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Ancient Audio

Manufacturer: ANCIENT AUDIO
Price (when reviewed): 29 999 PLN

ul. Malawskiego 50
31-471 Kraków | POLSKA



Provided for test by: ANCIENT AUDIO


translation Marek Dyba
images „High Fidelity”

No 227

April 1, 2023


Established in 1995, ANCIENT AUDIO is a Polish company based in Krakow, specializing in high-end electronics, primarily tube devices. Its offer also includes loudspeakers and semiconductor devices. The Lektor Transport is its first ever universal Compact Disc transport. It's his WORLD PREMIERE.

DON'T REMEMBER, I REALLY DON’T, when was the last time I tested a "regular" Ancient Audio device. In the sense that it was (1) electronics (2) belonging to the top series of this manufacturer. I had to look for it in the "High Fidelity" ARCHIVE - it was September 2011 (!), and the test concerned Lektor AIR V-Edition CD player (more → HERE). It was so good that it became a point of reference in my system for many years, until it found another owner.

During the twelve years that separate "then" from "now" I listened to other products of Jarek Waszczyszyn, spiritus movens of Ancient Audio. However, these were either small bookshelf speakers (very good ones), or electronics from the "small" series, such as the P-1 headphone amplifier, the A-3 integrated amplifier, or the Silver Phono phono preamplifier. And it wasn't until August 2021 that I heard his new products, including the Silver Single Mono power amplifier. However, it was a meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society, not a test (more → HERE |PL|).

Twelve years had to pass before a "full-size", high-end product of this company visited my system again. It happened to be a Compact Disc Transportnamed Lektor Transport. Although its appearance refers to the company's previous products, it introduces completely new solutions: both in terms of the chassis, the mechanism and its software.

⸜ A few simple words…

Owner, designer

ANCIENT AUDIO'S FIRST PRODUCT was the Hybrid amplifier. The amplifiers are still one of the flagship products of the company, such as the Silver Grand Mono, the next version of which we will present soon (all underlined - ed.).

But it was CD players that established the company. The reason is simple - a CD player is a very complicated device, especially when compared to amplifiers, not to mention loudspeakers. Only a few small companies undertake this task. Here my extensive knowledge of optics, electronics, data transmission and decoding, as well as of the designing of amplifiers turned out to be invaluable. The entire generation of Lektors, from the model IV to the Grand, turned out to be a success, they looked attractive and sounded good (the Lektor Air V-Edition was the "High Fidelity’s" reference player for several years).

Unfortunately, the heart of the player, the excellent Philips CD-Pro2 mechanism, has ceased to be produced. Attempts to use CD-ROM drives turned out to be more difficult than it might seem. On top of that there was the "death of CDs", prophesied by marketing people. The CD seemed to be an oldie, like a steam locomotive. Nice, but as an exhibit in a museum. Meanwhile, after the initial delight, file players turned out to be extremely complicated to install and troublesome to use. If you don't believe it, try to play your own file on your friend's player. And despite the studio resolution files, CD still sounds better.

The breakthrough moment was the development of a new mechanism by the creators of the CD-Pro2, this time for the Austrian company StreamUnlimited Optical Storage. The CD-Pro 8 mechanism is extremely well made and is used, among others, in the excellent Gryphon Ethos player.

Its drawback is the lack of support in terms of software. At one time there was a company called Digital Audio Industrial Supply operating in France. First, they sold Philips mechanisms in single pieces. Second, they developed a very successful display, computer and EPROM kit. They even offered neat metal remotes. This configuration was easy to transfer to other platforms, and the most important was the control program, saved on EPROM, for the price of a few euros. Most independent manufacturers of CD players based on the CD-Pro2 used this solution.

The CD-Pro8 has no such support. You have to make a control computer yourself, and what's worse, you have to write a control program from scratch. StreamUnlimited only provides documentation. Finding a programmer who understands hardware and software is not easy. After all, it was written by an excellent engineer who makes 3D printers and drones on a daily basis.

My 30 years of experience with CD players pointed to the problems that earlier designs had to deal with. Specifically, the jitter issue. Even the best players, like the Lektor Grand, featured several circuits controlled by independent clocks: transport, control computer, display, remote volume control. As a result, the clocks overlapped in some places, interfering with each other, resulting in significant jitter (phase noise) degrading the sound quality.

