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Loudspeakers (active)


Price (in Poland): 7999 PLN/set

Contact: Jaromir Waszczyszyn
ul. Malawskiego 50
31-471 Kraków | Polska


Provided for test by:

ram Maxi are active speakers, equipped with a DSP signal processor, featuring several analog inputs and a Bluetooth receiver. It's a slim, fairly tall speakers with aluminum cabinets, with two wideband drivers and four passive radiators. Each speaker features two 60W power amplifiers. Volume is controlled by a small remote. They belong to the so-called „designer products”, because they look like they came from one of the design studios working for major technology companies.

| Design in high-end

How should one test this type of products? How to approach them? Do one consider the firm behind the technology, or rather treat the whole thing as something new? These are questions we ask ourselves - we, the professional audio journalists - every time a manufacturer of high-end electronics or loudspeakers proposes a product from a completely different world, usually a lifestyle one. Typically, such initiatives end badly because they discourage loyal brand fans, and are not able to attract those they are truly directed at, ie "normal people” who just want to have a good sound at home, not necessarily an audiophile one, although stylish and well made.

There is a precedent though, that allows us to rethink this matter. In 2000, when I started working as a journalist, the first KEF's multi-channel system called KHT2005 (Kef's Home Theater) was introduced to the market and I was one of the first journalists to have a chance to take a closer look at it. This iconic audio manufacturer of high-end speakers proposed a product that broke with the tradition of rectangular cabinets. The initial uncertainty was quickly replaced by a state similar to euphoria - the famous aluminum "eggs" looked and sounded great and won all possible awards.

As it turned out, the "soul" of the company was not lost and today they offer both small, unique models such as the LS50, as well as remarkable, high-end Blade speakers. At the heart of the consequent KHT versions was the driver technology, KEF built their reputation on, combined with a unique design. The company benefited from the fact that the production took place in China as well as from changes that would soon change the face of the electronics world. Steve Hassal said, "We used the fact that we had a factory in China (Golden Peak, the owner of the KEF brand, Ed.) and that it was our factory." (Ken Kessler, Dr Andrew Watson, KEF. 50 Years of Innovation in Sound , 2011, p. 147).

If we look at the case of Fram brand in the same way, it turns out to be similar. Its loudspeakers use the technology and experience of Jarek Waszczyszyn and Ancient Audio, which is confirmed by the inscription "Powered by Ancient Audio" on their cabinets. The concept of built-in dedicated amplifiers and corresponding correction has already been tested in the powerful Wing speakers, which were developed for John Tu, the owner of Kingston Technologies. The amplifiers are controlled by the DSP processor with algorithms developed by Jarek, the same one we saw earlier in the P-1 headphone processor.

The cabinets and appearance of the new speakers belong to a different world – world of Apple, Samsung, HP and Acer, the world of computers, tablets, and people who value a unique design combined with unique technology. Fram offers both.

| The beginning

The story of Fram started in 2012, with the Studio Oslo speakers. It was the first approach to the production of a neat, aesthetic hi-fi system that offered refined sound at an affordable price. The next model, the Master Oslo was also a successful one.

As Jarek says, the success of these designs was limited by production capabilities. A high-end manufacturing is organized for a limited production. Ancient Audio was not able to produce big quantities with low costs. A “marriage” with companies that had the technology and experience of serial production was necessary: "By gathering knowledge, projects, technologies, and production capabilities we had the resources needed to launch a series of good quality, nice looking and inexpensive audio products. We could finally move "Forward!"

And so it was, the project called Fram ("forward" in Norwegian) was premiered at the Audio Video Show 2016. The Norwegian name was chosen as a continuation of the already well-established Oslo models. The design of the new columns also keeps the Scandinavian minimalism. By the end of 2016, Digital Speaker Manufacture was founded, aiming to introduce proven concepts and technologies of Ancient Audio to serial production. The company works with the best Polish manufacturers of aluminum parts, electronics, adding highest standards of assembly and testing.

| A few words about Fram

The electronics design was based on the A-1 Ancient Audio processor and the P-1 processor. The P-3 MK I E processor and class D amplifier were complemented by the latest A/C and C/A converters with 24-bit resolution and noise at -114 dB. The acoustic part was prepared right from the scratch.

Glass fiber, paper, polypropylene, Kevlar and aluminum drivers - prototype stage

The first step was the driver selection. As the concept of a single wideband source has proven itself in Oslo Studio and Master Oslo, it has been retained in new projects. Most of the commercially available 10-12 cm transducers were tested. Prototype with Kevlar membrane was also made in China. However, after numerous listening sessions the SB Acoustics drivers made in Indonesia were chosen, which is not surprising. Virtually all mass production is currently located in Asia. SB Acoustics drivers though are designed by Danes, they also ensure the proper quality of production. These drivers are superbly made, and their unique feature is the large power handling at small dimensions - the maximum diaphragm throw is 15 mm.

