squeezelite, MPD and HQPlayer NAA.

R1I Reclocker Board. This is a new reclocker board that completely isolates the input electronics from the reclocker and output electronics. This means a very significant sound quality improvement over the Antipodes P2. The R1I board is used in the K50 and S20.

HSL80 Power Supply. This power supply scheme is arguably the biggest difference between the current models and the CX and EX that preceded them. The HSL80 is highly over-specified and is used in the K50, which uses three HSL80, and in the K40 and K30 which each use a single HSL80.

HSL50 Power Supply. This power supply is the same design as the HSL80, but is not as over-specified. The HSL50 will prove to have plenty of headroom for use in the S Series. The HSL50 is used only in the S60


This section describes how the building blocks are combined to form the models and potential combinations of models. Note that in most cases a computer audio source includes three key stages, Server App, Player App and DAC. Sometimes the solution is supplied as three separate components, sometimes as a single combined component, or some other combination.

Server Apps. The Server App organises your music files and streaming services. Serving your music locally to the Player App yields superior sound to relying on a streaming service to be your Server App. The Server App streams the files to the Player App. Examples are Roon Server, Squeeze Server (LMS), SONOS Server, Plex Media Server, Minimserver, etc.

Player Apps. The Player App receives the streamed file from the Server App and turns it into a digital audio signal and transmits that signal to the DAC stage. Examples are Roon Ready, Squeezelite, MPD and HQPlayer NAA.
Digital to Analog Conversion. The DAC stage receives the digital audio signal from the Player App, converts it into an analog signal, and then transmits the analog signal to your amplifier.

All Antipodes music servers, except the K40, are capable of running both the Server App and the Player App, and capable of being used as just the Server App or just the Player App.

S30. The S30 employs the V5X board, offers USB and Analog outputs, and is powered by a standard smps power supply brick. The existence of the analog outputs does not mean that an audiophile DAC is included. The Analog outputs are provided as a convenience, enabling a low entry point for a user that does not have an audiophile DAC. The sound quality increases significantly when a quality USB DAC is added. The S30 can be used to run Server Apps and/or Player Apps, but its hardware is optimised for the Player App function.

S40. The S40 employs the V5.2H board, offering Direct Streaming over Ethernet and USB Outputs, and is powered by a standard smps power supply brick. The S40 can be used to run Server Apps and/or Player Apps, but its hardware is optimised for the Server App function.

S20. The S20 employs the R1I Reclocker Board, offering S/PDIF, AES3 and I2S outputs, and is powered by a standard smps power supply brick. The S20 gets its input over USB. The S20 can be used to upgrade the sound quality of a S30, S40 or K30.

S60. The S60 employs the HSL50 Power Supply, which can be used to dramatically lift the sound quality performance of the S20, S30 and S40. A single S60 can power any two of the S20, S30 and S40. The ultimate S Series solution is one S60 powering a S40 that runs the Server Apps; the S40 feeds the S30 via Direct Stream Ethernet and runs the Player Apps; the S30 feeds the S20 via USB; and the S20 and S30 are powered by a second S60.

K30 The K30 combines the V5.2H board running the Server Apps with the V5X board running the Player Apps, with both powered by a single HSL80 power supply, and offering USB Audio Output. It is similar to combining the S40, S30 and S60 in a single case but with superior interconection, and powered by the larger HSL80 power supply.

K40. The K40 employs the V5.6H board, powered by a single HSL80 power supply, to provide the ultimate device for running Server Apps. The only output is Direct Stream Ethernet, which can feed an incredibly clean signal direct to the Ethernet input on any DAC.

K50. The K50 employs the V5.6H board to run Server Apps, the V5X board to run Player Apps and the R1I Reclocker board. Each of the three boards is powered by a dedicated HSL80 power supply. Outputs are Direct Stream Ethernet, USB, S/PDIF, AES3 and I2S.

K10. The K10 is a high precision ripper in a case carved from two pieces of solid alloy, that can be attached to any Antipodes music server and used to auto-rip your CDs. It connects to your Antipodes music server by a double USB cable.

To optimise the output signal from the Player App, only one Player App can be used at a time, and only one signal pipeline can be used at a time. Therefore, the user selects a single Player App, such as Roon Ready, Squeezelite, MPD or HQPlayer NAA. Similarly, the user selects one of either Analog Output, a single USB Output or the reclocked Digital Outputs.

There is no such restriction necessary for Server Apps. All installed Server Apps may be used for streaming over the Network at the same time, such as Roon Server, Squeeze Server, DLNA/UPnP, SONOS Server, Plex Server etc.

The 'terrible twin brothers' of noise and bandwidth have been referred to above, and we have attempted below to explain why these are important in the design of a music server. To do this we have stripped out a lot of details that are important in digital audio but that are unnecessary for making the point, in the hope that we can make this understandable to as many readers as possibe. This is not intended to be a technical white paper or academic document, so please excuse the simplifications made. What follows not only covers the impacts of noise and bandwidth, but also makes the point that you should not assume that higher res (bit-rate) files will necessarily sound better.

From a sound quality point of view, the goal of a music server is very simple - to transmit a perfect square wave representation of the music file to the DAC. Unfortunately, the difficulty in achieving this goal is underestimated by many, and it can never be perfectly achieved in practise. The concept of jitter misleads people into thinking that all you need in a digital signal is the correct bits (which is relatively trivial to transmit) with great timing (low jitter), and so all you need is a great clock. This simplistic view is highly misleading.
At least three things matter - the clock, noise and bandwidth. The difference between a great clock and an ordinary one can be erased if noise and bandwidth are problematic. Using a great clock is good marketing, but is not always very relevant in the overall design considerations. This paper describes as simply as possible how noise and bandwidth constraints create jitter, despite the clock used.

In the image of a perfect square wave below, the horizontal axis is time and the vertical axis is voltage. We will assume the clock is perfect – ie. the vertical signal lines occur at perfectly spaced intervals (the bit rate). When the signal is representing a binary 0, it is at 0v. When the signal is representing a binary 1, it is at 1v. And we will assume that the receiver of this signal decides that the transition between a 0 and a 1 has occurred when the signal rises through the 0.5v level, and that a 1 has transitioned to a 0 when the signal falls through the 0.5v level. 

the interesting point to note is that the timing between the data transitions (where those vertical lines pass through 0.5v) is unchanged provided the noise is not extremely high. So, again, no problem. Noise, on its own (as long as the deviations caused are materially below 0.5v) is not a problem. The reason it is not a problem is those vertical lines, because noise does not change the space between them.


