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ACTIVE SPEAKERS ⸜ bookshelf speakers

Ancient Audio

Manufacturer: ANCIENT AUDIO
Price (in Poland): 12 000 PLN (3000 €)

ul. Malawskiego 50
31-471 Kraków | POLAND



Provided for test by: ANCIENT AUDIO


translation Ewa Muszczynko
images Wojciech Pacuła | Marek Godyń

No 218

July 1, 2022

ANCIENT AUDIO is a Polish company, based in Krakow, Poland, specializing in high-end electronics, focusing on tube devices. Its offer also includes loudspeakers and solid-state devices such as a phono stage preamplifier.

T’S BEEN ALMOST EXACTLY TEN YEARS since the ANCIENT AUDIO company, specializing previously only in expensive high-end amplifiers and CD players, presented tiny active speakers – a product that was to change its course and contribute to the creation of a completely new brand.

It has been ten years since their premiere which took place in the pages of "High Fidelity". On 16th September 2012 we tested the first Ancient Audio active monitors, costing 3000 PLN per pair at that time, called STUDIO OSLO. They appealed to us. And even their poor functionality did not stand in the way of that. So, the next step were the larger MASTER OSLO, and then turning these experiences into a more "mainstream" product. This required external funding and setting up another company. As a result of these efforts, the FRAM brand was born.

Vintage Horten D

FROM THE VERY BEGINNING, I.E. FROM THE STUDIO OSLO MODEL, one of Jarek's guiding principles for artistic design has been a reference to the company name. However, it was not until July 2020 that he decided to express this and named his new designs VINTAGE OSLO. So, understood in this way, Vintage Horten are their development.


A few simple words with…

Owner, designer

⸜ ⸜ JAREK WASZCZYSZYN visiting “High Fidelity”

Ancient Audio has been building ACTIVE SPEAKER COLUMNS for 10 years (any text effects have been added by the Editor – Editor’s note). It started with Studio Oslo, which were a kind of a breakthrough. They are tiny speakers, but they did show that they can create an illusion of a good speaker system on the desk, providing dynamics, space and timbre typical for good, much bigger and more expensive speakers. The next model, Master Oslo, was so popular that a special version was made for the 10th anniversary of "High Fidelity" (more HERE).

Active loudspeakers designed by Ancient Audio are also manufactured under the Fram name. The modern aluminum enclosure appealed to people, and so did the sound. Fram loudspeakers, produced in various sizes, showed that the concept of an active speaker, which is actually a combo to which one only needs to connect a source, is a hit.

Vintage Oslo, already equipped with a Digital Speaker Processor, also appealed to the Knights of the Krakow Sonic Society, even though they listen to very sophisticated systems on a daily basis. The Knights turned their noses up a bit at the unattractive form and limited functionality. The second edition, sticking even more closely to the traditional 1960s design, is also equipped with a digital S/PDIF input.

The look and sound of Vinatge Oslo II and previous experience with Fram speakers were the genesis of the Vintage Horten model. The earlier speakers turned out to be so nice in terms of form and sound that it was worth the effort to enlarge them to become full-blooded monitors, playing with panache in most European homes. There was no problem with the name, because I stuck to the Norwegian nomenclature. Horten is a town on Oslofjord, where a nice audio exhibition takes place every year (more HERE|PL|).

⸜ Mr. MAREK GODYŃ, the author of the cabinets, in his workshop

Vintage Horten takes after its smaller brother not only in terms of style. The cabinet is also made by Marek Godyń, an audiophile carpenter (more HERE ). I also used speakers from the Polish company STX. This time it is a two-way design, sticking to the tradition, i.e. with a paper mid-woofer and silk dome.

When thinking about a larger speaker, I considered SB Acoustic speakers that gave me a good experience when used with Fram speakers. I tried the STX speakers out of sheer curiosity. I did not expect that this set would "stick together" so nicely, although building a multi-way speaker in practice turns out to be a very complex task. Drivers which are excellent on their own very often do not match as a set. And STX worked together like Jacek and Agatka, Żwirko and Wigura, Canonball with Aderley, Harley with Davidson.

The final speaker turned out to be larger, but it's actually a combination of a monitor and floorstander: monitor space on one side, the bass and punch of a sizable speaker on the other. My room can crank up the bass, but I didn't expect the extension from 27 Hz. For better bass control in smaller rooms, there are three processor programs to choose from, selected using a switch on the back.

Vintage Horten is a proposal for those who do not want to endlessly tinker with cables, amplifiers, speakers and "DACs", but just want to listen to music. JW


⸜ TECHNOLOGY VINTAGE HORTEN ARE ACTIVE, two-way, bass-reflex speakers. It is the largest active speaker of the Ancient Audio "monitor" series, measuring 230 x 400 x 260 mm in an inverted configuration – the tweeter is below the mid-woofer (two drivers from Polish manufacturers are used). These are inexpensive, but very nice units from STX: a 26-mm silk dome tweeter and a 180-mm paper mid-woofer.

