Antipodes Oladra

@MarkCole
Do you have any idea when the demos will be available ?
How was the name picked ?

Hi @clive101

At present we are rushing to get prepared for the official release at the Munich HiEnd show.
We are on track to begin shipping early August and anticipate dealers and distributors to have stock at this time.

So no early demo versions, sadley.

“The Oladra has no linear power supply components, and combines three different smps topologies in a cascade.”

Mark has the power supply been tested for RF injected back into the mains supply ?

Oh and any idea on the name choice ?

As an aside, concerns over that can be lessened by the use of a Shunyata NR (noise reducing) power cords. These contain filters that keep power line noise from one component from contaminating other components.

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But the power cable for UK comes with a fuse which defeats the no fuse concept…
Unless I bridge the fuse but not sure what plug model they use so this may not be possible

Yes, of course.

SMPS has a reputation based on the $5 power supplies we all know and detest. I get that. I do. I recall doing a demo at an audio club where we could not even play music when both the router and one other smps were plugged into the same mains ring. But what makes anyone think that all smps must be like those $5 ones? That level of ignorance really bothers me - sorry, but it really does bother me.

Yes, there is conditioning at the entry to the K50 and at the entry to the Oladra. The conditioning is not the same. They are designed to do their job extremely well, but the jobs have different requirements.

I do find it frustrating when people make wildly general comments on linears compared to smps. That is just terribly ignorant, but I suppose it goes with all the other simplistic belief sets people cling on to. I get it, I do. You have to believe something. But equally, you need to balance that with an open mind.

The whole power supply area is frustrating. There seems to be very little understanding that differences between topologies of either type make generalised comments irrelevant. I understand, people are trying to make sense of complex topics, but please be careful about making gross assumptions.

On the sly, did you realise that most of the top DACs out there use smps? They are just not as brave (stupid) as I am to be up-front about it. No, they are not doing it to save space or cost. They are doing it because they can get better sound. SMPS has all the capability to be the best, or the worst power supply you have ever come across. Please don’t be so dim as to lump them all together.

I have seen some really stupid comments online already about the fact that Oladra must be designed for a small power supply, or to save costs to pay for the case. That leaves me speechless, or if I did speak it would be pretty bloody offensive. I know, let’s make a worse sounding Oladra by using a linear power supply, so the market will think it is actually better.

This stupidity (sorry, I could not find a kinder word to describe it, but I get away with it because I have already called myself stupid earlier in this post) is what has damn-near killed the DAC market. The tick in the box mentality to evaluate a product leads to terrible DACs ticking all the boxes hitting the market at low prices and killing off vastly superior sounding DACs that do not tick as many boxes - except for the smarter audiophile that lets his or her ears make the decisions.

As an aside, we have made DACs for our own use, but our dealers have advised us to stay out of that market because of the craziness that pervades it, which is directly as a result of the tech-based marketing strategies. So we have.

For the record, the Oladra is the same footprint as the K50, can easily house the K50 linear power supply, the linear power supply is cheaper, and the smps sounds fundamentally better. Would I put the Oladra power supply on the K50 boards? No. Would I put the K50 power supply on the Oladra ( I have tried it and did not like it at all). So, no. Please understand that actual designing for reality is different from designing to satisfy simplistic assumptions.

As we have said before, we will not allow our design decisions to be dictated by tech-based marketing slogans, or even the assumptions of our customer base. We will make decisions based on what sounds better, and live or die by the outcome of that. And no, we don’t use Optane memory either (a question we have been asked by prospective customers - give me strength). That way, madness comes.

One day soon, audiophiles will accept that SMPS have come a very long way and that in most applications have more potential than linear. I am the heretic prepared to say it. And no, they do not all cost $5. And no, they are not all incompetently designed so that they chuck noise into everything.

If that means we have to make worse products in order to sell them, then count me out.
If that means slaughtering some sacred cows, I will sharpen my knives.

The reaction we have had, to providing some technical information about the Oladra, just reinforces how talking tech takes you in totally dumb directions and is, unfortunately, best avoided. Lesson learned.

OK, rant over, and let’s put my frustrations aside. What we are asking you to do is listen with an open mind, and not with your mind already made up. We think you will love the sound of the Oladra. We do.

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It does not destroy it. It reduces the fuses by two.

Thank you for the answer.

Is the rest of the reply directed at me ?

I was replying to the earlier post about the Shunyata NR cable,
Not the cable supplied with the Olada, I assume that is what you are referring to ?

No, and not really directed at anyone, certainly not you anyway. Just getting some frustration off my chest. The ‘learned’ opinions about the Oladra that I have read (almost entirely negative) from people that have not even seen one just dismays me. I dislike BS marketing techniques, but I see why they use them now.

