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A selection of recordings used in the test - Tron Legacy, OST, Daft Punk, Special Edition, Walt Disney Records, 9472892, 2 x CD; Bill Evans, Everybody Digs Bill Evans, Riverside/JVC, JVCXR-0020-2, XRCD; Brian Eno, Craft On A Milk Sea, Warp Records, WARPCDD207, 2 x 180g LP + 2 x CD + 24/44,1 WAV;  Carol Sloane, Hush-A-Bye, Sinatra Society of Japan/Muzak, XQAM-1031, CD; David Munion, Pretty Blue, Stockfisch Records, SFR 357.6072.2, CD; Dead Can Dance, Into The Labyrinth, 4AD/Mobile Fidelity, 140g LP; Dead Can Dance, Spirit chaser, 4AD/Mobile Fidelity, 140g LP; Frank Sinatra, The Voice, Columbia/Speakers Corner, CL 743, Quiex SV-P, 180g LP; George Michael, Faith, Epic/Sony Music, 7753020, 2 CD+DVD; Grabek, 8, Polskie Radio, PRCD 1372, CD; Kankawa, Organist, T-TOC Records, UMVD-0001-0004, Ultimate Master Vinyl, 4 x 45 rpm 180g LP + CD-RIIα + 24/192 WAV; ...

... Laurie Anderson, Big Science. 25th Anniversary, Nonesuch, 79988-5, CD; Laurie Anderson, Homeland, Nonesuch Records, 524055-2, CD+DVD; Madita, Too, Couch Records, CR 20472, CD; Mikołaj Bugajak, Strange Sounds and Inconceivable Deeds, Nowe Nagrania 001, 45rpm LP+CD+WAV 24/44.1; Sonny Rollins, East Broadway Run Down, Impulse!, IMP 11612, CD; Stan Kenton & June Christy, Duet, Capitol/Toshiba-EMI, TOCJ-9321, CD; Stina, Memories of Color, EastWest/Warner Bros., 9 45405-2, CD.

In my life I have listened to many players with tube outputs, sometimes even with a complete tube stage including the power supply. I have used one such player for many years to know that talking about a certain shared path or DNA is wrong. Of course any mention of a CD player with tubes elicits immediate stereotypes. This is an old reflex carried over from the renaissance of SETs. Here one must remember that low-level circuits use small-signal triodes like ECC83, ECC85, ECC88, 6H30 and less often 6SN7. Amplifiers run power triodes or pentodes like 300B, EL34, KT88 and 6550.

This distinction is vital. The sonic modifications introduced by a CD player’s tube output stage are far more similar to a preamplifier than any power amp. As we cast aside stereotypes associated with valves, it’s worth pointing at some elements which usually but not always accompany such machines and which in the present case do connect the Fonel with my Ancient Audio Air, Ayon’s CD-1sc, Lector’s CDP-7 TL/MkII and Loit’s Passeri machines

Most important is the rightness of the sound as a function of its continuous dense harmonic structure. It manifests as a lack of nervousness, an impression of permanence and often is accompanied by precision and coherence. All that is the case also for the Simplicité. That said, compared to the far costlier digital Air or Kuzma Stabi S + PS + Stogi S12 VTA vinyl system, the Fonel is less electrifying. It depicts events with less urgency and presence as though those were placed at a greater emotional distance. One notices the urge to turn up the volume even though the comparators were perfectly matched. So there are distinct differences. And yet - what the Americans at Stereophile call rightness or continuity is there from the very beginning.

The Fonel sounds somewhat wetter than the other two mentioned sources. That’s because it is less precise, not as dynamic or quick on the transients. You might say that the German player is in permanent legato mode. This makes for an incredibly relaxing sound. One can experiment with a direct-to-amp connection but even then this tendency to calm things down remains.

That then becomes the foundation for this player's sound. It’s supported by a softer treble yet because the upper midrange is very lucid rather than recessed, the general impression remains transparent and projecting. I quickly learnt which recordings would fare best. I won’t state that the player is specifically tuned for them but its combination with the rest of my system nonetheless created that impression.