Antipodes DS-BASE Music Ripper/Server w/DAC-RCA USB SPDIF Roon Spotify(excl HDD)

AT 03 MS DSBASE
NZ$ 3,050.00 ea (incl. GST)
Antipodes

HIGH-END AUDIO PRODUCT DESIGNS FOCUSED AROUND HOW THE HUMAN EAR ~ BRAIN ~ EMOTION SYSTEM WORKS

New

NEW 3rd GENERATION DS-BASE MUSIC SERVER - OFFERING REFERENCE LEVEL DIGITAL AUDIO PERFORMANCE

The DS Base borrows its core technology from the DX, and its system software, application software, database and caching are all on solid state. The DS Base is now available with HDD (spinning hard drives) or SSD (solid state drives), for music storage, and operating system, database and cache is on solid state. The DS Base uses a semi-switched power supply, which has a switched rectification and step-down stage, followed by a linear DC regulation stage.

The use of spinning hard drives makes storage much more affordable but is a step down in audio performance from using SSDs, as used in the DX. Note that we only use quiet 2.5" (laptop) spinning drives, and do not use the cheaper 3.5" drives used in many music servers. The 3.5" drives generate several times more vibration, heat, acoustic noise and electronic noise interference. Note that if using Roon with a large library, using spinning hard drives for the Roon software and database will mean slower responsiveness compared to using SSDs. This only applies to the very high I/O requirements of the Roon Server application. For this reason the DS is able to be purchased with a medium-sized SSD to hold all software and the Roon database, with files stored on spinning hard drives.

How The DS Works
The DS starts with getting the best possible rip from your CD collection. Playing a CD in near-real-time will not get a perfect read, but a ripping process can slow down to re-read the disc when necessary till a perfect rip is achieved. Antipodes servers have optimised the ripping hardware and software to get you the best possible rip with every CD. Music files are stored on the DS internal storage.

The music files are able to be read perfectly from disk storage much faster than real time playback, and so the music files are first transferred rapidly in block mode into the DS RAM, and therefore the playback process begins in RAM - a source with the lowest possible latency. A key element of Antipodes server design is the purpose-built Linux operating system, running only the services necessary to play the music files. This is in contrast to other systems where RAM is busy with multiple tasks at once. In our experience even the smallest unnecessary additional activity in RAM will diminish the sound quality of a music server.

Although reading from a storage drive is superior to reading from a spinning CD, the problem with using a standard computer or a mediocre music server, is that they generate electronic noise at a much greater level than any CD player, and this noise pollutes the digital signal to the DAC. But what makes all the difference is that Antipodes servers have been designed and tuned to both minimise noise interference with the digital signal, and to tune the frequency spectrum of the residual noise to place it in a benign part of the spectrum.

"I've 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 , 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 :)

Digital playback systems must have precise timing for the resultant analog signal to be accurate. But the precision of the ‘clock’ used in a digital playback system is undermined if the digital signal suffers noise interference. Whereas in analog playback, noise is heard as noise, in digital playback noise distorts the very sound of the instruments and voices, and in a way that is very unnatural to the ear/brain. Typically it adds glare and grain, and robs the music of its solid bass foundation to the music.

Antipodes Music Server designs are focused on optimising timing accuracy, and a big part of that is minimising electronic noise interference with the clock data. Unlike higher powered servers, Antipodes Music Server technology reduces electronic noise interference to such a low level that noise filtering (which adds its own set of problems, in particular robbing the music of energy) is no longer needed.
- Fanless, silent operation
- 2.5" slow-spinning HDDs using customised firmware
- Custom scripts & firmware to optimise the handling of the digital signal
- Two stages of digital signal buffering and re-clocking in the server
- High-end USB audio output card with selectable 5v power
- Custom-designed internal linear regulated power supply, with one rail dedicated to the USB audio card (superior to our ears to any battery solution) and, most crucially, fed from a uniquely designed power transformer.

WIFI
Antipodes Servers do not include a wifi connection as wifi would generate large amounts of electrical noise inside the server and compromise audio performance. However you can connect via Ethernet cable to a wireless Access Point if desired without sonic penalty.

