K30 vs K50

kennyb123

Well-Known Member
Nov 30, 2012
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Kirkland, WA
As I have posted here and on several other forums, I couldn't have been happier with what a K30 brought to my system. It replaced and Innous Zenith Mk3 and Chord M-Scaler. I combine them because the K30 has both a built-in scaling capability via HQPlayer and the ability to play files scaled up to 16FS using PGGB. The Zenith Mk3 fell short on both those marks. What mattered most though was that the K30 absolutely clobbered the Zenith Mk3/M-Scaler combo - especially in tonal density, tonal saturation and dynamics. It was quieter too, which in addition to allowing more low level detail emerge also brought a greater ease and naturalness to the music.

I really wasn't itching to hear how a K50 might compare, but the opportunity presented itself. Just over two weeks ago a demo K50 arrived. Out of the box what most struck me was the impact of struck notes. I'm a drummer so the reproduction of drums, cymbals and percussion have always been the most important to me. One of my reference tracks is “Sippin’ At Bells” from The Roy Haynes Trio. This is an incredible live performance that is very well recorded. Roy Haynes’ communicates a great deal in his drumming via his touch. From light taps to WHACK, and many levels in between. With the K50, the WHACK is conveyed with a ferocity that my K30 could not muster (though my K30 conveys this far better than any server I had previously owned).

Despite all that I mentioned, during that first week with the K50 I wasn't so sure that it really justified its higher price over the K30. That changed though once week two came along. What emerged after that just astonishing. I would sum it up as profound improvements in tone (timbre/tonal density/tonal color), dynamics/propulsive-ness, and naturalness.

Another favorite album is Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil”. When Hubbard and Shorter really blow there is considerable energy behind that - just like it would be with you sitting in the same room as them. The K30 hinted at it but it’s much more impactful and more like you'd expect from being in the room with those musicians with the K50. Tone and timbre are off the charts as well. It truly boggles my mind that a server plays such a big role in the reproduction of timbre, but no other component swap has moved the needle as far as the K50 has. It's evident in vocals as well - maybe even more so.

Nearly all my listening to the K50 has been via USB. Antipodes favors their reclocker over USB and their reasoning has to do with the fact that the clock in the K50 will be superior to the DACs found inside most DACs. That's certainly true, but it wasn't clear that this would necessarily be true in my situation as my DAC gets an assist from a REF10 SE120 when the USB input is selected. To really test this out I would need to have digital cables that are nearly on par with each other, but unfortunately none of my HDMI cables come close to my Shunyata Omega USB. I report on my first round of comparisons here, but it appears to me so far that the digital cable matters more than which of the K50's digital outputs are used. I will say though that the sound quality USB is freaking fantastic.

I'm really glad to see some of the positive reports trickling out about the OLADRA. But, I hope that doesn't cause folks to look past the K50 because Antipodes really hit the ball out of the park with it. The K30 isn't a slouch either providing one be mindful of its more-affordable price. I feel like I really lucked out with my choice to move to an Antipodes server. They really get right all the things that are important to my musical enjoyment.

I hope this was of some interest.
 
@kennyb123 indeed your report is very interesting. I had always wondered whether the K30 was basically just a cut down K50 but with only the USB output as opposed to the multiple digital outputs of the K50. It seems your conclusion is an emphatic no to that question and instead the K50 usb output is some clear distance ahead of the K30 usb output.

I have been thoroughly enjoying my K50 for just under a year now and it really is a class act. I am not at all surprised that you like it so much.

I have settled on using the USB output from the K50 and because I already had a PhoenixUSB I used that but it has stayed in my system and I like what it does to the K50 usb output (taking it out makes it clear what the PhoenixUSB add to the party). Your experience with the REF10 SE120 seems to chime with what I hear with the PhoenixUSB reclocker.

However for my best listening pleasure I then take the USB through an SRC.DX usb to bnc converter connected to my Mscaler/Dave (of course using my own Wave Storm BNC cables!). For whatever reason I find that USB/BNC route better to my ears than using the K50 BNC output directly connected to either the Dave or Mscaler.

Anyway, Antipodes seem to be doing really good things. All I can say is that in my experience the K50 is a triumph and I do not regret deciding to buy it.
 
I had always wondered whether the K30 was basically just a cut down K50 but with only the USB output as opposed to the multiple digital outputs of the K50. It seems your conclusion is an emphatic no to that question and instead the K50 usb output is some clear distance ahead of the K30 usb output.
IIRC, the K30 shares only the player board with the K50. The K50 gains a better server board, the reclocker, and three independent power supplies vs the single power supply in the K50. I believe each of these power supplies are also a step up from what's in the K30 as well.

When I purchased my K30, the price for the K50 was 50% more ($10K vs $15K USD). At the time, it was hard to wrap my head around what the additional $5K would bring me. The pandemic caused a price increase so the K50 moved up to being 75% more than what I paid for the K30. I think what helps to justify that is the realization that the kinds of improvements I'm hearing can't be delivered as effectively (or delivered at all) though downstream upgrades. If the server is unable to extract that information out of the source, it's pretty much gone for good.

I have been thoroughly enjoying my K50 for just under a year now and it really is a class act. I am not at all surprised that you like it so much.
I'm happy to hear this. I have a feeling an OLADRA may soon be in your future. :)
 
@kennyb123
Congratulations on the K50 and thanks for pointing out the fantastic album by Roy Haynes - really superb and tonally outstanding:
7EFE140B-CC25-4155-9995-BE63C82BE47A.jpeg

atb, Tom
 
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Congratulations. I found another step up in SQ by loading my library onto an internal SSD and using Squeeze as the player.
 
Good info, @kennyb123

So to pin you down on specifics -- K50 > $$hunyata USB > Gustard (with the Mutec of course -- a giant advantage that ruins the comparison) beats out a K50 > much-less-expensive HDMI cable > Gustard?

.. I know you live in a very high sampling rate world (PGGB/HQP) so these are the only interface protocols that rly work for you.
 

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