The new project, despite the programmer's complaints, is controlled by only one clock, with a jitter of 3 ps, with a frequency of 16.9344 MHz, produced by the Dutch company TentLabs. As a result, all processes are perfectly synchronized, even the display and remote control. The the transport delivers a DC output with a very high slope rate and low jitter. This facilitates recovery of the data clock by the S/P DIF receiver in the DAC, controlled by the transport. The AES/EBU output features galvanic separation through a transformer.

And the last, visible change: an aluminum chassis made by the Taiwanese company Champion H and C Incorporation. The housing is a rigid, stable monolith. I had tried such enclosures before, but only the Taiwanese ensured the appropriate quality and repeatability of the finish.

The presented device is a CD transport. There are a lot of DACs, amplifiers with a digital inputs, and even loudspeakers (like the Vintage Horten Ancient Audio) on the market, so the transport itself will be a great source of music from a silver disc. The presented device is the first from the new Ancient Audio series. Complete player will be presented soon. JW


Lektor Transport

AS JAROSŁAW SAID, back then CD players accounted for 80% of Ancient Audio’s sales volume. Amplifiers and loudspeakers also found some buyers. However, it seems that the "market", i.e. the audiophile community, positioned this brand as a "digital" specialist. When its founder told our magazine about the history of his company, he did not start it with how he constructed amplifiers, nor did he talk about CD players, nor did he even mention his speakers while it was them he started his professional history with. He started the story with a TURNTABLE (more → HERE |PL|).

So it should come as no surprise that his CD players have always been top-loaders, with the CD visible in all its glory. And so is his first Compact Disc transport in the history of the company. Yes, first one. One could argue that before that there was the Lektor Grand player, consisting of three elements: a CD transport and two D/A converter channels. However, it was a closed system - the transport was intended to work only with the company's DACs. Lektor Transport is therefore the first device of this type in the lineup.

˻ CHASSIS ˺ So we are dealing with a top-loader, i.e. a transport in which the disc is placed directly on the motor axis. Its outline resembles what we know from earlier Lektors - the Transport housing has a rectangular outline and measures 350 x 360 mm, with a height of only 60 mm. Thanks to this, the center of gravity is set low, as in turntables.

The novelty is the chassis - a completely new one, made of a block of aluminum by one of the Taiwanese companies working, among others, for BMW. The aluminum has been anodized, which is supposed to make it hard enough not to get scratched easily. On the top cover there is an aluminum strip, slightly protruding above the aluminum block, in which a hole for the mechanism has been cut. This, known from the GRYPHON ETHOS player and the PRO-JECT RS2 T transport, Blue Tiger CD-Pro 8 mechanism prepared by the Austrian company StreamUnlimited.

˻ MECHANICS ˺ Its name is associated with the mechanics of the Philips CD-Pro2, used by Ancient Audio in previous designs. And rightly so, both transports were designed by the same people, former Philips engineers. The characteristic shape, the aluminum chassis to which the optics was bolted, as well as spring decoupling from the base remained from the previous design. A novelty is a fragment of the top panel, with a cut-out for a laser, made of a braided carbon fiber (in the case of Philips it was plastic). The plate to which the whole thing was bolted, also made of braided carbon fiber, is also new. The control is also completely new - it is the Blue Tiger CD-84 module, but with a program for this particular drive.

That's right - the software. As Jarek said, in the "times" of the CD-Pro2, the vast majority of manufacturers used the services of one of the specialized companies. It offered clear documentation so you could tailor the mechanics to your own design - from display to error correction to timing. The company in question no longer exists. StreamUnlimited Optical Storage offers full documentation of its solution, but it is - as Jarek says - difficult to navigate and contains a lot of minor errors. Therefore, he asked one of the Polish engineers to write the program.

˻ CLOCK ˺ Among the many requirements, such as adapting the transport to the display using LED modules, there was probably the most important one - the idea was that all, without exception, digital circuits were clocked by one word clock with a frequency being a multiple of the CD sampling rate (44.1 kHz). And usually several clocks do this job. In the tested transport, it is a great module from Tent Labs. The signal is sent out via RCA and XLR sockets. The former in S/PDIF format and the latter is AES/EBU. The S/PDIF transmitter is extremely fast and was developed for microwave projects.

There is another socket next to it, with a switch. Thanks to them, for the first time in Ancient Audio products history, one can use an external clock. Lektor Transport is adapted to work with the so-called. "WorldClock". Unlike the "Master" clocks, it gives a sampling frequency that is a multiple of the sampling frequency of the read signal. In this case, it's 16.9344 MHz. "Master Clock" gives a high frequency clock - 10 MHz or - like Silent Angel Genesis GX - 25 MHz (more → HERE). The signal is sent via the RCA socket, and it seems to me that in the studio the most popular format is BNC.

