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Innuous Zenith Mk3 or Something Else?


longinc
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Hello There,

 

Hoping to tap into the collective insight of this group. I am planning to buy a music server+streamer combo and am thinking of the Innuous Zenith Mk3. And have some questions before i pull the trigger:

 

1. Any rumors/insights of a new version of the Zenith Mk3 launching soon? (hate to buy into this and have a new version pop up in short order. I think the Mk3 has been around for over 2 years now and so I thought i would check in with this group)

 

2. Any other music server/streamer combo I should consider at this price point? (the Zenith Mk3 retail is ~$4700)

 

My budget is to keep it under $5K. Thank you!

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2 hours ago, longinc said:

Hello There,

 

Hoping to tap into the collective insight of this group. I am planning to buy a music server+streamer combo and am thinking of the Innuous Zenith Mk3. And have some questions before i pull the trigger:

 

1. Any rumors/insights of a new version of the Zenith Mk3 launching soon? (hate to buy into this and have a new version pop up in short order. I think the Mk3 has been around for over 2 years now and so I thought i would check in with this group)

 

2. Any other music server/streamer combo I should consider at this price point? (the Zenith Mk3 retail is ~$4700)

 

My budget is to keep it under $5K. Thank you!

Have you considered just buying an Ethernet based DAC instead of a dedicated streamer? The streamer is really just an extra box that doesn't really offer any benefits that I see over just using an Ethernet based DAC.

 

Some of these streamers really leave me scratching my head when I see the price they are asking for them. It appears the Innuous in this case is just a Super Micro small form Motherboard with a fancy power supply.

 

With a true Ethernet based DAC, it doesnt matter what the power supply is in the server since your only connection shared between the DAC and your server is an isolated ETH cable probably passing thru a switch on its way to your DAC anyway.

 

Just another option to consider for starting at 50% less money than these streamers and probably  better sounding. Any streamer/server who's selling literature speaks specifically about "smoothing out the sound and increasing the size of the soundstage" I would personally run away from.

 

Good luck in your search

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Thanks @cjf, I have a non Ethernet DAC that I plan to keep. Hence the need for a separate server/streamer. Also I am looking for a combo as I plan to play both local (to the server) file and stream off an internet service.

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I am extremely happy with the Zenith, both in terms of functionality and sound. The Innuos 2.0 software and Sense app are really great and the hardware -contrary to the oversimplified views of being just a sum of its parts- works in tandem with the software to provide superior sound. I am not sure if Innuos are planning to release new versions of their servers (in Chris' podcast they mentioned they started thinking about mk4 versions as soon as the mk3s were released, which is usually the case for most manufacturers), but the Zenith -as is- is far from being in danger of becoming "obsolete", plus these are particularly tricky times for manufacturing, as parts shortages, due to the aftermath of covid, create a new and complex reality, at least for the time being.

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I’ve owned both a Zenith Mk2 and Zenith Mk3.  I spent many hours of enjoying music through each of them.


I think sound quality can be a moving target.  When I decided to upgrade, my criteria considered some factors not directly related to sound quality.  In addition to owning Innuos servers, I had owned an Auralec server.  I gained some insight into things I really wanted to avoid going forward.  That list follows.
 

You had wondered about whether Innuos would soon be releasing a new Zenith.  That’s a great question.  One reason I opted not to buy another Innuos server was because they didn’t have a transparent upgrade program.  I was told by Innuos a few years ago that there would be an upgrade program for my Zenith Mk3.  I was told I was put on a list to be notified when that program is launched.  To this day I have yet to be notified.  I ended up moving to Mk3 by selling my Mk2 and then purchasing a Mk3.  

 

As you can see in my signature, I am now running an Antipodes server.  If you browse their website you will find that they’ve transparently described the upgrades that are and will be available.  That they seek to keep their customer’s investment reasonably up to date is a big deal to me.

 

I can easily recommend that you consider one of their S series servers.  Maybe start with an S40 then over time add an S60.

 

This was my list of what was important to ME when buying a server.  I hope this helps.
 

  1. Sever should be capable of dynamics and transient speed - music must come to life. Low power CPUs are not good at this.
  2. Two-tier architecture seems like a great way to keep noise further away from the DAC - but it must not sacrifice the ability for music to come to life.
  3. Upgrades should offered to help keep a server investment reasonably up to date. The upgrades should be transparently communicated.
  4. Numerous software options should be offered. HQPlayer should be one of them (for me).
  5. Great pre- and post-sales support. Mark Cole
  6. offers a level of service I've not had with other providers.
  7. There should be a community forum with employees actually participating. I purchased my K30 knowing that Antipodes was going to be launching their own forum. Taiko really sets a very high standard in this with their participation in their thread here on WBF. 
  8. Company should be more well-established. I think both Auralic and Innuos were still too early in their growth when I owned their products. Nuno the Innuos CEO was actually doing support calls himself. It seemed he was stretching himself too thin by not growing his staff (I think that changed sometime last year). 
  9. The server should allow me to install my own drives. I shouldn't be locked into the drive that was installed when I purchased the server.
  10. The company should't push me towards getting support from their dealers. I wanted to be able to interact directly with folks like Mark. 