The cabinet is very nice and it is an important element of their style. It is covered with oak veneer coated with natural wax. The front panel has been varnished black. Below the tweeter there is a brass plate with the logo, attached with screws, which also features a knurled volume control knob (there is no remote control), a power switch and (in the "D" version which we are testing) two LEDs: a red one indicating power on and a green one indicating synchronization with a digital signal transmitter. The plate is glued onto the second speaker.

As we have already said, these are active speakers. Unlike most designs of this type, all the electronics are located in one of the speakers, and signal is sent to the other speaker via a classic speaker cable, but one ending with a cinch connector. What's more, they use two amplifiers and a passive crossover, not four amps (one per speaker) and an active crossover. The most important element of this design is something else, however – a digital processor programmed by Ancient Audio, which corrects the flaws of the drivers and crossovers. The company calls it the Digital Speaker Processor.

The amplifiers used in Vintage Horten are tiny. They are ready-made modules purchased from a third-party supplier, operating in class D. They offer 60 watts per channel (!). They are mounted on a metal plate which is also the rear panel of one of the speakers. This is also where the inputs and outputs are placed.

⸜ FUNCTIONALITY In the basic version of the speakers, we get only analogue inputs differing in sensitivity: a stereo RCA with sensitivity of 2 Vrms, intended for sources such as a CD, tuner and file player, and a mini-jack with the diameter of 3.75 mm, with sensitivity of 0.7 Vrms, to which you can connect a tablet, smartphone or computer. This version is called Vintage Horten.

When you add a "D" to the name – Vintage Horten D – you get a version with an additional digital input, on an RCA(S/PDIF) jack. It accepts PCM signal from 16 to 24 bits and 44-216 kHz. The difference in price between the two is PLN 1000 (PLN 11,000 vs. PLN 12,000). Thanks to it, we bypass one conversion (analog-to-digital). To tell you the truth, it makes no sense to me because a digital input is mandatory these days. Without it, the speaker is functionally limited and one version of the speakers, with a digital input, would suffice.

Anyway, this is not at all an optimal solution, because for some reason the speakers are not equipped with a USB input through which you could send digital signal from a computer or file transport. There is also no remote control and if we want to send Bluetooth signal to them, we have to buy an optional receiver. This is not some unique handicap, but only if you are 40 or older. For younger people, this is the primary way to communicate with the world (I'm talking about USB and Bluetooth). As for the remote, youngsters control volume from their phones anyway, so it's not a big problem.

And so we return to the "heart" of the Vintage Horten and Vintage Horten D – the processor. I have listened to it in a number of Ancient Audio and Fram products, and I think it performs best in products from the base and medium price range. It also puts at the user's fingertips the ability to customize the sound to their preferences and system. The switch described as the "Digital Speaker Processor" has three positions: for the speakers standing on a desk, placed on stands in a room and used with a subwoofer - there is a mono output on the rear panel.

The speakers are powered from an external switching power supply used for laptops.

⸜ LOUDSPEAKER STANDS One of the cool features of Vintage Horten is the possibility to clip them onto tripods. The speakers can be placed on classic stands or on a desk, but this option seems to be the most interesting to me, because it allows us to precisely adjust the height of the speakers, and at the same time the speakers look great. At the bottom of the speakers there are attached metal plates with threads that match the bolts of the tripods on which we usually mount our cameras.


˻ THE WAY WE LISTENED Ancient Audio speakers can be placed on classic stands or tripods. The latter option does not offer as good stability as the stands, but the speakers look much better. And they were tested this way, placed at a distance of 260 cm from the listening spot and 220 cm from each other (as measured from the tweeter). They were 80 cm away from the rear wall.

I determined the distance between speakers and their levelling with the use of the Bosch PLR 50 C device. You can read more about speaker setup in the article Mikrodostrajanie. Czyli ustawiamy głośniki (English: Micro-setting or speaker setup ), HIGH FIDELITY № 177, January 1st 2019,, accessed on: 10.05.2022.

More information on the HF listening room acoustics can be found in the article Pomieszczenie odsłuchowe “High Fidelity” w oczach MARIUSZA ZIELMACHOWICZA (English: “High Fidelity” listening room in the eyes of MARIUSZ ZIELMACHOWICZ), HIGH FIDELITY № 189, January 1st 2020,, accessed on 10.05.2022.

