Ahead. Given the Navy's term for loo, I was back on head duty; so ahead as well. The last time I'd set up such a comparo, the Denafrips had still slightly out-edged my 9-year-old iMac despite my best ministrations to the contrary. I'd accepted that fact then not given it a second thought. Running it back now with brand-new Apple hard/software definitely had shrunk the gap such that if any offset remains, it's too marginal to fret over when one wears just 3½ stripes. It means that even the smuggest of streamers with all of it sorted still have nothing on legacy 'philes who still spin silvery orbs. That's for local files. Cloud files still need mollycoddling that's beyond me. For an example of radical Xstreamism, here's SOtM's wiring diagram for their Axpona system. I count seven outboard linear power supplies, three slaved network switches, two USB regenerators, one 10MHz master clock plus very many meters worth of specialized wiring including inline noise isolators. Meanwhile Jarek's Lektor takes one digital cable.

With the raw Austrian transport being no NOS rarity but perfectly current production, buyers shouldn't have to worry about ongoing hardware support. And with 26 years in the lektoring business, Ancient Audio themselves seem equally solid and in it for the long haul. Whether one pursues their black slab's minimal socketry and matching cabriolet aesthetics probably depends on free-roaming felines and/or the inquisitive fingers of younger bystanders.

Otherwise it's the usual qualifiers of budget, features and cosmetics. Quality and sonics aren't in question. I²S is coming with the Plus iteration. So is built-in D/A conversion with the upcoming Lektor Joy CD player in the same full-metal jacket.

In closing, there is something iconic about Ancient Audio's first product which is all new again for 2023. Fiscally it can't compete with Far-Eastern propositions à la Jay's Audio. It's once we shop in Europe or Japan that retail conditions level out. Now for the right client Jaromir Waszczyszyn's trademark model could become primus inter pares; first amongst equals. It all depends. There's the mainstream with offshore production from Cambridge and Marantz to Denon and Pro-Ject, Rotel and Yamaha. Then there's small-scale boutique production with costlier labor. Who do you want to support? I couldn't say. My job ends with presenting alternatives. Today's is a well-proven concept with real legs spanning two-plus decades already. It still goes strong. It still is perfectly current and competitive. And in a Zen style of simplicity, just sitting there silently the grass grows, spring comes and the whole deep-black concept makes quite the stealthy ninja statement. That's well before we hit 'play'. Once we do, this deck explains why sufficiently large numbers of listeners haven't yet abandoned CD. For digital it continues to be the standard for easily attained top sonics. Meanwhile the off-the-cloud crowds must work very hard to come close; if they're even conscious of the difference. And it's all in the name of convenience. That the vast majority of artists on streaming services get paid a criminal pittance is baked into the current system; yet most listeners are too cheap to care. For them the Ancient Audio Lektor is from a bygone era when buying CDs meant that their artists could make a decent living. As a content creator myself, I'm glad that notion isn't entirely dead yet; and that small makers like Jarek continue to support it with machines that need CD to make sound.

Jarek comments: You pointed at immediately switching the same music between two devices. It was my earlier nightmare particularly when designing speakers. Hearing accommodation was faster than I could predict so I needed to quickly switch between reference speakers and new design. Moving from sofa, switching speakers, finding sweet spot back on the sofa consumed precious seconds. So I made this Gadget Switch which can switch between three speakers no matter if passive or active, also equalizing their sensitivity. This switch has its own Class A single-ended amplifier. Additionally there's the Digital Speaker Processor with three programs for three different speakers. The remote is wired which makes it easy to find. Switching between speakers in 0.01s without moving from the seat was very helpful during designing and evaluating finished pairs.

I used the same gadget while designing my new CD player Lektor Joy. It will be my next model in this range and what I will send to your castle in Ireland soon. I needed to compare three output stages of CD prototype concepts: vacuum tube, transistor, IC. Using a set of relays, I could switch by remote without leaving my seat. And, fast switching showed no big differences between analog output stages. Longer listening to whole tunes and following emotions not 'technical' attention was necessary to find differences at the core of musical playback then select the proper parts and circuits for the production version. I appreciate your work because testing CD players or transports is more difficult than other audio devices.

Reading your review I found another interesting point: the timing of the Lektor Transport which you called phrasing of laziness versus vitality. Timing is an underappreciated feature of music. Every fifth year in October, Polish culture is focused on the International Chopin Piano Competition, the most prestigious competition of the classical piano world. It is a massive occasion for music lovers because all performances transmit live on TV and radio as performed by the best young classical pianists in the world. What's interesting is asking why some are simply boring yet others provoke standing ovations. Why? All play the very same notes of Chopin's Mazurkas. They play on the same Steinway, Fazioli, Yamaha, Kawai or Bösendorfer grand piano. The hall of the National Philhamonic is the same. Its reverb is the same because the seats always sell out. So where are the differences between boring replay and the highest level of the art? Just two: dynamics and timing as the force of striking the keys and the precise moment of each strike. Nothing more. That explains why I'm so focused on both factors in my devices. Timing and dynamics of the Lektor Transport give us a closer illusion of live music. Thank you for finding this feature."