Now imagine there is no noise. Zero noise is impossible, but something else that is impossible is the vertical line on the square wave, since it requires infinite bandwidth. The vertical lines imply the signal can achieve 0v and 1v in more or less the same instant. Whatever tools we have to transmit a signal, the demands of high bit-rate signals are way beyond what the available tools can deliver. Think about how your analog cables can mess with sound up to around 20kHz, and then think about the enormously wider frequency range required of a digital cable (and, optical cables just have a different set of problems, mainly related to reflections). The higher the bit rate the harder it gets.
When we allow for constrained bandwidth, instead of transitions being instantaneous, the signal goes up a slope when transitioning from 0v to 1v, and down a slope when transitioning from 1v to 0v.
To reasonably square out the signal you need to add several harmonics of the bitrate (say 7 or more) above the bitrate, and that is a lot of bandwidth - even more for higher bit rate signals
Interestingly, in both of these constrained-bandwidth examples, the transitions through 0.5v are still perfectly spaced – even with the sine wave. So still no problem.
As has been mentioned, a higher bitrate signal (for those of you that think high bitrate files must always sound better) requires even more bandwidth to square out the wave, and so in a system that has a finite limit on bandwidth, a lower bitrate signal will be more accurately represented than a high bitrate signal. Food for thought? On top of that, if you ask anything in a music server to work faster, it will work with less precision and this is a key trade-off to be aware of when you assume higher bit rates must be better, just because the numbers are bigger.

So why did I say noise and bandwidth are important? The perceptive reader will realise that the examples above only allow us to conclude that that there is no problem if we can achieve zero noise or infinite bandwidth. But each of those goals is unattainable, and the problem becomes apparent when there is both noise and constrained bandwidth.

I hope you can see now that the 0.5v points are shifted right or left by the addition of the low frequency noise that lifts or drops the signal between bits. Shifting the slopes up or down shifts the 0.5v points left or right. The greater the amplitude of the noise, and the greater the bandwidth constraint, the greater is the effect on timing (jitter).
I hope you can see now that the 0.5v points are shifted right or left by the addition of the low frequency noise that lifts or drops the signal between bits. Shifting the slopes up or down shifts the 0.5v points left or right. The greater the amplitude of the noise, and the greater the bandwidth constraint, the greater is the effect on timing (jitter).


This is the point. Combining constrained bandwidth and noise inevitably creates jitter (variation in data transition timing), regardless of how great the clock is.

What we often see today is music servers being designed using very basic computing parts, that produce a lot of noise, with filters added to reduce that noise. And we see music servers being powered by slow linear power supplies in the wrong places. There seems to be very little understanding, yet, that filters reduce bandwidth, meaning the reduction in noise may not improve timing, and that very fast power supplies are essential at certain points in the circuit.

The objective of Antipodes’ OLADRA project is to design music servers from the bottom up to be both low noise and high bandwidth. Because zero noise and infinite bandwidth are unattainable, there is also a need to find the best trade-offs between noise and bandwidth at different parts of the circuit, which leans more towards the art of objective listening than science. By that I mean that many trade-offs made in the OLADRA project were informed by listening rather than theory or electronic measurement.
To our ears, this results in music that is not only significantly more transparent, but that is decidedly more musically expressive, as if more of what is important in the music gets through.

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Music / Media Network players, Streamers & Servers

AT 01 CD K10
NZ$ 995.00 ea (incl. GST)
The small form factor Antipodes K10 ripper is supplied separately and can be used with any Antipodes music server. Any ripper connected to a music server will have a small negative impact on playback...
AT 01 CD P1
SPECIAL PRICE: NZ$ 795.00 ea (incl. GST)
Original: NZ$ 795.00 (incl. GST)
Saving: NZ$ 0.01 (incl. GST)
NZ$ 4,695.00 ea (incl. GST)
EX CLIENTS COMMENT: I am very happy with my new Antipodes EX. Out of the box there was a really big difference from my previous player (4 times better). Much quieter background and clearer imaging. I...
OPTIONS Colour: Silver or Black  Storage Options:   Pre-Installed 1TB - 8TB SSD, or...
The Difference between EX and CX
AT 02 MS S20
NZ$ 3,500.00 ea (incl. GST)
The small form factor Antipodes S20 is a new reclocker that can be added to any Antipodes music server that has a USB Audio output. The Antipodes S20's reclocking engine is the same as the one used...
S20 Connections 12VDC Inlet Femto Word Clock Master Output on BNC AES3 Digital Audio Output on 3-...
AT 03 MS S30
NZ$ 4,000.00 ea (incl. GST)
NEW PRODUCT RELEASE - S30 NOW AVAILABLE: The small form factor Antipodes S30 is our entry-level music server and yet it is based on the advanced player engine used in the K50 and K30. The only...
S30 Connections Analog Audio Output on Stereo RCAs USB Audio 2.0 OutputEthernet Connection to...
AT 04 MS S40
NZ$ 6,750.01 ea (incl. GST)
NEW MODEL DUE FOR RELEASE SEPTEMBER 2020The small form factor Antipodes S40 uses the same server engine as is used in the K30, but is powered by a standard external power supply brick. The S40 can be...
Analog Headphone Output Two USB Ports for USB Disks Dual USB Ports For External CD Ripper (eg....
AT 05 MS S60
NZ$ 2,750.00 ea (incl. GST)
The small form factor Antipodes S60 is a HSL50 power supply that can be used with any Antipodes music server that is externally powered. Not only will it transform an Antipodes S20, S30 or Antipodes...
S60 ConnectionsMains Power IEC Inlet - User Switchable 110-120vac to 220-240vac2x  12VDC...
AT 09 MS K30
NZ$ 13,500.00 ea (incl. GST)
K30 Connections USB Audio 2.0 Output Insert up to two 2.5" Sata SSDs. They will click securely in...
AT 10 MS K40
NZ$ 12,000.00 ea (incl. GST)
K40 Connections Insert up to three 2.5" Sata SSDs. They will click securely in place. Dual USB...
AT 11 MS K50
NZ$ 20,000.00 pr (incl. GST)
K50 Connections Insert up to three 2.5" Sata SSDs. They will click securely in place. USB Audio 2.0...


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
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.
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.
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.  

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. 

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.

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.


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
Metrum Hex
Resonessence Labs Herus
Resonessence Labs Concero HD
Resonessence Labs INVICTA Mirus
Schiit Bifrost Uber w/ Gen 2 USB 

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.


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

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

......think of the EDGE or CORE as a specialised computer… think of it as a race car.
Dave Clark

(NAS to switch to EDGE. EDGE to DAC via USB. Roon Server on EDGE. Roon app on iPad to WiFi extender to switch.)
Clean and clear. Very articulate with no grit or glare. Resolving and musical. Resolution that is right and not forced. Solid bass extension. Nimble. Quiet. Fast and dynamic. Bad recordings sound bad and really good recordings sound, really good. Musical and certainly more of the whole and less emphasis on the pieces.

CORE solo
(NAS to switch to CORE. CORE to DAC via USB. Roon Server on CORE. Roon app on iPad to WiFi extender to switch)
Clean and clear. Very articulate with no grit or glare. Resolving and musical. Resolution that is right and not forced. Solid bass extension. Nimble. Quiet. Fast and dynamic. Bad recordings sound bad and really good recordings sound, really good. But… one gets more. More of the pieces along with the whole.

Neither sound like digital in terms of what people ascribe digital to sound like—cold, analytical, forced… glare and grit, and so on. No, I found either the two when used alone or together to sound quite wonderful. 

