Antipodes Audio News -April 2022

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Antipodes has launched the K22 ($9,000 plus tariffs & taxes). The K22 includes the main board used in the K21, and the Reclocker used in the K50. When the K22 is teamed with a K41, the combination is equivalent to a two-box K50.


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Antipodes has also announced the Oladra ($25,000 plus tariffs & taxes), which will debut at the Munich High-End Show in May 2022, and will begin shipping in August 2022.

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Product Line-Up Changes

We received an end of life notice a few months ago on the main board used for the S40, that is also used to run Server apps in the K30. We have therefore withdrawn the K30, and the S40 is now in fairly short supply.

This is pretty frustrating for everyone, and we are well aware of that, but I am sure you have heard about the many problems facing manufacturers in these strange times.

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So are there going to be a replacement K30 and S40 ?

@clive101
As you can see from the current K Series line-up the range has been simplified, with the K50 and then the K41, K22 and K21 modular series based on our proven combo of CX and EX.
This gives an entry and upgrade path to K50 performance.
The modular options allow you to start with a reduced investment and/or cover just the functions you need. For example, start with a K41 and play to the Ethernet input on your DAC. Or start with a K21 or K22, and upgrade by adding a K41 later. Or use a K41 and K21 for K50-quality USB output only.
At this point there is no replacement for the K30, tho you never say never.
These hiccups in supply chain, force us to adjust and move our product timelines.
We currently have S Series stock, there will be a replacement, at this point I wouldn’t expect to see that until the last quarter of this year.
Currently under development.
We want to be as transparent as possible and will continue to keep everyone in the loop as to what’s happening at Antipodes as our server line-up evolves.

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@MarkCole , I see there is more news!! Can I ask what does this do beyond the K50?

“The Antipodes Oladra music server will debut at the High End Munich Show in May 2022, and will begin shipping in August 2022. The world price is $25,000 (plus tariffs & taxes).”

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The Oladra looks amazing, but I too would be interested in hearing about it’s advance on what the K50 can do.

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Looking at the specs it appears to have different Server / Player boards compared to the K50. It is also much slimmer and I wonder if it has different power supplies.

…and the feet look interesting! May be the photo.

The case looks very nice. If it is machined aluminium that will account for a chunk of money.

I’m probably on my own with these thoughts. Whilst I am pleased for Antipodes as a small innovative audio business who is currently producing excellent quality digital players and servers, I am increasingly concerned that the rapid growth will lead to equally rapid redundancy of what is now quite expensive equipment. I was an early adopter of the CX/EX, which had already replaced the D series, and moved to the K50 when those components were quickly surpassed. The S and K series are now being surpassed by the Oladra albeit at a different price point to the S and most of the K series. I have my fingers crossed that the EX/CX, S and K series are not simply left behind in what would be very short order even by Audio standards. With the current shortage of electronic parts I would like to see a consolidation period so we can enjoy the current series for many years to come.

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@RobH
The K50 is still Stereophile Class A+ rated, and is a ongoing model, we believe it has sound quality that tops most if not all of the competition.
CX and EX are still excellent devices, and we have many units out in server land.
With the recent upgrade program, this has bought these devices up to the current technology level and pretty close sound quality wise.

Antipodes is the only server manufacturer that actually cares enough about its customers, to not leave them behind when technology advances, we continually offer upgrade programs. Additionally have recently moved all our clients onto the new AMS software platform, giving older devices a new lease of life.

We live in a time of chipset shortage, ask any electronic manufacturer or car maker and they will tell you that we won’t see this supply chain issue ease untill 2023/2024.
This is a global issue, not just a Antipodes issue.
We are simply moving with the times.
Having said that, I think you will find that with the range now consolidating, and the fact that we have made a significant investment in parts stock we don’t envisage further changes in the short term.

One last point, we are always innovating, trying new technology, new designs new power supplies, new technology in noise reduction, and have ongoing software development, our business is a technology business at the end of the day.
We will continue to push the boundaries in server design and performance.

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Well for sure it will be interesting to hear the Oladra and I for one will be asking my dealer to loan me a home demo to see if it is worth forking out an extra £7500. Listening last night the K50 was sounding sublime. At the suggestion of a friend I was trying out some Gotye tracks . . . .

I hear, and understand the frustration. We never setup a product line-up wanting to make changes to it within a short period (say, less than 5 years).

The problem for every manufacturer is that:

  • you need to remain competitive
  • later generations of chips often lead to improvements
  • new discoveries improve things
  • sometimes new things offered by your competitors are demanded of you by customers
  • parts get updated, replaced or removed by the parts suppliers
  • customer feedback on your product can make it obvious that the product needs an enhancement

So, what do you do when these things happen?

Do you re-design the product when a part is no longer available? Or do you withdraw it (as we did with the K30)?

Do you leave your new discovery or new capability for 5 years after your last product release, and possibly let your competitiveness slip behind others who get to their next 5 year cycle before you? Is 5 years long enough?