All circuits are powered by a small toroidal transformer custom-made for Ancient Audio in Poland.

˻ DESIGN ˺ The transport is well-built and looks very serious. Instead of golden accents, as in previous generations, silver ones were chosen - this is the plate with the company's logo, so is the strap with the silver control buttons. Among them, the most important is the one used to load the TOC (table of contents) of the disc; in third-party devices, this happens automatically when the drawer or flap is closed.

Let's remember, however, that this is a product of a tiny manufacturer, actually a boutique product. So it has a few shortcomings and there are a few things I would still change. The unit that was tested was the first one that was ready, and maybe that's why the holes for the screws on the lower part of the housing showed through the black aluminum silver paint. The back panel is OK, but also looking at it you can see that it is a hand-made product from a short series. Also, the quasi-feet do not match the class of the device at all. The manufacturer seems to tell us that these not just can but should be replaced with higher quality ones. However, the choice is left to you. I think the same goes for the extremely light disc clamp.

In the "Reference" version of this transport, should it ever be made, I would see a heavier clamp with a large diameter metal pin to match it, better quality output sockets, high quality feet and a less annoying remote control. The one we get is big, not particularly ergonomic and has lots of useless buttons. However, the problem of the remote, so to speak, is common to all producers and it is the small companies who get the most blame for it, for whatever reason.

At the end of this part, I would like to add that it is a pity that we did not get an I2S output, which we would use to connect the transport with the company's D/A converter or with other devices. There are many ways on the market (there is no common standard) for transmitting such a signal, but most often they are based on RJ45 (Ethernet) or HDMI sockets.

The former are used, among others, by → AYON AUDIO and → APL, and the latter by American company → NUPRIME and Chinese → JAY's AUDIO (it has both outputs anyway), → MUSICIAN AUDIO, → HIBIKI or → DENAFRIPS. There are plenty of high-end, Ethernet and HDMI cables on the market, which is also not without significance.

To sum up, let's say that the Polish transport is very well made and its construction, both mechanical and electrical, uses high-class components. This is a product made by a man who launched his first high-end CD player in 1997, so he has a lot of experience. It is very important that a custom controlling software was developed for Lektor and that all the circuits are clocked with the same reference clock. The device is small and heavy, which is also a plus, and we’ve discussed minuses already. However, they should not affect the unequivocally positive reception of the latest Ancient Audio transport.


⸜ HOW WE LISTENED The Lektor Transport was tested in the "High Fidelity" reference system. It stood on the Finite Elemente Master Reference Pagode Edition Mk II shelf, on its own feet. I used it with a 2.5-meter Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version power cable.

The test was carried out using two complete players, to which the digital signal was fed: Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition SACD Player, and Mytek Brooklyn Bridge file player. The Lektor Transport was therefore compared to the mechanics of Ayon and to the Mytek file transport. For signal transmission I used the S/PDIF RCA→RCA Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6100 Mk II cable.

⸜ Recordings used for the test | a selection

⸜ TSUYOSHI YAMAMOTO TRIO, Autumn In Seattle, First Impression Music FIM UHD 043, CD (2001/2011).
⸜ BOB DEGEN, HARVIE SWARTZ, Chartreuse, Enja Records/Ward Records TKCW-32131, seria „JAZZ Masterpiece Ward Records Enja”, CD (1978/2006).
⸜ GEORGE MICHAEL, Older, Epic | Aegean/Sony Music Labels SICP-31544-5, 2 x Blu-Spec CD2 (1996/2022).
⸜ ELLA FITZGERALD & LOUIS ARMSTRONG, Ella and Louis, Verve/First Impression Music | Lasting Impression Music LIM UHD 045, seria „UltraHD 32-Bit”, CD (1956/2010).
⸜ DIANA KRALL, This Dream of You, Verve Records/UMG Recordings (Japan) UCCV-1181; SHM-CD (2020).
⸜ MEGADETH, Countdown to Extinction, Capitol Records/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDCD 765, seria „Original Master Recording”, gold-CD (1922/2006).
⸜ FRANK SINATRA, Sinatra At The Sands, Reprise Records/Stereo Sound SSVS-011~012, seria „Stereo Sound Reference Record, SACD + CD (1966/2011).


