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Cracow Sonic Society | meeting #127

Ancient Audio

Active near-field loudspeakers

ul. Malawskiego 50
31-471 Kraków | Poland


Text: Rysiek B., Wiciu, Bartosz, Wojciech Pacuła
Images: Rysiek B., Wiciu, Bartosz, Wojciech Pacuła

Meeting 127

August 1, 2020

he world must be changing, since even Janusz listens to YouTube from his computer ..." - This is how an e-mail from Jarek Waszczyszyn started on a May day. As you surely remember, he is the owner of Ancient Audio and co-owner of FRAM. Janusz in question is one of the hosts of the Cracow Sonic Society meetings, grounded at home along with millions of other people due to the coronavirus pandemic. The whole CSS has also been grounded.

We found a way around social distancing the last time, preparing a "correspondence" meeting where people could simply talk about what they were doing at that time, what they were passionate about in audio and music, what turned them on. You can find a report from this virtual meeting HERE (in Polish). Since it turned out pretty cool, Jarek dropped an idea for the next meeting - an idea, let's add, not quite selfless.

At the beginning of June, the newest active Ancient Audio loudspeakers, intended to be placed on a desk, the Vintage Oslo were launched. Their history dates back to 2012, when Jarek shocked the high-end world presenting the Studio Oslo speakers. These were active loudspeakers, intended to be placed on a desk and to work paired with a computer. Their "heart" was the Ancient Audio digital processor. And probably it sparked the idea of the Oslo development, to show what can be achieved with it.

The presentation was successful, and the loudspeakers sounded great. It was a proposition for us, blase audiophiles and music lovers who wanted to listen to music while working at the computer. The speakers, however, had a certain property that effectively repelled most potential customers - they looked as if they had been built in a garage. Because that was true, and that's what they looked like, suggesting - CRAFTSMANSHIP. In itself, commendable, that's what we want in audio, but they stood against what was happening in this sector. The focus at the time was on design.

Looking at Studio Oslo it was hard to imagine that they would be standing next to a fancy Apple computer, in the sleek interiors of executive offices and cabinets. But Jarek felt it too, because in 2016 the Digital Speaker Manufacture company was established, whose task was to introduce the proven concepts and Ancient Audio technology into serial production. Its loudspeakers feature a much more fancy design, because their cabinets are made of aluminum. And just when it seemed that Ancient Audio would remain a manufacturer of high-end electronics, and FRAM would focus on active loudspeakers, the Vintage Oslo happened.

| A few simple words…

Owner, designer

As you know, small desk speakers have been turning me on for 8 years ... Because they offer a good sound in every conditions and for everyone. And now the topic is even more carrying, although we did not predict an epidemic. Since we all sit home and listen to music on our computers, and even through a non-audiophile website such as the YouTube, how about we do it with much more fun?

I am reluctant to use the term "computer speakers" because it immediately suggests an awful sh.t. But it can be done really well. English suggests the "Desktop Speakers" or "Personal Speakers" terms, but there is no Polish equivalent - please make a suggestion! Let me remind you that in the past the "interface" was translated as "Międzymordzie" :) Therefore, we keep working on new small loudspeakers. As Ancient Audio and as Fram.

Fram is preparing new versions of the loudspeakers, the Midi 120 model will go first (test of the Maxi HERE - editorial note). They will receive a new, attractive housing, and more importantly, they will be controlled by new speaker processor software, conveniently switched by the user. Programs for listening from in a near-field, i.e. with speakers on the desk, will be treated with special attention. The effect, I think I can reveal it, is quite good, even in a small room with average acoustics.

Small loudspeakers, but offering a lot of fun while listening to the music, were born in Ancient Audio, as Studio Oslo. The next installment, this time with a processor, will be presented very soon! The electronics played literally yesterday for the first time, and the carpenter promises that the cabinets will be provided any second now, and .... it will be something that will perfectly fit into the new reality. Despite the classic look and the name - Vintage Oslo. And everything is moving towards the next, joint listening to music and necessary equipment by the Cracow Sonic Society. JW

| Vintage Oslo

So what are Vintage Oslo? - These are active speakers, designed to be placed on a desk. There are based on a full-range driver controlled by a Digital Speaker Processor, with three programs - one for playing in the open space and two for playing on the desk. All electronics, i.e. two 20 W amplifiers and a signal processor, are placed on one PCB.

PCB for Vintage Oslo


As Jarek says, the cabinet is the key to the sound of these speakers. He does not hide the fact that he likes retro style, after all he named his company Ancient Audio. The famous Tannoy Red studio monitors were a great inspiration for him. The name Vintage Oslo was ready in advance, only a good cabinets maker was needed. The classic-style housing was to be made of bamboo, but the quality of the prototypes made in China was terrible.

