JASON VICTOR SERINUS Antipodes Audio K50 MUSIC SERVER
Stereophile|October 2021
On the face of it, playing and streaming digital music files is a straightforward process.

You direct data from various sources—some local, some “in the cloud”— perhaps via a reclocker/ signal conditioner to a digital-to-analog converter (DAC). “And the music comes out here.”

Not so simple. Bits, it seems, aren’t bits, or not only. A digital datastream is also an analog signal. Noise and other signal errors endemic to multifunction computers not designed primarily for music playback can affect how music sounds. And then there are the practical issues of setting up and connecting everything optimally, and then organizing music files correctly, which can be especially difficult when ripping files from multidisc sets.

These obstacles are why so many audiophiles have either switched to one-box music server solutions or even thrown up their hands and stuck with physical media.

Ever since I began using my Roon Nucleus+ music server, powered by an HDPlex 300 linear power supply rather than Roon’s supplied switching power supply wall wart, I’ve wondered about the quality of other server/ streamers that cost considerably more. I’ve listened to a few, including the Wolf Audio Systems Alpha 3 SX and the Innuos Statement. In June, I requested a review sample of my most expensive yet, the one-box, flagship server made by New Zealand company Antipodes Audio, the K50 ($15,000). My contacts at the company were Mark Jenkins, Antipodes’s CEO, and Mark Cole, the company’s head of service, sales and marketing. Which meant that, in addition to figuring out how to operate a unique device with multiple choices of inputs, outputs, servers, and players, I had to figure out which Mark was which.

Jenkins, who was raised on Bizet, Puccini, Gershwin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, and the Rolling Stones, spent several decades in the digital transmission, broadcasting, and telecommunications fields before he entered the hi-fi industry in 2004. He focused on cables at first and then turned to music servers.

SPECIFICATIONS

Description Dedicated audio server running Fedora Linux. Contains an Intel i7 processor with 16GB RAM, up to 24TB user-provided/ installed SSD. Digital data inputs: Gigabit Ethernet (RJ45), two USB3-A for data discs, dual USB-A for external ripper, two servicing ports, BNC TTL 75 ohm for word clock. Digital audio out: Direct stream Ethernet (RJ45) to streamer; USB 2.0 outputs PCM to 32/768, DoP to DSD512, Native DSD to DSD512; S/PDIF (RCA and BNC) outputs PCM to 24/192, DoP to DSD64; AES3 outputs PCM to 24/192, DoP to DSD64; I2S HDMI and I2S RJ45 outputs PCM to 32/384, DoP to DSD256, Native to DSD512.

Formats supported: WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, AAC, M4A, MP3, OGG, DSF, DFF, DXD, MQA.

Dimensions 17.5 (445mm) W × 4.7 (120mm) H × 14.5 (370mm) D. Weight: 42lb (19kg).

Finish Black.

Serial number of unit reviewed K50B0502. Made in New Zealand.

Price $15,000. Approximate number of North American dealers: 12. Warranty: 2 years, 3 years with product registration.

Manufacturer Antipodes Audio Limited, Suite 1, 2 Ake Ake Place, Otaki 5512, New Zealand. Tel: (303) 495-2260 x116. Web: antipodes.audio.

“I was struck with a conundrum back in the ’90s,” Jenkins explained in an email; we also communicated extensively in WhatsApp. “Using computer audio opened up my library of music to me in a way that playing a record or a CD did not. Yet the record and CD sounded better. … This was despite me using a couple of different reclockers and some high-end DACs that claimed to fix jitter completely [and] render the limitations of the source irrelevant. … So I decided that the simple explanation that ‘data is just data’ needed to be signal to fix things after the event. … [Antipodes] starts with audio design from the ground up. examined.”

Experimentation led Jen kins to the belief that every component in a stereo system matters. “For computer audio, the idea that you can do a bad job at the source and fix it later is simply out of line with what I hear. … Many of our competitors focus on either a low-cost or a high-power computer to crunch numbers; then they rely on things like slow linear power supplies and add-on devices designed to filter noise or regenerate the signal to fix things after the event. … [Antipodes] starts with audio design from the ground up.

“As explained on our technology page,1 we believe the industry has focused too heavily on noise and adopted noise reduction techniques that compromise bandwidth.” Instead, Antipodes aims to ensure a high-quality digital signal from the outset and to preserve bandwidth. “We believe this sets the sound of our music servers well apart from those of our competitors.

“The problems of early digital have been leading people in the wrong direction. In the beginning, we were largely trying to get rid of the harshness and nasty top-end noise that came about through (a) using hard drives and (b) interference with the audio signal. A lot of the way that people dealt with that noise was to slow everything down with slow linear power supplies, noise filters, and regeneration, which tends to act like a filter as well. The fundamental difference between our approach and what we see most of our competitors doing is that we approach everything from the ground up rather than applying Band-Aids after the event. I think we are also unique in our focus on bandwidth as well as noise rather than focusing exclusively on noise.

