This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

This review first appeared in the November 2010 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of the Fonel La Ronda in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, 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 fairaudio or Fonel - Ed.

Reviewer: Jörg Dames
: Fonel Simplicité, Archos 7 with docking station
Amplification: Integrated – Fonel Emotion; pre/power - Audionet AMP, Audionet Pre 1 G3 incl. EPS, Belles 21A, Funk Lap-2.V2
Loudspeakers: Thiel CS 3.7, Sehring S 703SE
Cables: Low-level - Straight Wire Virtuoso, Vovox; high-level - HMS Fortissimo, Reson LSC 350, Straight Wire Rhapsody, Ortofon SPK 50
Review component retail: €9.899/pr

Life is no list of just favorites. At fairaudio, schlepping is part of the job. When it involves two people and four black-bagged crates of 200kg total, through my lengthy building and up two flights of stairs into my listening room, it’s neither physically easy nor easily crammed into just one sentence. Nor does it necessarily inspire trust. I occasionally worry that my neighbors entertain dark notions about certain comings and goings. Those who later observed two large crates covered in black cloth leave the building to end up in an ominously dark sleek BMW might give me a large berth from now on.

Fitted with loops to be easier carried than ordinary cartons, the black-bagged goods were a pair of 100kg+ active speakers called La Grande and their smaller sisters La Ronda who still approach 80kg. My partner in crime was the very serious Sergey Buchakchiysky, co-developer at Fonel Audio, the ominous set of wheels his well-worn work transportation. Because I responded less to the La Grande than the smaller La Ronda, the former two stiffs left again with the Russian hitman. These neighbors do watch too much telly. While my review loaners were black, other finishes like Zebrano are available.

At 105cm high, the La Ronda looks properly grown up as one expects for tower speakers in this price class. Even so they won’t overpower living rooms of average size. The 22mm MDF enclosure is finished in artificial leather and wood veneer on the outside, internally subdivided into different chambers and there also treated with a damping wax to create "maximal hardness and a minimum of resonance effects". The house of Fonel has thus far specialized in electronics. One might find it surprising then that their first official speaker series developed from a row of prototypes became fully active when the hifi market in general is dominated by passive boxes. The Berliners naturally aren’t short on explanations why but I’ll also cover generalities associated with the active speaker subject. I’ll simply sidestep potential features and flexibility possible with DSP and onboard D/A converters when the La Ronda doesn’t offer them.

With most quality active boxes, the crossover sits ahead of the amps which are usually built into the enclosures as well. This couples the amplifier outputs directly to the drivers. There are no interceding, lossy and heat-generating parts of the passive crossovers. Those passive parts must also be more over-dimensioned than active equivalents. Fonel feels that "big caps and resistors introduce greater nonlinearities". What’s more, active crossovers don’t require inductors. Fonel’s crossover board is thus free of any such endlessly coiled wires. The firm is in fact highly critical of the markedly longer signal paths caused by inductors. Also, "large coils are highly susceptible to external interference fields. They generate EM radiation themselves and particularly in tandem with capacitors shift phase."