help Frequently Asked Questions
Streaming is what you do when you watch Netflix or play Spotify. Instead of downloading a file before playing it, the file is streamed gradually over the internet to your Streamer and your Streamer immediately begins turning the file into an analog or digital audio signal for your system to play.
In simple terms, Player = Renderer = Streamer. In the context of a Music Server, the role is now most commonly referred to as a Player. In the context of a DAC (and the contexts are different) the role is most commonly referred to as a Streamer. In common with other Music Server suppliers, Antipodes refers to this role as the Player.
When you are streaming Spotify, you are receiving the file across a chaotic internet from a distant Spotify Server. To play your own stored music, you need to have a Server in your network to stream the files to your Player/Streamer.
If sound quality is important to you, then you need a high quality Server. The quality of the Server, Player and DAC have equal importance on the final result, in the sense that if one is poor quality the total result is compromised. This is true even when playing internet streaming services. You get significantly better sound if you have a quality Server in your network that connects to your internet streaming service, and the Server then streams to your Player/Streamer, insulating you from the poor delivery quality of internet streaming.
While this answers the question, there are some subtle differences between a Player (or Renderer) and a Streamer. This is because of the difference between 'Push' and 'Pull' playback solutions. Read the next answer if you wish to know more.
There are some subtle differences between a Player (or Renderer) and a Streamer, because of the difference between 'Push' and 'Pull' playback solutions.
Roon is a Push solution. You use a remote control to control the Roon Server App, to view available music and tell it what to play. The Server Pushes the music to compatible Player Apps on the same device or on other devices on your network.
DLNA playback solutions are Pull solutions. You use a remote control to control the Player App and tell the Player App what files to Pull from what Servers in order to play them.
So a Player in a Pull solution is commonly called a Streamer, but a Player in a Push solution is a bit different from a Streamer. For example, with Roon, it is Roon Server that interacts with an internet streaming service to get the music, and Roon Ready (a Roon Player App) simply plays what is sent to it. By contrast, a Player in a Pull solution has the same relationship with Server Apps on devices on the local network as it has with internet streaming services on the web.
Nowadays, many DACs include Streaming capabilities. In essence, this means they have a network input that feeds at least one Player App running on the DAC, that can Pull music files from local Servers and internet streaming services. But they often also include a Push solution Player App like Roon Ready.
This means that such a DAC can be fed directly (via an Ethernet connection) by a Music Server that only runs the Server App. This is in contrast to a USB input on a DAC, which is fed by a Player that is not part of the DAC. For this reason, the notion of comparing a DAC's Ethernet input with its USB input is spurious, because you are really comparing the Player in the DAC (Ethernet input) with the Player in the external Music Server (USB input). Unfortunately some DAC manufacturers make misleading statements about their Ethernet input being superior to their USB input, when this is based on comparing their internal Streamer with a Player App on a standard computer. Take those recommendations with a pinch of salt and listen for yourself.
On the Antipodes website, we use the terms Server or Server App and Player or Player App, and all of our Music Servers have Streaming capabilities. All Antipodes Music Servers have a range of available Server Apps and Player Apps, including both Pull solutions and Push solutions, pre-installed and fully integrated, for you to select and use. You can use an Antipodes Music Server as both a Server and Player, or as just a Server to feed other Player devices on your network (Antipodes or third-party), or as just a Player to receive files from other Server devices (Antipodes or third-party) on your network. And you can use different solutions at the same time.
This makes it easy for you to use an Antipodes Music Server as a single point to store all of your music files and to manage the interaction with all of your internet music streaming services. You can then play that music throughout your network, to a wide range of devices. Different Player devices on your network will require different Server Apps for compatibility - for example, to play to Squeezelite Players, Roon Ready Players, HQPlayer NAAs, DLNA players, Plex Players and a SONOS system.
All Server Apps on an Antipodes Music Server are concurrently available at all times, so this makes it easy for you to use an Antipodes Music Server in your main stereo system at the same time as streaming music to a wide range of different Player devices on your network. Your solution can be as simple or as extensive and multi-faceted as you choose.