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The new Oladra server is promising considering the sound quality of the K series. Currently, I am very satisfied with my K40 which I use with a dCS Rossini DAC. The combination is magical. However, I had to go further and buy a Taiko Extreme in the next few months, but the announcement of the Antipodes Oladra changed my plan. I will wait. I am confident that the new Oladra server will deliver exceptional sound quality. If it’s really worth it, I’ll buy it.

Do we realise that most of the top DACs have SMPS? I guess so because many of us own a Chord DAVE (I hope you think that is a top DAC) which has an internal SMPS but on the other hand many of us have taken the factory SMPS out from the DAVE and now run it with a Sean Jacobs LPS. The Dave with the factory SMPS sounded fantastic but the Sean Jacobs LPS sounds simply sublime. I even tried using the factory SMPS only for the Dave digital boards and using the LPS for the analogue boards and vice versa. However I found that the use of a good LPS was equally beneficial for the digital circuits and the analogue circuits.

Please understand that there is an awful lot of good will and respect towards your company and its products and many of us have bought your current flagship K50 and prefer that compared to other high end products that we have owned but as mentioned many of us have removed smps from high and products and achieved better sound.

You are certainly in a better position to be able to judge but i admit that so far i have not heard a smps that sounds better than a very good LPS. The emphasis is on comparing smps to a very good LPS

I am a very happy owner of the K50 and that engenders a large amount of trust in your design decisions so I look forward to hearing the Oladra. This will probably be the SMPS product which topples even a very good LPS.

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My 1/2 penny worth- I also worship the alter of PSs. My understanding about a K50 was that PSs were perceived as a filter and in the K50 has been “tuned” for optimum performance. Effectively hybrids. I liked this explanation, it allowed me to sleep at night…

Hi Nick. I understand prejudices very well and have some myself. Even a sample of one, such as the Chord DAVE example, will lead to them. To set the record straight, the only linear power supply elements in the K50 are the ac step-down provided by the transformers and the Schottky diode rectifier bridges. All regulation in the K50 is smps. When the K50 was first launched there was an smps regulation stage before a linear regulation stage. But in a forced re-design a year ago we designed the current smps-only regulation stage which is a significant improvement in all respects but particularly in high frequency smoothness and accuracy of timbre.

The problem, as I see it, is that all people want simple answers to life’s difficult problems. This leads to a desire to develop a simple belief set, such as: linear good, smps bad; valves good, transistors bad; ribbons good, cones bad; analog good, digital bad; Class A good, Class D bad. The problem is when these beliefs go into a mind that is like a steel-trap, that gobbles up mantras and never lets them go.

But as a developer, or any kind of inventor, the biggest gains come from looking where others have not looked properly, or where new technology may have changed the landscape.

I have no problem with people saying “ooh, smps, that is a strange move”. When people start saying “ah, they saved money on the power supply to pay for the chassis”, or “I am cancelling my order now”, I would say that is at least the opposite of the goodwill you refer to, at its worst it is insulting. I can cope with being insulted. But I would note that these are the same people that learnedly stated two years that Antipodes would fail with the K50 because we were not good enough to compete at the $15k price level.

You may think we do not know how to make a high quality linear power supply. You may think that selecting smps is about saving money. You may think the Oladra is the product of a cynical manufacturer. You are entitled to your opinions - and I mean that. That is not what irks me (and neither am I saying that me being irked must be avoided - it is good for us all to be irked occasionally)

What frustrates me is not that people have a low opinion of our design capability or our ethics. You see this trash talk on the internet all the time, and you quickly realise this is about the problems of the person spouting them, in most cases.

I am also not so egotistical that I think that when I say we are using smps in a way that exceeds the performance of any linear alternative, that people will simply fall in line with that.

What frustrates me is the closed mindedness where peoples’ minds are already made up, as soon as I explained that we use no linear elements in the Oladra. This is so anti-science, so anti-progress, and so damn stupid, and I am very bad at suffering fools. Mea Culpa on that one. Do I care that some will not buy the Oladra because it uses smps? Hell no, you ought to see the pre-orders for a start. In the end, as we have said many times, we will persue sound quality improvements and live or die based on that.

We have been at pains to explain that working on the trade-offs between noise issues and speed are where we are driving sound quality forward; that this is leading us in the direction of bringing more smps into the picture because of its superior speed; etc.

