“Top of the top”
The Ancient Audio Lektor Grand CD player
By: Wojciech Pacu³a, “Audio” 10/2004 (Poland)
Translated by: Janusz Stopa
A three-piece Lektor Grand CD player sports unconventional looks. Like others, it has been divided into a transport and a D/A converter respectively. However, the thing that makes it unlike any other player is a mono-block idea of the converter. Each channel being a separate unit. The heart and soul of the player is enclosed within a metal casing suspended under a granite slabs, which in turn, rest on an eye-catching adjustable golden spikes.
A highly applauded die–cast, Philips CD Pro-2 mechanism is not directly fixed onto the granite slab, but through Norwegian Base Technology platform, the shape and weight of which was meticulously calculated to eliminate harmful vibrations. The whole unit also holds a small toroid transformer with epoxy resin filled in centre and Elna capacitors.
Apparently, much ado about nothing, but still, there is a super stable output XO Tent Labs clock – a circuit of indiscernible low level of 3ps jitter!
Both channels were designed and build with sigma-delta converters in mind. However, what matters, according to Mr. Waszczyszyn, is what happens further on, filtration, conversion and amplification, that is. And this is the place where a mighty double Russian 6H30 triode comes to play its distinctive part. Until recently, an only and exclusive property of American BAT. The whole output point to point soldered circuit is fully balanced. Lektor Grand has got a built-in pre-amp, which allows for direct coupling with amplifier.
Now a few words about internal connections. Despite the fact that transport unit is equipped with S/PDIF output, both RCA and BNC, the ADCs accept exclusively I2S signal. S/PDIF digital link allows for a parallel transfer of signal along the same line – the transmitter must encode it properly whereas the receiver must decode it. That is why, even in case of the best possible applied solutions, the level of jitter can hardly drop below 200ps level. However, the custom made application of I2S standard makes it possible to send the signals of those of data, the clock, synchronization and others, by means of specially dedicated links. The designer of Lektor Grand has just come up with his own specially designed 50 ohm wave impedance matched lines and special SMB connectors. Both transmitter and receiver are able to send 4000 MHz signal, that is 1000 times faster than conventional S/PDIF connection.
Some parts of the casing have been glued to minimize internal tensions when compared to fixing with screws. The internal connections are silver ones, hand made and manually assembled, which gives an overall impression-like that of Rolls-Royce- of an item of luxury. I liked very much the feel and looks of remote control unit made of a chunk of brass, sporting tiny, fine polished balls matching those of the transport unit.
As a closing of introductory section a few words about applying the disc. Lektor Grand is a variation of a top loader player, in which you put a disc directly unto the axis of the transport mechanism and clamp it firmly with magnetized metal disk. For the sake of eliminating any internal as well as external interference the transport was build around an open top concept of disc loading. The only other manufacturer to apply this solution is Japanese 47 Labs.
Lektor Grand is very much a “friendly” 3 piece unit. It will surely never get you bored with the music it reproduces, however bad the music might seem to be recorded. The quality of the recorded music and the disc itself is noticeable but in a bit different manner than this of dCS or Gryphon Mikado, which both seem to bring out any shortcomings in the recorded material in a direct and merciless way. It does not mean that the details and the music itself get blurred. The indigenous quality of the player is to make the listener thoroughly involved despite obvious imperfections that may occur on the way. I was able to listen, with a real pleasure, to tragically remastered Depeche Mode Home remixes (Mute Records 5 01 702). Martin Gore’s voice was intentionally distorted, but finely recreated stereophonic effects successfully diverted your attention from its flatness and the lack of fullness.
Genuinely recorded CD’s will undoubtedly sound far better – no doubt about it. Thereby you are sure to experience an organic fullness and natural impact of music when, for instance, faced with the contour of a cymbal sound that belies the limitation of a 16 bit format. The recreation of space and background allowed for 3 dimensional sculpture presentation as opposed to most frequently rendered low-relief ones. However, the truth about the ability of any system to replicate the sense of space is critically verified with monophonic recordings. Luis Armstrong with Velma Middleton (L.A. plays W.C. Handy – Sony Records SRCS 9206) become an isolated couple against a musical background and a clearly defined onstage place without mutual interference. Although the sound comes from the same point of space, the distance of brass instruments being behind the vocalists against percussion instruments were distinctively separated along the in-depth axis. Additionally, Lektor Grand sound reproduction was always on a well and naturally balanced side – nor bright or grain aspects present. The unique sonic qualities almost immediately brought to mind a direct comparison with vinyl.
It should be clearly stated at that point that in many an area a record player still seems to exceed its digital counterpart. Its advantages were noticeable mainly in that openness of upper register and vividness of the mids and that special breathing aspect of the overall presentation. However, when it came down to analyzing particular aspects of sound like precision, the depth of the musical scene and last but not least – dynamics, all in all, Lektor Grand did not seem to linger behind, and even at times some percussion instruments from Getz/Gilberto CD (Getz/Gilberto, LP: V6-8545, CD:523414-2) were more naturally recreated. The friability of the cymbals of the LP might, perhaps for some, appear to be more appealing but had definitely nothing in common with reality.
On the other hand, when I compared an exceptional release of Friday Night in San Francisco, LP: Philips/ Hi-Q Records/Pro-Ject 6302137, 180g to that of equally renowned CD release of Columbia CK 64410, Collectors Gold edition, it turned out to be quite a challenge for Lektor Grand to match the string tonality of vinyl reproduction. Nevertheless, until recently it would have been unthinkable to even try a direct comparison of these two formats and more often than not they ended up downright disaster for CD.
When compared to others of the “Top of the digital league” Lektor Grand is placed, in my opinion, among the best three or four CD players available on the market, no matter what price tag. The only noticeable shortcoming seems to be a bit lighter and somewhat loose bottom base. Both Gryphon Mikado and dCS had more to say in that range.
Price – 48 000 zl (13000 EUR)
Workmanship and overall impression: excellent design, separate transport and D/AC
Best possible components
The lack of absolute phase switching, variable analogue output
Liquid, precise, with stunning stereophonic imaging. Shows mercy for badly recorded CDs but is the real class in itself while playing well engineered recordings. Slightly loose bottom base