EXTENDED REVIEW: So it is now 2017, and many of us music lovers and gear nuts have moved into the area of playing back our music files (streamed or downloaded from the internet or ripped from a CD) in some fashion. The world of computer-based audio has evolved from using an off-the-shelf PC or Mac to do this, to a tweaked PC or Mac—and in either case via software written for just this purpose as opposed to that which is free (iTunes or Windows Media vs say that from JRiver, Audirvana, Amarra, etc.)—to purpose built streamers/renderers from say AURALiC, Antipodes, Aurender, SoTM, and so on. For sure these purpose-built streamers/renderers are really nothing more than a computer, but in this case, they are built to only do one thing and nothing else: get your files from A to B with as little impact as possible.

Options with this include not only the processing speed, but memory, output options (USB, AES, S/PDIF), internal storage, power supply, networked via Wi-Fi or Ethernet, and of course playback software.

A good number use their own propriety software (AURALiC with their Lighting DS, or Aurender with their Conductor for example) and others rely on third party options such as Roon, MPD, HQ Player, and so on. Of course, going to third party software can in some cases require the use of an external PC or Mac running in the background or not—all depends on how the streamer/renderer is built. Ones that come with an internal HD are good to go (like the Antipodes units here) but others such as those from SoTM require the PC/Mac to handle that end (no HD).

All of which opens up one big can of worms. What exactly are we listening to? I mean, there are so many possible combinations and variables that can affect the sound… from the processor, to the power supply, to the software used (theirs or someone else's), to the connection (Ethernet vs. wireless), to where the music is stored (external NAS or internal HD—oh, and whether the HD is spinning or solid-state), to even how one ripped or sourced the files… and to even the file type and its sampling/bit rate, Ethernet cables, choices in what switches for the Ethernet/connection and their power supplies… my head spins.

Toss in USB cables, NAS options, Ethernet configurations… yeah, this is not so simple.

Not really apples to apples… in too many cases it is more like apples to bananas. Or since the Antipodes is from New Zealand... apples to kiwis.

But wait… let me digress here as many will be thinking that units from Antipodes, AURALiC, Aurender and so on are, as I have said, just a computer and so why the high price? And you say… WTF! $$$ for a little box?! Okay, agreed. You can buy, say a Nuc for under $1k, but think of the EDGE or CORE as a specialized computer… think of it as a race car. Yeah, you can go out and buy a Dodge Charger Daytona with a Hemi for like $40k. But it is not a race car… though it goes really fast from A to B. It comes with all the bells and whistles that a race car really does not need and actually, for a race car, will all get in the way, but for driving around town these things are nice to have. You spend countless hours removing all these things to get it to go faster… but in the end, all you are doing is simply modifying a stock car into something… not so stock. There will be a point where you can only modify it so much. And this takes time and if you wanted to sell it… well that time is worth something to you. So, it costs more. You could say screw that, I will take that a Hemi and build something to just do exactly what I want—so I will start from scratch and make a purpose-built race car… time, specific parts, skills and knowledge, and so on… and limited numbers being produced as well. No assembly line to keep costs down. No mass parts sourcing… and so now the costs go way up. You got what you wanted… a race car that is built to do one thing… go really fast from A to B with nothing else getting in the way. No useless options, parts, features… etc. Same with the EDGE and CORE… ditto AURALiC, Aurender, and so on. Each done with a different eye or philosophy of what is needed or wanted… each their own. But you will pay for it.

So, yeah, I have reviewed units from AURALiC and Aurender… as well as the Antipodes DX. The focus here in on two new products from Antipodes; the CORE (from $4350 based on SD drives options—think race car) and EDGE (from $3100 based on SD drives options—again think race car). Both are renderers, that is they render your files and then 'stream' or send them to whatever your DAC is via, well it depends on the CORE or EDGE as they are quite the same and yet… different… but here, from the Antipodes website:

The EDGE uses our V3.5L Celeron circuit and can run nearly all features in demanding Server apps like Roon Server. But some processing features in Roon will not be able to be used, such as transcoding/upsampling to high DSD rates. The CORE is an alternative to the EDGE that provides high processing power. The Antipodes CORE is built around a very powerful computing engine, for demanding server apps like Roon and for fast response with very large music libraries. You can think of the CORE as a high-power version of the EDGE, delivering similar sound quality, but with much higher processing power.

Medium Power V3.5L Circuit
Fanless All Alloy
External Level 1 ODAPS Linear Power Supply
SPDIF to 24/192 PCM
USB Audio 2.0 Output
PCM to 32bit / 768kHz PCM
DoP to DSD512, Native DSD to DSD512

High Power V4H Circuit
Fanless All Alloy
External Level 1 ODAPS Linear Power Supply
USB Audio 2.0 Output
PCM to 32bit / 768kHz PCM
DoP to DSD512, Native DSD to DSD512

Music Playback Options (either)
Roon Server & Roon Ready
SqueezeBox & Squeezelite
HQPlayer NAA
Shairport (Apple Airport Emulation)
SONOS Integration
Plex Media Server
So, it appears that the differences between the two are primarily their output options (EDGE offers pretty much everything while the CORE is USB only) and processing speed (CORE is considerably faster than the EDGE though I am thinking that the board and whatnot in either are reflective of this difference as well). And both offer the same software options, though with limitations with Roon based on the EDGE's less robust processor. Oh, and each comes with its own outboard linear power supply... of which I wish it had feet!

But here is the thing, one can use either EDGE or the CORE, or both combined to play back one's files… and with that, I felt I needed to ask Mark Jenkins at Antipodes a few questions to help clarify for you, and myself, what he was thinking with these units…

What were your goals in the design of the EDGE and CORE? As separates and when used together?

Many of our customers buy our entry level product and then wish to upgrade. The idea of the CORE and EDGE is to provide an upgrade path that does not mean having to send it off for an upgrade or trade it in for a higher level one. So, a customer might buy an EDGE and play from external storage or even use it as just a renderer with say Roon being on an existing computer. Later, add SSDs to the EDGE for better sound and play independently. Later add a CORE and swap the SSDs to the CORE. Or alternatively they may start with a CORE to play to an Ethernet DAC, swap to a USB DAC for better sound or just an upgrade, and then maybe add an EDGE later. In this way you can start with a $3k investment and progress to the top-flight CORE + EDGE combo over time. The purchase of both a CORE and an EDGE up-front is too large a step for some people. This is why they are both designed to be used standalone and as part of a combo. Most of our customers have indeed bought one of them as a separate, and most of those with both have done so after using just one of them first.

How do they differ and what was your reasons for making these choices?

The CORE and EDGE are designed to do the same set of functions, but the EDGE is more focused on a lower price point, using a less powerful platform, but powerful enough for most people without compromising sound quality. It is our entry level product. The CORE is more expensive and sounds as good as the EDGE but adds a powerful platform to be able to do things like on-the-fly upsampling/transcoding to DSD512, and it will handle a very large Roon library more easily.

