A Date With The Tono Personal 807 part 2

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

In case you might have missed it. here’s part 1:



A brief summary of where our “relationship” has reached thus far I think is in order to put some things into proper perspective.
This is far from a “super system” and in no way is it pretending to be.
The Tono Personal will not transform your “Laylas” or “Revolvers” into Cheskies or RRs. Streisand or Sinatra may not do a Springfield and “visit” your listening room.
A brute this ain’t, so don’t expect earth-shaking bass from this baby. (But mated with the proper speakers, I believe this amp can deliver a very musical and “rounded” lower end.)
Primarily due to its 8 watt capacity and the size of my listening area, delicate nuances and midbass bloom are barely experienced at low listening levels. (At volume levels, between 11 and 12:00, these nuances are slowly unveiled.)

But what the Tono does in terms of imaging and soundstage easily outshines these limitations. Colorations may have been introduced to achieve an impression of musicality, but I’m fine with this. It has also added a certain amount of bloom to most compressed recordings I enjoy. And because of this, my level of listening satisfaction has gone up several notches
That for me is the bottom line.

It’s been over a month since that “first date” and listening to her since, leaves nothing but a smile on my face.

As Tony Bennett once said “Love is lovelier, the second time around.”
So here we go again . . .

A Date With The Tono Personal Part 2

“The past month with her has been enjoyable to say the least. Nuances in her character have not gone unnoticed;
the way her eyes brighten up when we meet, that impish pout when being teased, and that smile that speaks more than words can say . . .”

The past month has seen me running thru the iPod’s library, listening to songs that seem to have been rejuvenated and recordings that appear to have been reinvented. Take for example Cliff Richard’s “Theme For A Dream”. Did you ever notice that the female background vocals are in front of Cliff Richard? Or how about that added reverb on the last verse on Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son” (evident between 3:15 to 3:20 of song).

I have been listening to “Don’t You Care” by the Buckinghams for more years than I would care to count. But the new level of listening involvement has made me discover fresh aspects to the song. Listening to the brass section one night, it dawned on me that the arrangements are shades of Chicago. This prompted me to check out the album credits only to find out that the producer was James William Guercio who produced and was responsible for the “sound” of Chicago’s earlier albums.
Parang bang pinag-practisan muna ni Guercio ang Buckinghams two years before his stint with Chicago.

“ Being new to the relationship, she’s sometimes uncomfortable in front of other people when we’re together.
The best times are when we’re all alone late at night.”

I find listening to the Tono finest after 12 midnight. Is it because she’s fully warmed up?
Or could it be that the Tono is able to reveal much more when the power lines are “quieter” late at night? Whatever the reason, there is a consistent bloom in the sound coming out of the speakers during these hours.

Add to this are the details unmasked.
Did Carly Simon whisper “sonovagun” after the bass line in the intro of “You’re So Vain” ?

All these are examples of what I have experienced with the amp thus far.

Session 1: (first two weeks)
Amp – Tono Personal
Speakers – Sony 2 way jap domestic floorstanders
Speaker cables – gauge #10 generic speaker cables
Interconnects – 1980’s generation Monster Cables
Source – Apple iPod

“For our first months’ anniversary, I decided to buy her a silver bracelet. Nothing fancy, just a token to set the mood for the occasion.
We spent the whole night at her place.”

Ditch those wimpy lamp cords! The Tonos deserve better. But since I have such a long run between amp and speakers (approx. 8 meters), branded cables would unreasonably dent the budget. I decided to try those generic cables sold at specialty hardware stores. Not bad, set me back P1530 ($34) for the gauge #10 pair.

“I guess she liked the present cause she suddenly started to sing. “

The piano in Ahmad Jamal’s “Wave” began to exhibit a midbass bloom. Imaging and focus were just as excellent if not more pronounced. The drums were pushed back farther than I was accustomed to. In comparing different studio cuts of the Allman Brothers, I could say with certainty that “Revival” presented the best soundstage of all. (Why couldn’t they have recorded “Elizabeth Reed” or “Melissa” this way?)

One of the best acoustic guitar recordings in rock is ELP’s “From The Beginning”. But listening to this song again, I was immediately drawn more into Palmer’s percussion; The congas positioned itself way beyond the edges of the left speaker.
There was a definite sense of air around the instrument so much so that you could almost “see” the space between guitar and percussion.

“Did I ever mention that she just came from the beach.
She wanted to tell me all about it so I let her do all the talking. . . ”

For several days I did nothing but click on the iPod, enjoying the changes made by the introduction of the speaker cables; subtle on some and short of dramatic on others.
Remember my complain regarding Marvin Gaye’s vocals in Part 1. A slight sibilance was introduced by the cables lending a slight sense of air to his voice. Vocal quality approached that of Tammi Terell’s
Unfortunately, this is not true for “All I Can Do Is Try” by Savoy Brown. Compared to presence of all the instruments, Dave Walker’s vocals seem to have that nasal flatness.
The attack on Traffic’s “Glad”, which was slightly anemic on the lamp cords, delivered more muscle. It also kept good pace especially on cuts such as Steely Dan’s Bodhisattva”.