I fed signal to the speakers digitally from a Lumin T1 file player. As for the analogue, however, I tried the mini-jack input, playing music from the Tivoli Model One radio; although it has only one speaker, it is a stereo tuner and has stereo signal on the headphone and line outputs.

˻ Albums used in the test | a selection

⸜ HANIA RANI, Venice – Infinitely Avantgarde, XXIM Records/Tidal Master, FLAC MQA Studio 24/48 (2022).
⸜ FINNEAS O’NELL, Optymist, Interscope Records/Tidal Master, FLAC MQA 24/88,2 (2021).
⸜ MILES DAVIS, Kind of Blue, Columbia | Sony Legacy/Tidal Master, FLAC MQA Studio 24/96 (1956/?).
⸜ JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, Welcome To The Other Side (Concert From Virtual Notre Dame), Sony Music Catalog G010004513144E/Tidal Master, FLAC MQA Studio 24/48 (2020/2021).
⸜ PATRICIA BARBER, Clique, Impex Records/Tidal Master, FLAC MQA 24/352,8 (2021).
⸜ ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM, Stone Flower (CTI Records 40th Anniversary Edition), CTI Records/ Tidal Master, FLAC MQA Studio 16/44,1 (1970/?).
⸜ BILLIE EILISH, No Time To Die, Darkroom | Interscope Records/Tidal Master, SP, MQA FLAC 24/44,1 (2020).
⸜ KINGDM, Your Love (feat. Soran & Reo Cragun), Capital Records/Tidal Master, FLAC MQA 24/44,1 (2018).


ONE OF THE UNDENIABLE BENEFITS of active loudspeakers is the optimal combination of amplifiers and drivers. After all, a large part of our audiophile activity, maybe even most of it, is related to the search for the right synergy between those two elements. If we add to that the search for a similar "harmony" between loudspeakers and room, it turns out that buying active loudspeakers, additionally equipped with a system compensating for room acoustics, can save us a lot of time. Of course, if that is what we want and if audiophile dilemmas are alien to us, or we are already bored with them.

The Vintage Horten D speakers may be the answer. It is because they have been optimized "internally" and "externally", i.e. the electronics have been matched to the speakers, and with a switch on the back of the cabinet we can adjust low-frequency energy (but not only that) to our room, speaker setup or simply our taste.

They can be the answer, and a very good one indeed, because they are successful speakers. Seemingly a truism, especially in the context of a company that over the last twenty years has offered a series of good sounding, technically interesting devices, and later also active speakers. But only "seemingly", because experience and staying on the market do not guarantee that this trend will continue, not to mention a steady increase in quality. Jarek Waszczyszyn has succeeded in that.

The tested speakers bring us sound that is to some extent already known from Fram speakers. It is big, concise and compact. Different tracks, e.g. At Dawn by HANIA RANI from the album Venice – Infinitely Avantgarde, A Concert Six Months From Now from FINNEAS’ album Optimist, or So What by MILES DAVIS, played from Tidal in a quick succession, filled the room with sound and energy. This is rare, because speakers usually "fight" with acoustics in some way, trying to "push" sound towards us.

This time it was different, as demonstrated by the remix of the song Oxygene 2 from the album Welcome To The Other Side (Concert From Virtual Notre Dame) by JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, which Sony released online in 2021. The speakers get over this problem by energizing the air. My point is that it doesn't feel like they put too much effort into it. It's not even about power, which is enough to play quite loud in a room with a surface of over 30 square meters, but about dynamic capabilities and saturation. Both these elements are excellent and they define the presentation of these speakers.

Vintage Horten D speakers are not any particularly resolving, that's not the case here. Selectivity and resolution are well balanced but have their limitations. However, it did not prevent me from playing the track This Town from PATRICIA BARBER’s Clique album well. This is an extremely precise recording, but with many systems you cannot hear it, as it sounds almost boring with them. But this is a problem of the given system, not the recording. With the Polish speakers it sounded very nice, dynamic and with great rhythmics.

I got even more saturation with ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM's album Stone Flower (CTI Records 40th Anniversary Edition), as well as BILLIE EILISH's single for the movie No Time To Die, the latest one with Craig as James Bond. As usual with the O'Connell siblings' productions, this is a very dark recording, but one with incredible internal diversity. And that bass... It is because the Polish speakers, although they do not go very low, feature fantastically well-managed bass. Like the whole bandwidth, it is a bit soft and round. However, it is also properly controlled and driven.

This was the case with all the above-mentioned tracks, as well as with the wonderfully produced piece Your Love by the artist known as KINGDM. The pulse of the track as well as the distribution of guitars and vocals in the channels was perfectly conveyed. Stereophony, while we are on the subject, is different here than in classical "audiophile" designs. It’s no use wasting your time looking for clear "pinning" on the wall of sound in it. It is rather the sum of all sounds with good differentiation of timbre, and thus separation of sound planes, and not the other way round.