The cabinet design is completely new. It is a solid, anodized aluminum block made of precision milled components. Aluminum is very rigid, but has a small loss. Hence, the internal structure has the appropriate damping without any rigid connections. Housing is the work of people from the aerospace industry.

The currently available line includes speakers in three sizes: Mini, Midi and Maxi. They use the same electronics, housing module and similar drivers. They differ, of course, with processor's software. Each driver is driven by its own 60 watt Class D amplifier. All electronics for Mini and Midi is housed in one cabinet and the other is passive.

The first trial unit for Midi, accompanied by Ancient Audio electronics

The Mini model is designed for being placed on a desk, to work with TV, computer, telephone. The concept is similar to the one of Master Oslo and they use driver with cellulose diaphragm. The Mini can also play in smaller rooms. The Midi was originally designed to work with a 4K large screen TV. They were to be placed horizontally (like a soundbar). Listening sessions have shown, however, that their potential is much greater. The aluminum speakers have a more offensive character, creating a lively sound, attractive for listening from a bit larger distance. The Midi can also work on the desk (the proper software can be chosen with a switch on the back of the cabinet), and their height locates the speakers at the ear level. The Midi's kingdom would be a medium size, typical room of 15-30 m2.

The Maxi, the biggest model in the family, might at first seem as a duplicated Midi. But this is already another. higher class. The Maxi is a floor-standing speaker delivering much larger sound on a better organized soundstage. There are amplifiers in both speakers, delivering a total power of 240 W. They work under identical conditions (same speaker cables in both columns) in the left and right channels. The right Maxi speaker contains the preamplifier, converters and speaker processor for both channels. The processor-corrected signal is sent to the left column in symmetrical form, with the amplifier's on commend added.

Midi prototypes tests in Jarek Waszczyszyn's listening room

The layout of the two drivers is more directional vertically. The sound is less reflective of the floor and ceiling, and does not lose its dynamic range over larger distance. Hence, the Maxi better position the instruments on the stage, especially in the foreground. These speakers can play in rooms of 25 - 50 m2.

| Operation

All manipulators and inputs are located at the rear - there is also a processor mode switch, which allows user to choose from three settings: cool, neutral, soft. One connects high quality (2 Vrms) sources such as CDs, DACs, tape recorders to RCA input sockets. The mini jack has a higher sensitivity (0.5 Vrms) and is designed for a computer, phone, or Bluetooth receiver. Like with the Oslo models, all inputs are active all the time. One can use the USB port to charge one's phone or to power an external Bluetooth receiver.

The power and standby status of the speakers are indicated by a red LED at the bottom of the right unit. The active state has different colors, corresponding to the volume levels:

  • yellow mean minimum (-50 dB),
  • green is quiet (-35 dB),
  • blue is mid-level (-15 dB),
  • violet is maximum (0 dB).
The IR receiver is located on the rear wall, it uses deflected infrared rays, so it can not be obstructed with cables or other objects. At the back we also connect power supplies, separately for each speaker. These are classic 24 V DC switching power supplies, similar to the ones we see in computers.

How should one test this type of products? How to approach them? – this is an echo of questions I started this text with, questions that everybody who deals with high quality audio products every day has to answer, assuming he knows more about such products than the fact they offer “crystal clear sound” and “remarkable bass” - slogans he most likely read in manufacturer's leaflet. The question makes even more sense considering that this is the very first review of these speakers in the world and it is published in a specialized magazine.

OK, and now forget all about it. Since the time when the KEF KHT2005 speakers were introduced, that I have already mentioned, enough time has passed to develop a methodology for testing such products. It is based on an appropriate shift of the accent from the "objective" reception, that assumes that the author and his views/preferences don't play any part, also the primacy of sound over the usability and appearance, towards the subjective view, that takes into consideration all these elements.

In this way a person interested in such a product, and not necessarily a fan of the audiophile industry, can be sure that HIS/HER point of view was considered and at the same time be sure that it is supported by solid expert knowledge. So one can say that this is sort of "hybrid" test.

It would be easy to day that this is a perfect product. As soon as Jarek brought the speakers to my house, my wife, extremely harsh for boring, similar to thousands of other products, said: "these are true beauties". This was confirmed also by my son, who added that it was a very "non-Jarek" product - in the sense that it aesthetics was well-thought-out, an equal element of design to the technologies used inside.

It sounds like a "blurb" on the cover of the book, the short text ordered for this purpose from well-known authors and journalists, it's true. But it has to be so, because it's a really good product. The loudspeakers sound incredibly coherent not only for a lifestyle, but also and audio product. It's a result of using wideband drivers, hence eliminating crossover. These types of drivers, however, have their own problems and coloration, which are not present in this particular case.