That is why he established cooperation with Marek Godynia's carpentry shop. As Jarek says, Mr. Marek is not only an excellent carpenter, but also an audiophile. Few carpentry shops have their own listening room ... The Vintage Oslo enclosures were perfectly made, of course by hand, covered with Polish oak, and even - as we read in the press materials - "the Polish sun provided energy to the carpentry tools and machines". The production is supervised by Szymon Nowak, also the manufacturer of his own Aions loudspeakers. The drivers are provided by the Polish company STX. So we are talking about a completely Polish product, made here from A to Z.

Listening room at Marek Godyń carpentry shop


One should place the speakers on both sides of the monitor. As all electronics and inputs are in one speakers, the signal is led to the other via a cable terminated with an RCA plug. We can send an analog signal to the loudspeaker - through the 3.5 mm TRS input (mini-jack). The set also includes an inexpensive D/A converter, something like an "external audio card". On the one end, we plug it into the computer via the USB port, and on the other, we connect an analog signal to the speaker input. You can also, optionally, buy a Bluetooth receiver, and plug it into the socket in the speaker.

The speakers are offered in three colors: natural oak, brown and black. The retail price for a set is PLN 1999, the Bluetooth receiver costs additional PLN 99 (it’s an option).


The "meeting" was organized in such a way that each of us prepared two tracks and recommended them to others. Since there were four of us, and Bartek relied on our choice, we choose six titles available on YouTube:

|1| Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders, Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders at the Keystone, Berkeley, CA 10/11/1973 | watch HERE

|2| Dr. Lonnie Smith, JuJu (Live) | watch HERE

|3| Deep Purple, Child in Time w: Made in Japan (1972) | watch HERE

|4| Beethoven, Piano Concerto No 4 in G major, Op. 58, wyk. Krystian Zimerman, Wiener Philharmoniker, Bernstein (9/1989) | watch HERE

|5| The Shadows, Kon-Tiki | watch HERE

|6| L'Arpeggiata, Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680), Tarantella Napoletana | watch HERE


Rysiek B. | Wieliczka 26.06.2020

RYSIEK is a lover of old tube radios, which he gets renovated and later he listens to each of them in turns. The heart of his basic system is the McIntosh Mc275 Commemorative Edition tube amplifier and the Ancient Audio Prime CD player with Dynaudio speakers.

Our KTS meetings are still suspended, so with real joy I accepted the chief editor’s proposal to improvise a correspondence version of our next, already 125th, meeting. I took the Vintage Oslo speakers from Jarek Waszczyszyn with a rather skeptical attitude. I was supposed to listen to music from the Internet, YouTube, when being surrounded by tubes? - OK, I’ll survive, I thought, since the CSS Order expects it from me ...

Nice little boxes, I thought when unpacking them and setting them on my desk. Inside the small box, in which Jarek brought them to me, I also found a few cables and something called: Hyper X AMP - USB Sound Card - Kingston. The manufacturer recommends connecting the computer with his monitors using this USB adapter and - as I verified during the test - he knows what he is doing. My friends chose the tracks to listen to, I added two myself and I was ready to start the test.

It was my first contact with active monitors - not counting the Mackie studio ones - with a computer and YouTube as sources. I started slowly with an agreed list of songs and I immediately heard that these speakers really liked the Hammonds, which I found rather surprising. I listened to the selected playlist for a week, I take my time with the assessment, because for me it is a new medium and a new experience. The first impression is purity of the sound. Me, a man who spent most of my live with tubes, recognize the advantage of solid-state devices in this respect and this case confirmed it again.

I listened to the classical music, I know the Alfa’s CDs by heart - now I got drawn into the energy and emotions of this music again, it sounded interesting with Jarek's speakers and it really worked for me. Going a bit deeper into the sonic assessment of all recordings, let me say: this is a fast, clean in blue and green tones sound, which will surprise you with the richness of transients, especially when listening to plucked string instruments and brass ones. The aura around the recording and the breathing of a concert hall or studio were clearly felt, but it's not a high-end level yet.

The size and character of Vintage Oslo's sound make them suitable for smaller rooms and for near-field listening. So I would expect some modifications from Ancient Audio. I believe that adding adjustable tone controls while removing the existing DSP switch is a necessary modification for these monitors. I once read somewhere that, while listening to the music in the car, one should set the stage from front to back. Especially for quiet listening and to balance various mastering available on the Internet.

