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Turntable + Tonearm

 

FONICA
F802

Pricing (in Europe):
F802 turntable: 5,100 EUR | F03 tonearm: 1,500 EUR

Contact:
Audio Fonica
ul. Rewolucji 1905 r. 82 | 90-223 Łódź, Poland

tel. kom.: +48 697776777
e-mail: info@fonicamusic.com

fonicamusic.com

Country of origin: Poland


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ntil the end of the 1980s, Poland, a medium-sized country by the Baltic Sea considered by Emil Kundera to be part of Central Europe together with the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, was “built” on analogue. The turntable was a common sight in almost every “cultured” home, along with the cassette deck and reel-to-reel. What an enlightened nation, one might think, to not have given in to the digital plague from the rotten West that was insidiously slipping into music lovers’ homes under the guise of user convenience and promises of a “clear digital sound” only to destroy the “real” music, recorded in a pure, non-digitized sine wave. Taking it at face value, we might have expected a medal from the whole world, or at least the part of it that believes in a “noir” flat earth. The truth, however, was much more prosaic. All of the above countries and a few others, such as Bulgaria and Romania, remaining at their post on the eastern, “red” side of the Iron Curtain, were back then technologically unprepared for anything more than the technologies developed in the 1950s and early 1960s.
The first Polish Compact Disc player was the CDF-001 from Fonica, dating from 1987. I know this machine from the inside out, as that was what I spent my prom money on. Thus I ended up not going to my prom which made my mother angry and left her in a stupor, and then in a resigned but telling silence. The more so as she learnt of my decision after the fact.
Inexpensive by the Western European standards, the player was difficult to afford for us, living in Poland. Manufactured under a license from Philips, one of the co-inventors of the CD format, it looked rather poor housed in a plastic enclosure with a green alphanumeric LED display on the front panel and lacking a remote control. Although licensed from Philips, the CDF-001 was equipped with a Mitsumi mechanism and a Sony KSS150A laser unit. Since it was the 1980s, the player featured a multi-bit DAC in the form of a 16-bit LA7880 from Sanyo. Despite all that, I felt as if I had won the lottery. My GS-464 turntable, also from Fonica, was sent to the corner, as did my Aria MS 2411 reel-to-reel from a sister company UNITRA-ZRK, located in Warsaw. After some time, I came to my senses when upgrading to more expensive CD players I had to look for what I’d previously had with budget analogue equipment.


I'm not sure whether all readers have noticed that I repeatedly mentioned the name Fonica. One needs to know that it’s a very special company for the Polish audio, associated here, in the country by the Vistula River, with one thing: the turntable. Fonica used to be one of the best recognized brands in the Polish audio during the post-WWII years until the turn of the political system in 1989 and was a manufacturer of turntables and amplifiers, both for home entertainment and professional use. Even if someone living here, between the Bug and Oder rivers, might be not familiar with it, another name - Bambino - is instantly recognizable to anyone who was born before the times of Lech Walesa, Solidarity and the fall of Communism. Bambino was chronologically the second turntable model fully manufactured in Poland. We will find its picture in any catalog of an exhibition dedicated to the times of PRL (People’s Republic of Poland, the official name of Poland between 1952-1989 when it was politically dependent on the Soviet Union), in each textbook on the culture of that time, and over the last several years in albums documenting the achievements of Polish designers from the 1950s and 1960s. The WG-252 commonly known as Bambino was launched to the market in 1963, with subsequent upgrade versions to follow.
The turntable was manufactured by Fonica, a company formed soon after the liberation of Poland from the Nazi occupation in 1945. As its first turntable model was designed in 1953, we are talking about the company celebrating its 68th anniversary and boasting a nice round 60 years of “genuine” turntable history! Fonica is best associated with many turntable designs in the lower and medium price range that were also sold in other countries of the Eastern Bloc, often under other names. Suffice it to say that in 1970 it produced a total of 461,000 turntables.
Fonica shared the fate of many iconic brands that enjoyed a great success only to fade away. After the political changes in Poland during the late 1980s and early 1990s and a short episode with Korean investors, it was finally closed in 2002. That seemed to be the end of the story.
In 2012, however, I received an unexpected e-mail from Ms. Paulina Banaszewska, Business Development Manager for Audio-Fonica Sp. z o.o., in which she informed of an investor that decided to buy the rights to the brand name Fonica. Unfortunately, the investor was unable to purchase the company logo or its technical documentation. The whole matter is so complicated that unraveling it seems impossible at the moment. Be that as it may, the new company decided to resume the production of turntables. While the situation is quite unusual for the Polish market, it has been rehearsed elsewhere, only to mention the USA and Mobile Fidelity, or Japan and ELP that manufactured laser turntables. Due to trade mark expiry and the lack of interest of the current owner, the name Fonica has been claimed by Grupa Kapitałowa Complex SA, a large company with no former involvement in the audio business. The person behind the move was Mr. Radosław Łodziato, the Vice-President of the Management Board and CFO of Complex SA – privately an audiophile – who wanted to preserve Fonica from oblivion and try his hand at the noble field of hi-fi audio. Initially held under Complex SA Holding, he decided to make the new company independent in December 2012. After prolonged negotiations concerning the purchase of the Audio Fonica brand and heritage, in March 2013 AUDIO FONICA became an autonomous and independent company.