The EDGE has every digital output option and yet the CORE comes with only 2 USB outputs, can you elaborate on that?

Many purchasers of our entry-level products come from having used a CD Player and the EDGE is their first proper computer audio product. Many of our dealers will sell them an EDGE first and a high-quality USB DAC later, as a much better way to go than starting with a good DAC on a PC-based server. Therefore, the entry-level product needs to be versatile. It has surprised us how many customers start out with an EDGE (or a DS Base) using the analog outputs. The S/PDIF outputs may be handy with an older DAC. The CORE is more likely to be purchased by someone with a bit more experience in computer audio and for them we focus on USB and you hear it in greater refinement.

How do you see Roon as a playback option in terms of sonics?

Of the options you can use on our servers, Roon and MPD sound the best. This is mainly due to how the server app and the renderer app send data between them. In MPD's case, it is really just a renderer app that can play from a library folder so it kind of bypasses the problem. Roon is different and it performs because they have done a great job of designing the interface between server and renderer apps. The other options, like Squeezebox, and the various DLNA options we offer all suffer from poorer protocols for this communication, which typically softens the sound, immediacy reduces, and images get indistinct. Roon and MPD give you a much better idea of what the equipment really sounds like. I won't comment about Roon vs MPD as the sound quality is very close, and most people that have tried them acknowledge that but develop a slight preference, and I will leave it up to my customers to decide. One very interesting topic is the option with our servers to use Roon Server and Roon Ready together in a single device, or to use Roon Local Playback to play direct from the Roon Server app. Roon Labs insists that these should not sound different but they most decidedly do. We tend to focus our customers on using Roon Server with Roon Ready as it gives consistently good results. Using Roon Local Playback can give you quite amazing sound—absolutely gob-smacking sound in fact with that feeling that "the music just parted company with the speakers"—but this only happens with some DACs. With others, Roon Local Playback can sound OK but very disorganized. It is well worth experimenting with and choosing carefully between them for your particular system.

Cool... of which creates more questions...

So then, the CORE and EDGE should sound the more or less the same when used to just play back files with nothing else going on—such as upsampling for example?

The CORE and EDGE do sound different. In my view the CORE sounds more spacious, more refined and has better bass definition. The EDGE has more joie de vivre, and more of that feeling you get from great vinyl. They use very different platforms. I tend to say they perform at the same level, but they definitely sound different to me and an individual's preference will differ from another's.

Can you explain "Roon Local Playback to play direct from the Roon Server app"... I see that as an option but it is not checked in the settings on my CORE or EDGE. How is this different than controlling Roon via an iPad?

If you check 'Local Playback' in Roon Server (in Antipodes GUI Settings), go into Roon Ready Settings in the Antipodes GUI and select 'None' for the Audio Device and save the changes. Then use Roon the same way except that when you open Roon's Audio Settings you won't see any output under Roon Ready now, but you will see a bunch of outputs above, one of which is your USB DAC. Set up that one in Roon and from there things are the same.

Local Playback just uses Roon Server and uses Roon Bridge for its output. The standard method, which we find to be more consistently good, uses Roon Server and Roon Ready. Roon would say that Bridge and Ready use the same code so should sound the same. But that is a theory that does not match the outcomes in experiments. Any 'why' you come up with is only ever a theory. The only fact is that they sound different. I know people like to be told why—humans are suckers for a plausible explanation, which is critical to our progress as a species—but I won't postulate a 'why' publicly unless I can reliably verify it in a thorough experiment. That isn't possible without messing with Roon's code, so I will stick with these observations:

they sound different - it depends on the DAC as to which sounds best

Roon Server with Roon Ready is more consistently good, but Roon Local Playback is sometimes spectacularly better

we have observed that there is less latency in the transmission with Roon Local Playback.
Alrighty then… so each can be used either as a renderer/server or as a server or renderer when combined… that is when the Core is used as the server, the Edge becomes the renderer letting each do one thing as opposed to doing two—serving and rendering. I think… but then how does it all sound? I mean what did it with my music? Individually and combined?

Well, so that I did not find myself going down the rabbit hole of audio-insanity, I did my best to keep it as simple and straight-forward as possible. I mean the combinations are endless with outputs and configurations of Roon and all… along with the option of other software possibilities (as noted above under Music Playback Options).

So here is what I have done so far:

EDGE with Roon (Roon straight up with no chaser as one would find Roon configured under normal circumstances—meaning no 'Local Playback' or upsampling since the PS Audio DAC does that anyhow).

CORE with Roon (Roon as noted above).
CORE and EDGE combined (Roon as noted above).
In each case I used my Integrita C4 NAS from Certon (I played files primarily from my NAS as opposed from either of the units drives—more on that in Part 2), SBooster power supplies on the Netgear switch and WiFi extender, either WyWires' Diamond or Skogrand Beethoven USB cables, network cables from Cardas, WireWorld or Sablon Audio, along with several Acoustic Revive Lan isolators on the switch. Power cords were those supplied, though I did try substituting these for those for WyWires and Triode Wire Labs towards the end.

Either unit is accessible from a PC via "MyAntipodes" as a networked device via their IP address in Chrome, so changing anything or checking for any issues is quick and simple.

I will say that regardless the configuration, the Antipodes units were relatively free of needing to reboot (the EDGE did freeze once but a quick reboot settled that issue and the Roon server crashed once resulting in a reinstall which was quick and easy) or any other issues one might face with such products. Not quite plug and play, but as close as one can get since, after all, they are 'computers' that will need to be configured a bit and what not in terms of where your music is and how they 'sit' on the network. Roon was easy to set up as well, and I was provided a license for the review. I am not going to comment much on Roon here other than to say, it works pretty much as advertised though my issue is that it struggled finding metadata on too many of the artists I listen to—perhaps too obscure?

Oh, and the fact that while I am listening to either what the EDGE or CORE are doing individually or as a combo, one is also listening to Roon, as much as one is listening to Lightening DS or Conductor or JRiver, and so on… any of these software options will introduce their own sonic signature or character into/onto the music. They all have a sound of their own. Why they should? Got me… after all it is just finding your files wherever they might be, retrieving them via a chain of stuff, and then 'converting' them to a 'signal' of 1s and 0s to be sent to a DAC, which then converts them into another signal to be sent to a preamplifier and then to an amplifier and then to the speakers and then to you…. Why any of this should matter is rather ludicrous. I mean, it is not like there can be any errors or noise introduced along this pathway to muck things up… right? Of course, there is, and of course, it can… which is why changing pretty much anything changes what we hear—in some way.

EDGE solo
(NAS to switch to EDGE. EDGE to DAC via USB. Roon Server on EDGE. Roon app on iPad to WiFi extender to switch.)

Clean and clear. Very articulate with no grit or glare. Resolving and musical. Resolution that is right and not forced. Solid bass extension. Nimble. Quiet. Fast and dynamic. Bad recordings sound bad and really good recordings sound, really good. Musical and certainly more of the whole and less emphasis on the pieces.

