Antipodes CORE Music Server

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Audiophilia has reviewed many Antipodes Audio products, both cables and digital gear. All can be accessed by a simple search of our database. 

Most, if not all, have been awarded an Audiophilia Star Component Award. This is no small feat considering our editorial protocols and as each was reviewed by different staff with varying styles and tastes. No other audio company has received such uniform accolades in these virtual pages. 

The brains behind all this audio goodness is Mark Jenkins, CEO and designer at Antipodes Audio. Jenkins is an audio zealot, super focused to a fault especially where the excellence of his gear is concerned.  

The quixotic New Zealander is continually improving his products. You won't find a company with a more loyal customer base and better follow up service than Antipodes. Considering the southern hemisphere location, much of the service is done in very timely electronic communication and also by remote appointments using the Team Viewer program. The system is remarkably effective. I'd like to thank Tony, Antipodes' tech for his expertise and quick answers to my many questions.

As digital is getting somewhat complicated these days -- chip sets, DACs, Renderers, Streamers, Servers, Roon Ready, MQA -- it's almost the Wild West out there, I asked Jenkins for a précis on his new CORE:

Hi Anthony. The CORE is a super high quality board that is firmware tuned for very low electronic noise. To achieve this low noise level and yet use a very powerful full desktop quad core Intel i5 chip, is remarkable. So, it has the power to run demanding apps and DSP calculations on the fly and still sound great. That is a big breakthrough. The outboard power supply is really just a function of providing a small footprint device. Our flagship DX is a full width item and uses an internal power supply. The ODAPS technology is all about tailoring a linear power supply for high end digital audio. How noise is minimized and where (in a frequency spectrum sense) the residual noise is placed is very important, and we wind the transformers by hand to control both electronic and magnetic interference effects.

Antipodes' web script writer has a way with words. The results of Jenkins' gear can be musically profound and the words explaining the technology and research that go into producing his gear can seem daunting to the unread. Further to Jenkins' personal thoughts about the CORE, the website continues:

'The Antipodes CORE is built around a very powerful computing engine, for demanding server apps like Roon [installed for this review--Ed] and for fast response with large music libraries. You can think of the CORE as a high power version of the EDGE, delivering similar sound quality, but with much higher processing power.

The CORE is a high power, high-end music server and renderer that will store your music and play directly to a USB DAC. You don't need to use a separate server and renderer to get the best of both worlds - power and great sound - because the CORE delivers both.

But the CORE can also be used as a powerful Server-only, such as to use the most demanding features in Roon or to organize a large music library, and play to Roon Ready DACs or to an Antipodes EDGE or an Antipodes DX.'

My CORE was delivered with the separate ODAPS power supply which tethers to the CORE via an umbilical. To be clear, the unit featured Antipodes' new V4H Circuit, supporting Roon DSP to DSD512 & PCM32/768, no CD ripper (Antipodes' new platform for off drive ripping is coming next month), and had 1 Terabyte SSD storage installed. I loaded my complete Antipodes DS Reference Server FLAC files with ease with lots of storage left over. If you need more storage, you can add an additional 2.5" 7mm Sata HDD or SSD. They simply slide into the rear slots (see photo below).

The ODAPS or Optimised Digital Audio Power Supply is designed for computer audio needs to target different outcomes other than a CD Player or for an analog component. Jenkins explains:

It is about managing the frequency spectrum of residual noise and minimizing flux leakage in certain areas.  Our research in this area and the power supply designs are a key part of the sound quality of our servers.

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The rear of the unit maintains its simplicity of purpose.  USB, ethernet, power, storage. 

The rear of the unit maintains its simplicity of purpose.  USB, ethernet, power, storage. 

Sound

My CORE was hooked up to two DACs during the review period--either Ben Zwickel's remarkable Mojo Audio Mystique v3 or my steadfast reference Bel Canto Design DAC 3.5 Control Preamp. Both are superb and offer the best of digital without any constriction--beautiful, clear and refined. The CORE loved them both. 

If you have had any experience with Antipodes servers, you'll know the Jenkins Mantra--no unwanted noise any where in the chain. He hates it. Electronic noise is like his White Whale. The lack of any type of electrical or physical noise (the unit is fanless) represents itself with incredibly low noise floors. The CORE was superb in this regard. It's so low, that it almost becomes a non issue. Thus, the music is completely unencumbered, free to do its masters' musical bidding. As such, dynamics can be staggeringly loud (not constricted) or ridiculously soft. Even when playing very quietly, instruments do not lose the center of their sound; their timbre is left intact. Try clarinets throughout Firebird or Petrouchka as demonstration.