Fonica – a story of a certain manufacturer (or even two)

Łódzkie Zakłady Radiowe Fonica (Lodz Radio Manufacturing Plant Fonica, also known as ZWAT, LZR Fonica, or T-4) was founded in March 1945 as a separate production unit of the Państwowe Zakłady Tele i Radiotechniczne w Warszawie (State Tele- and Radio-Engineering Plant in Warsaw). Initially, the production plant in Lodz manufactured telephone equipment. The first turntable design was developed in 1953 and started being sold from the next year. It was the GE-53 (this year celebrating its 60th anniversary!), which was the first Polish turntable produced on a mass scale. Karolinka, the first turntable with an integrated tube amplifier, was launched in 1956. A year later, turntables already constituted 40% of Fonica production output. In order to focus on sound reproduction products, the phone manufacturing division was transferred to another company. In 1958 the company was renamed to Łódzkie Zakłady Radiowe (Lodz Radio Manufacturing Plant) and only two years later, in 1960, it adopted the name Fonica.
During the 1970s, thanks to licenses from Telefunken, Thomson, and later Tenorel (cartridges) the company was booming. The demand was so great that the turntable motors had to be produced by an external supplier – Silma, located in the city of Sosnowiec. In the peak year of 1980, Fonica produced a total of 545,000 turntables. The number includes both standalone units and record decks built into furniture, jukeboxes, wire broadcasting systems, etc.
The year 1989, which was a turning point in Poland’s modern history, was a very rough time for Fonica. The annual production dropped sharply to only 1000 turntables. In 1991, after the workers’ strike, the decision was made to liquidate the company. Three subsequent Korean investors, Kyungbang Ltd, Kyungbang Machinery, and – since 1998 – Daewoo, failed to restore the company to its former glory. In its final years it produced office supplies, such as paper clips. The company was finally liquidated in 2002.
Nothing happened for the next ten years and it seemed that we were only left with nostalgia. In 2012, however, the brand was purchased and the production of Fonica turntables resumed. This distinguished Polish brand owes its new chapter to a new company, Audio-Fonica (incidentally, also from Łódź), whose main shareholder is Complex S.A., listed on the Polish Stock Exchange. As we read in the company materials, "The decision to reactivate the brand was a result of a recent noticeable increased interest in analog turntables".