“Our goal is to provide a perfect squarewave to the DAC, … [one that] is able to turn around a corner at a perfect right angle and doesn’t have wiggles and squiggles that confuse timing. … We started to work on improving bandwidth rather than reducing noise [because] if we improved bandwidth, then life, verve, vigor and emotional involvement— the stuff that makes you smile, cry, or dance—came through. … If we allowed noise at the beginning of the signal, we would have to start filtering and slowing things down to get rid of the problem.” Instead of “starting with rubbish, we design from the ground up to minimize noise. Because of that, we can also maximize bandwidth.”

In one of numerous follow-up chats with the two Marks, Jenkins noted that worldwide chip shortages had forced a few changes to the K50’s design and that the beta software I’d be receiving wouldn’t be bug-free.2 Nor was an updated manual available. What was consistent with the previous iteration of K50s, however, was that it honors Jenkins’s “personal bias that timbre must be accurate” for music to have life.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

RELATED STORIES

MALCOLM JENKINS STARTS VENTURE CAPITAL FUND WITH NFL PLAYERS

Malcolm Jenkins has teamed with fellow NFL players to launch a venture capital fund.

2 mins read
AppleMagazine
October 16, 2020

MALCOLM JENKINS STARTS VENTURE CAPITAL FUND WITH NFL PLAYERS

Malcolm Jenkins has teamed with fellow NFL players to launch a venture capital fund.

2 mins read
Techlife News
Techlife News #467

Shaping the future of aging

AARP IS HELPING GENERATIONS OF PEOPLE SOLVE NEW PROBLEMS AND MAKE THE MOST OF NEW OPPORTUNITIES

2 mins read
Fast Company
September 2020

PRIDE IN PEOPLE POWER IN PERFORMANCE

FOR ADVANCED MANUFACTURING AND MACHINING GIANT PETERSEN INC. , PUTTING IDEAS INTO ACTION IS THE WAY TO SUCESS.

5 mins read
The BOSS Magazine
July 2020

Shoots from the hip

Some people were shocked that Jordan Jenkins had to “settle” for a one-year deal for $5 million.

7 mins read
NY Jets Confidential
May 2020

WALL FLOWERS

It’s official—wallpaper is back and better than ever.

4 mins read
Baltimore magazine
April 2020

Los Jenkins amenazan con demandar a México por “persecución”

En el pleito de los millonarios Jenkins está en juego el futuro de la Universidad de las Américas Puebla, de cuyo patronato formaron parte antes de ser demandados por el primogénito, Guillermo Jenkins, debido a que presuntamente se apropiaron de casi todo el patrimonio de la fundación que lleva su apellido y lo trasladaron a paraísos fiscales. Los hermanos, ya con órdenes de aprehensión, acudieron a un bufete legal de Washington y amenazan con demandar a México en el marco del T-MEC por “persecución” de autoridades federales y estatales contra ellos, en su calidad de “inversionistas estadunidenses”.

9 mins read
Revista Proceso
October 17, 2021

Una universidad, dos autoridades

El viernes 16 el forcejeo por el control de la Universidad de Las Américas Puebla se recrudeció cuando Luis Ernesto Derbez dio a conocer que el Juzgado Tercero de Distrito en Materia de Amparo Civil con sede en Puebla otorgó una suspensión provisional que confirma al anterior patronato presidido por Margarita Jenkins de Landa y deja sin validez al nuevo órgano que nombró la Junta para el Cuidado de las Instituciones de Asistencia Privada, así como a Armando Ríos Piter como rector interino. Horas después Rodrigo Gurza Cárdenas, abogado del patronato avalado por el gobierno de Puebla, anunció que se impugnará esa resolución ante el Tribunal Colegiado de Circuito y dio por hecho que Ríos Piter seguirá al frente de la UDLAP.

10 mins read
Revista Proceso
July 18, 2021

MAKING TRACKS

BARRY JENKINS’ ADAPTATION OF PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING NOVEL THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD PROVIDES AN ILLUMINATING NEW PERSPECTIVE ON A HARROWING PART OF US HISTORY. TOTAL FILM SPEAKS TO DIRECTOR JENKINS AND STARS THUSO MBEDU AND JOEL EDGERTON ABOUT THE YEAR’S MOST REVOLUTIONARY TV SERIES.

10+ mins read
Total Film
May 2021

FRESH PRINCE

DC’s warrior goddess returns in Wonder Woman 1984, a sequel that gives her new friends, new foes, new threads, and a whole new decade to contend with. But just how will Diana Prince cope with the era of excess and decadence? Total Film meets director Patty Jenkins and stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal to find out.

10+ mins read
Total Film
July 2020