USER INTERFACE
Headless (no screen, mouse or keyboard needs to be attached)
VortexBox Linux OS for easy remote maintenance from PC/Mac/iPad browser.
Custom scripts simplify setup to plug and play.
Simple click or tap to play with iPad/iPhone/Android/PC/Mac remote applications.
Easy remote management of music files using you choice of tools on a PC or Mac connected to the same network - music files on the music server are as easy to manage from your computer as if they were on the computer

MEDIA LIBRARY MANAGMENT
Automatically rips the main feature and language of movie disks, and stores the movie as a single playable file (MKV format) - to activate this feature you need to purchase a license (50 Euros via the VortexBox GUI) to use the pre-loaded software.

Automatically manages your music library:
- Rips & tags CDs, just insert the disk and it ejects when ripped
- Automatically gets coverart from internet databases while ripping
- Automatically organises ripped music into folders by artist & album
- And use any music management tool on a PC or Mac to adjust tags  (eg. iTunes, JRiver, dBpoweramp, MediaMonkey, Picard, etc).

Easily copy music files to & from the music server, or download directly
One-click to get coverart for music files that you copy/download
Simple backup and restore to a USB hard drive (not included), or use your favourite backup program from a PC or Mac

Rips in ‘paranoid’ mode for the best possible rip, to uncompressed flac, indistinguishable from wav files in listening tests, superior to compressed flac.
NAS access - store your music files internally and/or on your NAS to expand storage for a very large library.

MUSIC PLAYBACK
Control playback through a USB DAC with MPD client applications, or with SqueezeBox client applications
Stream via Ethernet to Streamers or SqueezeBox products
Plays all music file types (unless DRM protected) to your USB DAC:
- Bit-perfect and gapless within the capabilities of your USB DAC
- PCM files up to 32bit/384kHz
- DSD64 & DSD128 (Double DSD) music files using DoP.

CAN IT BE USED WITH LINN AND NAIM STREAMERS?
Antipodes music servers include NAS functionality and have a DLNA server installed for streaming to UPnP devices fr instance Linn and the Naim Uniti is a streamer DAC and a number of customers use one of our Music Servers in preference to using a standard NAS for the simple reason - The sound Improves, and because it is silent you can locate it with your stereo equipment and keep the Ethernet path short.  Plus you have the benefit of auto-ripping integrated into the NAS.  A router is necessary so you would locate an Ethernet switch at your stereo rack and connect to the Uniti and the DS Ref with short Cat6 cables.  

STREAMING VIDEO
Video rendering is not performed on Antipodes Servers. We recommend streaming video from Antipodes Servers to video rendering devices, as this makes it simple and easy to avoid the audio and video getting out of 'sync'.

Antipodes Servers come with Plex Media Server and a DLNA server to stream to UPnP compliant video rendering devices, such as a Smart-TV, networked Blu Ray player, Roku, Boxee Box, WD Live etc. In this mode the Antipodes Server acts as a high quality NAS, with no setup hassles, auto-ripping, fanless/silent operation, superior sound and video quality, and rock-solid stability.

WHY BIT_PERFECT IS NOT ENOUGH AND TIME DOMAIN ACCURACY IS SO IMPORTANT IN DIGITAL

When you store a digital file you are storing 1s and 0s. But when you are transporting a digital file it is done using an analog carrier. The data is 1s and 0s but the method is either an electrical or optical waveform, and any such waveform is subject to potential noise interference. In any high-precision digital application, whether audio or guided missiles, being bit-perfect is not enough.

Being time-perfect is also important. Any clock irregularities or noise interference with the signal affects the precision with which the downstream stages can process the stream, and therefore the precision of the end result. Time-domain distortion in digital is often referred to as jitter. The downstream stages can usually extract the correct 1s and 0s but in a real-time system, such as in playing digital files, noise distortion can obscure the timing of the recognition of a change in the analog waveform that indicates the 1s and 0s, and the resultant analog output is distorted. Even very minor levels of jitter can affect the ability of the ear/brain process to make sense of what it hears, instruments and voices don't sound natural, and musical enjoyment is diminished.

