Country of Origin


Vintage Oslo 2D

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, Denafrips Terminator+ clock-synced to Soundaware D300Ref reclocker, Avatar CD transport; Preamp: icOn 4Pro SE w. 80Hz lo/hi-pass; Power amplifiers: Enleum AMP-23R, Kinki Studio EX-B7 mono; Headamp: Kinki Studio; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Aurai Audio Lieutenant with sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio 'medium' 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 D300Ref SD transport; DAC: Denafrips Terminator; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro + 4th-order/80Hz hi-low pass;
Amplifier: Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf, Dyaudio 18S subwoofer; 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 Win7/64; USB bridge: Audiobyte Hydra X+; Headamp: COS Engineering H1; Headphones: Final D-8000; Powered speakers: Fram Audio Midi 150
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl SD-9 SD transport; Integrated amplifiers: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Simon AudioLoudspeakers: German Physiks HRS-120 or Zu Soul VI, Zu Submission subwoofer; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: €999/pr [subtract €200 and the digital input for the standard version]

The D version adds this green signal lock LED for its coaxial input | the standard version only has the red power light.

Vintage. Recall the British Lovejoy television series of the '80s? It was based on Jonathan Gash's novels. A younger Ian McShane hammed up the title role long before Deadwood's hard-cussing saloon pimp Al Swearengen. As one writer paraphrased the earlier character, "Lovejoy is a trickster, a swindling arts and antiques dealer who gets caught up in devious deals and get-rich-quick schemes. Yet we can't help but admire his roguish heart, his obvious talent for sniffing out hidden treasures. When he's not out for himself, he uses his con-man skills to help those less fortunate and sneaky."

The character inspired last year's The Madame Blanc Mysteries. Their British heroine finds herself temporarily in Southern France's fictitious antiques capital of Saint Victoire actually shot in Gozo just off Malta. There she's soon embroiled in similar cons 'n' crimes of the trade. Both productions send up shady antiques dealers who sell stuff at questionable premiums just because it's old. If it takes falsified provenances and other fixers to make it so, ç'est la vie. When Lovejoy gets evicted of home, car and inventory because the local bailiff mistakes him for his absentee landlord Charlie Gimbert living the expat life in Spain, ends still must be met. Now a commode of dubious origins transforms into Napoleon's personal shitter from his final exile on Saint Helena. Needs must.

What ends does our meandering intro meet? It lines up antique, vintage, dubious provenance and shady profits to take light-hearted aim at it all with today's Ancient Audio Vintage Oslo II.

Let's connect dots. For audio designer Jarek Waszczyszyn in Krakow, ancient always meant  tubes and spinning silver discs. With today's compact active, vintage means wood-veneered classic box with rotary control. No injection-molded curves, gleaming Cabasse spheres, capacitive displays, credit-card remotes or app control over streaming with embedded subscription clients. To send up related preconceptions, it also means complex correction algorithms embedded in DSP. It's an aural DNA perfected over a long career with Poland's first internationally significant high-end brand. That provenance is real. The 'II' signifies a second coming to update the original Vintage Oslo. For modern sleek, Jarek has the Fram brand of aluminium-clad active speakers. Under his Ancient brand, he packs his DSP engine re-coded for different drivers to offer today's Vintage Oslo II widebander and Vintage Horten 2-way. Their appearance is a last-century throwback including conrad-johnson reminiscent champagne badging and old-timey logo font. Nobody is conned, no monster profit bagged. Nobody is killed either unlike some are in the films. Yet something about this approach is just a bit roguish. How to peg Oslo II's target audience? Is it hifi's antiquing weekender? She wants something brand new, not NOS. It just can't be a repro like this Sino Tiffany lamp. It's got to be an original. Like faux Tiffany buyers, her hubby remains nostalgic for bygone times and their signature style; but wouldn't pay real Tiffany tamales.

Is that it then? Did that describe our ideal Oslo II buyers?

More Lovejoy: "If home is where the heart is, then this is home to me: an auction room, an auction day when the old ticker beats faster with the slender possibility that somewhere, just somewhere among the birdcages, silver spoons, commemorative medals, roll-top desks and castoffs from Grannie's attic, somewhere amongst that lot, a genuine authentic antique will appear shining with all the love that made it."

We just saw Jarek's Fram Midi 120, an aluminator active with SB Acoustics drivers plus dual passive radiators per channel. One goes out back. Just then I still massaged its power with Poland's Ferrum Audio Hypsos set down to 15V for instead higher current. This speaker represents the more uptown loft look. Vintage Oslo II would play the exact same desktop spots so process digital PC signal coming in over an Audiobyte Hydra X+ USB bridge to arrive as S/PDIF. Instead of Fram's pencil remote, Vintage goes old-fashioned manual. Here I'd have no sour grapes when that control would literally be within easy reach.