Weight, slam, definition, too, are all there as they are with most well designed digital kit. But it's the clarity of musical purpose the CORE allows that inspires the playing of file after file rather than LP after LP. Everything sounds very refined, in its place, just as it should as very discerning audiophiles expect.

I loaded my FLAC files on to the storage but it came with a smattering of what manufacturers like to think reviewers may like. One track (not the entire piece, unfortunately) was Reiner's RCA of Bartok's seminal Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. At times incredibly quiet, other times wonderfully vibrant, and others, downright frigging creepy (Kubrick used it in The Shining). The two exceptional DACs ensured a wide and deep soundstage but that subterranean-like noise floor allowed the instrumental timbres (including Bartok pizzicato and very hard xylophone strikes in its highest register) to be heard clearly, and the heaviest string tuttis to have maximum musical effect. What a thrill ride. 

Used in conjunction with a very good power conditioner and the aforementioned DACs, the clarity was stunning. The dreamy opening of Brahms' 4th Symphony can be too dreamy (and rhythmically undefined--exactly what Brahms was not looking for) if left in too fanciful a conductor's hands. Sir Simon Rattle is a as close to a genius conductor there is and he dreams up a lot. But there it is, as defined by the CORE-- the bows of the Berliner Philharmoniker fiddles floating almost indistinctly to get the sound Rattle requires. Yet the rhythm of the quarter note up beat and the same in the first complete bar are heard-- a clear idea expressed as a dream. I love it when electronic components allow that. Many digital components sound much the same. 'How "accurate"'. But, sitting in the middle of row 15 of the stalls in a good hall, one hears all the subtleties, both in timbre and rhythm. The CORE coupled with quality ancillaries allows us in the hall. A very rare treat I usually find only with vinyl. 

The CORE comes 'Roon Ready'. The guys at Roon hooked me up with a year's membership, for which I am truly thankful. It's a wonderful product. Consider me a big fan. Karl Sigman reviewed the Roon software masterfully for Audiophilia. With Roon handling my extensive library and with TIdal HiFi support, it was simple navigating everything on my iPhone (Android, too). This ease of use never gets old. 

Summary

I've been very fortunate in my role as a reviewer to have spent time with three remarkable digital products from Antipodes (and their superb Reference Cables). And each digital box built on the previous models' strengths and improved them. Both made the centrepiece of a very satisfying digital front end. The new Antipodes CORE Music Server builds on the excellence of its earlier siblings and takes digital delivery to a whole new level. It's not inexpensive at USD$4350, but you'll be getting the best storage and delivery solution for your digital front end.

Before CORE, I'd been playing LPs nonstop and yet CORE has reaffirmed my faith in digital playback. It's a star in anyone's audio system. Very highly recommended.

Further information: Antipodes Audio

OPTIONS

  • Silver or Black
  • CD Ripping
    • BYO USB CD Ripper, or
    • Ripper/Platform Unit (Avail. Oct '17)
  • Pre-Installed Storage Options
    • No Storage
    • 1TB SSD
    • 2TB SSD
    • 4TB SSD
  • Owners Can Easily Add More Storage
    • One or Two 2.5" 7mm Sata HDD, or
    • One or Two 2.5" 7mm Sata SSD

HARDWARE FEATURES

  • High Power V4H Circuit
  • Fanless All Alloy
  • ODAPS All Linear External PSU
  • USB Audio 2.0 Output
    • PCM to 32bit / 768kHz PCM
    • DoP to DSD512, Native DSD to DSD512

SOFTWARE FEATURES

  • Music Playback Options
    • Roon Server & Roon Ready
    • SqueezeBox & Squeezelite
    • MPD
    • DLNA/UPnP/OpenHome
    • HQPlayer NAA
    • Shairport (Apple Airport Emulation)
    • SONOS Integration
    • Plex Media Server
  • Admin Applications
    • Find My Antipodes
    • CD-Import Auto-Ripper
    • Playback App Switcher
    • External Drive Mounter
    • Browser-Based Setup GUI
    • SMB Server For File Management & Downloads

POWER

  • Less Than 25W While Running
  • 110-120VAC or 220-240VAC Set At Factory

CORE DIMENSIONS

  • 240mm (w) x 215mm (d) x 75mm (h)
  • 9.5in (w) x 8.5in (d) x 3in (h)

PSU DIMENSIONS

  • 195mm (w) x 107mm (d) x 96mm (h)
  • 7.7in (w) x 4.2in (d) x 3.8in (h)

WARRANTY

  • 24 Months Return To Vendor
  • Extendable To 36 Months By Online Registration