The loudspeakers play beautiful midrange. The bass is nice, same as the treble, but it's just an addition to the deep and warm mids. The dynamics is mitigated, despite the long throw of the diaphragms and it is surely not about “killing” listener with the sound – the fans of listening to music very loud may be disappointed. But not because the speakers are not able to play loud, as they surely are, but about the fact that even at high volume levels the sound level is still “smooth” and accurate, there are no distortions that often appear with other speakers in such situations.

Any other kind of music will sound really well, in a sophisticated way. This is not a selective performance and differentiation isn't particularly good either. Let's add a stable, focused, rich, expansive foreground. The features I'm talking about are overlaid on all music and sources. Perhaps that's why online radio stations sounded so good? The better ones could be distinguished from worse ones since the latter offered richer, more dynamic sound. And even better sound was achieved with FM radios, even though they also broadcast digitally processed signal, mostly from mp3 files.

I am writing about it because as source for this test I used not only a 20,000 EUR Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition CD Player, but also Tivoli One radio - did you know that its headphone output delivers a stereo signal? - and a CD/files/ internet radio player Cocktail Audio X10, via line output. I also listened not only to the recordings that I usually use to test high-end components including Master CD-R discs, but also those “regular” ones that most people listen to, such as the latest OMDs album The Punishment of Luxury, the latest single from Depeche Mode Cover Me [Remixes], Enya from the Dark Sky Island album and the debut album by Michael Bublé.


Regardless of the type of signal and the sound quality, the Fram speakers behaved as if they were educated in a classy boarding school - nice, pleasant, confident and faithful to the music. They would not make a good testing tool, but it was the goal. They are well-made and nice-looking, they are a well-thought out design from the legendary designer of the Polish high-end scene. And above all, they deliver a nice, warm, large-scale sound. It was a coincident, but I listened to the Frams just after the audio legend, the Chartwell LS3/5a monitors. I must say that the tonal balance of both of these designs was extremely close.

I listened to the reviewed speakers during dedicated listening sessions while sitting in my sweet spot as well as during daily activities, and each time I had the same impression of fullness and peacefulness. I believed it's a product different from every other available on the market today. The only thing left to do it get the information about it to the people it is intended for. This is the case where RED Fingerprint is not only obligatory but awarding it is a pleasure for me.

Technical specifications (according to manufacturer)

- for rooms: from 20 to 50 m2
- recommended distance from listening place: 2- 5 m
- amplifiers: 4 x 60 W, Class D

- 2 x 120 mm wideband drivers with aluminum diaphragms,
- 4 x 12 cm passive radiators,
- Digital Speaker Processor P-3 MK IE Ancient Audio.

- dimensions:
120 x 120 x 800 mm (loudspeaker cabinet) | 220 x 220 x 20 mm (base)



- Turntable: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
- Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, review HERE
- Phono stage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE

- Compact Disc Player: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, review HERE

- Line Preamplifier: Polaris III [Custom Version] + AC Regenerator, regular version review (in Polish) HERE
- Power amplifier: Soulution 710
- Integrated Amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE

- Stand mount Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
- Stands for Harbeths: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
- Real-Sound Processor: SPEC RSP-101/GL
- Integrated Amplifier/Headphone amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
- Headphones: HIFIMAN HE-6, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-300, review HERE | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, review (in Polish) HERE | Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, version 600 - reviews (in Polish): HERE, HERE, HERE
- Headphone Stands: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), review (in Polish) HERE
- Headphone Cables: Entreq Konstantin 2010/Sennheiser HD800/HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE

- Portable Player: HIFIMAN HM-801
- USB Cables: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), review HERE
- LAN Cables: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), review HERE
- Router: Liksys WAG320N
- NAS: Synology DS410j/8 TB
System I
- Interconnects: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, review HERE | preamplifier-power amplifier: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
- Loudspeaker Cables: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review (in Polish) HERE
System II
- Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
- Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA

System I
- Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
- Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
- Power Line: power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m); wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
System II
- Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, review (in Polish) HERE | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), review HERE
- Power Distributor: Oyaide MTS-4e, review HERE
- Stolik: SolidBase IV Custom, read HERE/all system
- Anti-vibration Platforms: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, review HERE/digital sources | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, review HERE | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/loudspeakers under review/stands for loudspeakers under review
- Anti-vibration Feets: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/ CD Player/Ayon Polaris II Power Supply /products under review, review HERE | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/ products under review, review HERE | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, review HERE
- Anti-vibration accsories: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/power cable, review HERE
- Quartz Isolators: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4

- FM Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One