Country of Origin


Vintage Oslo 2

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: €TBA

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 pimping saloon keep 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 for example 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? Only to line up antique = vintage = dubious provenance = shady profits. Now we take light-hearted aim at it with today's Ancient Audio and their Vintage Oslo II.

So let's connect our dots. For audio designer Jarek Waszczyszyn in Krakow, ancient has always meant vacuum tubes and spinning silver discs. With today's compact active speaker, vintage means wood-veneered classic box construction with rotary control. Stay clear of injection-molded curves, gleaming Cabasse spheres, capacitive displays, credit-card remotes and app control over streaming with embedded subscription clients. But to send up related preconceptions, it also means complex correction algorithms embedded in his own DSP. It means an aural DNA perfected over a long career with Poland's arguably first internationally significant high-end brand. That provenance is perfectly real. The nomenclature's 'II' signifies a second coming to update the original Vintage Oslo in nattier threads, with better parts and more socketry. For modern sleek, Jarek has the Fram brand of aluminium-clad active speakers. Under his Ancient brand, he packs the same re-coded DSP engine with different drivers to offer today's Vintage Oslo II widebander and Vintage Horten 2-way. Then he allows their appearance to be last-century throwbacks including conrad-johnson reminiscent champagne badging and old-timey logo font. Nobody is conned, no monster profit bagged. Nobody gets killed neither unlike some do in the films. Yet something about his approach is just a bit roguish. How to peg Oslo II's intended target audience? Is it hifi's antiquing weekender? She wants something brand new, not NOS for a change. It just can't be a repro like this Sino Tiffany lamp. It's got to be an original with proper high-end cred. 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 2 buyers? I wouldn't know. In the immortal words of Al Swearengen, I'm just a hooplehead. I'll only present all the other evidence as I see and hear it. Whether that rings your buying bell is on you.

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 so one going out back. I massage its power with Poland's Ferrum Audio Hypsos hybrid PSU set down to 15V down for higher current delivery. 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 already reclocked/dejittered S/PDIF. Instead of Fram's pencil remote, Vintage goes old-fashioned manual. I'd have no sour grapes with that when the control would literally be within easy reach. Cue The Last Duel to mix up our film references further still.

If we now add some drops of Emerald Tablets by Hermes—Thoth in Egypt not the French brand—the current rendering of its second verse begins with the famous 'as above so below'. That begets 'as within so without'. Voilà, Jarek's Gizmo above. It puts his digital speaker processor inside a small battery-powered box for a claimed 10-hour run time. "This device needs to be loaded with specialized code for each speaker or headphone to be used with it. My idea is to try and locate one or two of your speaker or headphone models here in Krakow. I'll then measure them, load the proper codes and let you sample my Gizmo in Ireland." Thinking folks will instantly wonder. Just what is it that Jarek measures to then compensate? Here our man goes stumm to protect his IP. The same processor is also in the Vintage Oslo II and Horten. There it's simply part of their profiles so can't be defeated. Jarek currently overhauls his website. Until it goes live again, there won't be any extra information on the Vintage Oslo II or anything Ancient for that matter. To hold you over, there's already this. Otherwise this is just a teaser.

… to be continued…