What makes One Music Server Sound Better than Another?

So this week my Mojo Audio DejaVu music server that I have used for the past 2-3 years crapped out. Benjamin at Mojo was more than helpful and the DejaVu is on its way to Mojo Audio where it will make a full recovery.

Thankfully, I still have my Antipodes DX2 Gen 3 (their former flagship) music server so I hooked it up. After wrestling with Roon protocols, transfers, and set-up menus, I was able to get it going so I have music. The DX and my Sonore Sig Rendu SE opt. are both connected to my network so the DX (like the DejaVu), is only being used as a Roon core and the Sig Rendu SE serves as the Roon endpoint for streaming Tidal and Qobuz, with a direct USB connection to my DAC.

The point of this thread is to ask, how come I perceive the the DejaVu server as sounding better than the Antipdes DX? In fairness, the differences I perceive are not great but it seems the DejaVu is fuller sounding, more tonally rich, and bolder. Is this why some here spend $10K+ on a Grimm, Taiko or something else?

If a server is basically a computer, sending digital information to a streamer/endpoint and, assuming that digital information is transmitted asynchronously and reclocked by the DAC’s master clock, and assuming noise is not the issue (i.e., both units are quiet and there is an optical break between the network and both the server and endpoint) then what are the technical reasons one should sound better than the other? It is not that I want to spend $10K+ on a music server with a lifespan of maybe 5 years before becoming obsolete, but I would like to understand what more you are getting for your money. So far, the best I can come up with is lower internal noise as the major factor.

As a side note to the above, when I thought things looked hopeless for getting set up, I scheduled a support session with Antipodes and, although I lucked into the solution before the meeting time, Mark Cole responded ready to help. Setting up the session was super easy and reminded me of the superior level of support I had come to enjoy from Antipodes during the time that the DX was my primary server, including multiple updates and 2 or 3 hardware upgrades, which prolonged the service life of the DX. Good products and good company.



I believe this thread is which SERVER sounds best, as opposed to which STREAMER? 

But in answer to your question regarding a cat 6 cable connecting the K41 and the K22, yes, confirmed, though not my first choice and likely not the final solution. I have two EtherREGEN switches each fed by a Sonore Module Deluxe (FMC).  The goal was to feed pure fiber to each respective Antipodes unit. I was using a DH Labs SilverSonic out from the eR to the K41 and felt it was quite articulate and neutral. One day after a month it simply stopped communicating with the server. I sold it after confirming it worked just fine otherwise . Can only presume either the  K41 is very particular or the stiffness of the cable is such that it has a hard time maintaining a solid connection to the eR. 

I purchased a new Synergistic Foundation SX. Never could get it to communicate with the K41. Returned it. Meanwhile, a basic Amazon cheapie cat 6 worked just fine and sounded “ok.”  It too is quite stiff. A friend suggested I dig out the Antipodes provided cat6 cable from the boxed and try that. Rather than connect from the eR to the K41 I decided to take the advice of the factory and connect the two units as you’ve guessed.  It actually sounds great - as good as the system has sounded. And yet…I feel I can do better, IF I can find a quality cat6 or cat7 cable that can communicate with the server. Soon I’ll contact Mike at Avanti Audio as it seems he may be onto something that may resolve my issue. I’ll pick his brain to see what he has to say. It can be tricky business I’ve learned and apparently shielding can be a determinant. To this extent I confess Ethernet cabling can be a bit out of my realm. 

But clearly I like what fiber has done overall for my system. Otherwise I’d not have spent $600 for a 2nd eR, 1k for a Farad LPS, $500 for a 2nd Sonore Module, not to mention close to $300 for a lair of high performance SFP transceivers and fiber. It’s been an expensive lesson, but oh well. 

As to your question which STREAMER I had before the K22, I had  the Sonore Signature Rendu and loved it. I had recently upgraded the power supply and went to the Synergistic purple fuse and it sounded so good it left me wanting more.  Enter Antipodes. Is Antipodes better?  I think so, but not by a wide margin. I think the sound is “bigger.”  I hear a greater  depth of the notes and a wee bit more detail with a nominally wider soundstage. But it is the server that I value most. The software is great and I place a huge premium on how Antipodes supports Squeeze. 

Correct, I did mean to say server- I stand corrected. I wanted to know what you used before the K41 SERVER. For my music "streaming" I have had 2 different one-box server/streamer solutions, so I have a hard time differentiating between the two words/functions. And why did they both have to start with an S? We should have enforced the "renderer" term. Thanks for the response. 



"I believe this thread is which SERVER sounds best, as opposed to which STREAMER?" 

You are correct that the original intent was about servers not streamers, but not so much about which server sounds best as about trying to understand why they sound different from each other at all.  

After spending more time with my back-up Antipodes DX server, I am not convinced that I hear much if any sonic difference between it and my Mojo Audio server.   I have however found that I perceive sonic differences between streamers which, if true, would imply that it might be more likely to perceive sonic differences between one-box server/streamers, such as Grimm MU1 or Antipodes K50 than between stand-alone servers.  This would be especially true if the streamer is processing the signal in some way.  My own Mojo Audio is a one-box solution that includes a JCAT USB card but I have found it sounds just as good when used as a networked server-only, being played through separate streamer/endpoints.  I will soon be trying a SGC sonicTransporter i9 optical (Gen 3) so I will then be able to compare the SQ I am getting between three different units used as servers-only; the Mojo DejaVu, Antipodes DX2 Gen3, and the sonicTransporter i9 optical (Gen 3).

I have had a Small Green Computer and I think Andrew Gillis builds great machines. And I do not believe that our server can contribute to the ultimate sound quality of a system nearly as much as a streamer or player. That much is certain to me all things being equal.  

for me, what makes the Antipodes K 41 server such a value proposition is it’s support of Squeeze .  SGC offers support but it is crude and nothing at all like Antipodes as in not even close and far more cumbersome to switch apps.   I think you might be hard-pressed to discern a difference in sound quality between the two.  However, if you place a premium and Squeeze, beware of the Grimm unit as last I heard, it supports Roon ONLY  You might want to double  check.


good luck! 



Kudos to you for this observation:

“I have however found that I perceive sonic differences between streamers which, if true, would imply that it might be more likely to perceive sonic differences….”

How refreshing to hear someone who “perceives” a difference recognize the limitations of their subjective impressions.  In my opinion, such humility is key to learning, continuous improvement, and enlightenment.  

The reason why I prefer Stereophile to The Absolute Sound is that Stereophile adds John Atkinson’s measurements to the subjective listening reviews.  And I think it forces the reviewers to be much more disciplined in their descriptions of their listening impressions.  If an amp rolls off the highs, and they don’t hear it, they look bad.  As I’ve said repeatedly, measurements can’t tell you everything in the analog domain, but they’re really important.