Fonel Audio Simplicité CD player review

Are the days of CD players counted?

It seems, that CD as medium is slowly dying with all the streaming services, multimedia audio storage devices and nonetheless high quality downloads services. You probably also noticed Apple's Icloud. Future is bright?

Not for everyone. While there is an elegance and easiness in handling your music with computers, Ipad, Iphones, Bluetooth capable stereo devices, there is still many of music lovers that prefer tactile feedback when dealing with their precious music. Count me in for this. I love what PC (and Mac) music has brought us and love the experience of Ipad. Somehow I can hardly imagine my music collection going all virtual. It might be the combination of pride and audiophile ego, but hey, at least I'm open hearted about it :).

CD is not vinyl. I know that before you try to burn me with arguments. It will never give the same emotional impacts as vinyl, yet there is still so many memories attached to the pursuit of bellowed music and making it part of musical collection. We can quickly recollect many impressions and memories about certain music and how this affects us. It's a matter of memorial imprints, that are combined with unique memory and recognition of bellowed music. Called mushrooms or mystics. No virtual music purchase holds the same planetary ring of emotions around it for me.

Meet the Simplicité

Now that I'm already familiar with Fonel components I can say it for sure, that they are made and built like thanks. Massive plates and great feeling of handling with a touch of nostalgic aura, that adds a certain value to this CD player.

It's hard to describe exact design of Fonel gear. They are unique, but in a great way. Kind of a melting of past and present. I love the no nonsense


It's said, that you judge the man by the outfit he wears. Not? Simplicité came within the wooden box, that almost need two persons to carry. Everything was in place, well packed and there is special feeling when you received and high-end component in a dedicated wooden box. It reveals the level of importance of manufacture to care for their bellowed creations. I cannot see any time anyone going wrong sending and packing any audio gear in such a way. It makes you feels prestigious. Everything else were handled as it should be. With foam, vinyl and packed tightly for safe exportation.

Balanced manners 

From the moment I heard and owned Burmester 052 CD player I was hooked to balance topology. There is still a lot of controversy going around it and yes, many companies include pseudo balanced topology just to impress with specifications. There is an improvement with XLR connectors in sound overall. Dynamics are much more in the "state of the union", bass is prolonged and attacks from all the string instruments were much more in natural domain when used instead of Simplicité RCA outputs.

Tubes R's

Like most of Fonel line, Simplicité incorporate tubes in their topology. Fonel used E88CC/6922/6N23P triodes in their output tube buffer. In this way they escaped the usage of operational amps and gained in much more natural sound. CD players by nature might lean towards harshness and Fonel knows this. This is nice addition and feature, that helps polished the sound closer to analogue ways. Often output buffers can add warmish feeling to the sound. Simplicité is in absence of this. Thanks God!

Buffer stage

Simplicité uses digital buffer stage, that actively compares the buffered information to the original while in digital "storage". This prevents loss of bits and helps keeping the music as it was meant to be heard. I cannot comment in depth about this, but it seems that implementation of this correct module works to a great result in a synergy of whole approach.

Remote and audio volume galore

Simplicité comes with gorgeous wooden remote, that cover all the functions. It's work of art to hold and behold. Simplicité also acts as a volume control and you can switch the display off for peaceful late night explorations of your music library.

Still music

I pulled out my trusty set of CD's and vinyl. Starting with one of my favourite Michel Franks albums Abandoned Garden Simplicité quickly showed it's strengths in handling opening song "This must be paradise". Michael voice was as smooth as it should be and I can instantly feel how well certain component convey the music once bass kick in. It would be my great to hear this album on vinyl, but so far almost anything past early nineties is strictly on CD. While still AAD in most cases, it would be great to hear Abandon Garden, Rendezvous in Rio or Watching the snow on vinyl. One can dream right?

Like water like wind, the second song on the album flowed like hot Brazilian wind through the Amazon riverside. Guitars, wind chimes and hypnotic single piano notes set nice atmosphere, that just invites you into memoriam of A. C. Jobim favourite sitescapes. This CD might sound a bit edgy, but the music performed is a masterpiece. Any medium of reproduction simply convey the emotions or kill them.

Practial use

Simplicité digital volume control is great addition and it opens up great possibilities of integration. If your collection of CD's are not obsolete your might use this Fonel CD as a front end for your power amplifier, active speakers or a way to use it as remote volume if your preamplifier doesn't have remote control.


If we draw all the lines together, Fonel Simplicité is very interesting and capable CD player. It's also great sounding one. I like the absence of digitalis, that is often associated with CD players and DAC regardless of price. Fonel worked hard to produce an impressive red book player for all the silver discs enthusiasts. I would really love to see digital input on Simplicité. This would opened up the whole new array of digital front ends. Perhaps they're already planning this for the new revision.

A capable player and fair priced CD player with enough in house work done, to make any music lover, audiophile or music collector a proud owner of this craftsmanship audio device.


The functional equipment of "Simplicité" gives an opportunity to build a system, blameless in its sounding quality, with minimum number of included devices, via direct connection with power amplifier input or to active acoustic systems.

Features of engineering solutions, realized in Fonel "Simplicité" – Tube:

•        usage of high quality 24-bit DAC, combined with a clock-generator of own design, unique in its exactness;

•        data from DAC straight to the tube output stage; 

•        a fully balanced circuit;

•        balanced XLR and non-balanced RCA outputs;

•        original FONEL buffer storage device of digital information of large capacity, allowing to perform a prior read-out of information, its comparison with the original, its correction and error-free propagation to the output stages;

•        software update support;

•        usage of a large graphical display with a clear imaging and information, well-read even from a long distance;

•        an opportunity of adjusting the display brightness or its complete cutoff, for more comfort listening;

•        multilayer varnish coating and hand-made polishing.

Ornamental elements of the construction and remote controllers, are made of natural wood of high quality and a customer may choose of three standard variants: ash, redwood, walnut. The version in black piano-lacquer and other types of wood is made to special orders.

Technical Parameters:

Tubes in the output stage                                                double triodes        

Frequency range                                                          20...20 000 Hz

Signal-to-noise ratio                                                  >94 dB 

Outputs                                                                RCA, XLR, optical, S/PDIF 

Volume control                                                        0...80 dB 

Supply voltage                                                        115/230 V, 50-60 Hz

Dimensions                                                        420 x 390 x 89 mm

Weight                                                                20 kg

Some additional information about CD-player FONEL "Simplicité" - Tube:

- Used DAC from Cirrus Logic CS 4398,

- Used tubes E88CC/6922/6N23P,

- Precision of a clock-generator not more than 50 ppm.,

- Applied output transformers from Sowter which get an ideal galvanic decoupling of outputs and output stages,

- The circuit design of CD-player FONEL "Simplicité" - Tube is completely balanced, and for obtaining the better quality of sounding we recommend to use balanced XLR cables,

- Applied power transformers from Noratel by original specification and the special order from Fonel-Audio GmbH,

- Separated power supply for digital and analog stages,

- Applied CPU units fully engineered by FONEL know-how and produced on multi-layer circuit boards,

- Used high-precision resistors (less than 1 %) and other passive and active components from the best world manufacturers,

- Applied milled cases and bases of a special construction for reducing of mechanical vibrations and minimizing of external electromagnetic effects.

Mono & Stereo, June 2011
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