Antelope is well-known as a maker of high-end audio interfaces—models in their Orion series combine top-notch sound with comprehensive i/o and hardware-powered effects. The new Amari interface is a different animal, however—it shares the peerless sound quality of all Antelope’s products, but it puts that quality to use for mastering applications and audiophile playback/conversion, rather than for multitrack recording. Let’s take a look at what Amari has to offer.
Amari is all about the sound. Its raison d’être is to provide the absolute best reference-grade signal quality for critical mastering (and mixing) applications, and also to serve as an audiophile-level converter for high-end recordings. To that end, along with its 24-bit resolution Amari’s Sample Rate options extend all the way from standard 44.1k and 48k up to 384k for PCM audio, and it’s capable of handling audiophile DSD recordings up to DSD256.
To achieve the desired sound quality, Antelope has gone the extra mile in designing Amari. It employs their 8x DAC architecture for the D/A Converters—this consists of 4 × CS43198 chips per channel, and provides a dynamic range of 138 dB at the main outs, which is close to the theoretical maximum possible with 24-bit audio. The headphone outs utilize dual DAC architecture (1 AK5578 chip per channel), for a dynamic range there of 128 dB. Headphone playback also offers adjustable impedance—more on that below.
Antelope proudly states that this design offers “astonishing clarity, detail, and stereo image”, and listening to audio through Amari with high-quality recordings over a suitable system confirms a sense of clarity and detail that should please even the most demanding mastering engineers and audiophiles.
One thing Amari does share with its siblings is a choice between the internal clock—Antelope’s 4th Generation 64-Bit Acoustically Focused Clocking—and their standalone 10M atomic clock, which provides the last word in clocking accuracy, for ultimate cost-is-no-object state-of-the-art setups.
Amari isn’t a multichannel interface like many of its stablemates—in line with its intended applications, it’s a stereo device. However there are a number of options when it comes to i/o.
Round back you’ll find the main Analog ins and outs, available on combo XLR/TRS connectors, and there is another pair of dedicated stereo TRS output jacks as well. There’s also a pair of RCA input jacks, presumably for audiophile applications (like digitizing hi-end vinyl recordings, perhaps). Stereo digital i/o includes AES connections on XLR, and S/PDIF connections are handled by both RCA and Toslink connectors.
There are two BNC Word Clock inputs, including one dedicated to Antelope’s 10M Atomic Clock device. (Of course, clocking can also be sourced from the embedded clock in the AES and S/PDIF digital inputs.) Computer connection is via a USB 3.1 Gen1 connection (the familiar blue jack), allowing for suitably high-speed transfer of the high-sample-rate signals the unit is capable of handling. The rear panel is rounded out with a connection for an adaptable wall wart. It’s a bit clunky, so make sure you have three free slots on your power adaptor.
When I first saw pictures of Amari on the Antelope website, I assumed it was a smaller half-rack unit. But when it actually arrived I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s a larger table-top box, elegantly appointed with a copper-colored finish, a large knob, and a generous touchscreen display.
From left to right, the front panel includes two balanced headphone jacks with volume controls, the center (touchscreen) panel, clock indicators, the master volume knob, and three buttons for Mono, Mute, and Dim (by a user-preset amount). A press on the volume knob toggles the touchscreen display between the main view and a screen dedicated to the Monitor Volume, Mono, Mute, and Dim settings—this is where you can set the Dim amount in dB.
In the main touchscreen panel you’ll find seven level meters, user-settable indicators for clock and Sample Rate, and a menu for making various utility settings, including enabling sample rate conversion, saving configuration Presets, and the headphone impedance adjustments. In line with its dual function as an interface and a converter, each of the analog, digital and headphone outs offers a user-selectable source—USB (computer) playback, AES, S/PDIF, or Optical (Toslink).
The screen is rounded out with five Preset buttons at the bottom. The touchscreen itself is responsive, and it was relatively easy to dial up settings there, though the settings can also be made in the Amari software control panel.
Headphone Weight Membrane Compensation System
A unique feature of Amari is its “headphone weight membrane compensation system”—this is a lengthy title for a user-selectable headphone impedance selector that can be employed to optimize the high-power headphone outs to the user’s specific headphones. This adjustment—available from either the touchscreen or the software Control Panel—offers selectable headphone impedance for each of the balanced XLR headphone outs, ranging from -4.6 to 85.3 Ω, available in 17 control steps.
Dialing up the best impedance setting can more effectively compensate for the resistance due to the weight of the headphone membrane, hence the descriptive nomenclature. With this feature—combined with Antelope’s dual-amp differential input design—you should be able to achieve optimal headphone monitoring.
Amari follows the same installation procedure as all of Antelope’s interfaces—their Launcher installs the driver, updates the unit’s firmware, and provides access to the Control Panel. It’s easy enough to do—just be patient if there are pauses during the process, and eventually the installer will finish and the Launcher window will present the button to open the Control Panel. The Amari Control Panel offers computer-based access to the same functions in the touchscreen, plus a few additional ones, like Buffer size, USB latency, and L/R balances.
As I mentioned above, with suitable recordings and a high-end playback system Amari provides the kind of excellent clarity and detail its specs promise, and that you’d expect from Antelope. The high-powered headphone amps with their impedance adjustments provided excellent sound with several headphones with different rated impedances. Of course you’ll need the best playback equipment to fully realize the level of sound this box is capable of, but in the right environment it will undoubtedly shine.
Amari fills a niche in Antelope’s line—it’s a dedicated stereo mastering/audiophile interface and high-end converter for those users and applications where only the absolute best-quality sound will do. While it’s not cheap, in the world it’s intended for it is reasonably priced, and it may be just the thing to bring Antelope’s flawless sound to discerning mastering suites and audiophile setups.
Pros: Peerless sound; wide dynamic range; high-end clocking; headphone impedance adjustments
Cons: Power wart takes up three spaces
More about mixing and mastering: https://ask.audio/academy?nleloc=category/audio/topic/mixing
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