Some digital engineers will disagree with the previous paragraphs, because in their abstracted view of reality digital is resilient to noise interference and able to reject moderate jitter. Other digital engineers will endorse what we are saying because in many fields, reducing noise interference with the waveform carrying the digital data is a major design challenge and critical to the precision of the end result. The argument, if there is one, is really about whether you can hear it.

These issues don’t matter if you are simply going to record these 1s and 0s on a hard disk at the destination. When stored, digital files have no jitter in them. Based on this, digital is argued to be ‘fixable’ by buffering and reclocking the signal, late in the journey, close to the DAC. That is, first write the 1s and 0s to a buffer (which does not store jitter information) and then clock it out with a good clock for a short journey to the DAC chip. This and similar stories have often been told to assert that a DAC is immune to jitter, or totally eliminates it.

But it is simply not true. One key reason why it is not true is that a buffering and reclocking step is by definition a digital process with two sets of clock data in it (even if a common clock was used), and that in itself generates noise interference. Because the writing to the buffer and reading from it occur at the same time, it re-generates at least some of the problem that it purports to solve. Buffering and reclocking is a good idea, and we buffer and re-clock twice in our Music Servers. But it only reduces the noise in a digital stream. It does not eliminate it. Listening tests in a good system make it clear that reducing noise in the digital stream improves the analog output.

We pose the analogy that the buffering and reclocking steps used to clean up digital are similar to the concept of suspension on a car. And the distortions in the waveform carrying the digital data are similar to roughness in the road’s surface. Some suspension systems are more effective than others, but with any suspension system, rougher roads feel rougher, despite the benefits of the suspension system. We contend that it is important to not molest the signal at any point on its playback journey.

This is a key way that Music Servers differ from Streamers. Streamers, using the car analogy, put all the emphasis on the suspension system and none on the smoothness of the road. Transfer over Ethernet using TCP/IP has no timing integrity approaching what is needed for high-end audio, so the money goes into the buffering in the Streamer. Whether this is better than the Music Server method or not is a matter for the ears, and heavily influenced by implementation skill.

Another misleading claim is that the modern DAC chips themselves are resilient to jitter. It isn't easy to generalise about all DAC chips, but simplifying things, DAC chips these days tend to up-sample to a very high rate and then convert to analog at this high rate. This is done in order to use a gentle filter on the output. This is not to be confused with DACs that have separate upsampling stages before the DAC chip, which reduce the upsampling work that has to be done by the DAC chip. DAC chips will perform with greater precision when they have to do less work, and pre-upsampling helps, but successive upsampling has its downsides - so it is a trade-off. The misleading claim that is often made is that this upsampling by the DAC, whether before the DAC chip or in the DAC chip, removes jitter. Technically, the claim is correct but it does not tell the whole truth. The upsampling step results in a low jitter output but the jitter on the input is mapped to broadband noise - effectively meaning some of the bits are changed, so you are trading away bit-perfect data for reduced jitter. Jitter in the input still impacts the sound but in a slightly different way. The immunity to jitter is a myth, and the only value of the upsampling is on the filter needed to get rid of extraneous digital noise in the analog output.

In Antipodes Music Servers the process is about minimising the influences that create jitter at every stage of the journey, AND buffer and reclock at each stage:
• Get a bit perfect read from the CD by ripping in paranoid mode.
• Eliminate any jitter at the first step by storing it on a hard disk for playback later.
• Store the files with zero compression (see below for an explanation why).
• Read from the hard drive, and transport the data with timing integrity all the way to the DAC, with obsessive emphasis on eliminating noise interference with the waveform carrying the digital data.
• Buffer and reclock, using precise clocks fed with heavily regulated power supplies, at each stage of the journey.

There are many misunderstandings on this topic, but we can be concise. Lossless compressed files, such as ALAC and FLAC do not sound as good as AIFF and WAV files. The simple reason is that a compressed lossless file breaks down the music into frames and potentially compresses adjacent frames at different rates.