It seems that customers who have bought your product want you to make no changes until they want to buy something new, and then it is critical that you give them the best available at the time, and then not change it for at least 5 years. If we could all coordinate our buying to once every 5 years, that might work. That way we would feel we have the latest, and the second-hand market value is preserved (although it would inevitably fall as you approach the 5 year point).

While we own the product, why would we want to see the manufacturer make improvements to it, since our product becomes inferior (rhetorical). This is a hard one. We as a company encourage our staff to always be thinking about what would make the product, or our customer service, better. Failing to act on breakthroughs feels wrong. Of course, we save them up to make several changes together, but when the changes are very material improvements, we do not like the idea of holding them back.

Let us take the case where a manufacturer finds they can make a significant improvement to a current product. Should they?

  1. not improve the product until 5 years since the last change to the product?
  2. improve the product in the next run and tell everyone about it, possibly giving it a v2 moniker?
  3. If you do 2 above, do you offer upgrades to the latest version when that is possible, rather than leave your customers with the choices of selling to upgrade, or keep their (now) old model?
  4. improve the product in the next run and do everything you can to keep the change a secret from the market?

Many manufacturers do a mixture of 1 and 4. Plus, a surprising number don’t do their own technology design so they only commission it every 5 or so years anyway (some of these are our OEM customers).

One notable manufacturer kept making regular changes to a product that they never announced, and the external look and name of the product never changed over 30 years. Is that what you want? You get the benefit of the latest ideas when you buy, and no one knows your product has actually slipped behind what the manufacturer is providing to new customers. From customer feedback, it does sound like that is what many customers want. But the reality for that manufacturer is that the market treated each year of production as a marker of its qualities. “Oh, you have an XYZ for sale? What year?”

Most Aussies and Kiwis prefer the people they do business with to be ‘straight up’. Which means we want them to tell it like it is. So at Antipodes, we prefer to do 2 when the change is large. If a change is minor we will do 4. Or under pressure from distributors we will do 4.
But if the change is significant, then 4 feels dishonest and we prefer to do 2. To assist customers, we do 3 whenever it is practical.

And if we can’t keep the product going at its current quality and price range, or if the changes mean it no longer fits in the line-up, we withdraw it - as we did with the K30, and others before them.

Should we be doing 1 and 4, like most other manufacturers do? It is a good question, so let us know what you think.

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Hi Rob, we would like to see a consolidation period.

The K Series is our bread and butter and we do not see the Oladra as changing that. There are breakthroughs in the Oladra, and in time we may be able to bring some of those into the K Series, when the cost to do so does not drive the K Series price up. We waited much longer than any other manufacturer to increase prices due to large cost increases in the industry, hoping that we only needed to do that once, or that any further rises will be small. But we do not want to see the price of the K50 being driven up further.

I see the Oladra, K50, K41, K21 and K22 as being under-pinned by solid availability and/or parts levels in stock. In the case of items that might be a problem, we bought thousands of parts. But lead times are so much longer now that we need around 3 times a normal stock level of everything else just to continue to supply. So our shareholders have had to write some very big cheques to be in this position.

Yes, the Oladra sounds better. The richness of detail is greater, the ease and flow is a lot greater, and the naturalness of how notes start, develop and then decay is clearly better. As one independent commentator put it “the presentation is just fundamentally different, and better at all the things the K50 was already better than the competition at.” So don’t expect the Oladra to sound like a Taiko. Expect it to sound like a clearly better K50. And yet, whenever we go back from the Oladra to the K50, we really don’t feel we have lost something vital that we must switch back for, and we are perfectly content to keep listening to the K50.

Yes, it would be better for our customers if we had launched the Oladra when we launched the K50 two years ago, but the technology in the Oladra did not exist until very recently. And the market for $25k music servers has really only come online recently. We could make a better product if the price could reach $35k to $40k, and we actually developed one along the way to launching the Oladra, but decided that the market was not ready for it. By the time the market is ready for it, I am sure the best technology option will have changed. And hopefully the technology will have changed to enable our best sound to be delivered at a much lower cost, rather than at such stratospheric levels.

To be very open about possible new changes to the line-up, it is possible we might add another K Series modular option, but the K50 will remain king. We are only contemplating this additional option in response to the needs of a small portion of our customer base, so it may or may not be justified. And with the ultimate loss of the S40, we are having to think of new ways to address the market reached by the S-Series. Some of the ideas we are working through are quite radical and come out of the insights that have come out of developing the Oladra. It is too early to know what the S-Series may morph into. But I can say that this will not change anything about the K-Series.