CORE solo
(NAS to switch to CORE. CORE to DAC via USB. Roon Server on CORE. Roon app on iPad to WiFi extender to switch)

Clean and clear. Very articulate with no grit or glare. Resolving and musical. Resolution that is right and not forced. Solid bass extension. Nimble. Quiet. Fast and dynamic. Bad recordings sound bad and really good recordings sound, really good. But… one gets more. More of the pieces along with the whole.

But, compared to the EDGE, a heavier sound… greater weight and heft to the music. Meatier with balls to the walls to the floor. Solid as a massive boulder. Not sludgy or slow, just… you get more with the CORE than the EDGE in terms of bass slam and that sense of presence to the music—like adding a subwoofer that pressurizes the room. You sense it more than feel it. A bigger sound that fills the room that much more "stuff" … but if one had not heard the CORE, then the EDGE would not be thought of as lacking… just different. The EDGE now sounds perhaps lighter on its feet.

More like really good analog as Mark describes it? Maybe. But I get his point, I find the CORE to be more resolving and revealing of what is in the files and whatnot. Perhaps he sees the EDGE as being a bit more forgiving… not sure. The EDGE is more of a sit back and listen to the whole and the CORE is more about allowing one to focus on all the pieces that make the whole. You get the whole and to a degree, a whole lot more. So yeah… perhaps that is what he is thinking. Analog for me has always been more about the complete experience and less about the bits and pieces. You put on an LP and listen. You don't think so much, as one should be experiencing the music. Digital reveals more of the parts… not at all in a discontinuous way or one than is lacking in cohesiveness, but it gets more of the bits and pieces out into the room. So with digital, you tend to think more then experience…So yeah, I get it. Though with the CORE/EDGE combo… I dunno… I spent way less time thinking about the music and what I was hearing than sitting back and experiencing the music. They are very cohesive and give you the music as a whole. The Antipodes are not about so much about the bits and pieces… but about the whole experience.

CORE/EDGE combo - CORE as server and EDGE as renderer.
(NAS to switch to EDGE. CORE to switch. EDGE to DAC via USB. Roon Server on CORE. Roon app on iPad to WiFi extender to switch)

Now add the two and there is this synergy, or balance, between the two that pushes the experience way down the road. Not so much in a dramatic way, but one that is tangible and real. The strengths of the two build upon each other in a way that surpasses what they can do individually. It is a tough road to drive on at the price of the two combined, but I can see why Mark went that direction.

Neither sound like digital in terms of what people ascribe digital to sound like—cold, analytical, forced… glare and grit, and so on. No, I found either the two when used alone or together to sound quite wonderful. I will say that the CORE reminds me more of the Antipodes DX I reviewed way back—big and powerful with an amazing sense of scale and presence. It does not quite get there, but then, why should it? It costs less, as well as uses Roon as the software of choice. So how much does Roon affect the sound we hear… here? Hard to say. But I would assume there is a sonic signature. In my best efforts to sort this out, I feel Roon possess perhaps a slightly lighter sound than what I am used to here (Lightning DS or Conductor, or certainly going straight Ethernet with the PS Audio via MConnect), perhaps more midrange presence as well. Its character trait… more to follow.

Clearly the EDGE or CORE or EDGE / CORE combo sound different than the AURALiC Aries (I have the older version and not the new G2 itineration which should run circles around the older Aries… of course I am only able to base this on what I have heard at shows as well as the improvements made to everything that is going on inside). So, I am not going to say which is better or whatever as that would not be fair. I appreciate all the Antipodes units bring to the table as well as what I have been experiencing with the way older and now discontinued Aries. Both are musical as all get out, fun to listen to, but for sure different.

It is interesting that when one goes the EDGE/CORE combo route you are adding another Ethernet cable to the chain. So theoretically, one could be adding more noise… or at the very least, depending on how you have the network 'built', adding more character or whatever based on cables and whatnot you use. Same with going to an external drive (NAS) for your files vs using an internal drive. More things going outside that could impart something negative to the sound. This is why I have gone to such extremes (well not the most extreme… that is coming soon with the switch from Linear Solutions) with an SBooster for the Netgear switch, Acoustic Revive Lan Isolators, and Ethernet cables from Cardas, Sablon, and Wireworld. I found no discernible drop off when I went to the combo… so all is good. Perhaps a touch more oomph and warmth with another run of the Wireworld cable… so yeah… no worries here. Nice.

Alright… so I tried the CORE solo with Roon as configured, ditto the EDGE, and ditto the EDGE/CORE combo. I have yet to try either set for 'Local Playback' and as simply feeding the PS Audio DAC via Ethernet as opposed to USB. Those are in my sights to play with as well as sourcing music from a NAS vs either of their internal drives. But for the moment I am quite pleased with what I am hearing as configured… either individually or as combo. Which begs the question… which do I prefer? The EDGE, the CORE, or the combo? Well, I could live with the EDGE, but having heard the CORE, I tend to fall for what it is doing. It is more to my liking with my music here with my system. Now the combo is really the winner, but man the price of admission is pretty step. Anyone wanting the best, well this is where I would go… but I would be mighty pleased with just the CORE. For sure you paying more to get the additional processing power… of which I am not part the DSD or hi-res crowd as there is pretty much nothing there musically for me (my music lies in the woeful 16/44.1 land, of which I could not care less) so why bother going with the additional horse power? Because the CORE really gets it for me… and that is all that matters. Bam.

Oh, in playing back files randomly, there were times that Roon pulled some of the higher-res music that came preloaded on both the CORE and EDGE… yeah, it sounded really good. I mean really good, but it simply is not my cup of tea. So, for those who need to know… they do hi-res very well. No hic-ups, no sputters, no stutters… just music. So let's go straight into the DAC, It did improve the Aries and Aurender units... but, as Mark suggested, if USB is done as he has done... these outboard USB fixes really are not needed, and may in fact make things worse, or not even work as it did here. And so, there you go. Think race cars...

This ANTIPODES CX/EX combination is, quite simply, the very best digital front end that I have heard.
CHRISTIAAN PUNTER  10 December 2018 

CONCLUSION: The EX is a great Music Server and an even better Renderer. Just the same, the CX is an amazing Server. But when combined, the two perform at an unprecedented level. All the qualities of the EX remain present but are enhanced with the qualities of the CX and then taken to an even stellar level.

There comes a time when a reviewer just lacks the superlatives to describe the latest experience and for me, this is it. How do I describe the CX+EX delivery if I have already used all the superlatives that I can think of for earlier reviews? 

The Difference between EX and CX

The EX is intentionally low-powered to obtain the best possible sound quality as a Renderer but its low power makes it less ideal for server purposes. It can perform both functions just fine but you can indeed notice that browsing Roon is not as snappy as it is when I use my main Windows computer as the Roon Core. However, the sound is much better when the EX is used as a server and that’s precisely what makes the case for the CX: to provide the best possible platform for a server while being designed such that its high power does not affect the sound quality. The CX has very powerful processing to enable snappy browsing as well as complex filtering and real-time DSD upsampling. While the EX’s modest internal heat sink is easily sufficient to keep it cool, the CX uses a heat pipe system without any fans that effectively uses the entire housing as a heat sink. During my use of regular music replay without any filtering or upsampling the CX barely got any warmer than the EX.


