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Antipodes Audio DS Reference review (6Moons)

  • Backstory. I first met Mark Jenkins at the Melbourne Audio and AV Show last year. I’d heard of Jenkins’ Antipodes Audio but thought they were strictly a cable company. How wrong I was!

    Jenkins had made the jump across the ditch from Auckland to showcase a prototype of his (subsequently released) DX music server in Addicted To Audio’s two channel room. A room that was also playing host to gear from April Music and AURALiC. I chatted with AURALiC’s Xuanqian Wang for a little while before being introduced to April Music’s Eric Suh, photographed below. You can see the DX server on the left. I’d not given it a second look as an Astell&Kern AK120 was already providing the digital audio feed.


    I heard someone behind me suggest they “switch over to the server now” and sat down to savour some quiet time as a new source was selected on the Eximus DP1 and Ai700 integrated pairing. The music flowed again but this time it was different – harder, faster, better, stronger (to quote Daft Punk). – superior to the AK120 by a country mile. The change really blew my hair back. What the hell had just happened?

    So went my first exposure to an Antipodes Audio music server.

    “John, have you met Mark?”, enquired A2A’s mainman George Poutakidis. No, I hadn’t.


    Mark Jenkins is a softly spoken, humble fellow. He doesn’t brag about what he does or bag the competition. Two rare qualities for someone working in the audiophile world. He spoke quietly and enthusiastically about the behind-the-scenes R&D that begat the DX server. When I asked, “Would the entry-level DS Reference best my MacMini + USB converter?” I could see Jenkins have trouble choking back the chuckle. “I’ll send you one and you can decide for yourself”. “OK!”.

    That was October 2013.


    The Antipodes review unit arrived in November. It hasn’t left my main system since – it’s not going anywhere. I purchased it even before I began to formalise the review commentary. The DS Reference’s sound is streets ahead of the outgoing, pimped-out MacMini. I could easily pick them blind.

    DIY-copycatters beware: if you think you’ll pop the lid to find an array of off-the-shelf components so that you can build your own for less, best of luck to ya. There’s a custom power supply (which you can’t buy in the shops) and a Western Digital hard drive that runs bespoke firmware (also not available for purchase anywhere).  The Fedora-Linux/Vortexbox operating system and Music Player Daemon playback engine have also seem some major scripting amelioration.

    It’s now February and my formal review of the DS Reference music server has just landed on 6Moons. See here. Enjoy. I did. And am. This server/streamer deserves every square inch of its Blue Moon award.


    The DS Reference music server sells for AU$3992.

    Further information: Antipodes Audio | Addicted To Audio

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. Nice work on the review. Over a decade ago when I purchased the best transport I could afford and had a “lesser” DAC, I was poopooed on until they heard the sound/ music . Here in your review I read that the transport not the DAC is more important . Yes…. Absolutely. Will I buy one of these ? Most likely. Better start saving now.

      • I guess one’s DAC will sound better if it receives less jitter / electrical noise in the first place. And yes, in some ways I prefer the Antipodes + budget DAC over a more expensive DAC + tricked-out MacMini.

    2. I have reservations about the ‘server’ concept. Large financial outlay, minimal flexibility. It may sound great TODAY, but there is tomorrow. Digital is progressing at the blink of an eye. Last year it was all about ESS. Now – who cares. Moving on. I will never be mated to some silicone for any period of time again….

      • But that blink of an eye is pivotal to good sound and with someone like Antipodes always improving the code, one isn’t locked in to a static product (at least not on the software side). I must’ve missed the memo about 2013 being ‘all about ESS’. 😉

    3. A bit out of my budget, but impressive nonetheless. A lot of audiophools tend to give MPD the cold shoulder, but it’s a very impressive piece of software, and has only gotten better over the years. Even on lowly hardware (much cheaper than a Mac Mini), you’ll hear a difference between MPD (especially with a CLI frontend) compared to many other free competitors.

      Props to Mr. Jenkins for including Mytek drivers out-of-the-box, since those can (in my experience using linkweater’s Linux ALSA driver – hosted on github) be a bit finnicky to build on many distros.

      Do Antipodes have their own repository – I assume this server uses a stripped custom kernel of sorts, along with other goodies – for software updates/upgrades, or do they have some sort of agreement with the Vortexbox team?

    4. Just wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed your review. I’ve been looking at Antipodes for some time and it was great to see a reviewer finally get their hands on one. Now my question: hmmm a DS or DX? Btw, I also think the overall quality of your review writing is steadily improving. I think you are getting close to the top of the reviewing tree. So thank you for the effort you put into your craft. Finally: I hear whispers of a TotalDac review. OMG awesome! Now if only you still have the DS when you put it through its paces. Would love to hear your thoughts on that one. My current aspirational combo.

      • @James – thank you but I think I’ve a way to go yet.

        Your DAC whisperer was only half right. I’ll soon be reviewing the TotalDAC USB cable w/ filter.

    5. Feel i need to chime in. I have the original DS version with a outboard PS for close to a year now and i have to say even with that it is sonically a good step higher than my previous macmini/audirvana. Easier to set up and even easier to maintain stability without having to re-boot either the macmini or audirvana half the time.

      And few months after i bought the DS, Mark was able to help configure my new DAC usb driver via a remote session; at 3am NZ time. That’s incomparable service!

    6. Hi, John,
      Do you know who distributes these servers in the USA? BTW, this review is what I was hoping to read – and to be authored by you…

      • Thanks Rob.

        I’m not sure who handles Antipodes stateside. You’re probably best off contacting Mark Jenkins directly via his website.

    7. Makes me wonder what the gap would be with a SSD MacMini run headless (monitor turned off) with both wi-fi and BT disabled on the hardware side, and unnecessary s/w services such as spotlight and networking services disabled from the GUI. Very easy to screen share from another Mac, as well as with a PC, iDevice or Cylon Android using a flavor on VNC.

      • I dunno man – I’d love to say it’d be close but the Antipodes has so much hardware and software customisation (that goes waaaay beyond running headless or SSD drive) that I suspect the Mac would still be way noisier and more jittery.

        Also – what price a 2TB SSD? 😮

        • I’m sure the h/w is more optimized, but I wouldn’t surprised if a lot of it has to do with less OS abstraction layers with the streamlined Linux build. I have this feeling that despite good ease-of-use, features, and reliability, both A+ and JRiver 19 Mac are leaving a lot of performance on the table. This could be one of the reasons that many JPlay users swear by that product.

          • Maybe. Then there’s the fully tweaked version of MPD and the twin buffer/re-clock stages on the Antipodes.

    8. off topic, but will you be reviewing those Evolution MMMicroOnes at some point? I’ve been interested in those for a while.

    ALO Audio ready ‘The Key’ portable USB DAC/headphone amp

    KIH #6: (Over)-loading the room