A Date With The Tono Personal 807 part 1

Tono Personal 807
Single-ended Class A tube integrated stereo amp

Had my first date with the Tono Personal last weekend. Am not one to really review equipment, more so posting it. So in order to be as objective as possible, this review will in no way compare this amp with other brands.
Rather, I will be basing this evaluation on what I call an “Evolution Audition”; starting on the lowest strata of peripherals (while giving my impressions as we go along) all the way up to the best I can use/borrow.

A brief background on my personal taste I feel are in order. I am a soundstage/ imaging guy all the way (willing to sacrifice a bit on tonal balance, neutrality, detail etc . . .). Focus, depth and layering are on the upper echelons of my audio preferences. Musicality is also one of my top priorities.
I don’t mind a colored sounding amp as long as it conveys a pleasing amount of musicality. The all important midrange quality is a must but almost as indispensable to me is the midbass. It serves as the foundation that gives the body to what we hear.
In a worst case scenario, I would rather listen to something muddy than bright.
Finally, as has been my practice for a long time now when auditioning audio gears, I start with the crappiest recordings, which unfortunately are some of my favorites.
If the unit being auditioned will enhance the level of listening satisfaction on these recordings, plus 50 na sa akin ka agad yun (that’s plus 50 right there).

In the course of this evaluation, I will be naming some songs used in this audition so you may confirm or dispute my humble findings.
Hey, maybe we can even exchange notes someday.

At the risk of raising a few eyebrows, here goes:

A Date With The Tono Personal Part 1
Day 1:
Amp – Tono Personal
Speakers – Wharfedale Diamond V (86 db)
Speaker cables – 10 meter run #22 lamp cord
Interconnects – 2 meter RCA (which came free with my kids’ DVD)
Source – PC (line out to amp), iTunes AAC format

“We said our hi’s and hellos and I noticed that she’s kinda cute.”

In this initial “introductory” stage, the first thing that caught my attention was the depth this amp conveyed. Further layers were added to what I regarded as 2-dimensional recordings. In Isaac Hayes’ “Café Regio’s”, the brass section took a few steps back giving more prominence to the solo guitar with the percussion in between the two layers. “Sweet Gingerbread Man” by Jack Jones suddenly uncompressed itself. There are two layers in the background vocals behind Jack Jones; the female a layer behind the male. “Lazy” by Deep Purple turned out to be terrific recording after all. More focus on the vocals of “Stairway” and Jim Morrison’s “Break On Through”
The downside though was that the Tono couldn’t get a grip on the lower frequencies. Medyo wobbly yung bass sa Café Regio’s. Midbass was anemic. I can only attribute this to the demand the speaker was asking from this amp.
All in all, the first day session did not reveal anything to blow you away.

Day 2:
Amp – Tono Personal
Speakers – Sony A5 La Voce
8” woofers (according to Nocty, design seemed more like KEF than Sony)
Speaker cables – 10 meter run #22 lamp cord
Interconnects – 2 meter RCA
Source – PC (line out to amp), iTunes AAC format

Decided to do some serious listening tonight.

“Kung baga sa blind date, tapos na yung hi-hello stage and you’re seated down with the first round of drinks and trying to get to know her a little better.”
(“If this was a blind date, you’re done with the hi-hello stage and you’re seated down with the first round of drinks and trying to get to know her a little better.”)

Because of the inability of the Diamonds to drive the lower frequencies, I decided to hook up the Sony’s; bigger and I think easier to drive.
Whoah! Wall-to-Wall sound. Too big for my tastes though. James Taylor’s head seemed 4 feet wide. Most vocals seemed bloated. The imaging was confused.
The bass was now more controlled and I became aware of additional detail. But the exaggerated soundstage was such a turn off that I turned the volume down to Muzak level and just let it play while I did some work on the PC.

“Suplada pala yung date ko!”  (“She seems kinda rude”)

A few hours after, I finished my work on the PC and decided to call it a night.
As a nightcap, I turned the volume up once more.
Behold! My “date” finally warmed up. I was listening to a more realistic soundstage. JT’s vocals on“Sunny Skies”, although still larger than life, was reduced to an acceptable size. “Steamroller” and “Suite for 20G” from the same album was more focused so I concluded that the flaw in the other cuts may be due to the recording. I was starting to enjoy myself clicking away at iTunes; going from Hendrix and Santana to Streisand and back again to the Stones.

“Hindi naman pala siya suplada. (She wasn’t rude after all)
It seems I could spend the whole night “talking” to her.”

One thing that impressed me most that night was the added details I was starting to hear.
In “Stairway”, Jimmy Page used a 12 string electric Fender VII and an acoustic Harmony which could be heard on the left and right side respectively. This is easy to recognize. But now with the Tonos, you can easily distinguish between the Fender VII and Fender Telecaster solo.
Also, Robert Plant’s voice appeared to have a certain reverb na parang dinaan sa voicebox.
It isn’t any longer straining to hear Donna Summer inhale in “Whispering Waves”.
In “Ellie’s Love Theme” by Isaac Hayes, the percussive sound of mallets hitting the vibes was noticeably defined.

“Well it’s 3 AM and I guess I better take her home. But since she gave me her number, will surely be calling her tomorrow.”

Day 3:
Amp – Tono Personal
Speakers – Sony A5 La Voce
Speaker cables – 10 meter run #22 lamp cord
Interconnects – 1980’s generation Monster Cables
Source – PC (line out to amp), iTunes AAC format

For tonight’s visit, I “upgraded” the interconnects to Monsters.

“Mayabang na ako ngayon.  (I’m overflowing with confidence now)
I upgraded my cologne from Brut to Jovan Musk Oil.
Sana mapansin niya.” (I hope she notices it)

I did the usual round of casual listening on my classic rock folder. And again I noticed superior imaging the Tono conveyed on cuts such as “Get It On” by T Rex giving a more realistic positioning of drums right-of-center while the bass was a tad bit forward left-of center.
On John Mayall’s “Room To Move”, I could actually hear Mayall move a step back towards the end of the harp solo.
Going back to JT’s “Sunny Skies”, the vocals were more defined since the soundstage shrunk vertically to credible levels. Conversely, the same soundstage expanded horizontally. The piano intro of Boz Scaggs’ “Downright Women” went beyond the border of the left speaker.
But what got my attention was the improved definition in focus. In 5th Dimension’s “Up, Up and Away”, I was not anymore hearing the group but instead listening to four individual voices in harmony. I could pinpoint the four heads behind the speakers. Switching to Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terell’s “If This World Were Mine” was another revelation. It seems that they did not sing this as a duet after all. There is a certain air around the voice Tammi Terell compared to Gaye’s which sounds “pasted”
Dynamics were also more pronounced as I could now feel the piano attack on Santana’s “Treat” and Greg lake’s guitar strumming on ELP’s “From the Beginning “

“Napansin ata niya yung Musk Oil.  (I think she noticed the Musk oil)
:)She crossed her legs and started to show some skin.”

Now let’s see if these babies can go down.
Playing Hugo Montenegro’s “Marlboro Theme” did not disappoint me.
At 12 o’clock, it handled the lower registers with less strain than I would expect from an amp of this size.
But was the presentation defined? I turned to Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” for an answer and heard that not only did the bass decently go down but go down it did with equal clarity and air. Bilog na bilog ang bass sa “Wild Side”.

I coaxed her to go down. And then she did. . .
Now before any of you guys start getting any crazy ideas, we’re talking about the bass here.:)
I better call it a night.”

Day 4:
Amp – Tono Personal
Speakers – Sony 2 way jap domestic floorstanders
Speaker cables – 10 meter run #22 lamp cord
Interconnects – 1980’s generation Monster Cables
Source – Apple iPod

The last 3 nights listening have been revealing and quite enjoyable for me. But I must admit that in spite of what the Tono can do (and do well I might add), there still was something missing which I couldn’t put a finger on.
It’s time to shift to 2nd gear and switch sources.

“Makaka “first-base” kaya ako tonight? (Will I reach first base tonight?)
I guess I’ll have to warm her up then.”

Day 4, we had some guests over for dinner. Used the Tono as background music but since the system is in the den and we spent most of the night in the dining room, had to crank up the volume between 11 and 12 o’clock. Napasarap ang kwentuhan so the guests left at around 2 am na so I wasn’t planning to do any listening na.

“Since I didn’t mind her the whole evening, Nagselos ata  (I think she got jealous) so she wanted to make her presence felt.”

Just out of curiosity, I played “Up, Up and Away”.
At this point, I had to sit myself down to convince myself if what I was hearing was what I thought I was hearing. The four voices I heard the night before were now further focused and defined. If I’m not mistaken, Marlyn McCoo would be third from left. Also, the vocal presentation moved a step forward. Nuances, as in the vibrato on Nat King’s voice on “Blame It On My Youth” which is hardly present on “I Wish You Love” is now distinguishable. Same with the slight vibrato in Burton Cummings vocals in the blues intro of “American Woman” . The difference between Larry Bunker’s vibes and Joe sample’s electric piano in Michael Frank’s “Popsicle Toes” is more evident.
The amp is still slightly sluggish but it’s a flaw I can live with.

“I cracked a joke and as she laughed, she held my hand which sent a rush up my spine.”

The “audio gods” may have been smiling down on this humble set up tonight.
The sound coming out of the speakers was drawing me further into the music rather than the system.
The attack on Santana’s “Treat” had more emotion. Parang bang nang-gigigil si Greg Rolie sa piano. Likewise with Page’s guitar plucking on “Stairway”. It is as if you could identify when Page wanted to emphasize what his fingers wanted to express. The guitar distortion in “All Along The Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix gave me a rush. Same thing with the guitar interplay in Ten Years After’s “I’d Love To Change The World
Before I realized it, I put my pen and pad away and stopped analyzing and started enjoying.
The music was so involving so much so that I was clicking on the iPod till 5AM.

So I started asking myself, why not scrap this “evolution audition”; get hold of some decent cables, borrow the Dalis (which I heard were good mates for the Tono), set up the analogue rig, in other words, go “all the way” to realize the full potential of the amp.

Then again, I thought otherwise and decided to stick to the review format. Anyway, it would be fun hearing the subtle changes and transformation as I go along.

“My chauvinistic ego told me that she wants to go the whole nine yards.
But the prude in me asked her to slow down as I wanted to take things a step at a time and get to know her better.
Let’s see if we were meant for each other. . .”




End of Part 1


Jump to Part 2



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