Country of Origin
Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac late 2020 with macOS Ventura 13.3, Audirvana Origin, Qobuz Sublime, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, Sonnet Pasithea DAC; Active filter: icOn Gradient Box at 80Hz/4th-order hi/lo-pass; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos, Goldmund Job 225; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Qualio Audio IQ w. sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio footers, Audio Physic Codex, Cube Audio Nenuphar Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Shanling M3 Ultra, Soundaware D300Ref; DAC: Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe; Preamp/filter: Vinnie Rossi Signature L2 + icOn 4Pro + 4th-order/40Hz hi-low pass; Amplifier: Enleum AMP-23R; Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini, Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF + Akiko Audio Corelli; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; Headamp/DAC: iFi iDSD Pro Signature; Headphones: Final D-8000; Active speakers: DMAX SC5
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl Dp5 transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m
Review component retail: €7'500
Lektor: a university/college lecturer or teacher with a doctoral degree below a professor. Since 1997 Jaromir Waszczyszyn aka Jarek of Krakow's Ancient Audio has called his CD players Lektor followed by a version suffix. When remaining inventories of the long discontinued Philips CD-Pro2 top-loading mechanism finally thinned out too much to support a new production machine—or came with extortionist pricing—Jarek's digital lecturer became a professor. No more lectures, just private classes. But having more to say on the subject proved just a matter of time. That time is now. It's based on Austria's SUOS-Hifi Pro2 successor. Called the CD-Pro8, one of the first to implement it was Gryphon's Triangular Excellence aka the Ethos player I reviewed 3 years ago. On the other side of the price tracks, Pro-Ject's various player/transport boxes had followed suit. As it turns out, for Jarek reviving his Lektor was a lot more involved than a simple swap of one mechanism for another.
"The new hardware lacks software support. Originally Digital Audio Industrial Supply of France who sold individual Philips drives had designed a display, controller firmware on Eprom memory plus a nice metal remote. Most commercial Pro2 implementations used this platform. For the Pro8's Blue Tiger CD-84 controller, adopters must write their own software. That requires very specialized expertise. The earlier Philips drive still ran separate clocks for its transport, controller, display and volume control. That caused inter-clock jitter noise. In my implementation of the Pro8, a single 3ps 16'9344MHz clock from TentLabs controls all processes for perfect synchronization. It creates a digital output of very high slew rate and very low jitter."
This recalls iFi's Thorsten Loesch whose Aurora all-in-one runs all clocking off one oscillator "like soldiers marching in lockstep on parade". A material change from Jarek's earlier black granite slab is precision-machined hard-anodized aluminium sourced from Taiwan's Champion H and C Inc. who also supply BMW, Siemens and NASA. And for the first time in his catalogue, a Lektor comes with an external word-clock input on RCA. Digital outputs are direct-coupled 0.7V/75Ω RCA and transformer-coupled 1V/110Ω AES/EBU. The black metal monolith with a footprint of 35x36cm stands just 7cm tall but weighs a solid 11kg.
"Yeah but" cringe the barbarian hordes of streaming. "Whose grandpa still cares about physical CD?" Enough to acknowledge that premium disc playback remains the digital format to beat. It's they who beat a path to a Lektor-type deck. That's today's tale and take. Cloud-stream convenience with custom-curated playlists struts in one corner. It's cheered on by twitchy operators who skip from song to song whilst nary finishing one. In the other corner coast the classy off-line purists to a complete CD as the artist/s intended, eyes closed, minds on vivid daydreams until an hour or so has passed. Are you a convenience cunt of fractured attention span? Or an old-school concertgoer who follows one artist along to the end? Okay, no more low blows to fake up format warfare. No more hectoring with ugly words. If it makes you happy, anything goes in hifi. Bias is just an extra two letters for bs. Today is simply about compact silver discs and how to extract their data with maximum accuracy. [Older Lektor Prime guts at left.]
If you no longer do that, this could be that school trip to your local history museum. Wait for the 3D displays of Neanderthal and Cro Magnon men huddled around cave fires and well-nibbled mammoth bones. Is that a Sabre-tooth chip in the ashes? Actually, it's far from this crass. Depending on where you live, CD continue to sell and the 2nd-hand scene in particular can be in rude health. As with vinyl, obituaries for physical CD were premature. And no question, a CD-only nude toploader sans support for SACD or I²S is a niche proposition. It's only right then that this one come from a small Polish boutique with a giveaway name whose first appearance on the world stage far beyond its native borders was the original Lektor CD player. Ancient Audio are no giant like Accuphase, Esoteric or Luxman, all of whom continue to produce disc players often with proprietary transport mechanisms. So do Cambridge, Denon, Marantz and Rotel. There are also Aqua, Audionet, Burmester, Goldnote, Jay's, JMF, Métronome, PS Audio and many more. If you thought CD dead, you've looked in all the wrong places. While no longer the juggernaut it once was, CD isn't out for the count yet. For some views on the actual action, click here.