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To start off for an informal first taste I cued up 1994’s Sub Surface from the Tales in Tones Trio. That's well-done rhythmically sophisticated Jazz based on an otherwise simple piano, bass ‘n’ drums recipe. After the "Sabari" opener, "Pipo" is one of the more uptempo interesting numbers. Instrumental breathing, the intensity of the piano, the airy decays of hi hat and cymbals, spatially clear contours and localization all were instantly agreeable as was immaculate timing. Be it the articulately tracked clean double bass, the effortlessly angular virtuoso piano runs or the rhythmic verve during the central drum solo, the Fonel clearly was a very transparent, energetically driven playful specimen of its breed.
Even so this turn-on factor was not—as would stereotypically be the case—built upon a particularly potent handling of the bass. My admittedly less vivacious, less sparkly, less crisp and less speedy Funk MTX preamp which I roped in for a direct comparison as a known tonally neutral reference showed a bit more heft and substance down low. This was apparent in the bridge of "Outafter" from The Eyes of Stanley Pain by Canadian electro formation Download. Here the opulent instrumentation of the song is interrupted by mid/treble percussive events and a quite potent bass run.
 

With the Fonel this bass—which I nearly automatically pay attention to during my usual auditions—now registered only subliminally or got ignored altogether. Meanwhile the percussive noises moved into the foreground to be admired for unusually firm image lock, high plasticity and a real illusion of presence despite being generated by synths. The Funk MTX on the other hand diverted my involuntary focus back on the bass run as per usual. The transient noises moved into the background where prior electronics had left 'em too, never to have me become truly conscious of them before.


To be sure, it’s not as though the Fonel swallowed the bass and the Funk the upper registers. That’d be utter poppycock. Even so it was interesting how different hifi components create predetermined attention and with it perceptional shifts. Admittedly those should be meaningful only to audiophiles. With the involving Renaissance neither did the articulate ‘quick’ bass stand on the brake nor did the very developed mid/treble energy register as bright or analytical. Instead usually troublesome passages like sibilant/aggressive cymbals or equivalent vocals became (attention, looong word approaching!) langzeittauglichkeitsförderlich. Think finely dusted powder sugar. [Impossible to translate as a single term, English turns this centipede into promoting long-term suitability – Ed].


This impression overlaid with colleague Ralph’s sentiments. His preamp of choice is the Octave HP300. With the Fonel he felt that e-guitar became slinkier and silkier. Though his audition was too short to feel certain if any de facto tonal balance shifts were involved, he wondered whether the Renaissance wasn’t a tick warmer than his Octave shown above. During the same occasion my own perception was one of more silk and air, less edge and also reduced weight particularly on boisterous Rock. A propos airy, dimensionally the Fonel registered as highly precise. Even so it never seemed to crowd individual actors on the stage or apply checkerboard-style sorting strictures to get mechanical. This was very pleasing. True, clean accurate staging is the providence of many a preamp but the Fonel to my ears went that rare extra meter if not mile.