If you thought that sonically, streaming would automatically leapfrog CD spins, you've not heard a superior disc transport in far too long. Never mind 'antique' dismissals from the numbers warriors in the PC-fi brigade. For ears-on performance, playing silver discs on a premium set like C.E.C.'s which sidesteps the serial S/PDIF protocol and doesn't connect to the Internet remains the gold standard. Antipodes now matched that head on to no longer make apologies for all of streaming's lazy conveniences. Sadly the 'hi-res' movement has confused the issue. Still, if you believe that deeper joys await beyond the Redbook standard, streaming into a 32/384kHz capable DAC will give you that satisfaction. You must just find enough true not resampled hi-res files of music you actually want to hear; and then convince yourself that those sound better than ordinary if premium CD.
As a format, I'm no proponent of DSD. But I've done just enough comparisons for a personal opinion. That goes directly to the heart of today's matter even if you dismiss my original opinion. To my ears, comparing DSD files to their PCM equivalents had PCM sound crisper, more precisely sorted and more lit up on top. DSD was softer, dimensionally more aerated and generally sweeter. This pack of qualities felt more organic. PCM's attributes suggested more detail. In similar fashion, the C.E.C. twins shifted our Jay's/Denafrips digital separates into the organic side. Meanwhile the best servers I'd reviewed before had approached or matched our residents. Now Antipodes equaled C.E.C. This points out a difference which in objective terms isn't big but which in subjective terms morphed the gestalt or feel of the playback. How so?
I believe that behind many digital/analog discussions regardless of objective markers like more/less bass, higher/lower dynamics or noise, the core difference people aim at is a subjective shift from being focused on raw detail resolution to relaxing into a softer, more organic, fluid and spacious feel. If true, the special appeal of Antipodes, just like C.E.C.'s anachronistic digital belt drive and discrete resistor-ladder converter, is that same gestalt. Having recently returned from a factory visit to the Ansuz, Aavik and Børresen premises in Denmark, I'd heard direct comparisons between first vinyl pressings and quality CD. With those in mind, it feels relevant to call out the Antipodes CX/EX Solution as being modeled on the analogue not typical detail-über-alles digital experience. Just how far it ultimately gets in that analogue quest, i.e. whether it can equal perfectionist vinyl, remains for those to determine who can conduct such direct A/B. I'm simply convinced that regardless of matching—these are, after all, two very different means of sound reproduction—it is about the same gestalt. In the digital realm, the general DSD fingerprint or flavor is a closer equivalent for it than PCM. It's not about higher resolution in the conventional sense. It's about more profound listener relaxation from a more holistic experience.
In use, CX determines the pathways for EX. That's why CX gets powered up first. Once its blinking green light ring has stabilized which takes a while, EX is booted up. Once its green light is steady, it's all systems go. At power-down, the sequence reverses. With Roon the default GUI, Antipodes rely on the most popular such software to likely be familiar to most if not all would-be buyers. If not, allocate $119/yr for a Roon subscription or $499 for a life-time license. As a headless horseman with no screen or keyboard to access said Roon GUI, you'll also need a smartphone or tablet to run Roon remote on. With 4'000+ albums inside my Roon window, access was virtually instantaneous with no glitches or delays.
In this component sector, Aurender, Innuos and Lumin have become some of the most elite brands. After my time with the Solution from the other Down Under, I think that not only do Antipodes Audio belong into the same league but today might just rule it. It's admittedly perverse that, after streaming was promoted as a simpleton "any old laptop with USB cable and WiFi" thing, doing it right in the high-end turns out to be as potentially fussy and critical as optimizing ambitious turntables. Allocating discrete chassis and circuits to serve and render could seem like overkill and certainly comes at a price. But the result also looks and operates like hifi. It eliminates the migraines of OS updates which cyclically interfere with base operations for PC-based music playback. It eliminates computer viruses and all other ignominious rewards of generic computer ownership. It tames the volatile PCfi beast without you having to do anything about it. As David Graham at Elite Audio UK confirmed—thus unlike our outlier household with dedicated music computer fitted with maximal RAM, Audirvana 3 and external reclocker—their clients don't accept a regular computer in their hifi sanctuaries. Those who want the very best-sounding streaming solution from Elite buy the Antipodes two-box solution.
Next time I talk to Lynn & Kevin Scott at Living Voice UK, I'll jump those four immortal words at them:
You have been served!
Once I explain myself, I'm convinced that they'll be pleased as punch. Should you too pursue playback without compromise to have wanted to get serious about streaming, be that local and/or cloud-based music, Mark Jenkins at -43.487570 latitude and 172.718310 longitude has your solution in today's CX + EX combo. And should your household be WiFi allergic like ours, simply use a hardwired computer screen as your graphic user interface. That cuts all reliance on microwave radiation for networked audio. 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?
The answer is simple. Live and learn.
Finally, if you need/want BNC, coax, AES/EBU or I²S digital outputs, Antipodes offer this P2 reclocker with femto clock which doubles as an anti-vibration platform for either the CX or EX. The P2's USB input connects to one of their USB outputs. Presto, you can now output S/PDIF and I²S-over-HDMI—the latter good for 32/384 PCM, DSD256 via DoP and native DSD512—to multiple converters. There's even a word-clock input. If your digital pipeline from Antipodes to your DAC of choice is USB, you don't need the P2. "The P2 does not have a clock slave connection. That would not bear much fruit. It is a clock master. With Ethernet or USB, the dominant clock is at the receiving end. With the outputs on the P2, the dominant clock is at the sending end and so there are advantages in slaving a DAC to the P2 with the word clock connection. Some will argue the reverse but the arguments are not worth boring ourselves on."
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