V4 Upgrades

The introduction of the Antipodes V4 platforms is the most significant technology event in our 13 year history. The first V4 product launched was the CORE, using the V4H high-power circuit, and the CORE has been joined by the the DX Gen3, launched on 6 October 2017, that uses the V4X medium-power circuit.

Our next step is to begin the upgrade programs for owners of DS and DX servers. This is a large undertaking and we appreciate your patience. All available information can be gained here first, and we recommend you join our mailing list if you want to know the instant we publish updates. As soon as a phase begins (see the timetable), you can contact your nearest service centre for pricing and process information.

Find your nearest service centre.


DX Upgrades

All DX models going back to the first models released in 2013 will be able to be upgraded to use the new V4X specification. The DS Reference is also able to be upgraded to the V4X level. You will enjoy the same audio performance and features as if you had the new DX Gen3, but installed in your existing case.


DS Upgrades

All other DS models going back to the first DS series released in 2011 will be able to be upgraded to the V4M specification, that will be used in an upcoming product to be released in November. The new product uses a larger case than previous DS models in order to also house the linear power supply. This power supply is equivalent to the external ODAPS provided with the DS GT, CORE and EDGE. Your upgraded DS will continue to use external power supplies. If you use a semi-switched power supply (DS Base & DS SSD) you can upgrade to the linear ODAPS power supply.

Some DS models - the models that use the latest DS casework with heatsink side panels - will have two upgrade alternatives. Upgrade to the V4M specification, or to the V4H specification used in the CORE.


Upgrade Timetable

Parts for these upgrades are being manufactured in finite quantities. Depending on the level of demand for the upgrades we may run out of parts and not be able to upgrade your product. So we recommend that you act early, as soon as the upgrade process and prices are announced for the upgrade relevant to you.

Full details of what is included in the upgrade, the process, additional options and pricing will be available close to the time that the upgrades become available.

We are reluctantly delaying the V4 upgrades until late January 2018.

Demand for the DX3 and CORE has been extremely high over the last six weeks and we risk running out of stock well before our next run of the V4 boards if we continue with the upgrade program. Our V4 boards are made specifically for us by a specialist team inside the industry's leading computer technology manufacturer. The runs done for us are scheduled at 3 monthly intervals and we will more than double the size of the run in early January, but we simply underestimated demand at the last run and have to change our plans.

To make sure your upgrade can be completed in the next quarter, we advise you to contact your nearest service center to book your upgrade early. We apologise for not being able to carry through with the upgrades as originally planned, but we thank all you new owners of V4 Antipodes products for the overwhelming support we have received since we launched these new models.

All upgrades need to be performed by one of our four certified service centres, in New Zealand, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Each service centre sets its own prices to take account of freight, duties, clearance and sales tax issues in its region. The service centres obtain the necessary parts from Antipodes Audio and can offer you additional upgrades such as to storage and operating systems.

Recent Published Reviews

EDGE & CORE Reviewed by Dave Clark - Positive Feedback
Positive Feedback

Dave Clark has taken on the huge task of reviewing the EDGE used as both server and renderer, the CORE used as both server and renderer, and the CORE + EDGE solution where the CORE is used as server and the EDGE as renderer and playing together. We are sure readers will be interested in the sound quality pecking order identified and the description of the key differences.

Dave promises to get to the bottom of further permutations in a follow-up.

Read the Review...


CORE Reviewed By Anthony Kershaw - Audiophilia
Audiophilia

Audiophilia has published the first review of an Antipodes V4 product, the Antipodes CORE Music Server, and written by that magazine's editor-in-chief Anthony Kershaw. The CORE received the Audiophilia Star Component Award.

" ..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.

"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."

Read the Review...


DS Base - Hi-Fi Advice Magazine - August 2017

Christiaan Punter reviews the DS Base with interesting comparisons to much more expensive competitors.

Read the review...


DX - AVMentor Magazine - June 2017

This review is in Greek, but if you don't read Greek, using a translator in your browser will yield an excellently written review by Dimitris Stamatakos including extensive measurements.

Read the review...



DX - Hi-Fi Advice Magazine - July 2017

Christiaan Punter has written an extensive and well-compiled review, and compared it to a number of other servers.

Read the review...

 

Separates


EDGE, CORE & DX Solutions

You can use an EDGE, a CORE or a DX for both Server and Renderer functions, meaning all you need to do is add a USB DAC. This is a very cost effective solution. There are misconceptions that you can use any old Server and just use a good Renderer. This is theory that does not survive experimentation. Improving the Server has a very marked impact on sound quality.