And now - I do not know if it is a disadvantage or an advantage, but these loudspeakers reveal the faults of the recordings and it pained me to hear so well that the quality and methods of mastering of the available music are vastly dispersed. In my opinion the Hyper X converter should be included as a standard element for these monitors. More sockets, more ports - there are never enough of them - I want to see a Christmas tree on the rear panel, Mr. Designer, but the tone controls, for convenience, should be placed on the front.

I respect Ancient Audio's proposition, since thanks to this company I supplied the cables for the AA system for John Tu, the owner of Kingston Technology, that's why I should say avanti Jarek! - I expect next versions of these speakers. In summary and beyond the evaluation, two things were the highlights of this experience for me: I loved listening to the Kon-Tiki and got goosebumps listening to the Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman duo outside of the agreed playlist. Let me wish a similar experience to all of you music lovers and audiophiles. RB

Wiciu | Kraków 20.06.2020

WICIU plays on Jadis tube amplifiers at home and buys more CDs than he can listen to :) His beloved loudspeakers are Sonus faber GIARNIERI.

As you know, the speakers installed in computers (in this case: in a Samsung notebook) are there for a user to hear a Microsoft's Windows „jingle” or, at most, to listen to an interview on the Internet. They are not meant to play music from the computer, because they are not suitable for this task due to their characteristics. I mean a complete lack of the midrange, especially the lower part. And forget about bass. So, to actually listen to something, one has to to equip one’s computer with external speakers and that’s what Master Jaromir decides to present to us.

After connecting these speakers to a computer and playing music, man becomes more joyful because there is space. The music stops squeezing through the computer's loudspeaker slots and opens up. More sounds appear. It turns out that the known recordings actually include bass !!! Not just bass, but BASS. I was particularly struck by Roger Glover's bass part in Child in Time from the Osaka concert (I thought it was the version, but that's something to be checked) one of the three memorable concerts in Japan in August 1972. Here you can actually hear the bassist in all his glory.

The track La Carpinece by L'Arpeggiata is also impressive. There is rhythm, energy, drive. I felt like rushing from my armchair to the floor to tap the rhythm with my heels.

The speakers offer three sound settings. I liked the middle position of the switch on the back of the speaker most. It gives a good spaciousness and a beautiful kick (so to speak). I also have good news for those who like to listen to the classical music. Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, performed by Krystian Zimerman under Leonard Bernstein, definitely attracted my attention. The whole thing sounds really good. The piano is soft and lush./p>

Class, grace can be appreciated most in a context. To hear the difference, I compared the sound of the Ancient Oslo and low budget computer speakers of similar dimensions. Also here the difference in the sound emission was immediately audible. The sound was higher, less spacious, the bass was poor. I quickly changed speakers back, because in-depth analysis of the differences seemed like a a waste of time.

In conclusion: Ancient Oslo should find its way under every roof, or rather to every desk of audiophile/computer maniac! W

Bartek | Kraków 08.07.2020

For several years BARTEK, that prepared our NEWS for you recently, moved on. He listens to the music mainly from Tidal, but he uses the HiFiMAN Edition X v2 headphones and the CHORD Hugo TT (v1) digital-to-analog converter / headphone amplifier, too.

The original version of this text was completely different. After a few days spent with the new Ancient Audio loudspeakers, I formed a firm opinion about them: it is a solid product that sounds well… and that's it. I did not see a place for it on the (overloaded) audio market, I could not imagine its potential buyers. Only after I handed the text I realized something. That buyer… could be me.

Let us consider for a moment what the Vintage Oslo actually is. These are small active loudspeakers, made entirely in Poland by the Krakow-based company Ancient Audio, which has phenomenal-sounding components representing the very top-high-end performance level, but also an experience in developing this type of product, intended for a much wider audience.

And for me, all this - as soon as I calmed down and gathered my thoughts - is of great importance. Since moving to my own apartment, I can’t complain about excessive space. I had to say goodbye to a large, "full-fledged" audio system: the components are either stored in the basement or already please new owners, the collection of vinyl records collects dust. My source of music became a set combined of a telephone + headphones + TIDAL (in defence of my audiophile sensitivity I will only say that headphones are from AKG, and I listen to TIDAL in the Master version). The Vintage Oslo made me believe that "something more" is within my reach. They are small, have a classic, pleasant form, and the materials used in their construction harmonize well with my minimalist living room.

Besides, as for this type of product they sound just great. That is why I referred to Ancient Audio's high-end pedigree a moment ago - listening to the Vintage Oslo we immediately realize that there is nothing accidental about them. The sound is surprisingly large, smooth, but not blurry, it works great with classic rock and pop music, such as by Billie Eilish.

