Antipodes Audio Oladra Network Audio Library Page 2

Within Antipodes' setup menus, presets are provided for various playback routes – for example Roon users need only select the 'Roon (Auto)' setting – but all of these are user-customisable. Owners of DSD libraries and suitable DACs should be aware that the default handling of these files is via DoP (DSD over PCM frames), but again this can be bypassed to 'Native'.

sqnote Ready For Anything
So, how well does the Oladra work? As with so many of these digital output network players, it's tempting to say, 'very nicely, thanks', and leave it at that, so dependent is the sound quality on the DAC with which the unit is used. However, the more I tried this Oladra with a variety of DACs, including the little Chord Mojo 2 [HFN Apr '22], the even smaller AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt [HFN Oct '19] and – getting more sensible – with the iFi Audio Neo iDSD Performance Edition and the onboard DAC stage in the Naim NSC222 network player/preamp, the more I came to appreciate one of PM's lab findingsbr with transports of this kind. And that's the simple observation that, the less ambitious the DAC in use may be, the more effective the signal-handling in the transport becomes in getting the best overall sound quality.

Now I wouldn't suggest this £25,000 server/player and a 'thumb DAC' like the DragonFly Cobalt – yours for £299, or £100 less from Amazon at the time of writing – is an obvious pairing, but in my listening it was certainly able to perform to a very high standard, the Oladra seeming to wring-out the last drops of performance.

Digging For Detail
I suspect that comparing the unit with the Aurender, Melco and other transports reviewed in HFN would be a matter of how each performs with specific DACs, but the fact remains that this Kiwi contender brings a sense of clarity and cleanness, digging out detail that can go AWOL with simpler set-ups. The simplest source being an electrically noisy computer, of course...

What's more, you don't have to delve into your tried-and-tested audiophile recordings to reveal this, so just for once yes, Keith can go. Instead, even with a track like the version of 'A Drop Of Nelson's Blood' opening the original cast album of the Fisherman's Friends musical [Island 4837064], the Oladra brings drama to the storm sound effects and snippets of the Shipping Forecast at the start of the track, and to the striking separation of the voices in the harmonies.


Ethernet I/O ports [right] are joined by three bays for outboard SATA drives [top]. Outputs are on USB-A (768kHz/32-bit; DSD512), two coax/AES3 (192kHz/24-bit; DoP to DSD64), opt (96kHz/24-bit) and I2S on HDMI/RJ45 (384kHz/32-bit; DSD512)

The same sense of vivid rendition of voices and instruments is clear in the live album from Faith Folk & Anarchy – the 'supergroup' of Steve Knightley, Martyn Joseph and Tom Robinson – recently released as a Bandcamp download. This has both consummate musicianship and real performance presence, especially in the version of Robinson's 'War Baby', and a gloriously stripped-back '2-4-6-8 Motorway', which is given an almost Latin treatment accompanied only by claps and acoustic guitar. It's tinglesome stuff.

Mind you, this clarity is also afforded to dense recordings, and they don't come much more solid than Hawkwind's 1977-79 retrospective box set Days Of The Underground [Atomhenge ATOMCD101050], which neatly coincides with the period when I joined all the other ex-military greatcoats in the Hammersmith Odeon to experience the massive power of the band's space-rock. From the relentless thunder of 'Brainstorm' to the then 'new stuff', such as the tracks from 1977's Quark, Strangeness And Charm, the Oladra does a fine job of allowing a listen-in experience to the complexities of the tracks despite that gloriously unstoppable chugging rhythm section.

And it sounds similarly delicious with the latest Bob Dylan outing, Shadow Kingdom [Columbia/Legacy/Sony 19658767492], which sounds suitably chaotic and rough and ready, but very live – just as it should – from 'I'll Be Your Baby Tonight' to 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue'. Antipodes' Oladra, especially with the excellent iFi Audio DAC in harness, just grabs and holds the attention, as it does with the sound-portrait that is Veneziana [ACT ACT 9971-2], Iiro Rantala's latest live release with members of the Berlin Philharmonic, full of self-composed tracks evoking the spirit of the sinking city, and with a lovely, lush mix of jazz and classical stylings.

And when you do unleash the Oladra on a full symphony orchestra? Well, it sounds deep, full, and close-detailed, with wonderful soundstaging and focus on the Dallas Symphony Orchestra/Litton 2002 release of the Carpenter completion of Mahler's 10th [Delos DE3295]. The combination of fluidity and drama makes for a magnificent sound, more than up to the level of any amplification with which you may choose to use it.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
This is another of those products to which it's all but impossible to assign a sonic signature, so our sound quality score is indicative of the way it will allow a DAC – seemingly any DAC, based on the listening here – to achieve its full potential. The lack of a dedicated control app will disappoint some, but use the Oladra with Roon, for example, and those quibbles vanish, leaving an excellent music store/digital transport solution.

Antipodes Audio Limited
Kapiti Coast, New Zealand
Supplied by: Elite Audio Ltd, Fife
01334 570 666