Antipodes K50 G4 Music Server/Player


I have had this Antipodes K50 music/server player for just over a month now and wanted to write a few words about this wonderful component.  The K50 is paired via a USB cable to my Aeries Cerat Hele'ne DAC bought in early December.  I'm using a Purist Audio Design 30th Anniversary USB cable.  Haven't tried any other USB cables.  It certainly isn't broken so I have no desire to fix it.  I'm not a professional reviewer, just an average joe music lover who raided his IRA (I'm retired now) to fund my addiction to Audio.  Well, considering current events these past few years, I certainly couldn't spend money on travel and since I traveled throughout my entire career (lived in Europe for a while too) I'm happy to stay at home for a while- especially to listen to my stereo.

The Hele'ne DAC, which I reviewed here last month is optimized for USB with a double clocked input.  It can also reclock the coax and AES inputs.  I use my CD transport via the AES input to the DAC.  So I was using a NUC based music server running Rock/Roon with an audio grade network switch and silver plated ethernet cables.  I thought that sounded really good until I got the Hele'ne.  One night I decided to listen to CDs with my Transport and the Hele'ne back in late December.  I was spellbound by the music and listened to 5 CDs that night not skipping a single track.  The next day I tried to A/B between my NUC based server and my CD transport.  I couldn't really tell a difference that way but if I listened for a while to each source then I could hear the difference.  That lead me to upgrade my music server.  Of course the prices are breathtaking and now I really feel like I'm swimming in deep waters.  I was starting to wonder if I were too committed or should I be committed.  I settled on the K50 because of the separate processors and the ability to use a combination of Roon and Squeezeplayer.  My Server is set to use Roon while the Player is running Squeeze.  This lets me continue using the Roon app on my iPad which I am familiar with and I can also still use Roon ARC in the car.  btw- Roon ARC did not work so well with my old server but plays perfectly with the K50.  Still, users report that a Squeeze/Squeeze combo is superior to Squeeze/Roon.

This new K50 is at G4.  This version was released last summer.  I am currently at AMS5.0 (Just updated last week.)  That is the operating system created by Antipodes.  Set up of the K50 is pretty straight forward and easy because all the work of setting it up is done on the Antipodes webpage.  So if everything works as planned it is simple but if not then a session with Antipodes must be scheduled to sort things out.  In my case everything went off without a hitch and I was up and running in short order.  But I will say that the owners manual is rather thin on details about the music server.  It is mostly focused on set-up and how to use the control panel via their website.  For example, I learned only through watching a video interview of the CEO that the K50 should be treated like an amplifier.  He said not to plug into a source outlet on a power conditioner.  It needs a high power outlet to sound its best.  Several options are available with this music server.  It can run Roon, Squeeze, HQ player, MPD and Shairport.  I'm only familiar with Roon and Squeeze now.  The K50, G4 version has a clocked USB output now and a double isolated Ethernet input port.  It is possible that an audio grade network switch is not needed but I have it and I am leaving it in place.  The K50 also has two USB inputs for CD drives- it can rip CDs and place them in the library and it has three SSD ports for up to 24Gb of storage.  I have a 1Gb and a 2Gb SSDs in place.  I ripped a CD directly using my basic computer USB CD drive and it was very easy.  Pop in the CD and the K50 takes over and does all the work.  Just sit back and watch it work.  The K50 is stable- no issues or incidents.  The only thing I have found is that if I turn my DAC on after the K50 is running I get no sound.  I have to restart the K50.  I'm not the only one to experience that, I learned.  The K50 can be placed into standby which leaves the internal clocks running and warm.  Full shutdown of the K50 and it will take a couple of days to sound its best again.  But I can't say that I have heard a big difference after a day of being on.  The K50 also has several output options besides USB.  It has two forms of I2S, coax and AES for outputs as well.  I haven't tried them- no need for me.  The USB to the Hele'ne is wonderful already.  Maybe in time I will do some experimenting.

The Sound.

Magical, wonderful, spellbinding.  The sound is very detailed to the point of distraction.  It takes a little time to learn to tune out the little noises in recordings such as footsteps, bumping things, echo off walls, etc.  But the plus side is the detail adds to the illusion of being there live and up close at the performance.  Paired with the Hele'ne the sound is never fatiguing or harsh.  I can turn it up without feeling like I have cotton in my ears afterward.  The soundstage is expansive.  Combined with my speakers the soundstage goes beyond the three walls and up to the ceiling with some recordings.  I have had a few instances of sounds beside me or even behind me.  I don't like that much in the dark.  Most amazing is how instruments can be at one level and voices up higher above them.  You can visualize a singer standing and playing his guitar because his voice is a couple of feet above the guitar.  I don't know how my speakers/system does that.  I'm certainly still in the honeymoon period for this DAC and Music Server.  The images are stunning and the music comes out of a completely black background.  On some tracks the reverb lasts many seconds.  There is a down side.  Lesser recordings reveal their flaws.  I have run into a handful of tracks where mic clipping is horrible but I don't hear it in the car using Roon ARC.  So sometimes the lack of detail is a good thing.  But the experience of good and great recordings has made it all worth it to me.  The magic, I think is the rhythm and pace of this DAC and Music server combined.  It's the difference, I believe between my CD transport compared to my old NUC based music server.  The music just flow naturally like a record on a good turntable.

I can be tense or anxious and just sitting down to music will melt my anxiety away.  Sometimes I doze off listening to the music and I try to fight sleep because I don't want to miss a beat.  Accolades to my Aeries Cerat and Antipodes dealer for not steering me wrong.  In both cases I had the option of returning these two components in 30 days.  Nice option since I did not get to hear them before buying but in both cases I knew I would not be returning them rather quickly and for certain after a couple of weeks of listening.  Back in 2002 my Brick and Mortar dealer let me take a Pass Labs X350 home for the weekend.  It never went back.  So remember the First Rule of Audio:  Your system sounds great until you hear something better.

128x128tonywinga

tonywinga,

I’ve owned several Antipodes Audio music servers, beginning with the Antipodes DS GT and I agree with your description of Antipodes’s sound quality. I’ve compared Antipodes to the Aurrender N10, N20,and a Lumin X1. I prefer Antipodes in my system. I just sold my Antipodes K21/K41 combination to purchase the Oladra. The Oladra is scheduled to be delivered on 2/21.

@ricred1 

Congratulations on your purchase.  I can only imagine how the Oladra will sound.  Amazing the difference the music server makes in the sound.  And I love the looks of the Oladra.  I wish the K50 had rated some artistic design effort like the Oladra.  The Oladra is a beautiful piece. The flagship of the Antipodes line and they show some pride in their effort with its artistic expression.

One other small thing I find with the K50, the Roon app is much more responsive on my iPad.  I can scroll through albums as fast as I want.  Before with my old NUC based server, if I scrolled too quickly the iPad app would lock up and I would have to restart it.  

I also like the new dashboard in AMSv5 that can be accessed via an app now on my iPad.  It allows me to switch from Roon to Squeeze literally on the fly from my listening chair.  It would be the same with HQ Player if I had a license.  Sure, AMSv4.4 allowed for changing on the fly but access was only through the Antipodes website.  The new app is much quicker and more convenient. 

The Oladra has the most impact on my system than any other component that I have ever heard. The richness of instruments and naturalness of voices, the enveloping soundstage, dynamics, realism, detail while sounding relaxed is unexplainable.