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This Speaker Set Is So Finely-Tuned, It Has an Atomic Clock Inside

If Dr. No were an audio nerd, the Antelope Rubicon would have had a place of pride in his island lair. The Rubicon is the world’s first AD/DA preamp to house its own atomic clock, and it looks absolutely space age with its vented copper dome and black mirror finish. Yes, it retails for $40,000, and no, you probably don’t need a dose of rubidium-87 for your lossless music files to sound decent. But this doesn’t sound decent, it sounds incredible.

Los Angeles-based Antelope Audio started by making professional audio equipment for the recording industry but eventually moved into the consumer sphere as well, offering the same sound components in more attractive, living-room-friendly packages. The dramatically-named Rubicon is Antelope’s top-of-the-line preamp and it uses an actual 10 MHz rubidium atomic clock as the clocking unit for converting digital signal to analog and vice versa.

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The Antelope Audi Rubicon Atomic AD/DA Preamp, which retails for $40,000, is demonstrated during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Jan. 7, 2015. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

At this point you might be wondering why you need a clock in an audio preamp in the first place. Good question. The basic explanation is that analog audio signals are waves while digital signals are packages of samples. To convert between the two, everything needs to be precisely timed so that poorly arranged samples don’t create a jittery sound wave. The Rubicon’s atomic clock is 100,000 times more precise than the crystal oscillators you’ll find in most preamps.

Working With What You Have

The Rubicon will work with almost any audio or theater set up you can imagine. You can use USB to connect it right to your laptop and a pair of speakers, or you can get fancy and start linking in amplifiers, televisions, and other components to create a real home theatre. Even if you don’t think you can hear the difference between the Rubicon and, say, a $5,000 pre-amp, you won’t be able to find anything to complain about once it’s up and running. The sound stage is as open as you can imagine, and you'll find yourself listening closer, waiting for that next little detail to reveal itself.

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The Antelope Audi Rubicon Atomic AD/DA Preamp, which retails for $40,000, is demonstrated during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Jan. 7, 2015. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

If you do a little research, you’ll notice that the Rubicon actually won an innovation award at the 2013 CES. It was pulled from the market almost immediately after its release because Antelope wanted to make a few additional technical developments, and felt it was inappropriate for its top-tier consumer product to be any less than the best it had to offer. The Rubicon you have here is a brand new version with all the latest processor and materials updates.

The Rubicon can be ordered directly from Antelope Audio for $40,000. Each is made to order with a wait time of approximately six months. Bond-villain status not included.

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The Antelope Audi Rubicon Atomic AD/DA Preamp, which retails for $40,000, is displayed during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Jan. 7, 2015. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

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