The foreground is close to us and it is tangible – even intimate when necessary. But it also depends on the sound processor switch position. As I said, it affects not only the amount of bass, but also has a significant influence on "presence", i.e. how close the foreground is to us and how saturated it is in terms of timbre. This, obviously, is related to the amount of bass, but not only. It is, I think, about something more – the processor's ability to shift the focus of how we see music and how we emotionally perceive it.


THE VINTAGE HORTEN D ARE INCREDIBLY SUCCESSFUL speakers. Their sound has everything I expect from a "transmitter" of music, i.e. timbre, density, weight and mass. Do not look for any special treble refinement or precise definition of the instruments' placement in space here, because you will not get that. However, if we are not fans of "hi-fi", but simply good music – and I am going to refer to the designer's statement here – then we may be at home.

Connect a good file or CD transport to the Ancient Audio speakers and you get a compact audio system for years – one that will play any music, better or less well produced, in a committed, filled out manner without emphasizing the treble.


THE ANCIENT AUDIO VINTAGE HORTEN D are two-way active bass-reflex speakers with a port on the rear panel. Their look, as the designer says, is to reflect the company name – they are supposed to have a "vintage" feel. Their construction is relatively simple. It is a medium-sized MDF cabinet covered with natural veneer, black lacquered on the front. This is reminiscent of speakers from the 2000s, for example from the ALR Jordan company. Interestingly, the speakers are not damped inside at all.

At the front you can see two speakers, both produced by the Polish company STX: the T.10.150.4.SM tweeter dome and the W.18-140.4.MCX woofer. The dome has a diameter of 26 mm, a plastic front and a medium-sized, classic ferrite magnet. The quite large 180-mm woofer, on the other hand, has a diaphragm made of soaked paper and a molded plastic basket. The drivers are placed in an different (opposite) way than usual, which is probably related to the choice of the crossover.

The crossover is passive, which is rare in active speakers. The whole is driven by two digital amplifiers located in one of the speakers, each of them driving one speaker. The crossover, assembled using point-to-point construction, is attached to a horizontal crossbar reinforcing the cabinet from the inside. The components are sealed with a pressure-sensitive material to prevent vibration.

The electronics are placed on a small PCB screwed to the rear panel; the latter also serves as a heat sink for the amplifier modules based on Texas Instruments TPA3118 chips. These are ready-made boards with a class-D amplifier offering 60 watts. This is an inexpensive, commonly used amplifier circuit. On the board you can see a DSP circuit with the company's sound processor program. The processor is fed either directly from the digital input or via a Cirrus Logic 8422 (24/96) analog-to-digital converter. The sockets are neither gold-plated, nor top-class.

Signal is sent to the second speaker using a speaker cable terminated with RCA cinch connectors. Jarek used to choose some ordinary cable for this purpose, but this time we get a nice Italian Tasker C 275 speaker cable. From the bottom, in the cutter, there are metal plates to which we attach a tripod. The circuit is powered by an external 24V computer power supply.

Obudowy są bardzo przyjemne, ale widać, że kolumny jako całość to robota „garażowa”. Płytka z tyłu jest opisana za pomocą naklejki, a nie nadruków, gniazda są dość marnej jakości, a głośniki i moduł z elektroniką przykręcone są wkrętami do drewna, a nie śrubami z insertami. Także płytki na froncie – przykręcana na kolumnie z elektroniką i naklejana na drugiej, wyglądają mocno „oldskulowo” i trudno w ich przypadku mówić o „wysokiej klasie wykonania”. Ale może o to chodziło.

The cabinets are very nice, but you can see that the speakers as a whole are a "garage" job. The back plate is labeled with a sticker, no print is used here, the sockets are of quite poor quality, while the loudspeakers and electronics module are screwed with wood screws, not with bolts with inserts. Also, the plates on the front – the one attached to the speaker with electronics and the other one glued to the other speaker – look really "old-school" and it is difficult to talk about "high quality workmanship" in their case. But maybe that was the point.

Technical specifications (according to the manufacturer):

Nominal output power: 2 x 60 W, class D
Input sensitivity:
• RCA inputs – 2 Vrms
• mini-jack input – 0.7 Vrms
Digital input: PCM 16-24 bit, 44-216 kHz (Vintage Horten D)
Bluetooth: optional
Transducers: 180-mm mid-woofer, 26-mm dome tweeter
Digital Speaker Processor with three programs: desktop, open space and with a subwoofer
Finish: oiled beechwood veneer + black lacquer
Dimensions: 230 x 400 x 260 mm (W x H x D)


Reference system 2022

1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

AC Power

Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

  • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|


Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:


Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC