You’re probably thinking what I was thinking when I saw the subject line of that press release: “What the heck is an atomic preamp?” No, it doesn’t replace vacuum tubes with little nuclear reactors. (Although, seriously, how long before someone does?) The “atomic” designation comes from the fact that the Rubicon integrates Antelope Audio’s renowned 10M Rubidium atomic clock, which promises to be “100,000 times more stable than a traditional crystal oscillator.” Combine that with the company’s 64-bit Acoustically Focused Clocking technology, and the preamp boasts unprecedented levels of jitter management.
What does it actually do, though? As the rest of its name implies, Rubicon isn’t merely a Digital-to-Analog converter; it’s actually an Analog-to-Digital/Digital-to-Analog converter. Plug your turntable into the JFET phono preamp, and it samples your vinyl digitally, applying all of the same of the same digitally clockery that was used in the recording of the score for Avatar. Incoming audio from a PC or Network Attached Storage (yep, it’s a streamer, too, complete with DLNA capabilities) skips the Analog-to-Digital stage and heads straight for the 384 kHz DAC (the same technology used in the company’s flagship Zodiac Gold DAC).
What’s more, it includes ultra-linear, dual stage headphone amps, as well as a custom USB 2.0 chip that supports streaming up to 480 Mbits/384kHz, with the option for recording.
Ins and outs include:
1x PHONO Input on RCA
3x Inputs on RCA
1x HiZ Input on RCA
1x Combo Balanced Input on XLR/¼ TRS
1x Balanced Output on XLR
1x Unbalanced Output on RCA
Word Clock Input
2x S/PDIF De-jittered outputs
As for the price? Antelope isn’t telling just yet. But considering that the Zodiac Gold sells for €2,995.00 and the 10M Rubidium atomic clock clocks in at €5,695.00 (roughly $4000 and $7500, respectively) — and that both of those units are essentially integrated into the Rubicon — it’s safe to say it won’t be cheap. We should find out more when it’s officially introduced to the public at the Munich High End Show, May 3-6.