This means that compressed lossless files play at a rapidly changing bit-rate. This is a recipe for high levels of jitter and such files have to expanded into a buffer and clocked out of the buffer just to play. As explained above buffering and reclocking does not put 'humpty dumpty' back together again, and so there is more jitter in a stream played from a ALAC or FLAC file than from a AIFF or WAV file.

But beware of using WAV files. Apart from there not being a tagging standard for WAV files, the biggest problem is that there is no crc check (almost all file formats on your computer have a method to recover data automatically when it is lost due to small bit-level errors on your hard disks). This means your WAV files will acquire ticks and pops and eventually become unplayable. Therefore we rip to our version of FLAC, which is 100% compatible with the FLAC format, but which has no compression whatsoever. In blind testing the difference between uncompressed FLAC files and compressed FLAC files was reliably recognised, and no difference was recognised between WAV files and uncompressed FLAC files. You can convert your compressed FLAC files to uncompressed FLAC files using dBpoweramp on a PC or XLD on a Mac. Because FLAC is lossless, there is no damage done by having your files in a compressed form and then uncompressing them. They will sound the same as if you ripped to uncompressed FLAC initially.

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Testimonials

Features

DS-Base supplied standard LESS hard drive
UPGRADE to 1TB HDD additional - $150
UPGRADE to 2TB HDD additional - $300
UPGRADE to 4TB HDD additional - $450

UPGRADE to 1TB SSD additional - $1,200 
UPGRADE to 2TB SSD additional - $2,400
Note - client can supply their own 2.5" SSD at time of ordering and we will install at NC, we recommend Samsung Evo 2.5" SSD.

The New 3rd Generation DS uses the same core technology as the DX and so is similarly open, dynamic and musically expressive. New Output technology has dramatically reduced the noise floor and eliminated digital glare and grain.

The DS now comes standard with a new, innovative, hybrid switching/linear power supply that optimises the audio performance of the DS.

REMOTE CONTROL
Smartphone/tablet/PC/Mac remote control
Download any SqueezeBox-compliant app
Auto-discovery of music server and meta-data

VERSATILITY
Music Server/DLNA Server/Streamer
Built-in DAC, RCA & USB output or via UPnP devices
From internal or external storage, or music services

AUTO-RIPPING
Insert the CD and it ejects when ripped
Paranoid mode to Uncompressed Compressed FLAC
Tags/artwork automatically from the internet

PLUG-INS
Install with just a couple of clicks
Access subscriptions - Spotify Connect, Qobuz.....
Smart-mix auto-generates perpetual playlists

FILE FORMATS
Plays wide range of file formats
Spotify Connect
Roon Ready (optimised)
Wav, Aiff, Flac, Alac, Mp3, Aac, Ogg, etc
PCM to 32/384 and DSD64, DSD128 using DoP

MANAGEMENT
Browse to the server's GUI to set it up
Edit/copy/delete music using your PC/Mac
Easy backup/restore with a couple of clicks

Specifications

Available in Satin Black or Silver
All alloy chassis 
Fanless oppoeration
Auto CD Ripper to Uncompressed FLAC
Paranold-mode for Bit-Perfect rips
ISB Audio 2.0 (to 2xDXD & Double DSD) output
SPDIF RCA Output
ANALOG RCA Output
Internal DAC: PCM-32/384,  DSD68 & DSD128
1TB, 2TB or 4TB HDD storage
USB Audio Output (for alternative external DAC etc)
Universal Voltage External SMPS PSU 12vDC 5A
DS Server: 230W x 220D x 80H mm
PSU: 55W x 125D x 55W mm
Shipping weight 5kgs
Warranty 1 Year - All Manufacturing Defects

Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sure I would.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Testimonials

Alex's experience - feedback:

Terry,
Thanks for helping me put together a truly wonderful system. You genuinely listened to what I wanted to achieve and then you expertly crafted together the necessary elements to make it happen. It was a real journey of learning for me so thanks also for being so patient with me and generous with your knowledge. 

Cheers,
Alex..