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This review first appeared in the September 2012 issue of hi-end hifi magazine High Fidelity of Poland. You can also read it in its original Polish version here. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with publisher Wojciech Pacula. As is customary for our own articles, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of High Fidelity or Ancient Audio. - Ed

Reviewer: Wojciech Pacula
CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Air V-edition
Phono preamplifier: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC
Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory Shilabe & Kansui
Preamplifier: Ayon Audio Polaris III Signature with Regenerator power supply
Power amplifier: Soulution 710
Integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier: Leben CS300 XS Custom
Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic + Acoustic Revive custom speaker stand
Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, AKG K701, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro 600Ω vintage, HifiMan HE6
Interconnects: CD/preamp Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, preamp/power amp Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo
Speaker cable: Tara Labs Omega Onyx
Power cables (all equipment): Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300
Power strip: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate
Stand: Base IV custom under all components
Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under CD player, Audio Revive RAF-48 platform under CD player and preamplifier, Pro Audio Bono PAB SE platform under Leben CS300 XS
Review component retail in Poland: zł3.000/pr

Publisher's foreword: Even though I was already committed to my own review of these powered desktop speakers, I decided that a two-prong approach would be of interest to the reader particularly since this is a novel venture, niche and price point for this well-known maker of upscale CD players and valve electronics. A link at the end of this review leads to the second report. - Srajan Ebaen

"The Studio Oslo is an excellent near-field monitors whose single widebander allows the user to comfortably listen as close as 1 meter. One can put these on the desk and enjoy all important aspects of the musical presentation: timbre, staging, dynamics, rhythm."
These exact words open the manual for the speakers under review. Everything about them is a bit different. At first glance it’s a simple active computer speaker like hundreds of others. But after a closer look and appreciating just who designed and made them, one might want to reconsider - or at least get curious.

The Studio Oslo is from Ancient Audio which means Jarek Waszczyszyn, owner and designer. Everybody who knows the brand appreciates that Ancient Audio manufacture expensive, very expensive and extremely expensive CD players and amplifiers plus the occasional loudspeakers (in fact they began with the latter and the famous digital decks and amps came later). I've been using Jarek's CD players for years, first the Lektor Prime, then a special V-edition of the Lektor Air as my still current choice. Although this deck sits exactly in the middle of the AA range of players, it’s very expensive as are the matching amplifiers. Even so they offer a very fair price/sound ratio. Additionally one of the best systems I've ever heard (belonging to one of our Krakow Sonic Society members) is build around Jarek's CD player and amplifier. Now this high-end exclusive company suddenly offered loudspeakers that didn't fit their profile one bit. That commands attention.

When I asked Jarek about the genesis of this project, he simply told me that the idea arose because he knew how many recording studios use truly crappy monitors. And he reminded me that he'd once before created another product ‘incompatible’ with his core catalogue – the Wing speakers designed and built for John Tu, owner of IT giant Kingston. Knowing many designers, I realize how they must have hundreds of ideas for new products in their heads and try to prototype as many as is feasible. But there are designers and then designers who own companies. The second type must think ahead to estimate if and how a particular idea might fit the brand identity and range, what customer response will be, whether or not large-scale production is feasible and last but not least whether anybody really needs or wants such a product. Surely there are more questions which must be answered before anything makes it from idea to sellable commodity. There’s parts identification and price shopping of suppliers, prototyping, beta testing and more before the customer ever sees or hears a thing.

Whilst Jarek had his inspired idea, I’m certain he contemplated carefully the various changes the audio market has undergone in the last few years and the growing role of computer audio within it. Today many people do listen to music in front of their computers after all.

For at least a year I’d been trying to shake Jarek up a bit to react to these changed market conditions he’d have to adapt to. Somehow I never got around to it though. Thankfully I didn’t have to. Clearly something was already brewing at Ancient Audio and that’s wonderful. I still have to ask though. Where the heck are D/A converters with the AA logo? How about headphone amps? Where is the long-promised digital input for my Lektor Air? In short, where are the types of products everyone today looks for?

As it turns out Jarek has already developed most of these. What remains is committing them to final production. Which gets us to the Studio Oslo as the first answer to contemporary audiophile demands AD 2012. As their owner’s manual explains, Ancient Audio’s ambitions went beyond just delivering good sound to the desktop. The speakers were to double as fully capable reproducers of digital master tapes in recording studios rather than just serve up MP3. That’s why they’re called near-field monitors. These are conceptualized as bona fide studio monitors that will work very close to the sound engineer, right behind or even atop the console. The upshot for consumers is that one would expect exactly the same qualities for a small desktop speaker.