Note that some Apps and remote control Apps are not free to use, and to use them on an Antipodes Music Server you need to obtain the appropriate license.
It is not about the number of boxes but the separation of functions using separate dedicated computing engines. The K50 and K30 are dual computer solutions in a single box. The server app is run on one computer engine and the player app is run on the other computer engine. In the case of the K50, a third computing engine (FPGA controlled) completes the clocking and generation of the Digital Outputs.
Integrating the computing engines in a single box has the advantage that we can provide superior connection between the engines, and save you money because you do not need additional cable (Mains Power, Ethernet & USB).
In the S Series, even though both the S40 and S30 can run both Server Apps and Player Apps, dedicating a separate computer device to each function improves their performance further. Note that the K50 has three separate, and separately powered, computing devices. One for the Server function, one for the Player function and one for the Reclocking function.
The S Series sits at an inflexion point. At the price of an S40 or S30 and below, the best solution is a single high-quality computing device that performs both the Server and Player functions. At the price of the K30 and above the best solution is to use two separate and separately powered high quality computing devices. This is why the S Series is designed around making the progression from a S40 or S30, to a S40+S30, an easy upgrade.
The differences between the K30 and K50 are much more than the addition of Digital Outputs. The K50 and K30 are both dual-computer systems in a single box and they use the same Player engine. But the K50 uses our premiere server engine, only used in the K50 and K40. The K30 uses the server engine used in the S40. Power supplies are a critically important part of any digital device, especially in music servers. The K50 uses three OLADRA power supplies, one for each of the server engine, player engine and reclocking engine. The K30 uses a single OLADRA power supply, shared by the server engine and the player engine.
USB can be derived directly from the player engine, and you get superior sound by doing the USB job once and doing it properly in the player engine. The idea that USB should be done (one assumes, poorly) and then fixed by reclocking and regenerating it later, does not make sense and, in any case, results in poorer sound quality than doing it well once.
The Digital Outputs (S/PDIF, AES3 & I2S) are better to be isolated from the server. In our case we use USB between the player engine and the reclocker engine, completely isolate the power between the USB input and the Digital Outputs, reclock using femto second clocks and control the process by an FPGA.
It is true that S/PDIF and AES3 outputs have limited bandwidth compared to the full-bandwidth available with USB, Ethernet and I2S. However, there are downsides to having Ethernet and/or USB receivers in the DAC. Both introduce noise into the DAC. USB has the effect of adding a trace of ‘sizzle’ at the edge all sounds, creating some listener fatigue. Ethernet has the effect of rounding the edge of all sounds, diminishing the tension and urgency of real music. The extent of these problems depends on how well these inputs are implemented in the DAC. If you compare these outputs to our S/PDIF and AES3 outputs you will hear the benefits in naturalness and musicality for yourself.
K50 – If you want the best sound.
K40 – If you want the best sound but only wish to use the Ethernet input of your DAC.
K30 – If the price of a K50 is too high for you, the K30 makes the minimum of compromises to reduce the price of admission by a third.
S60+S40+S40 – This solution suits a particular set of customers, by providing a high-power engine for running Roon Server and a separate high-power engine for running HQPlayer Embedded as the player. This combination allows customers to use demanding features of HQPlayer to improve the sound.
S60+S40 or S60+S40+S20 – High power and world class sound from a single computer solution.
S60+S30 or S60+S30+S20 – Medium power and world class sound from a single computer solution.
S30 – An excellent streaming solution including very good analog output, as well as a low-cost entry into the future upgrade possibilities of the S Series.
While there are many other possibilities within the S Series, making upgrading easy and cost-effective, if a customer is thinking about starting with say:
- S60+S40+S30, then it makes more sense to get a K30.
- (S60+S40)+(S60+S30+S20), then it makes more sense to get a K50.
- K30+S60+S20, then it makes more sense to get a K50.
