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This review first appeared in the October 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 Fonica. - 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: zł 8.000

Where the Fonica name is concerned, it was acquired as a trademark by Grupa Kapitałowa Complex S.A. at some point. Hence the current firm has nothing in common with the original Fonica except being in the same business – making and selling turntable. If you meant to talk with the designer, you’d probably best chat with audiophile Radosław Łodziato who founded this reborn company.

This I learnt from email exchanges with Paulina Banaszewska, development manager for Audio-Fonica Sp. z o.o. who now hold the Fonica brand name. It was the first time I ever heard of Mr Łodziato. So I googled him, a pretty simple task. On the Complex Holding website it said: "Graduate of the economic-sociological faculty of the University of Łódź, holder of a Master’s degree in economics, since May 2006 vice president of the executive board of Complex IQ responsible for financial matters. From 2004-2005 financial director in Aon Complex in Łódź. From 1997-2004 linked to Bre Bank S.A.’s Warsaw branch in Łódź where he was employed as credit inspector, head of credit department and credit risk consultant. Born in Łódź in 1973. Interests: automotive industry and sports (shooting)."

In short he was my peer. My question was, how did a successful business man in finances get the idea of founding an audio company? And in particular one that makes turntables? In Poland the reappearance of the Fonica brand is a very big deal. After all it’s been one of the most recognizable of Polish audio brands and a kind of analogue symbol to most ordinary people let alone audiophiles. In fact I’m betting that most older reader at one time or another owned a piece of gear with the Fonica label. I know I did. As a 15-year old I dug dikes to earn money for the fantastic (at least then) GS 464 turntable with simple tone arm and stroboscope to set speed. Believe it or not but my brother still uses it today. Some of you probably had an Adam (GS 424), Bernard (GS 434) or Daniel (G-1100 Fs), the latter equipped with sensors and automatic drive which I also used for some time. But it was the Fonica compact disc CDF-101 as the first-ever Polish CD player which caused me to miss my own prom. I had only so much money - either for prom or to buy the player. The choice was simple. Fonica thus has been a solid part of our Polish audio history. And let's not forget their Bambino turntable introduced in 1963 (WG 252 version). In our country it was the king of parties during the 60s when it became a symbol of the times.

In 1945 Łódzkie Zakłady Radiowe Fonica (ZWAT, ŁZR Fonica, T-4) was founded as a sister company to Państwowe Zakłady Tele i Radiotechniczne in Warsaw. In the beginning they manufactured telephones and only by 1953 released their first turntable in the model G-53 whose 60th anniversary comes up next year. That was the first mass-produced Polish turntable ever. By 1956 they introduced the first turntable with integrated tube amplifier. A year later turntables accounted for 40% of Fonica’s total volume to transfer their production of telephones to another company and focus on audio-related products instead. By 1958 the company name changed to Łódzkie Zakłady Radiowe and only 2 years later it became the Fonica we remember so well.

The 70s were a period of prosperity for Fonica, with licenses acquired from Telefunken, Thomson and later even Tenorel for their cartridges. Demand was so big that they had to outsource motor manufacture to the Silma company in Sosnowiec. In 1970 alone Fonica manufactured 461.000 turntables. Then 1989—a year of a great political breakthrough in Poland—treated the company quite cruelly and only 1000 decks were made. By 1991 following some strikes, the company closed. Efforts to find new investors mostly in Korea continued with Kyungbang Ltd, Kyungbang Machinery and in 1998 Daewoo but neither could return Fonica to former greatness. Finally the company shut down for good in 2002.

For 10 long years there was nothing but nostalgia. Then this year virtually out of the blue I received information about the relaunch of the Fonica brand. The press release arrived from Paulina Banaszewska on behalf of new company Audio-Fonica which had acquired the original name albeit not logo. The owner and main shareholder today is the Complex S.A. As you can read in their materials, "…the decision to re-activate the Fonica brand resulted from the obvious increase of public interest in analogue records players." That might have been one reason but I'm pretty sure that it was Mr. Łodziato's desire to preserve this historical Polish brand which really made it happen. Certainly economics must have factored too but for a company as huge as the Grupa Kapitałowa Complex, those probably were only secondary considerations.