These components are extremely versatile and can do so much that I can easily fill several pages describing what they do. In short, Antipodes servers can be set to function in various capacities, such as Roon Server, RoonReady renderer, Squeezebox (including UPnP server), MPD renderer and HQPlayer NAA. For a full description of all the technicalities and possibilities and a wealth of screenshots, please refer to the earlier DXDS and EX reviews. For this review, I’ll focus on the sound and only using Roon.

Like the EX, the CX has a new ODAPS2 power supply that reduces high-frequency noise without resorting to filtering that would impede the speed of current delivery. Also, like the EX, there are two Ethernet ports and no integrated CD ripper. Any USB ripper can be used or one can transfer files via the network share, and Antipodes also has a separate external CD ripper in their portfolio, the P1, which has the same footprint as the EX and CX. The user can very easily install up to 4TB of HDD or up to 8TB of SSD storage, without having to open the enclosure. The drives simply click into place via rear panel slots.

What’s so special about Antipodes servers?

Even now that I am writing my fourth Antipodes review it remains difficult to describe what makes Antipodes servers so very special. Any computer can be a server and digital is digital, right? Well, as far as the data stream is concerned, perhaps yes. But in all matters digital it is important to think outside of the box. Slowly, we are collectively discovering the importance of influences that were previously thought to be unimportant such as jitter, clock quality, and bit accuracy. But there’s another factor that seems to be often overlooked: noise. Mark Jenkins of Antipodes Audio is convinced that one of digital’s biggest enemies is noise. It’s the stuff that travels along with the data stream over cables and into digital devices where it is often aggravated by the internal circuitry. And any filtering used to counteract this usually has detrimental side effects that lower the audio quality. This is where Antipodes makes the difference: by tuning the motherboards and using no standard filtering techniques but clever methods that shift noise to frequencies where they do no harm. The precise tuning is a little hard to describe so I will leave that for Mark.

Mark Jenkins:
“The motherboards are sourced from the world’s best supplier and they cost around 6 times what some of the competitors are using. We tune the motherboards to shift the frequency peaks of the noise generated by each component in order to eliminate noise nodes, so the mainboards start as an off-the-shelf board and then are customized for our use.”

Antipodes also places a lot of emphasis on the quality of the power supply, which they manufacture entirely in-house.

Mark Jenkins:
“What we did with the new power supply was to test the injection of noise into the motherboard at various frequencies to see which frequencies did the least damage to the sound quality, and then we designed the power supply board in such a way that the noise component was in the benign frequencies. This has a similar effect as a zero noise power supply.”

As mentioned, the EX and CX have two Ethernet ports. One can be used to connect to the network and the second to provide a low-noise dedicated feed to an Ethernet DAC. According to the info in the manual, “Ethernet can introduce high levels of noise into the receiving device. The Direct Ethernet solution in Antipodes servers minimizes network ‘chatter’ on the link and creates a high bandwidth, phase accurate, low-noise direct link between the server and renderer. This provides a dramatic improvement over connecting your server and renderer devices through a noisy switch or over a long length of network cable”.

I’ve put this to the test and indeed, the direct connection sounds considerably cleaner as well as freer than a connection via the existing network. BTW I also conducted a similar test using multiple network switches and network cables in a range of lengths with surprising results, using Meridian Sooloos components, the predecessors or Roon, so to speak.

USB or Ethernet

In the world of DACs/Renderers, there are basically two camps: Ethernet (streaming) and USB. Having compared all the big names of both camps in the industry I have gained a lot of experiences in this field and I came to the conclusion that Ethernet sounds fundamentally different from USB. When reviewing the Melco N1ZH, I was much impressed with its combination of transparency and resolution on the one hand and its fluid, free-flowing presentation on the other hand. The thing is: it reached this sound only via Ethernet, not via USB.

Around the same time as I reviewed the EX, I also reviewed the Melco N1ZH UPnP server and this had me in a pickle because I liked aspects of both. Functionally, I prefer Roon over any UPnP solution but I was torn between the Melco’s super-free-flowing sound and the EX’s tonally fuller and more solid sound. Ultimately, I preferred the Melco’s presentation, mostly because its soundstage was deeper and the sounds more layered within it. The EX via USB was comparatively flatter and I attributed this to the USB connection. Due to a lack of results that prove otherwise, I felt that Ethernet was just a better solution than USB and currently, you can find many people chiming in with this belief. But, of course, there are just as many people who swear by USB or by SP/DIF. Either way, for now, I was in the Ethernet camp but then along came the CX and EX to turn my beliefs upside down. Read on to find out just how so!

Individual Assessments

For this comparative purpose, the EX and CX were set up next to each other on an Artesania Digital Server platform, connected with identical Belden power cables with Oyaide C-004 connectors and standard Cat5 Ethernet cables. I opted to use the Aqua Formula xHD DAC with the CAD USB 1 cable between them. The CH Precision system was bypassed entirely as the Aqua DAC connected directly to the Ayon Spirit III integrated amp via an AudioQuest Water cinch interlink. The output mode in all cases was via the tighter sounding RoonReady mode. The USB port used in all cases was the top black one, labeled USB Audio 2.0, 5V On.

EX as Server + Renderer

Although I normally use the EX with the CH Precision C1, the EX also pairs extremely well with the Aqua Formula xHD DAC. It has a taut, energetic and lively performance with a clear-cut purity, combined with a sense of body and substance that makes it sound ever so engaging. I’m being a bit short about it now but the EX really is great and I’ve not hidden my enthusiasm in the original EX review. For now, though, I can’t wait to move on to the rest of the tests.

CX as Server + Renderer

As a consequence of its design, the CX is indeed ideal as a server: Roon browsing feels very snappy, every bit as fast as my big tower PC, in fact. As a server + Renderer, it also works perfectly but it does have a very different character than the EX. It is even faster, cleaner and more transparent but also a lot cooler, and leaner in the bass. Personally, I prefer the warmer, more sonorous sound of the EX but this difference is a relative matter and it is not really indicative of quality. There’s another difference between the EX and CX, though, that, for me, totally makes a case for the EX. Whereas the EX has a nice sense of depth and of being wrapped in an enveloping a sound aura, the CX has imaging just as wide as the EX’s, but the imaging in the depth plane is much reduced and the aura that was surrounding me with the EX is now flattened and portrayed in front of me, more or less in the same plane. It seems that the high processing power does indeed have a considerable effect on the sound. But wait for it… the CX has another trick up its sleeve.

