The Antelope Audio room helmed by Marcel James is usually one of my first stops. At this year's RMAF, I think we managed to get there about an hour before show closing on Sunday. I was a little punchy by then. I was past punchy. I was basically drooling out of the side of my mouth, half deaf, and about as perceptive as a bag of hair.
Marcel was kind enough not to laugh too hard at my plight. He was also kind enough to speak slowly, repeat himself when necessary, and use very short words. I hope you'll be kind enough to understand that I may have missed some details here.
First off, let’s get the disappointment out of the way. Antelope’s epic Rubicon was not in use here. The working model had been packed up in its armored flight case and carried up to a room in the tower. What was left was a display model that looked just as Sci-Fi-Hi-Fi as it has the last umpteen times it’s been around to tempt me.
Honestly, though, I’m only interested in the Rubicon the way a fifth grade boy is interested in Ferraris. It’s beautiful engineering, but I’m unlikely to own one no matter how many posters I put on my wall. I was much more interested in Antelope’s Zodiac Platinum dac ($5,900 with optional power supply), and, fortunately, that’s what Marcel had playing when I walked in.
Now, I was a bit show-dumb, but played through the SCM100-ASLT active monitors ($35,000), I could have sworn that the Platinum was just a small upgrade on the Gold. Then the clarity and dynamics set in, and I could have sworn I was listening to the Rubicon. Unfortunately, my personal show conditions combined with the fact that I’ve never quite warmed to the sound of the ATC speakers in use to keep me from making too many judgments.
Marcel suggested that what I thought I was hearing might not be my imagination. In addition to redesigning the DAC section, the input section, the clocking (enjoy the new word clock input, guys!), and the Voltikus power supply, Antelope also rejiggered the output stage. The shoebox and the name are all that remain of the old Zodiac line.
In fact, I probably should have been hearing more changes. Hey, I was tired, and every song was beginning to sound like a track from “Cookie Monster Sings Your Least Favorite Hits.” I thanked everybody, hurried to the door, and only bumped into three chairs on my way out.
Antelope’s Platinum is something I really need to hear again.