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First of all its your business, so your call. I love the sound of Antipodes music server/players and have been vested since the CX/EX/P1 days. However, they were quickly, circa two years, surpassed by the S and K series and some one year later the K50 is probably surpassed by the Oladra. My main concern really relates to how so many pieces of hardware will continue to be supported over a reasonable (difficult to define) period of time before the internal processing power is verging on obsolete or parts are not available. I believe you have addressed, to a large extent, these concerns by having software which appears to be backwards compatible all the way back to the D series and by securing large amounts of spare parts. This being said Antipodes is a small company and at some point will either have to grow (business scale) of become overwhelmed by the range of hardware it sells (recognising the withdrawal of products as an option). Perhaps an example that I see could work for Antipodes is the dCS model (for full disclosure I own a dCS Bartok DAC) where they have three distinct ranges of products at various budget levels but they only have a relatively small amount of options within each range, software updates are scaled according to the the hierarchy of the product.
For now I am very happy with my K50 and hope to use it for many years but I be assessing the competition to see if I can get similar performance at a lower price point just in case the cost of Antipodes means I can no longer ‘play the game’ so to speak. I believe that I am highly vested in Antipodes otherwise I would not bother expressing my view. I would simply sell the K50 and buy another product. I sincerely wish Antipodes all the best for the future and reiterate I love the sound that Antipodes delivers in my system, for now.

PS. To be fair I should specifically address some of your questions. The options 1-4 are quite cleverly written with the only obvious answers being 2 and 3 which I support. That being said the hardware sold should be good for at least 5 years and thus the software upgrades need to be accordingly compatible. It will be up to the market to determine how long a product should last and is it worth spending say $20k on something which is useful for 5 years? My opinion would largely rely on how much its worth in trade-in/used market value which most of us would need to spend even more dollars on the next big thing.

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As a K30 owner, I was disappointed in the news as I didn’t purchase the K30 with just today in mind. I had expected that Antipodes would continue developing the platform so that at some future time there would be a K30 Mk2 and that I’d be able to upgrade mine to that level. I understand the impact of the pandemic, but I had hoped that Antipodes would be just as committed to keeping the K30 in their lineup as they were with the K50.

I should mention that I love that you tell it like it is. Keep doing what you’ve been doing in that regard. But maybe just provide some additional context around what it means for current customers when you withdraw the model they own.

I was thrilled when I popped the lid on my K30 and saw that there was an empty spot for a second power supply. It had confirmed to me that I had made a wise decision to chose the K30 platform. Of course Antipodes made no promises around that. But it’s just really discouraging though that I spent $10K on a seemingly new server in your lineup and now a year later I already have a discontinued model.

Was there more to the K30 being withdrawn? Was it not selling well enough? Did the K41 turn out to be better than the K30 so that buying a K30 no longer made sense?

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The only unmentioned issue with the K30 is that we had to keep explaining to people that the K30 is nowhere near the performance of a K50. Customers wanted to think that they were saving some money and losing only a smidge in sound, but the reality is very different. We worried also whether that the message was not getting through our dealers to the customers. The K Series now is easier to explain.

But that was not a good enough reason to remove it. The driver was that the main board that made the K30 (and K40) possible was no longer available in its original form, due to the unavailability of some of the chips. I would not rule out the possibility of an upgrade for K30 owners, if and when we develop one, but we have no plans or intentions to develop a like for like replacement of the K30 in the K Series.

We must be larger than you think. We are large enough to manage the range of products we offer, or many more if we wished to.

What we are doing is delivering a range of products to cover a sufficient range of needs so that a high-end dealer does not need to have another music server brand in their stable. And we do not find that difficult.

What might make it look complicated to you is that the modular approach expands the model numbers. If we did not want to meet that need then we would have the Oladra, a K50 and maybe an S50 (whatever that would be).

In our experience the modular approach works really well and our sales figures and dealer feedback attests to that, particularly at the entry end of the market. Managing those variations is relatively trivial as the modular options are simply a deconstruction of the main model.

I get it that the modular approach is not what some customers are interested in. But a large number are.

I understood that because the K50 cost 50% more than the K30 at the time, I was happy that you offered two tiers of performance if one was seeking a single chassis server that contained both Server and Player engines. I guess you now have three tiers of performance in the K series, but only the top dog contains both Server and Player engines.

Thanks for taking the time to respond. I’m still absolutely delighted with my K30’s sound quality.

From comments expressed by Antipodes you must indeed be larger than I thought. At the moment I am voting with my ears and enjoying the K50 only time will tell, based on the direction of Antipodes, whether or not I vote to go in a different direction. As previously expressed I wish you well for the future.

As a very new purchaser of a K30 (10 Feb 22) I feel very disappointed that my brand new K30 is discontinued.
I was not planning on purchasing a K30, I was saving up for a K50, but with the 1 Feb 22 price increase it on the K50 it was getting more out of my price range for as i’m just an average working stiff.
I had enough funds for the K30, but not the K50 even though I did sell a couple of items

So I had a choice purchase the K30 or wait another 12 months to get the funds for the K50.
I went with the K30 as it was a new product in the line, expecting it to be around for a few years, only to find it has been discontinued in 2 months.
Yes I do like the K30, but I do miss the ASE output on the K50 and couple of other little things.
Rant over
Brian