CX + EX is like Yin + Yang

Retaining the CX as Roon Core but selecting the EX as the Renderer, still using a standard cat 5 network cable it took all of 3 seconds before I loudly exclaimed: “Holy Shit!” The difference was not subtle, it was huge! Wow man, everything the EX does so well was still there, but magnified. The soundstage was now even larger, both wider and deeper and even more enveloping, the delivery more powerful, with even more impressive dynamics. It was not the effect that you get with dynamically compressed music where everything just becomes louder, but there was an increase in the difference between soft sounds and loud sounds, an actual increase in the perceived dynamic range. It was unreal, all the little sounds being crisp and clear yet with a wholly natural feel. Subtle details and timbral shades were easier to hear as if the resolution and transparency had increased significantly, yet the sound was rich, organic and full-bodied, really the opposite of clinical or cool. Like Yin and Yang, the CX and EX perfectly complement each other.

A new Reference

Remember how I was so smitten with the Melco’s free-flowing soundstaging, streaming via its dedicated Ethernet connection to the CH Precision C1? Well, after hearing what I just heard, I was not so confident of Ethernet’s superiority anymore. But before switching to the Melco for comparison I first listened to some more tracks using the Antipodes CX and EX, this time via USB to the C1. Sure enough: all the aforementioned qualities were still present, along with the extra qualities that the C1 offers such as an even more solid bass and an even richer overall sound.

Then, it was time to compare the CX+EX with the Melco N1ZH. For this final test, I aligned the Melco and the Antipodes servers with the same track and started them simultaneously and then switched between them directly on the C1. Well, that game was finished before I knew it… Indeed: the Melco was beaten at its own game! The Antipodes combo sounded every bit as fluid and free-flowing and just as refined and transparent, yet with an even deeper soundstage, more solid bass, a richer tonality, and an even more organic delivery. The Melco also still sounded very nice for sure but in comparison with the Antipodes combo it now came across as less convincing and organic, less real and therefore ultimately less engaging. How about that?

Mind you, the CX+EX combo connected via USB has surpassed the Melco N1ZH connected via Ethernet! So much for my Ethernet theory… Oh well, that’s the thing with digital audio: we live and learn.

Mark Jenkins:
“USB has greater potential but requires a very good server. Ethernet is better only when the server is a little noisy.”

So, according to Mark, whether USB or Ethernet yields better results, is dependent on the quality of the device in question. Here I was, thinking that the Melco was already extremely good, only for it to apparently be beaten at its own game. But I have no reason to doubt what Mark is saying. The results speak for themselves.

Not just any Ethernet cable

I know, this is controversial, but please bear with me. The EX and CX come complete with a nice Ethernet cable in the box. Normally an afterthought but in this case, Mark has selected precisely this cable for its audio qualities and after comparing it to a bunch of other Ethernet cables, I fully agree with his decision.

Compared to standard cables, regardless of their Category, the cable that came with the CX made for a very noticeable increase in impact and tautness! Mark had already informed me that these cables were something special but also warned me that they would need a considerable amount of running in. Now I must admit to being a little skeptical about the latter myself. I can understand that noise on a cable can affect the performance of a component downstream but an Ethernet cable that needs running in? When I asked Mark about his thoughts on what causes one Ethernet cable to sound warm and relaxed and another to sound tight and dynamic.

Mark Jenkins:
“The Ethernet cables that sound soft and mushy are doing that due to noise. The tighter and faster the sound (due to Ethernet cabling) the better the cable – in my experience.”

In order to put this to the test, I connected one of the two cables and left it connected while using it between CX and EX for two weeks. Then, I swapped it for the other identical cable that has seen no use. Guess what? Mark was right! The unused cable, by comparison, sounded thinner in the midrange and while bold and impactful, a little bit too tight, while the used cable was just as speedy and dynamic but at the same time lusher and sweeter.

How can an Ethernet cable make a difference? And more so, how can it become better as a result of burn-in? I’ve asked Mark the same questions and that resulted in a very interesting but also very lengthy email conversation. In order not to make this review too long, I’ve opted to jump to the conclusion here but to provide a Side Notes part 3 for the technically interested. Also in part 3: information about running in and warming up and a review of the Antipodes-supplied Ethernet cable. But I can imagine that many will feel that I’ve been rambling on for too long already so here’s straight to the Conclusion.


The EX is a great Music Server and an even better Renderer. Just the same, the CX is an amazing Server. But when combined, the two perform at an unprecedented level. All the qualities of the EX remain present but are enhanced with the qualities of the CX and then taken to an even stellar level.

There comes a time when a reviewer just lacks the superlatives to describe the latest experience and for me, this is it. How do I describe the CX+EX delivery if I have already used all the superlatives that I can think of for earlier reviews? This combination is, quite simply, the very best digital front end that I have heard.

running straight into the Krell K-300i's digital input, it gave a bright and breezy view of Sarah Bareilles's Brave Enough live set, the bass having fine weight and slam and the vocals excellent character.
Andrew Everard

Hi-Fi News Verdict: The score here reflects the mildly lacklustre performance of the EX's analogue outputs, even when the manufacturer offers what is essentially a disclaimer. (use the USB output as recommened to get the best out of it). However, used as a purely digital source this 'Music Server' is both a fine example of its kind and a hint of what may be possible when we come to test a complete CX/EX  combination. Use it as 'transport' for a USB DAC and you wont be disappointed.

hfncommendedThis 'music server' is rather more than it might initially appear, and you can apparently use it alone, or with another music server model, the CX. So what's that all about?

One soon comes to realise that, in the new world of computer-based music playback, nothing is quite what it seems. What's more, the terminology used to describe the products designed to make it possible seems almost wilfully imprecise.

New Zealand-based Antipodes Audio doesn't help too much, for its £4080 EX, available in silver or black, may say 'Music Server' on the front, but in fact it's rather more than that. It combines the functions of storage, serving, rendering and digital-to-analogue conversion all in one box.

The upshot is that this means you could use it as a purely Ethernet source to feed an external player/renderer or as a client for an external network store. Or you might use it as an all-in-one digital transport to feed a USB DAC with files at up to 768kHz/32-bit and DSD512, depending on the DAC's own capabilities, or even as a complete player, with analogue output straight into an amp or preamp.

Custom Build
If all that doesn't have you going all spinny-headed, you can also use the EX together with the company's £5720 CX, which by the way also says it's a 'Music Server', creating a £9655 combination Antipodes says is 'jaw-droppingly superior' to any product it has previously offered. This set-up takes advantage of the fact that each unit can be customised by the activation of a variety of onboard apps.

In the CX/EX combination, the former only runs the server app, allowing the EX to function just as a renderer/client – and with a direct Ethernet between the two, rather as is the case when a Melco server is used to supply music to network player, a high degree of isolation from interference is claimed. There are also the benefits of each unit being optimised for its task.

The idea is that you can buy one unit or the other, and then build to the full CX/EX system, which Antipodes says will give better results than, say, using one of the two connected via USB to an external DAC. And as each unit is built into half-width (24cm wide) casework, the two could be used side by side, or indeed stacked.

While the two Antipodes units are fairly similar, there are differences. The CX has a more powerful processor run at a low clock-rate to reduce noise, and enhanced 'heat pipe' cooling, meaning that it's optimised for use as a Roon Core with all its DSP and transcoding capability, including taking PCM files all the way up to DSD512.

