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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Sonnet Pasithea, Soundaware D30Ref SD card transport & USB bridge; Preamp: icOn 4Pro S w. hi/lo-pass filter; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 mono, Enleum AMP-23R; Headamp: Kinki Studio; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Aurai Audio Lieutenant 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: Soundaware D100Pro SD transport clock-slaved to Denafrips Terminator +; DAC: Kinki Studio; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro + 4th-order/40Hz hi-low pass; Amplifier: Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf, Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; 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: Audiobyte Hydra X+; Headamp: COS Engineering H1; Headphones: Final D-8000; Powered speakers: Fram Audio Midi 120
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl SD-9 transport; DAC: iFi Pro iDSD Signature; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Simon Audio; Loudspeakers: German Physiks HRS-120; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m
Review component retail: €3'000/pr [subtract €300 for just analog inputs]
Today's gig started off as a just brief comparo of Ancient Audio's Vintage Oslo II covered here; and this bigger Vintage Horten. It scales up the smaller single-driver box to a classic 7-inch 2-way with STX drivers in an inverted array so mid/woofer on top. Otherwise it's still an active, still powered by class D if now 60wpc, still DSP-corrected with the designer's very own processor chip running code specific to this model. When asked why bigger, designer Jarek replied being so pleased with the Oslo II's sound that he wanted to push it with a higher parts budget and more power. His sonic aim was the €4'000 Midi 150 by Fram, a second brand he shepherds with a small consortium of specialist colleagues. Seeing how the Horten went into production, we'll assume that he met his mark.
The Fram obviously comes in a very sleek narrow aluminium cabinet. There are metal dress rings, premium SB Acoustics drivers, dual passive radiators per channel. Horten dresses it all down. It even eliminates Fram's snazzy metal pencil remote for a retro reach-out-and-turn pot. It's that 'Vintage' prefix. Not everyone is enamored with Devialet's Phantom look; or willing to pay for advanced robotic production processes required to make it so. At least it's what Jarek banks on with his two apparently simple-minded active boxes under the Ancient umbrella. He also banks on our wits to not judge this book by its cover; or for that matter its company name. Ancient.
Go ahead, overlook me. Your loss! One imagines that chip on Horten's shoulder. Or perhaps it's an appeal to the lost generation of 'philes? If you remember that far back, their crusty lot insisted that anything which looked too flash couldn't possibly sound good. It was ugly that pretty much guaranteed it. There's also the Death in Paradise syndrome. It's of a colonialist BBC investigator seconded to an idyllic Caribbean island where the sun is too hot, the beach too sandy, the food too spicy, the locals too carefree. He longs for the familiar dreary Blighty weather jammed into his favorite pub's snug whilst refusing to take a swim in the blue ocean actually facing him. If that's the problem—exotic and sexy just won't do—Vintage Horten too might button you up and save your life? I overstate in jest. The point is, here 'vintage' means exactly what it says on the tin.
Below is Jarek's latest 300B SET with switch-mode power supply. The mere concept suggests that his notion of ancient/retro doesn't exclude the very latest tech.
Likewise for his flagship dual mono CDP whose I²S interface relies on dual quads of individual sockets. In that sense, 'vintage' might be closer to production year like a bottled grape harvest. Either way, today's Horten comes from the very same stable. It has us suspect more than meets the eye.
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