CORE + Solutions

One advantage that the EDGE, CORE and DX solutions have is that transmission between the Server and Renderer is far superior when it is contained within the main circuit board, rather than over a noisy network connection. But when the Server is as good as the CORE, something happens. Using a CORE as a Server and either an EDGE or a DX as the Renderer lifts the performance significantly. Removing the server activity from the EDGE and DX enables them to perform at an even greater level. But remember, the CORE is not simply a powerful computer. It is designed from the ground up for low noise and is run from a purpose-built linear power supply. Simply using a separate powerful server will typically reduce sound quality because of the noise it introduces. You may have to hear it for yourself to believe the benefits of the CORE+EDGE and CORE+DX solutions, but you will not fail to hear it.

Of Faith & Science


In many discussions about audio, I often see faith masquerading as science – individuals stating dogmatically what is what and what cannot be, not based on experimentation, but on an untested yet firmly held belief set. In our business we constantly hear firmly held views about ‘but they are just bits’, ‘with Ethernet it does not matter’ etc and the eyes roll back in our heads at the vehemence of the beliefs. The belief set is understandable. The problem is the teenager-like view that they know all there is to know.

The one that I will always remember was on an Australian chat site where an individual exasperatedly wrote, “But for a cable there is only Inductance, Resistance and Capacitance. There is nothing else, unless you can tell me you have discovered a fourth thing, in which case the science community ought to be told (sarcasm).”

I chose this cable example because many audiophiles have discovered that cables do matter after all, so you may see my point. The poster on that site was displaying his faith in a very limited scientific model, and his inability to appreciate that the model is NEVER the same thing as reality. Science does not give us facts, it gives us theories that have been experimentally verified. But the key thing to appreciate is that the limits of the theory are defined by the limits of the experimentation completed.

In order to develop any scientific theory, the first step is to limit the complexity of what is being tested. This is done in two ways.

  1. First you need to decide what variables are relevant and what to ignore. In audio I have heard it a thousand times, where an electrical engineer will state something like ‘at audio frequencies we can ignore that’, and this will be based on an assumption deduced from a theory that may or may not be relevant, and not based on actual experimentation. Deriving knowledge by deduction and assumption is not scientific, but it is common in science.
  2. Second you need to decide what variables are less interesting and are to be held constant, so that the experiment can be focused on a manageable set of variables. For example, in Economics there is a theory about demand curves. This theory studies the relationship between price level and demand level. While any economist will know that there are other influences on demand, such as income levels, information about the product, marketing and distribution, the experiment will hold these constant to expose the influence price has on demand.

So when our colleague stated that ‘there is only Inductance, Resistance and Capacitance’ he was mistakenly thinking that a theory considered good enough for most cable design work was actually a complete description of reality.

This delusion that a scientific theory is somehow an immutable fact or law is entirely unscientific. Real scientists appreciate that even our best theories will only ever be our latest best guess at how reality works. Perhaps more importantly, even if one day our theories do completely describe reality we will not know for certain that this is the case.

And yet this delusion is common. It is common for a good reason. We cannot spend our entire existence wondering about the universe and treating all theories with the scepticism they deserve. We also need to do stuff with what we think we already know, because that is what the science is for. This is what faith is about – choosing to believe something for which we do not have irrefutable proof, for the practical purpose of getting on with our lives. This is not delusion but practicality. We still need to make wires to power our toasters and make the light turn on, so we need to adopt the relevant theories AS IF they were facts. This is where we strike problems. People often have difficulty with adopting faith in the validity of a theory without it leading to dogmatic insistence that the theory is an unchallengeable fact.

High-end audio companies are often criticised for pseudo-science, and often the criticism is fair. Pseudo-science works in marketing and there has been a heck of a lot of it in high-end audio. But high-end audio is also a field where the firms have to push the envelope of what is contemplated within accepted electrical engineering, in order to make better sounding products than their competitors.

Sometimes the scientific debate is because the issues being dealt with are in different scientific fields. For example, we have found that the lattice structure of a metal has a very significant influence on the sound of audio cabling, and this is an issue squarely recognised as relevant in other fields of science but not considered at all in electrical engineering. Changes in the lattice structure during burn in are observable and clearly audible, and yet we cannot detect any change in the measured Inductance, Resistance or Capacitance.

And sometimes it is because the models used in electrical engineering are too simple. For example the main skill in most high-end audio firms is not their invention of new circuits but in their experience, knowledge and skill in the translation of a ‘reference design’ provided by a technology firm into actual circuits. Circuit layout, parts selection, and of course power supplies are often where the differences lie between mid-fi and the high-end. This knowledge is relevant but no, it has not made its way into the text books found at your university yet, and it may never get there.

This is not a phenomenon of just high-end audio. I have had the privilege of working in a range of technology industries and wherever the objective is more than just ‘make it work’ and is instead to ‘optimise how it works’ the knowledge employed goes beyond what is written in text books and is predominantly based on trial and error and the accumulation of insights about what seems to work better.

The next time you hear or read someone insisting on an immutable scientific ‘fact’, please appreciate that he or she is stating their faith and are not representing true science.