In each of the three cases above, you get better sound through superior connections and superior power supplies by choosing the similarly priced single-box models.
The biggest improvement in sound quality, and the lowest cost upgrade of the three is to add a S60. Do not under-estimate how critical a higher quality power supply is.
After that, adding a S40 will add more to sound quality than adding a S20, but it will also cost a lot more. Therefore, either adding a S20 or a S40 can make sense as your next step after adding the S60.
You cannot take such claims literally. Your DAC manufacturer is, at best, making a generalisation, because comparing Ethernet with other inputs includes comparing the player engine and app in the DAC with the player engine and app in the Music Server. If a DAC manufacturer has not compared their inputs using a K50 then they are making a generalisation that you should not accept blindly. In our experience most DAC manufacturers are assuming you will use a standard computer as your music server.
We cannot know that the player engines in Antipodes products are better sounding than those in all DACs ever made, or still to be made, so we won’t make any generalised claims. The same goes for doubting DAC manufacturers’ generalised claims.
But there is also the question of the player apps, and they have a significant impact on sound quality. As an example, with an Antipodes Server/Player you can choose from player apps that are superior to the player apps used in DACs. Most of our customers wish to use Roon Server to manage their music and streaming services, with good reason. But this will generally mean you have to use the Roon player within the “Roon Ready” DAC. With an Antipodes, you can use the superior sounding Squeezelite or HQPlayer Embedded as the player app.
There are two key reasons:
Different customers value different things. For example many audiophiles prefer the way Roon presents information about music. Others are more focused on sheer sound quality and prefer to use our optimised versions of Squeeze or MPD. And some get the best of both worlds by using Roon Server with Squeeze Player. Others may simply be more familiar with one App already and prefer to keep using it.
Some customers want to use their Antipodes Music Server, not just in their main stereo system, but also to stream music to a wide variety of Players on their network. Different Players may have different compatibility requirements, so we try to cover all needs with a set of best-of-breed Apps.
The variety offered does not make it any more complicated for you if you just want to use, say, Roon - as most of our customers appear to do.
Our distribution approach focuses on having expert Antipodes vendors in every country we market to. Such a vendor can retain far more expertise and capability than a typical dealer. This means you have a local firm to call to get the answer to any question, organise an audition, get user support or get a unit serviced. Each vendor has 24-hour access to Antipodes Audio's global technical support team, so that they can react quickly to any situation.
Music Servers use computer technology, so advances can be rapid. We could freeze our product technology in time, or we could continue to lead in music server technology development and do our utmost to keep our customers up to date. We take the latter approach. Nearly every Antipodes Music Server sold since we launched in 2011 is built to a template that enables us to offer upgrades to our customers. This means that when we introduce a new generation of technology, we follow this up quickly with an opportunity to have the new technology installed in your existing unit. This is not possible for every model, but it is possible for the vast majority of cases.
The only area of doubt is with the USB input on your DAC. Antipodes Music Servers are 100% compatible with the only USB audio standard - USB Audio 2.0. Therefore you need to ask your DAC manufacturer if their USB input is compatible with the USB Audio 2.0 standard. If they say yes, then it will work with any Antipodes Music Server. However, Native DSD is not part of the USB Audio 2.0 standard, and different DAC manufacturers have often used different methods to implement Native DSD. While this is unfortunate, the industry works to develop patches to accommodate all of the approaches and very few problems persist for long. The best source for advice on this is your local expert Antipodes vendor.
Placing a Wifi antenna inside a server means a lot of high frequency noise is sprayed around inside the server, working against the objective of high quality sound. Additionally, a wired connection will provide you much more stable performance, particularly when using internet streaming services. If you cannot get a wired connection from your router to your Antipodes Music Server then you can use a wifi bridge to get between the two and connect from the wifi device to the Antipodes by Ethernet cable. We highly recommend using Ubiquiti products for this task. In our view the Ubiquiti mesh products are far and away the best available to a consumer, providing rock solid stability.