The “official” company history on Wikipedia does not mention an interesting story connecting Fonica with Thorens and Pro-Ject. It is not included even in the most important book describing the company history, Outline of history of the Polish electronics industry until 1985 by Mieczyslaw Hutnik and Tadeusz Pachniewicz (Zarys historii polskiego przemysłu elektronicznego do 1985 r., Warsaw 1994), due to limits of the time period chosen by the authors. And while I mentioned it once before, it's worth repeating and expanding here.
It is a known fact that various turntable manufacturers are connected to each other in one way or another, be that through their founders, subcontractors, ideas or direct competition. We know quite a lot about the links between Thorens and Lenco, Clearaudio and Musical Fidelity and (turntables from) Marantz, Pro-Ject and Music Hall. Much less is known, however, about the connection between Thorens, Fonica and Pro-Ject – in this very triangle.
When the sales – and hence the production – of turntables from the Lodz manufacturer went down in 1989, the heads of Fonica started looking for job orders from other companies. One such opportunity arose when Andicom, a small manufacturer from Pirna in the Saxony region of Germany, was looking for subcontractors. Andicom had been in turn subcontracted by Thorens to manufacture cheap, semi-automatic turntables.
In 1991, at the IFA in Berlin (yes, there were times when audio products were showcased at the IFA!) the TD 180 turntable with the TP 20 arm was presented. It was a semi-automatic design capable of 78 rpm. This turntable was manufactured from beginning to end in Lodz by Fonica. Unfortunately, in 1992 Andicom was closed and Fonica went bankrupt.
Before that happened, however, the manufacturer from Lodz started the production of the new TD 280 Mk IV turntable, in addition to the TD 180, and produced a prototype of another low-budget machine, the TD 290 with the TP 40 arm.
In the same year, the Thorens Swiss headquarters went bankrupt and the right to the brand was taken over by Inter-Thorens, also from Switzerland. And it was the latter that, due to problems with Fonica (workers’ strikes, etc.), decided to move the production of the cheapest turntables elsewhere - to SEV Litovel s.r.o. located in the Czech town of Litovec, near Prague. Thus ended Fonica’s adventure with the Swiss, and began an unimaginable – from that point of view – career of Pro-Ject.
SEV is the company created after the liquidation of Czechoslovakian Tesla (incidentally, Tesla's name comes from the abbreviation of TEchnika SLAboprouda – "low voltage devices" – and has nothing to do with Nikola Tesla). And it was in Tesla’s former factory that the assembly and production of the TD 290 began, whose prototype had been built by Fonica. The machine became a huge success, followed by its subsequent versions, TD 295 Mk II and Mk III, manufactured until the withdrawal of Thorens in 2000. Founded in 1946, Tesla – and hence SEV – were not newcomers to turntable manufacturing. They produced turntables from the 1950s, similarly to Fonica.

Let us move on to another connection. I mentioned Thorens and Lenco, didn’t I? Lenco is another Swiss turntable manufacturer, the biggest Thorens competitor in their own country. It was established in the same year as Tesla and at some point subcontracted the latter to produce two turntable models, the NC 470 and NC 500. It turns out that the start of Thorens production in the 1990s was just a continuation of a Swiss-Czech cooperation…
The TD 290 and TD 295 became the catalysts that sparked something bigger. In addition to production for Thorens, the Czech manufacturer signed a contract with an Austrian who was the owner of Pro-Ject Audio Systems.
Heinz Lichtenegger, as he is the Austrian in question, told "Gramophone" magazine (www.gramophone.co.uk) how it happened. His story begins with… love. Heinz had nothing to do with the turntable manufacturing, until at a party he met a Czech girl who brought along a turntable rescued from the skip behind the factory where her uncle worked. The factory was a former Tesla factory and the girl was Jozefina Krahulcova who married Lichtenegger, and later became the head of EAT, a manufacturer of high-end tube devices and… turntables. It could have been a completely different story, though. Michael Fremer says in his "Stereophile" article on Pro-Ject that Lichtenegger was looking for a suitable location in the Czech Republic for turntable manufacturing as early as the beginning of the 1990s. And there, in a dark corner of a small factory he found the turntable that "looked just right". It had a good motor and a heavy platter. After a bit of tweaking it became the Pro-Ject 1. No matter which version of the story is true (most likely neither one), today SEV Litovel s.r.o. produces 40,000 turntables per year as a subcontractor for Austrian Pro-Ject Audio Systems. And to think that the same could have happened with Fonica…

Recordings used during test (a selection)


  • Bill Evans, Bill Evans Live At Art D'Lugoff's Top Of The Gate, Resonance Records, HLP-9012, "Limited Edition - Promo 104", 2 x 180 g, 45 rpm LP (2012).
  • Bill Evans, Selections from Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top Of The Gate, Resonance Records, HLT-8012, Limited Edition #270, blue vax 10” LP (2012).
  • Cannonball Adderley, Somethin’ Else, Blue Note/Analogue Productions AP-81595, “The Blue Note Reissues, 45 RPM Special Edition #2468”, 45 rpm, 180 g, 2 x LP (1958/2008).
  • Daft Punk, Get Lucky, Columbia | Sony Music 3746911, 12” maxi-SP (2013).
  • Ingfa Rumpf, White Horses, Edel: Content 0208574CTT, “Triple A Series”, 2 x 180 g LP (2013).
  • Kate Bush, 50 Worlds For Snow, Fish People 72986615, 2 x 180 g LP (2011).
  • Komeda Quintet, Astigmatic, Muza Polskie Nagrania/Polskie Nagrania XL 0298, "Polish Jazz Vol. 5", LP (1966/2007).
  • Kraftwerk, Computerwelt, EMI Electrola1C 064-46 311, LP (1981).
  • The Doors, Vinyl Box, Elektra/Rhino Vinyl 2274881, “Digital Master”, 7 x 200 g LP (2007).
  • The Montgomery Brothers, Groove Yards, Riverside/Analogue Productions AJAZ 9362, “Top 100 Fantasy 45 Series”, 45 rpm, 180 g, 2 x LP (1961/?).
  • Wes Montgomery & Wynton Kelly Trio, Smokin’ At The Half Note, Verve/Universal Music K.K. [Japan] UCJU-9083, 200 g LP (1965/2007).
  • Zakir Hussain, Making Music, ECM Records, ECM 1349, LP (1987).


I am pretty familiar with the sonic characteristics of heavy non-decoupled turntables. If their exemplification, maybe slightly far-fetched but within the limits of the acceptable, were to be the products from German Transrotor, their very core would be the Super Seven La Roccia 07 (HERE. With an aluminum platter, a slate plinth, a rigid, three-point mounting and a motor in a cut-out it looks like the F802. However, the similarity might be not that obvious in a blind test between the two. The Polish turntable is much less selective but at the same time has a better resolution. Its bass does not extend as low nor is it as well controlled, and its main, primary focus is on the midrange. All events are built on and around it. Again, that is the case with many decoupled turntable models, with Thorens and Linn leading the pack. Here, the sound is not as soft, though. It is certainly coherent, smooth and consistent, but without a clear softening of the sound attack. I think that it can legitimately be called Fonica’s "own" sound. It is possible, as I have demonstrated, to point out its characteristics that are common with other turntable designs, but the way in which they are combined here is unique.

Concentration on full-bodied sound at the expense of clear sound attack and perfect preservation of even the smallest details that build the presentation credibility links what I heard from the Fonica equipped with the Miyajima Lab cartridges (mono and stereo) with the sound of a master tape played back on a good reel-to-reel player (see HERE http://highfidelity.pl/@kts-308&lang=en). It is synergic and coherent. Details do not draw much attention, although they are very well shown. They seem to be subject to larger planes and major events. The sound planes are not defined in a hyper-distinctive way. It may not appeal to the music lovers who prefer a higher precision than that of a live performance, somewhat compensating for the lack of visual information. While I understand this approach, the Fonica is not for them. Here, when a new instrument appears, like the drums in the opening track on the 10" blue vinyl edition of Selection from Bill Evans Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of The Gate, it is shown as a separate "player", having its own space but no exact boundaries. It is similar with electronic instruments, such as those on the German edition of Kraftwerk’s Computerwelt album and the 12" Daft Punk single Get Lucky. Since it is a constant merging of music planes and textures, it is difficult to talk about emptiness in places where no sound is located at a given moment. The Fonica does not "add" anything to it, leaving a black background.

