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 Reference 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 DXe?
Sure I would.
The DXe 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 Auckland, 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.
But if you want a DS Reference or DXe server, it’s off to the For Sale boards for you. Neither model feature in Antipodes Audio’s recently updated line-up. With Jenkins recently establishing representation in New York, ready to expand sales into the USA, Antipodes now offers three server models:
The entry-level Antipodes DS (US$2700+) ships with a 1TB HDD and features both analog 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 and to be restricted to silver.
Next step up the ladder is the DV (US$5000+), 1TB or 4TB HDD each with custom firmware, linear power supply. Can be optioned without storage for use with a NAS. Full-width case. Black or silver available.
The bid daddy is the DX (US$6500+, pictured above). 1TB or 2TB 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 DXe 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/DXe/DV owners must surely be netting similar joy – probably the number one reason why Jenkins is scaling his distribution network to include ‘Murica.
Further information: Antipodes Audio