The EX we have here, meanwhile, has that built-in digital-to-analogue conversion able to handle files up to 192kHz/24-bit as well as DSD using the DoP protocol. It transcodes other formats down to suit the onboard conversion, opening up another 'get you started' option before you consider adding a USB DAC, using the CX as a lower-powered network music server, or going the whole CX/EX route.

Slot Machine
Both models offer a choice of onboard storage capacities – users can install SSDs up to a total of 8TB, with Antipodes recommending Samsung EVOs for the task. These drives just push into slots found at the rear of the unit, and are then set up using a routine in the web-based interface for the EX, which is also used to determine which apps are run to provide the server functions.

Files can be added to the installed discs using drag and drop from a computer on the same network, or you can plug a CD drive into one of the multiple USB ports on the rear of the EX. I used the same inexpensive Samsung drive I have connected to my computer for the odd CD rip, but Antipodes will also sell you a high-precision drive, the £850 P1. It's isolated inside a solid block of aluminium and works with the ripping software built into the EX to allow auto-ripping. Simply insert a disc and it's read, ripped, stored and then finally ejected.

In essence, the EX – the company's most affordable model – is the earlier DX shrunk down to half-width, with the main specification change being in the area of the power supplies. The EX replaces the DX's dual ODAPS1 linear supplies with a single ODAPS2, which the manufacturer says gives it improved performance as a renderer at the expense of some server capability – not that I noticed any problems in this respect with the EX used in dual-function mode.

The provision of the various USB ports took some adjusting to. There are four, each independently fed from the EX's motherboard, with two black ones offering the best sound quality (one also supplies 5V power for DACs that require it) but the potential for less compatibility with some DACs. The two blue ports offer both 5V power and wider compatibility, so it's a case of 'suck it and see'. In my case I found that the black ports worked fine with all the DACs I tried, from the little Meridian Explorer2 all the way up to the digital input on the Krell K-300i integrated amplifier/DAC.

sqnoteAnalogue First
With the EX set up, I was able to use it as a Roon Core – yes, doing so involves deauthorising your existing Core if you have one, and as an end-point. I was also able to use it both as a server for my existing network players and a player for my normal NAS storage and, via the always handy mConnect app on my iPad, as a means of accessing both Tidal and Qobuz streams. I even tried it playing music from a USB stick inserted into one of the 'blue USB' ports on the rear panel.

Once I had it up and running, and got the hang of adding and playing music, I found  the confusion of the initial set-up evaporated, and it was possible to relax into playing the music. 

Antipodes makes it clear that the analogue output here is meant as a 'get you started' solution, making the EX capable of just slotting into a system in place of a conventional CD player. Having done some listening with the analogue out connected into both my Naim reference set-up and the Krell K-300i, I'd have to agree with that assessment.

However, while there's nothing wrong specifically with the sound delivered this way, it's just a bit uninteresting (newer upgrade model offers a significant improvement). There's some softness in the low bass and extreme treble, and a midband that fails to spring into life and grab the attention. There's certainly a soundstage image in there somewhere, but even with the striking focus of a recording such as Feenbrothers' Play Dave Brubeck [Sound Liaison SL-1032A], recorded without overdubs and on a single stereo mic, the EX sounds slightly vague, and decidedly 'unspecial'.

Bright 'N' Breezy
Things take an immediate turn for the better when the USB outputs are pressed into service to feed external converters. And this holds true whether using the EX's own playback capablities, employing it as a Roon endpoint or even as a means of playing music on a USB storage device. As well as the Meridian Explorer2, powered from the EX, I also connected up self-powered DACs including the Chord Electronics Mojo [HFN Jan '16], and it was noticeable that the 'black' USB outs gave a sound with tighter grip and focus than the 'blue' ones, no doubt due to the reduced noise on the USB line.


Playing the subtle synths of Vangelis's Nocturne album [Decca 7702214], the precision of the sound via the Mojo was immediately ear-grabbing, as was the detail in the sweeps of synthesised backing. The same effect was very much in evidence with Lux Prima by vocalist Karen O and Danger Mouse, where the singer's voice stands out with stunning character from the lush instrumentation.

To sum up at this point, were I to listen to the EX alone, used with its analogue output, I might be a tad disappointed. However, even with the addition of a few hundred pounds of USB DAC, it's completely transformed, becoming a viable alternative to the likes of the Melco range. View the analogue outputs purely as a staging point to that, and they make perfect sense – after all, the analogue capability is already on the motherboard.

As a Roon core, the EX struggled a bit with my massive music library stored on an external NAS. This would suggest the route preferred by Antipodes of using a CX to serve the content, and the EX purely as a renderer, also makes sense. Certainly things became smoother and faster with my separate Roon ROCK server running on an Intel i5 NUC, and the EX as the Roon endpoint, with all the 'heavy lifting' taken away from the Antipodes unit.

That done, and running straight into the Krell K-300i's digital input, it gave a bright and breezy view of Sarah Bareilles's Brave Enough live set [Epic 88883 77360 9], the bass having fine weight and slam and the vocals excellent character. As did the keen live audience and the singer's banter with the crowd. Impressive, too, was the punch of Depeche Mode's 'Personal Jesus', from the Violator set [Mute CD Stumm 64], the big, stomping rhythm section sounding especially toothsome.


Hi-Fi News Verdict
The score here reflects the mildly lacklustre performance of the EX's analogue outputs, even when the manufacturer offers what is essentially a disclaimer (use the USB output as recommened to get the best out of it). However, used as a purely digital source this 'Music Server' is both a fine example of its kind and a hint of what may be possible when we come to test a complete CX/EX combination. Use it as 'transport' for a USB DAC and you wont be disappointed.


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.

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!
I am very happy with my new Antipodes EX.

Hi Terry
"I am very happy with my new Antipodes EX. Out of the box there was a really big difference from my previous player (4 times better). Much quieter background and clearer imaging. I know it will get better with more hours, better cabling and isolation. Looking forward to getting a nice dac soon.
Thanks again

Thanks for your help and patience. It was a long haul to get to where we are.

Hi Terry

Thought it was time to give an update on the:

Antipodes Audio EX music server
Ayon Spirit V tube integrated amp

Audio Solution Figaro S speakerts


The reason I haven’t done so sooner is very simple: I have just been enjoying listening to the music and hearing the differences as the system opens up.


For not having an ideal positional setup, no isolation equipment, racks or standalone DAC (everything sits on 20mm marble slabs) the system has no right to sound as musical, detailed, open  and wide as it does. I know that previous systems I’ve had would struggle under the same conditions. For the range of music styles that I listen too, the system manages them with ease.


The Audio Solutions Figaro S speakers are a genuine surprise.

Beautifully open, communicative and (the surprise)  they do not lack for bass. My wife was surprised in that they were bigger than she expected but they have a neat trick in that the rear half of the side panels is reflective. We have wooden panels in our old house, so by getting the speaker with the xiralic brown finish, the rear bulk of the speaker has effectively disappeared. Nice.


Thanks for your help and patience. It was a long haul to get to where we are.
Now to get some of those missing pieces in place.