 

 

Digital:  Sonore opticalModule > Uptone EtherRegen > Shunyata Sigma Ethernet > Antipodes K30 > Shunyata Omega USB > Chord Hugo TT2 

Amp & Speakers:  Spectral DMA-150mk2 > Aerial 10T

Foundation: Stillpoints Ultra, Shunyata Denali power conditioner, Shunyata Alpha and Delta power cords, Shunyata Alpha interconnect, Shunyata Sigma Ethernet, MIT Matrix HD60 speaker cables, ASC isothermal tube traps

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Thanks @kennyb123 for the extensive write up and for sharing your experiences and your thoughts on the antipodes. I wasn’t considering that brand, but I find his design/tech approach interesting (relative to some others where the primary focus is chasing the next best linear power supply)

 

on your buying consideration “ a server should be capable of transient speed and dynamics” I’ve always associated those to be influenced in the analog domain (preamp, power amp, dac output etc) - how does a server in the digital domain affect transient speed and dynamics?

 

also if I am looking for a streamer + server combo should I be considering their K series instead of the S series?

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3 hours ago, longinc said:

on your buying consideration “ a server should be capable of transient speed and dynamics” I’ve always associated those to be influenced in the analog domain (preamp, power amp, dac output etc) - how does a server in the digital domain affect transient speed and dynamics?

 

That's a great question.  Antipodes addresses this from their perspective here in the section about noise and bandwidth.  

 

I'm not sure I can explain the "why" any better.  It has been my experience though that the source can make or break what follows. Some will advocate for a "source first" approach - and my K30 repeatedly tells me that they are right.   The K30 delivers speed and dynamics that my Zenith Mk3 barely hinted at.  It's actually pretty remarkable that a server can make such a difference in that area.  

 

What's even more profound is how much more tonal weight and density the K30 delivers.  I had gotten out of analog a few years back.  I sold my analog front end and reinvested the proceeds in a better digital front end.  A Zenith was part of that investment.  Most areas of reduction improved over analog though the one area lagging was tonal weight and density.  Digital sounded thinner and more anemic.  Colors weren't as saturated either.  That all changed when the K30 arrived.   A friend who heard my system had this to say:  "... the Antipodes K30 appears to have brought some delicious tonal richness and weight to the party".

 

Stereophile recently reviewed the K50 here.  The reviewer concluded that "Image size and weight, color saturation, bass control, and transparency were the best my system has ever delivered. Listening was the most enjoyable and rewarding I've ever experienced at home. That is cause for celebration."  While the K30 is a level below the K50, this was my experience too.

 

I had recommended the S40 and this S60.  The K30 is actually equivalent to the S30 + S40 + S60, but all in a single box.  The S series just allows you to get there in increments.

 

Digital:  Sonore opticalModule > Uptone EtherRegen > Shunyata Sigma Ethernet > Antipodes K30 > Shunyata Omega USB > Chord Hugo TT2 

Amp & Speakers:  Spectral DMA-150mk2 > Aerial 10T

Foundation: Stillpoints Ultra, Shunyata Denali power conditioner, Shunyata Alpha and Delta power cords, Shunyata Alpha interconnect, Shunyata Sigma Ethernet, MIT Matrix HD60 speaker cables, ASC isothermal tube traps

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10 hours ago, longinc said:

Thanks @tedwoods for sharing your experience on the Zenith. Did you get a chance to compare the zenith to other servers?

I had the SOtM trifecta before w/h a variety of servers (Roon Nucleus, custom high powered server to run HQP, various NUCs with Audio Linux and Euphony) and have auditioned the Aurender N100H, the Auralic Aries G2.1 and the (older) Antipodes DS/ES combo. I liked all the servers I have auditioned more than my own front end combination at the time, but my decision to get the Zenith was a combination of other factors too. For example, I wanted to get away from Roon and wanted the server to have its own player (like the ones from Aurender and Auralic) and good USB output. Innuos now have the Inuuos 2.0 and Sense app, which are very good.

I too like the Antipodes "house sound" and I am confident their gear is truly special (I believe they will also be coming out with their own player soon), albeit beyond my reach. I agree with @kennyb123 that higher powered servers provide better dynamics, but the whole system dynamic behaviour is at play sometimes. In my system, I now have a previously all but elusive combination of detail and dynamics but also a non fatiguing sound.

Notwithstanding, better systems do exist.😁

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