FROM THE FIRST SECONDS, really from the very first moment, when I heard the piano intro in Autumn In Seattle, a track written by TSUYOSHI YAMAMOTO for Mr. Winston Ma, for the album of the same title, it was immediately clear that the Ancient Audio serves music differently than transport in Ayon.

The Polish device’s tonal balance is set higher. Listened to immediately afterwards, the Ayon sounded much darker. Even though it is "only" a CD transport. The very characteristic keystroke of the Japanese pianist in both cases had a sonorous, immediate attack, but I perceived its formation differently. The transport in Ayon presents the sound more holistically and deeper. Both the double bass from the aforementioned album and the double bass from the BOB DEGEN and HARVI SWARTZ’s Enja Records album Chartreuse had more weight and a larger volume.

Typically, such a description speaks of a slightly worse sound. Different, but not emotionally engaging in an equally strong way. This time it was different. Because the sound of the Lektor is not "slimmed down" or "thin" at all. It is more expressive and has more clearly defined edges. I almost wrote "better defined", but I don't think that's the point. The Ayon’s way is not worse but different, as if saturation was more important to it, and precision - not so much. And, just like in the Lektor, the filling is also great, and in the Ayon, the attack is perfect. But also the proportions between them are different in both cases.

It also worked beautifully with the next album, the duet of ELLA FITZGERALD and LOUIS ARMSTRONG, remastered in 2010 by the First Impression Music label. Lektor Transport showed their voices in an incredibly focused, balanced way. There was no hint of exaggeration, no overkill in the direction of emphasized midrange or stronger bass. Also something that always comes out in cheaper digital devices - a strong upper midrange, was not emphasized either.

American studios at that time were equipped with ribbon microphones, such as the RCA-77, which had a strong resonance at several Hz. You can hear it just as raised sibilants. The remaster by Michael Bishop (formerly the head of the Telarc label) slightly corrected this feature, but did not eliminate it, because it would change the tonality of the whole. The Polish transport showed it immediately, that is, it recreated the voices of Fitzgerald and Armstrong in an open way, without romanticizing the treble, but also maintained the illusion of communing with a live performer. I didn't feel like I was listening to a recording.

| Our albums

American Dreams

Gitanes Jazz Productions | Verve 064 096-2
Promo CD ⸜ 2002

ALTHOUGH the cover of American Dreams bears the names of CHARLIE HADEN and MICHAEL BRECKER, although it is usually discussed as an album by the former, a jazz quintet and a 34-piece all-male orchestra contributed to its recording. As emphasized in press materials, this is a paean to America. Haden explained, "this album wasn't made in response to 9/11, but it is an expression of the feelings I have for this country, making dreams come true."

The album was co-produced by the double bass player and his wife Ruth Cameron. It begins with the title composition by Haden, based on a folk song. In addition, works by his jazz friends were used: Pat Metheny, Lyle May, Keith Jarrett, Mehldau and Ornette Coleman. It is part of what can be called a "duo series", as indicated by the mention of only two names on the cover.

Let me remind you that previously there were also other albums such as Charlie Haden, Jim Hall (recorded 1990, released 2014), Beyond The Missouri Sky (Short Stories) (1997 ; review → HERE) with Pat Metheny and Night And The City (recorded 1996, released 1998), where he met pianist Kenny Barron.

Like the previous releases, this one was recorded and mixed by JAY NEWLAND. Recording and mixing took place at Signet Soundelux studios (Los Angeles, California) - sound recording took only four days (May 14-17), and mixing took three (May 27-29). It was then mastered jointly by Newland and Jim Mageras at Sound Bunker (Darien, Connecticut). As I said in the review of the Beyond... we know him, for example, from the recordings of Keith Jarrett, Sun Ra, Cecil Taylor, but he will probably be remembered for the fact that he recorded Norah Jones' debut album entitled Come Away with Me (2002).

American Dreams has been released in four countries, including Japan. Separate matrices were prepared for each of them. Before the album was sent to stores, pressing plants in the USA and the European Union made the so-called Promo CD, i.e. discs intended for the press and radio stations. Such discs sound better than the "regular" versions. This is because it is a very limited edition, hence they are more precisely pressed. The disc I'm presenting to you comes from the USA.

THERE IS SOMETHING IN THE SOUND OF THE LECTOR, which makes the presentation open, it is precise in defining the attack and stopping it, but you do not have the impression that something is missing in it. I would even say that after accommodating to this presentation, we come to the conclusion that there is everything we need in this sound. The more so that the discipline I mentioned translates perfectly into the definition of the bass.