I have heard music server technologies run by linear power supplies, including the so-called great ones like Sean’s. Sorry, but they fall short of delivering the musical energy in real music, or even the musical energy on a mid-level turntable. Perhaps the issue is that people are focused only on high frequency smoothness, given that is historically where digital audio (and poor rooms/choices) fall down. I can easily achieve that with the most basic of linear power supplies. Using a better/faster linear power supply will get some musical life back, but it won’t get near what the K50 does, let alone the Oladra in that respect, in my opinion.

In the end, I am only ever going to design to my personal tastes. And maybe I want to hear more of the presence in music than others. For that reason I am not a big fan of upsampling or DSD files, as they appear to me to trade away immediacy for high frequency smoothness. But in the case of the differences between the K50 and Oladra, the Oladra is fuller, richer, more resolving, smoother, and simply a fundamentally more natural presentation of the music. So looking from where I am looking, the gripes seem premature.
If I did not think that then why would we release it - as soon as I wrote that, I forgot the cynics out there. They have already stated why they think we released it.

I am much less irked today and appreciate that you took the time to post your thoughts, Nick.

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Nick, Mark, I love your honesty and your dedication to sound quality above all. The BS marketing and lies elsewhere are refreshingly absent.
Your attitude may put a few noses out of joint, but speaking for myself: having read your posts in this thread, I am MORE likely to trade my K50 for an Oladra now, not less.
Someone has worked hard to find the best SQ, and that includes a SMPS. I don’t give a shjit about the power supply- if it works , it works, that’s all that matters.
Keep it up.

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I just want to let you guys all know I was reading all those lengthy words from begin to end while enjoying my K50.

That is all.

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We have now been able to run the prototype Oladra in a few different situations. There will be some ongoing refinements, but we are definitely on track, and I am pretty confident we will get them in the hands of our distributors during July.

Listening and comparing with the K50 is interesting, if a little unfair as we have K50s that have been used for a year or more, and that does give them an advantage. But here are my thoughts on the sound, for what that is worth.

Importantly, when we put the K50 in the system, we all say we could easily just live with this. If I do say so myself, I find the sound is very near flawless, even in 6 figure systems. The only minor flaw is that while the sound is very refined, resolving and dynamic, the sound is very slightly restrained. Using a negative term, it is a little ‘uptight’. A recent printed review in Germany compared the K50 to the MBL N31 CD Player, playing the K50 via the MBL’s DAC section. And the K50 won easily. “For the first time in my high-end life, a server solution is not only able to rival, but surpass, top-of-the-line CD drives!” (This is my translation from the German, but I thoroughly recommend you try and get your hands on this review in Image HiFi. It is a very well written review of the K50 and includes some very good insights).

The Oladra presents things quite differently. As I have hinted previously, that bit of uptight restraint that the K50 has, vanishes. The soundstage opens up, and the biggest impact for me is much grander scale and much more drama. Rather than seeing the soundstage “over there”, you are somewhat enveloped in it. My wife is no audiophile but her reaction was “the sound is not coming from the speakers”. It is strange to hear her state an audiophile cliche I have never used when talking to her about audio. But she is spot on.

I can imagine that some will prefer the K50, based on different systems, musical tastes, rooms etc. But there is a clear difference, in that the Oladra is much more like a great turntable, than it is like any music server I have heard. Again, a cliche, I am sorry.

Some years ago, and what started Project Oladra, I spent some time comparing our music servers with a 6 figure turntable source, and this gave me a very clear idea of the direction we had to head in. Everything we have done since then has got us closer, and we named our latest release the Oladra because it is doing what I started out to do.

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Congratulations! This is a wonderful outcome. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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One more thing I wanted to mention…

I used to be primarily a vinyl guy. A few years ago I decided to abandon it as I found that I really wanted to bring a significant upgrade to digital. I sold both my analog and digital front ends and then purchased a better digital front end. This was fronted by an Innuos Zentih Mk3. I would have to say that I didn’t find myself missing vinyl overall, though I did miss the density and the drama I heard from my best vinyl.

I do think that the K30 made up for the ground I lost in that area - and then some. You really have hit the ball out of the park in terms of having your servers deliver the strengths of both digital and vinyl playback. I have little doubt that I would prefer the Oladra to the K50 given your remarks. But I will have to look forward to when you are able to trickle more of that magic down to your more affordable servers.

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@kennyb123 Well said about vinyl, I was an only vinyl guy for many years. Still have a nice turntable and a GREAT cartridge. My prevost streamer was an Auralic Aries 2 a nice unit but not an Antipodes.
I have a K30 and yes it is more vinyl presentation

Yes vinyl is the way to go, Antipodes is the easier way to reproduce the vinyl sound.
Reading about the Oladra, looks like they have achieved it.

Brian