Even so, the most important is the midrange. Everything else is subordinated to it – a slightly sweet treble and naturally soft bass. Both ends of the frequency spectrum are well differentiated from record to record, and often differ from track to track, depending on the sound engineer and production studio. In the end, however, they turn out to serve only one purpose: to support the midrange.
This is particularly well audible on the recordings where the sound engineer and artists wanted to emphasize e.g. vocals, by exposing them in 3D. So was with the Daft Punk single. When after a while vocals come in (the mix lasts 10 minutes!), they are shown fairly close up, in front of the speakers line. It is interesting and surprising at once, and artistically consistent. The Fonica emphasized the vocals, showing them even closer to the listener. If the instruments are closely miked up, they will be pulled up forward and enlarged. On more detached recordings, such as White Horses by Inga Rumpf, the whole is more relaxed and a little further up on the soundstage.
Unlike the decoupled turntables that can vary in this respect, the F802 is excellent with differentiating the recordings without emphasizing their weaknesses, which are masked to some extent. The above mentioned album was recorded in the ultra-purist way by my friend, Dirk Sommer, chief editor of the "HiFiStatement.net" magazine. He miked the vocals with Shure SM58 microphones. I know them quite well from the gigs I sound engineered and I know that they have a rather limited frequency response. Their main advantage lies in creating solid, tangible sound sources – perhaps a bit limited tonally and not as dynamic as those built by high-end condenser Neumanns, etc., but really endearing, nevertheless. The Fonica turntable shows that within the first few seconds of music playback. In the next few we forget about it because the music presentation comes to the foreground and the hi-fi becomes of secondary importance.


While perhaps not evident from the above, I listened to this turntable with sheer pleasure and joy. A comparison with the Transrotor works best for me because it shows that no single design is perfect and each one, in its own way, is an attempt to get to the "truth". The Fonica does it by biting into the "gut" of the sound and not trying to analyze everything on the surface, but rather registering it and immediately getting to the heart of the matter. This way we get a presentation that is internally rich and truly complete. It is dense and full of tonal and dynamic nuances. One can listen to it for hours without getting tired or bored. Not aspiring to the title of a "faithful" tool, it gives you more joy than many precise turntables whose designers forgot to fill out the "framework" with content. The Fonica feeds us "meat" rather than bone. It is a weighty, solid machine, designed entirely in-house and carefully manufactured by artisans in Poland. It will bring us joy, put a smile on our face and give us something more – a peace of mind. This is the type of presentation that does not push for change, instead focusing our attention on the music, and hence does not stimulate the nerve responsible for Audiophilia Nervosa. A really great device!

Conclusion

Fonica’s situation is not as simple as it might seem. In Poland, it is different for the generation of 40-year-olds and older, and for the youth. The former group views Fonica as an iconic brand and, out of nostalgia, gives it and its products a much greater importance than it ever had. The name doesn’t ring any bell to the young people who do not feel any affection for it. For the former group the new Fonica is an attempt to prove itself a worthy heir to a venerable institution; for the latter it basically starts from scratch. I think that the latter is very close to how the company is perceived abroad, for example in the USA.
Fonica starts with a well-thought-out, wholly original product. In addition to the in-house designed and manufactured plinth, it now also offers a proprietary tonearm. The latter is still a work "in progress" – to resolve fine details, to achieve an even greater precision, and to implement any changes to meet the customers’ expectations. This is all mechanics. From the sonic point of view, however, it is a finished proposal in the sense of being "ready". It is not perfect and not for everyone – I think that's pretty self-explanatory. There are a few things that you need to pay attention to in order to formulate your opinion about this proposal. Do not expect a high selectivity and hence very clear details and be prepared for a little rounded sound attack. Despite its mass loaded design the low bass is not as authoritative and as precise as with other such constructions. Similarly, the treble is often hidden behind the basic events from the master tape. It is usually more accurate and more up front on other mass-loaders.
However, if you look for an "analogue" sound in its true sense, not "vinyl-like", you are right at home. The vocals are fantastic tonally, although not particularly well visualized, i.e. lacking clear edges. The tonal balance is focused on the midrange, but is not overly warm in the way some tube amplifiers can be. The dynamics seems averaged but that's actually not true. It is simply very well differentiated, which results in some records showing their true, compressed nature. While the tonal problems are minimized, covered with a mature color and rich harmonics, imperfect dynamics is shown immediately.
Its look will not appeal to everyone, either. The finish is not perfect and still needs some work. It is clearly a product manufactured in several dozen rather than several hundred of units. Looking at the F802 we see the work of a craftsman who has made the individual components, not a machine. I suggest to look at this design as the work of human hands and the result of compromises in achieving a desired goal. It has no room for perfection; there’s only an attempt to find the MUSIC.