I heard it both with the double bass on the Yamamoto and Dagen albums, and with the bass on the Older disc by GEORGE MICHAEL - the Polish transport provides excellent control over this range. I experienced something similar when testing the Gryphon player, so it may be a feature of the well-programmed StreamUnlimited mechanics. This is where the excellent readability of the treble comes in. It is not bright or "iron", but rather silver, if I may say so. Without the romantic "gilding", but also without emphasizing the unpleasant and unnatural elements in the recordings.

It seems to me equally important that transport can beautifully differentiate all these elements. The cymbals on the Older are a bit dark, which results from the RADAR recording system, in which this material was recorded (more → HERE ). The lector gently brought them out of the background, which made the disc "open" a bit. On the other hand, with the album of the duo I just mentioned, it was clear what I said about microphones. And yet I didn't feel uncomfortable, because it was fluid, smooth, and perfectly balanced performance.

I also perceived the voice of DIANA KRALL in a similar way from This Dream of You, released in Japan on SHM-CD. Produced by Tommy LiPuma and mixed by Al Schmitt, it sounds a bit like records from the 1950s, including those of Ella Fitzgerald. There is a bit of dirt in its sound, a slight emphasis on sibilants, there is also a strong foreground. The Lektor emphasizes sound sources on the axis a bit, which additionally "turned up" the vocals. As if Krall stood about five centimeters closer to the microphone - in the studio it's a big difference.

With this disc, what I heard from the beginning came out again, i.e. high dynamics. Polish transport perfectly shades it and does not extinguish it. Records played directly from the Ayon seemed more relaxed and laid back, so to speak. None of these presentations were better or worse, they were just different. With stronger sound, like from Michael's albums, or - listened to a moment later - MEGADETH's Countdown to Extinction, the transport will win the hearts of people in need of a powerful presentation. On the other hand, lovers of calmer sound, like from This Dream of You, will appreciate the differentiation of dynamics on a micro scale.

⸜ CD vs SACD A comparison of CDs and SACDs, especially with a single layer, showed an interesting thing - the Lektor still sounds very delicate. The clatter of cutlery on the plates on FRANK SINATRA's album from the April 1966 concert at the Sands Hotel was clear, but the most important thing was the voice. Polish transport showed this album in an almost creamy way. The version on the SACD sounded more expressive, I also had more details and subtleties from the "background" - this is, after all, a SACD. I must admit, however, that the difference was not big and without a direct comparison it will not be "important".

⸜ CD vs FILES Finally, I compared the sound of CDs played from the Lektor transport and the same recordings played from files - both in "CD quality" and high resolution. It is so that extending the word length to 24 bits, as well as increasing the sampling resolution beyond 44.1 or 48 kHz, makes the files sound better than those of "CD quality". However, it is also the case that a CD played from a good CD transport sounds better than any file, except maybe DSD.

Listened to from this angle, the Sinatra, followed by Krall and others, had a much better definition and focus with the CD. From the silver discs I also received more information, which translated into micro-dynamics, space and detail. I know, of course I know, that connecting a transport for PLN 30,000 to a complete file player for PLN 12,000 (in 2019) is not quite fair. However, if what file apologists say is true, according to which a file is better by definition, especially high resolution, it should not matter much. And yes, it does big time.


THE POLISH COMPACT DISC TRANSPORT is great at what it does. It offers a disciplined, well-differentiated sound. Its timbre is focused on the midrange and its upper part. However, unlike when this range is emphasized, the sound is not bright. On the contrary, it often feels creamy and smooth. However, it has a punch, an attack that results in an open and fast sound.

The bass is perfectly focused with it. Without slimming and cutting off emotions. So the presentation has a large volume, and the virtual sources are clear and tangible. The most important are the events on the axis, which does not mean, however, that the Lektor narrows down the stereo base. Same as with timbre, our attention is focused on this element because there is a lot going on there. Add to that great differentiation, and it turns out that this is one of the best CD transports available on the market.

Technical specifications (according to the manufacturer)

Mechanics: StreamUnlimited CD-Pro 8
Clock: Tent Labs, for all circuits
External clock: 16.9344 MHz
• directly coupled S/PDIF, 700 mVpp, 75 Ω, RCA
• transformer coupled AES/EBU, 1V pp, 110 Ω, XLR
Dimensions (W x H x D): 350 x 70 x 360 mm
Weight: 11 kg


Reference system 2022

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2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

AC Power

Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

  • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|


Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:


Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC