Antelope Audio’s newest DAC, the Zodiac Platinum, isn’t merely a follow-up to the original Zodiac Silver DAC, it’s a re-think of the Zodiac series. Thankfully, Platinum sports the same compact shape, the same quality construction, and it is compatible with the same awesome Voltikus power supply.
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Antelope Audio Zodiac Platinum DSD: ~5600$ USD
ohmage & porridge: haptics
For the most part, Platinum is a breeze to use. The front panel is studded with a minimum of controls: power, source, mono, mute, and a handy output A/B selector. Each one is easily recognisable, and visible from all the necessary angles. The volume pot rotates on an infinity axis, controlling output levels from -95dB to 0dB. Because it is digital, volume levels are balanced more or less perfectly balanced from the -95dB on, which is especially important because output signals can be strong.
Platinum boasts myriad digital and analogue ins and outs; its backside rather bristles with ports. Antelope go so far as to include dual TRS inputs and an AES digital port. I have a feeling that some audiophiles have preferred XLR, but I could be wrong. Largely, Zodiac Platinum excels at providing every connection you ever will need.
Labelling is clear and hardware is keenly lined up. From a user standpoint, there is nothing to change. Well, that isn’t completely correct. Platinum comes with the excellent Voltikus power supply. Excellent as it is, it can’t be turned off. If you want to power it down, you must unplug it. The good news is that on or off, it makes nary a hum, and doesn’t chug electricity. But it would be very nice if Voltikus had a power switch of its own.
Secondly, Platinum’s indicator lamps are Las Vegas-bright. While brightness is adjustable via software, it can't be adjusted from the DAC or remote. To be clear, Las Vegas is a far cry from the atomic bomb blast of the Vorzüge PURE II. But, for a quiet, comfortable listening room, the lamps are simply too bright.
Both Platinum and Voltikus excel at dissipating heat. Even whilst decoding hefty 24bit files and spitting back either analogue or de-jittered digital signals from any of its several outputs, either box remains cool to the touch.
Platinum automatically detects digital signals. Manually selecting available signals is a breeze, from either the DAC’s front panel or the included remote control.
ohmage & porridge: kitsch and quality
Voltikus and Platinum are solid. Platinum’s one-piece extruded case is machined to extremely tight tolerances. There isn’t a rough edge on its body. Its rear plate is precisely fitted into a neat exoskeleton. The front panel bares fine scoring that resists fingerprints and scratching. Print detailing is perfect on the front panel. Paint on the rear panel suffers the smallest of printing head shifts but legibility isn’t sacrificed in the slightest.
Voltikus is almost as impressive. Per cubic centimetre, it is heavier than Platinum. It also rests on more finely machined feet, whose raised toe flanges mete out supreme stability.
Kitsch fans may enjoy Voltikus’ loud advert: “Ultra-Low Noise 3R Triple Regulated”. I find it an ill-fitting partner for HiFi audio. Indelible advertisements of the kind are best suited to department stores brands and Japanese electronics.
By contrast, the remote control is simply luxury. It is heavy, solid, and made of two brushed aluminium panels. Button presses are positive and the activation of all functions is simple. It is a remote to be studied.
Finally, both units resist the ingress of wireless noise from your’ neighbour’s souped up WiFi system, and ground hums are not something you needn’t worry much about.
Antelope Audio's entry-level Zodiac Silver impressed with its low noise floor and detail. Platinum simply blows by it in nearly every category. Its de-jittered digital lines are dead silent, but that’s a given. More impressive is its dead silent analogue circuitry. Truthfully, I’ve never used multi-purpose DAC that as adroitly skips the whole problem of analogue noise.
Even supplying signal to sensitive powered studio monitors, this DAC is absolutely clear at all times. Any noise you hear will come from outboard amplifiers and other circuitry. It will not come from Platinum. No way.
From bottom to top, its signal is detailed and multi-layered. Unlike the entry-level Silver, Platinum eschews high-frequency velvet for detail. The output signal is ruler flat from bottom to top from any of its connections. It is also razor sharp and detailed.
Its headphone amp circuitry is fine for high-Ω, low-current loads, providing enough clean volume for the likes of the DT880 600Ω for listening levels with a mean volume of less than 95dB. For low Ω, high-current headphones, Platinum’s headphone amp circuit is bested by most dedicated amps out there. Because Platinum’s analogue outputs are tip top; I highly recommend perusing them with a good dedicated headphone amplifier.
As a pre-amp, Platinum thrusts detail, stage width, instrument delineation, and speed at a wide melange of musical genres. It is, in the words of Ed Selley, “one of the most future proof designs on sale today”. As long as you have drivers worked out, it works free of hiccup with your computer or streaming system. And in the digital HiFi, it is the perfect hub for all of your equipment.
As long as you are not primarily a headphone listener, Antelope Audio’s Zodiac Platinum marks one of the best entries in the category of upper mid-end DACs. It is impeccably constructed, easy to use, handles pretty much any digital signal out there, and provides lush detail to every output device you have. Apart from its blinding lights, it simply disappears in a good HiFi setup, while providing the ultimate in backend support. Of course, if you’re in it for Platinum’s wonderfully, detailed and lush output, you will need to have a very smart HiFi system, as nothing less will keep up.