The turntable sat on the M3X RD-1921 isolation platform from Harmonic Resolution Systems which in turn was placed on the Finite Elemente Pagode Edition rack. The turntable power supply was fed from a dedicated power line. The RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC phono preamplifier (HERE) rested on the Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc feet, and rested on the Acoustic Revive RAF-48H air-floating isolation board. It was powered via the Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300 power cord plugged into a dedicated power line. The following cartridges were used: Miyajima Laboratory Shilabe (stereo), Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono), Denon DL-103 and Denon DL-103SA.

The renewed Fonica’a initial product lineup included two turntable models. The F600 was the less expensive of the two and featured an acrylic plinth and the Rega RB300 arm. The F800 was the higher model that boasted a granite base and came equipped with the Rega RB700 arm. Fonica also offered a brass record puck. At the Audio Show 2012, Poland's largest audio exhibition (three hotel venues and about 9,000 visitors over two days), Fonica showcased the Violin, a much more expensive and somewhat swanky design. And earlier this year, the news went round that the manufacturer developed its own tonearm, slightly redesigned the F600 and F800 to work with it, and released them as the new F602 and F802.

Plinth

The F802 is a large, heavy turntable. It is a classic example of a mass-loaded non-decoupled design. The latter could actually be disputed – and disputes are healthy – as the spikes on which it sits are tightly mounted to the plinth via rubber rings, which may be seen as a kind of decoupling. The rubber rings mechanically isolate the turntable from the spikes. What is more important, however, is that the arm and the platter are "rigidly" mounted to the plinth. Hence, it seems to me that the F802 may be confidently called a "non-decoupled turntable".
It does not look very complex, but does look quite distinctive. Its outward appearance is actually strikingly similar to that of my reference CD player, the Lektor AIR V-edition from Ancient Audio, and hence I know that "simple" does not necessarily mean "simplistic". The F802’s plinth is really heavy. It is made of a block of granite, which is used by turntable manufacturers due to its heavy weight and favorable mechanical properties. The plinth has classic rectangular proportions and is quite thick. It sports three through-holes – two in the front and one in the rear – to hold brass spikes, secured from the top with brass caps. Apart from granite, brass is this design’s most distinctive material. Its yellowish color defines our perception of the whole machine and determines a yes or no response to it. If everything is OK except the looks, it is worth knowing that the turntable can be also ordered in "Black" finish, with all the metal parts anodized in black, or in "Gold" where they are plated with 24-carat gold.
The version I received for the review came in brass finish. Brass was not anodized, only passivated to the alloy’s natural color.

Brass is also used for the housing of the main inverted bearing – a fairly thick cylinder with a flange at one end. It is machined from a single piece of brass together with the record spindle. A heavy platter sits on top of the cylinder that is fitted onto a steel shaft with a thrust ball at the end. There seems to be some kind of hard material that supports the ball from the inside, but I could not find any information about it. The ball is made of a very hard zirconium dioxide (zirconia). Other turntable manufacturers that employ a thrust ball bearing use a variety of materials, such as Teflon, tungsten carbide, or other exotic alloys and sinters rarely seen in audio. The bearing is self-lubricating and is made with high level of precision.
I’ve already said that the F802 is a mass-loaded turntable. It needs to be added that it is a belt-driven design. The motor is placed classically into a cut-out at the plinth’s far left corner. It is housed in a solid, heavy brass block – I’ve told you there is lots of brass. The motor sits on small rubber pads, directly on the surface supporting the turntable. The cut-out is quite tight and padded with a rubber band that on one hand decouples the motor from the plinth (two heavy components are separated by elastic material), but also keeps it at a fixed distance from the platter. The main disadvantage of motors suspended by rubber grommets, etc. is that this distance constantly changes, leading to wow and flutter. Decoupling is better, but it is quid pro quo. An interesting solution to this problem was proposed by Thorens in the TD-309, which features a suspension similar to that of a speaker driver’s rear suspension. This design idea, however, has only been used in Thorens turntables.
The platter is made of a thick aluminum block, gold hard anodized with a surface hardness of 65 Rockwell. The color finish matches that of the brass components. Topping the platter is a felt mat. The heavy record clamp is made of brass (what a surprise!) and equipped with rubber rings that reduce vibration and help manipulate the clamp. The clamp sports a level on the top, which makes it easy to level the turntable – as long as the record is perfectly flat.

The torque is transmitted to the platter with a round rubber belt. Attached to the motor shaft is a large brass disc with holes to reduce its mass. In the less expensive F602 the disc does not have the holes. The disc has one fixed diameter, as the turntable speed is controlled by an external high-precision controller with quartz oscillator.
The sine wave controller is housed in its own cylindrically shaped brass enclosure, as heavy as the motor, and sports a speed-change button, two LEDs and on/off toggle switch. The blue (unfortunately) LEDs indicate 33.3 or 45rpm speed. The controller connects to the motor with a short cable and is powered from a small wall-wart power supply manufactured in Poland.

All turntable granite and brass components are manufactured by us in Lodz. We buy the motors in the Netherlands. Power supplies are sourced from a Polish manufacturer located in Brzeziny near Lodz. We are finishing work on our own more refined power supply, housed in a brass enclosure to match our turntable style. It will soon be offered as a turntable upgrade. Some production processes such as hard anodizing or laser engraving are subcontracted to other companies. Hard anodizing is a surface treatment of components that provides a high hardness coating - approximately 65 Rockwell. This process uses sulfuric acid - says Mr. Łodziaty.

Tonearm

The first decision after purchasing the brand was to develop an in-house designed tonearm, or actually two tonearm models differing from each other mainly by the type of bearing employed. The F02 is the basic model, but the reviewed F802 turntable came equipped with the more expensive F03. Its development took several months. The head of Fonica says:

As the originator and the person responsible for the design solutions employed in FONICA products I sketched preliminary tonearm designs that were subsequently generated by our engineer in specialized CAD software, including all necessary individual components. The components were on CNC machines. As might be expected, after listening tests most of them would be trashed, and the process would start all over again. The idea was to find a design I liked sonically. This is how we work on each project. I come up with a design sketch which then goes to the computer, followed by a long phase of testing and improving the prototype. At each project stage, the prototype lands in my home where I can carefully listen to it for days and plan further improvements. Also in April, we started working on our reference model to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first FONICA turntable. The work is nearing the end and the Aurora will be a mass-loader made of granite and brass, just as the F802. It will weigh about 100 kg. We have another model in the works that will be positioned below the 800 series and we are working on a granite version of the Violin. We have yet to overcome several technological barriers to production. The process of hand-polishing the acrylic Violin plinth takes a few days alone. And granite is much more difficult to work with. AUDIO FONICA is a small manufacturer, employing a small team of people who are very good friends with complementary capabilities. Many of our turntable components are hand-made of natural materials. Hence, we use granite and brass in our top turntable series. I think that natural surfaces are very appealing to the touch and that’s why we avoid plastics and painted finish. My ambition with the tonearm design was not to use any plastic components. The only exception is the arm rubber cushion and of course wire insulation in the arm tube. Moreover, the cartridge connectors are silver plated and the RCA output connectors are gold plated and housed in brass. The F802 turntable is fitted with the F03 arm that is made mostly of brass. The arm tube is made of gold anodized aluminum. A previous fully brass made tonearm turned out to be too heavy and inert.


It could have been expected, but even then the Fonica arm just looks different, like it were made entirely of brass. And it is, to a large extent. It is a 9-inch gimbaled bearing tonearm (the distance between the arm pivot and the platter spindle is 214.4 mm), with multiple setup and regulation options. VTA adjustment is handy via a large screw/dial. That is important, as the company began their tonearm adventure with a fantastic VTA adjustment mechanism of this type for Rega arms. Azimuth can also be adjusted – the arm head is tightly mounted and secured with an Allen screw – and offset angle. And, of course, VTF and anti-skate.
The manufacturer provides the following specification:

  • Overhang - 9.47 mm
  • Effective arm length - 219.13 mm
  • Minimum height above the mounting surface - 53 mm
  • Maximum height above the mounting surface - 63 mm
  • Depth below the mounting surface - 28 mm
  • Effective Mass - 12 g

Looking at some of the components it is easy to find their originator – the anti-skate mounting point and its appearance clearly points to the M2-9 arm from SME, used by Fonica in the F601 and F801 turntables.
The aluminum arm tube has the same cross-section along its length and is mounted on a gimbal bearing made of two rectangular brass blocks fitted into one another. The counterweight is mounted on a long threaded tonearm stub. Anti-skating is a classic affair with the anti-skate weight attached to a thin wire. The copper tonearm wire is terminated with silver plated copper ferrules. The RCA connectors are located on the bottom of the plinth. Unfortunately, the location of the copper block to which they are mounted is very inconvenient and connecting the tonearm ground wire proves quite difficult.


The review first appeared in “EnjoyTheMusic.com” magazine in September 2013 HERE


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associated-equipment

ANALOG SOURCES
- Turntable: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
- Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, review HERE
- Phono stage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE
DIGITAL SOUCES
- Compact Disc Player: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, review HERE
- Multiformat Player: Cambridge Audio Azur 752BD
PREAMPLIFICATION
- Line Preamplifier: Polaris III [Custom Version] + AC Regenerator, regular version review (in Polish) HERE
AMPLIFICATION
- Power amplifier: Soulution 710
- Integrated Amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
LOUDSPEAKERS
- Stand mount Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
- Stands for Harbeths: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
- Real-Sound Processor: SPEC RSP-101/GL
HEADPHONES
- Integrated Amplifier/Headphone amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
- Headphones: HIFIMAN HE-6, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-300, review HERE | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, review (in Polish) HERE | Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, version 600 - reviews (in Polish): HERE, HERE, HERE
- Headphone Stands: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), review (in Polish) HERE
- Headphone Cables: Entreq Konstantin 2010/Sennheiser HD800/HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE
CABLES
System I
- Interconnects: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, review HERE | preamplifier-power amplifier: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
- Loudspeaker Cables: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review (in Polish) HERE
System II
- Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
- Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA
POWER
System I
- Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
- Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
- Power Line: fuse – power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m) – wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
System II
- Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, review (in Polish) HERE | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), review HERE
- Power Distributor: Oyaide MTS-4e, review HERE
COMPUTER AUDIO
- Portable Player: HIFIMAN HM-801
- USB Cables: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), review HERE
- LAN Cables: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), review HERE
- Router: Liksys WAG320N
- NAS: Synology DS410j/8 TB
ANTIVIBRATION ACCESSORIES
- Stolik: SolidBase IV Custom, read HERE/all system
- Anti-vibration Platforms: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, review HERE/digital sources | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, review HERE | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/loudspeakers under review/stands for loudspeakers under review
- Anti-vibration Feets: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/ CD Player/Ayon Polaris II Power Supply /products under review, review HERE | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/ products under review, review HERE | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, review HERE
- Anti-vibration accsories: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/power cable, review HERE
- Quartz Isolators: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4
PURE PLEASURE
- FM Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One