Antelope Zodiac Gold/Voltikus review from the

Antelope Zodiac Gold/Voltikus review from the
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Denon AVR-X2000
Zodiac Gold/Voltikus
Antelope Zodiac Gold/Voltikus
Tested at £2595
All-in-one-systems
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JUST T EST ED
Audio interconnects
(analog ue)
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Mk2
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(dig ital)
Allows for a decent amount
Cartridg es
of detail but the lack of
weight and richness leaves
tracks sounding cold
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Hugely capable and packed with useful features, this is
well worth an audition
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FOR
Refined presentation
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Impressive detail resolution
AGAINST
Sound lacks just a bit of dynamic
punch and rhythmic precision
Wide soundstaging
Great remote
"What is it?" is the first question anyone asks when first confronted by the
brick-shaped Zodiac Gold. The answer isn't straightforward. In hi-fi we're
used to products fitting neatly into conventional categories; this Antelope
doesn't quite do that.
At its heart the Zodiac Gold is a digital-to-analogue converter. It's the top
model of three that the company currently makes. Here, we're testing it with
the optional outboard power supply called, rather colourfully, Voltikus. As
standard it sounds pretty good, and if that's all you heard you'd probably be
more than happy.
Speaker packages
DALI Ikon 5 MK2
Film and music fans will
enjoy its thrilling sound and
ability with rhythms
Read
TVs
Samsung
UE65HU7500
A great 4K performance that
doesn’t forget the
importance of other
resolutions. This is an
excellent all-rounder.
Read
Nevertheless, spending the extra for a Voltikus really does pay dividends. This
compact unit delivers a purer, more stable power feed to the Zodiac Gold,
helping it deliver a more convincing sound.
The Zodiac Gold remains a smooth and subtle performer, but there are
notable gains in detail resolution, sound staging and dynamic expression with
the premium power supply option. Once the scale of the improvements is
heard to
weimprove
doubt whether
anyone
would stick
toprovide
the standard
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Antelope Zodiac Gold review: Features
More than just a DAC, the Zodiac Gold is a fully featured preamp too. It's a
small box, and every bit of the rear panel is covered with sockets. There are
balanced and single-ended analogue connections along with a comprehensive
collection of digital inputs and outputs.
Inputs are selected by toggling through the options via the source button. This
could prove cumbersome but, cleverly, the Zodiac Gold auto-senses the
connections in use, so redundant inputs are ignored – neat.
At the front there's a pair of full-sized headphone outputs with a dedicated
volume control. Headphone outputs are usually an afterthought on products
such as this, but here they sound as good as the line-level output.
Unusually for a high-end stereo unit, Antelope has a control PC/Mac app for
this DAC too. It's nicely done and sends commands via the USB connection.
Antelope Zodiac Gold review: Build quality
Neither the Zodiac Gold nor the Voltikus is a particularly hefty unit for its size,
but they feel nicely made. We really like the remote too, it's a solid, simple allmetal unit that's a pleasure to use. That's more than can be said for most of
the handsets we see in the Temptations section of our magazine.
That said, we think the main control knobs could feel more substantial, and
we're sure the loud clicking sound the volume control circuitry makes as the
level is changed will irritate some. Smaller gaps between volume steps at
lower volumes would be nice too; it was hard to get exactly the right loudness
when listening quietly.
Once given the best part of a week to settle down, this Antelope combination
impresses. From cold, the impression is of excess richness in the bass, but
this slowly fades to leave a pleasingly refined and balanced sound.
If you're the kind of person who thinks all digital products sound hard and
aggressive, this pairing will make you think again. It sounds pure, clean and
unforced. Despite a crisp presentation and a high level of resolution, the
Zodiac Gold always delivers fluid and engaging results.
Antelope Zodiac Gold review: Performance
Listen to a 24Bit/192kHz rendition of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No.3
through the USB input and the sheer scale of the stereo imaging is the first
thing that impresses. The sound staging is unusually wide, nicely layered and
beautifully focused.
If you enjoy pinpointing the exact position of instruments in a recording, the
Zodiac Gold is a fine choice.There's loads of fine detail on offer and it's
presented in a natural, rounded manner, and with real delicacy.
Move onto Kate Bush's 50 Words For Snow and the good news continues. Her
distinctive voice is delivered with passion and is rich with texture. There's no
shortage of agility either.
It's only when playing something like Jay-Z's Blueprint 3 that weaknesses
arise. Music such as this needs rock-solid punch and precise rhythmic timing
to work. The Zodiac Gold doesn't quite deliver. It favours the delicate over the
dynamite, so fails to communicate that final degree of excitement, robbing this
fine product of the fifth star.
The story is remarkably similar through the analogue line-level inputs. There's
enough transparency to make good use of high quality sources, but not quite
the absolute authority to truly convince with all types of music.
Antelope Zodiac Gold review: Verdict
The Zodiac Gold/Voltikus combo is immensely capable, and has the kind of
sonic balance that makes long-term listening easy. We can't think of a rival
that matches its range of features. It's not quite an all-rounder but remains a
proposition to be taken seriously.
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