And most of all, please appreciate that the opinions I express here are just my humble insights collected over the years in case you are interested. I do not intend to state them as facts and I may very well have experiences in the future that change my mind on any number of these issues. If you came here hoping to find scientific facts about computer audio you will have to seek that delusion elsewhere.


Our Design Approach


Our approach to product development is highly scientific, using blind testing to verify all findings, but we would probably anger many science practitioners with the way we challenge the prevailing scientific theories found in text books. The prevailing science applied in the wider audio industry today is focused on the science of the equipment and fails to address the more complex science of how the brain derives enjoyment from listening to music.

The trouble with applying accepted science to music is we don’t have a reliable objective measurement of how well a piece of equipment conveys the emotion that was conveyed in the original performance. Accepted scientific theories relating to audio fail to experimentally test what counts simply because it cannot be reliably counted, and we will never accept this.

Scientific theories are only accepted when they have been experimentally verified, which means only objective and reliable measurement methods can be used. But this limits the relevance of the theories developed. It is important to appreciate that the limitations of the experiment define the limits of the theory’s relevance. Hundreds of audio chat site debates relate directly to, and yet so often misunderstand, this point. On the one hand someone will argue the existence of a causal effect without any rigorous experimentation to support the view, and someone else will insist the other is deluded since the accepted science does not support there being any such causal link. Both are wrong, but in different ways.

In our view it is a false premise to argue that if the science of the equipment can be perfected then the need to understand how the ear/brain/emotion system works becomes unnecessary. Assuming away the place where all the action occurs is a mistake in a field where we seek to continue to push the envelope of possible performance. Without insights about how we perceive sound and how this leads to our emotional responses to it, the accepted science makes some grossly inaccurate assumptions. For example, the accepted science does bizarre things like reducing the quality of an amplifier to a single harmonic distortion number, or the quality of a digital source to a jitter number. Most audiophiles have learnt the lack of worth of this approach to evaluating amplifiers simply by listening (and thereby measuring what is actually important). A wild-assed guess at the answer to the right question is always more relevant than a precise answer to the wrong one.

Experimentation, to make great audio, has to base its experiments on listeners’ emotional reactions to the music, regardless of how hard it is to measure that. As a result the knowledge gained by high-end audio companies is hard to convey and even harder to prove. In our case, we began by designing servers the way most of our competitors still do - make a simple server and then apply noise-filtering. With years of rigorous testing we have learnt how wrong that approach is. Today we employ no noise filtering and focus exclusively on minimising the generation of noise interference, and just as importantly manipulate the residual noise into what we have discovered are quite benign frequencies. The result is not only sound that eliminates digital harshness and grain, but that renders natural timbre from the inital attack to the tail of the decay. Below are some of our high-level findings to give you an idea of our approach. Antipodes Digital Sources are designed by employing these and other more detailed insights.

  • The mantra that ‘bits is bits’ is easily disproven in listening tests. In reality bits do not exist. Bits are concepts that are represented by electrical, magnetic or physical media and each of these become polluted by distortion to some level in the real world.
  • Distortion of the digital signal is heard in the resultant audio after decoding, even when the bits represented by the signal are not changed.
  • The concept of jitter is a gross simplification of the problem, and springs from the abstraction that the signal is made up of the bits, a clock rate and variation in the clock rate (jitter). This also creates a misleading presumption about the importance of super-accurate clocks. The worth of improving the accuracy of the clock depends on how much noise interference is on the signal that carries the clock information.
  • In a playback system, no amount of noise filtering or buffering/re-clocking used to cure a distorted digital signal is as beneficial to good sound as doing a good job of preventing electronic noise interference with the signal in the first place. This is a key insight that drives our designs.
  • If you increase the bandwidth capability (all else being equal) of the signal transmission, you improve the perceived sound. If you add noise filtering you reduce the bandwidth and damage the impulse response.
  • If you reduce the level (magnitude) of distortion (all else being equal) of the signal transmission, you improve the perceived sound.
  • If you change the frequency rate of the noise distortion of the digital signal (all else being equal), you can significantly change the character and perceived level of the audible distortion after decoding.



Our Apps Approach


Antipodes digital sources use a Fedora Linux operating system designed from the ground up for optimised audio performance. This delivers superior sound to using a Windows or Apple operating system and trying to shed the weight of too many unnecessary processes and a complex audio stack.

Our software is focused on providing optimised audio performance and full back-end integration for third party audio player apps. This means we can not only bring you a range of the best of breed apps that are available on Linux, but also keep bringing them as they emerge. For example, Antipodes delivered Roon on our products within days of Roon Labs offering its first Linux release.

As new killer apps come on the market we can make these available to customers running the Antipodes software suite with just a few mouse clicks and without the unit leaving your audio system.