“ROCK HARD”

The Ancient Audio Lektor IV CD player

By: Vidar Mørch, “Fidelity” 4/2004 ( Norway)

Translated by : Stein Hytland

Poland. Forerunner in the fragmentation of the old east block; one of the grat hopes of the western export industry, and now waaay ahead of Norway when it comes to European community relationship. It should surprise no man that these origins have the courage to launch a CD player that takes a bold step forwards, - especially design-wise.

This journey may have started back east, but is in no danger of going west.

Carved in rock

Regardless of what one knows about the great Philips CD-Pro 2 transport, the shrewd circuitry; whatever one may feel about the built-in facilities including analogue pre-amplification, it is the stone faceplate that inevitably attracts immediate attention. Such was also the case at last years Horten show, where Ancient Audio gear got its fair share of the buzz. I gladly admit to partiality towards this Gustav Vigeland /Bang-Olufssen blend. The open design, flanked in massive, polish(ed) rock, oozes quality and daring choices. One of these choices is the partnership with the Norwegian company Base Technology. Birger Lund Andersen’s increasingly acknowledged technology for suppressing mechanically borne vibrations is part of the Lektor IV package. So even if rocks and electronics are sourced elsewhere, there is a slight Norwegian hand involved.

As if the granite and the earthy origins are not rootsy enough, Ancient Audio has opted for tubes in the pre-amp circuitry. I shall return to this topic, as the construction was altered mid-test from the venerable 6922 to the increasingly famous 6H30 valve. The latter is the very tube that has gained fame in Balanced Audio Technology constructions.

Alas, rock and style are not all that impress. The Lektor IV features a built-in pre-amp that allows for a minimalist component assembly. I haven’t had the chance to isolate and test the pre-amp stage, but it certainly does nothing to hamper the player’s overall sound quality. The idea of cutting back to this Polish flagstone paired with a set of active speakers has crossed my mind more than once. Match with, say a pair of Avantgarde Solo speakers, and you end up with a designer-rig consisting of half the established number of components. There is a distinct possibility that this compound solution will be tested within reasonable time.

Precious stone

All the fancy components in the world, even a sculpted rock exterior, get you nowhere in this price bracket unless the sound is jewel quality. My notes after hearing the original 6922-valve player, mutter stuff like “passed”, “approved”, and even “a certain flair”. Mid-bass control and upper registry transparency where wanting. Both the designer and importer Terje Nilsen must have heard things the same way, since the player was pulled for a redo in the middle of the process. I stress the fact that the result of this rebuild, the 6H30 valve option, now constitutes the standard Lektor IV. Goodbye 6922, welcome control and transparency. The rest of this article is addressing the virtues of the player in its present, definitely improved state. This product is not exactly crowding Norwegian households yet, so nobody is stuck with a player that needs modifications. The player has simply never been launched in other versions than this, as tested by Fidelity.

The Lektor IV is cut from a slab of Mother Earth, and behold if the foundation of the sound isn’t equally rock solid. I don’t know how much of this sonic signature can be attributed to the transport, but conspicuously much of the same signature has been clearly stamped on every other player featuring this transport, that I have ever come across. This is organic and massive. Perhaps a tad more muscle than finesse, but still very good from deep bass to angelic highs. The sound is very homogenous, and it is obvious that the designer is digging for the core of the music. It follows that the chosen signature is not primarily tuned for impressive show-room demos or brief bravado sessions. Don’t get me wrong. You will catch every nuance from Diana Krall as well as her piano. You may miss out on a member of the audience dropping a napkin to the floor, or stifling a yawn. If you can live with the fact that picking up that yawn would cost you a lot more money for a better player, there are no significant errors or flaws to point your finger at. Dynamics are definitely high class, and things are airy, resolved and transparent. Personally I could still wish for a little extra bounce and snap in the micro dynamics, little transients waiting to erupt like flower buds in the spring sun. Yes, I realise that this is the hi-fi freak speaking, and that these things are actually somewhat artificial compared to live performances. Real music, music with soul, is organic and alive. So is the music springing forth from the Ancient Audio Lektor IV. That should suffice, really.

Credits on a stone tablet

OK, let me try my hand at pinpointing the potential Lektor buyer.

Will he be stone rich? Stone poor? Loosing his marbles? Stoned out of his head? Or simply have a firm conviction that music should sound pleasant: Forceful, awesome and sophisticated at the same time.

Definitely the latter, although all these characterisations are occasionally used about those of us afflicted with this weird hobby.

It is not expensive – considering there is a full-integrated pre-amp. It does not appear to be a precarious purchase, what with the granite, the CD-Pro2 with the Base Technology and an importer that can be trusted. It does not exclusively do justice to psychedelic demo tracks. No, this is simply a gem for those of you into music with soul, and who are more than willing to make do with few components – with great design.

And should you be opposed to dragging a quarter of a quarry into your living room, you can have the Lektor IV in fine woods. What’s the problem?

Price: kr.35 000,-

 

Above text and translation was attached by courtesy of “Fidelity” magazine.