What's more, these speakers worked equally well combined with my long-serving PlayStation 4; I don't remember the titles I play ever sounded so good. Luckily, I had the penultimate installment of the Mortal Kombat series (namely: the Mortal Kombat XL) installed on the hard disk of the Japanese console, i.e. a game in which sound plays a significant role. After a dozen or so sessions with the sound played via the Vintage Oslo, I appreciated this aspect of the Mortal even more.

And last but not least: these speakers are designed and made in Poland. For me, especially in times of a global pandemic, this has its value. A person of flesh and blood, a real person, not a machine or a corporate mentality, is responsible for this product.

Vintage Oslo are beautifully sounding, well thought-out loudspeakers that I love with all my heart. Does this mean that I do not see any flaws in them? Of course not. Their appearance, although kept in a classic style, will not appeal to everyone, and the quality of the instructions / help that are supposed to help user in correct installation and usage of the system is terrible. But who cares, since dealing with this model gives me so much pure, unfettered fun? B

Wojciech Pacuła | Kraków 29.06.2020

I listened to all Oslo series speakers.

I have known Jarek's "Oslo" series loudspeakers from the very beginning, that is since he came up with the idea. It was a bold move on his part, because being a manufacturer of high-end and top high-end audio components, he never had to deal with the sale of mainstream products. Or maybe I am mistaken and the Oslo speakers, including the Vintage Oslo we listened to this time, are not mainstream at all, but high-end among this type of speakers?

Because they sound incredibly nice! Jarek Waszczyszyn, in his e-mail containing an "obligatory" playlist, asked us not to describe the sound, but to let him know whether listening to the music from the computer or YouTube on Vintage Oslo is "fun" for us. The answer to such question is as simple as going out in the morning for bread rolls: of course it is. Listening to all the tracks, whether it was Lonnie Smith on the Hammond B-3, Krystian Zimerman on piano, or the Deep Purple concert, offered really cool, swinging, enjoyable sound.

An "audiophile" analysis did not make any sense, at least for me. This is probably not what it is about - it is a "desktop" system and is to fulfill a different role than a classic audio system. Probably those who choose Vintage Oslo already have one, or maybe two, systems in the main room, or listening room, and probably also in the bedroom. On the other hand, it is this type of sound that will be a great addition to these main systems.

It is smooth, well-balanced and pleasant. Well positioned speakers absolutely disappear from the field of view and it seems as if the sound is coming from the computer screen. The band extremes are very limited, but I absolutely did not mind. This is the case where moderation is a virtue. Because due to this "tuning" the sound of Vintage Oslo is fatigue-free and you can listen to it for hours. Just like I did.

If someone wants to boost up the bass, they can use the switch on the back panel. It allows you to choose one of the three different sound characteristics, probably differing not only with the bass presentation, but also in other sub-ranges. After a short time I realized that I enjoyed the music with the switch in the "I" position, that is, with the lowest bass level. It gave me everything I described above.

It's hard to deny Jarek's talent - the Vintage Oslo are really unique speakers. On the one hand, they are very modern, because they are powered by a DSP processor with proprietary software, and on the other hand, it is a charming "classic", sending users back to the 1950s, to the times when decent craftsmanship was the most important feature, and matters such as design in audio were treated lightly. WP

| Summary

From the texts that you could read above, it is clear that the Vintage Oslo is an outstanding proposition in terms of sonic performance. These are loudspeakers that sound so well that we can forget that they are just tiny, wideband drivers in small enclosures. even when they play YouTube music. I used them to listen to, obviously, several tracks from Tidal, also master recordings encoded in MQA, and I was very impressed with what they really can do.

However, I cannot help but point to something that has been bothering me all the time I spent with them. In fact, I don't know who they are intended for. For those who are not interested in sound quality, they are probably too expensive. On the other hand, for those who could afford them, the design may be unacceptable. Because although the cabinets are nice and aesthetic, all the other elements look as if they were prepared without paying attention to the aesthetics.

The thing is that these speakers have enormous potential. However, they would have to be a designer "candy", an object of desire, something people wouldn’t be able to take their eyes and hands off. For this to work, they would have to cost a lot more. And again - for people who can afford Vintage Oslo now, spending another 1000 zlotys would not be a problem. However, for those who are already hesitant, this would most likely cause them to look for something else.

This is why, despite their beautiful sound, I cannot say who the potential buyer of the Vintage Oslo is. I am also almost sure that Jarek himself does not know it. He showed everyone that he is brilliant at what he does. But it's still not enough to sell something. WP