“ . . . But her tan-lines were driving me crazy.”

But the biggest surprise I got was hearing Elton John’s “Love Song”. Although the presentation of the three voices were slightly unnatural because of its size, the imaging and presence were simply outstanding.
Ditto with “Witchita Lineman” by Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66. Truly a testament to 9:00 A&M recordings. Lani Hall’s vocals could be quite a contender to Springfield’s “Look Of Love”.

“I’m starting to feel horny . . .
Hoy, mga torotot ang pinag-uusapan natin dito ha! Kung anu-ano nanaman ang nasa isip niyo.
(Hey, I’m talking about the brass section here! Your imagination might be wandering somewhere else.)
Let’s bring out the horns”

I almost always have a tough time listening to recordings with horns. They tend to be bright if not overbearing. And if an amp cannot handle these recordings, the distortion just makes me cringe. So I chose to do a “horny” evaluation.

First up was “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” by Blood Sweat & Tears. Layering was enhanced as the horns moved a step back. The muted trumpet went further back a few feet. But the compression in the recording was such a waste of excellent talent and material. “Beginnings” by Chicago proved to be better. Again, the presentation of the soundstage by the amp did justice to the arrangements. James Pankow’s trombone solo hovered above the rest of the brass section. Next was “Harvey’s Tune” from Al Kooper’s Super Session. The sax solo exhibited pinpoint accuracy but what aroused my attention was the complimenting horn arrangements. The sound of the recording opened up making it less fatiguing. Focus was just as admirable. And because of the detail that was unveiled, you could distinctly hear the individual notes as played by the individual brass instruments.
But the coup de grace was when I clicked on “Theme from Casino Royale” by Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass. Imaging of each instrument is precise as multiple layers were added resulting in better appreciation for this Bacharach arrangement. The sound of the lead trumpet is full bodied yet easy on the ears, complimenting its interplay with the background horns which did not at all sound intrusive.
If you really want to hear the majesty of Colgems 5005, give Dusty a rest and try this track for a change.

A sudden rush of excitement went thru me as I went on clicking cuts from Tom Scott, Tower of Power, Ballinjack, and other “horny” tunes.
It was as if the amp was teasing me to play her the whole night.

“Behave!, I told myself as she offered me a cold beer.
I declined, afraid of where a few drinks might lead to. I went home instead.
The cold beer turned into a cold shower.”

Session 2: (next two weeks)
Amp – Tono Personal
Speakers – Sony 2 way jap domestic floorstanders
Speaker cables – gauge #10 generic speaker cables
Interconnects – 1980’s generation Monster Cables
Source – JVC – Z1010 compact disc player

“When I visited her the next day, I decided to adequetly ‘arm’ myself.
If the Jovan Musk Oil did wonders last time, I’m sure my upgraded Aramis would do the trick”

Let’s shift to traditional sources lest I be accused of doing a Dave Wilson.
After a month or so of listening to the PC and iPod, I was eager to finally hook up the CD player. The first thing I noticed was the enhanced definition between layers.

“Happy “Cause I’m Going Home” – Chicago
As I write this, I can pinpoint Terry Kath’s acoustic guitar intro behind the right speaker; the percussion comes in somewhere behind the left while the bass is positioned left of center behind. Lead vocals is right smack center as the background vocal accompaniment is right behind him towards the left. The drums are pushed further back in the center. While this is happening, the horns suddenly fill up the whole soundstage just in front of the drums.
“From The Beginning” – Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
I went back to ELP’s “From The Beginning”. Carl Palmer’s percussion is so palpable, you could hear the skins of the congas. The timbre of the acoustic guitars sounds more rounded; so with the synths. I also noticed that the vocals were pushed back and lacked presence. Being a prog rock production, my take on this is that it would seem that this is primarily an instrumental track, the vocals being just one of the musical devices of the total arrangement.

“She must’ve had an inkling of what I had in mind last night ‘cause she came out wearing a loose low cut V-neck top which made my jaw drop.”

I have always found pop/rock recordings during the 60’s to be wanting, compared to their jazz and classical cousins. Though there may be some exceptions such as 360 Columbias and 9:00 AMs, the sonic signature on a good number is characterized as thin and compressed. Any of the Beatles’ early albums and most of Motown recordings can attest to this.
But the problem may also lie in my preconceived notion of using vocals as the benchmark in recording quality. Kung pangit ang vocals, pangit na ang buong recording.
The Tono is now giving me a chance to consider otherwise.
Case in point is “I’ll Be Back” by the Buckinghams. Dennis Tufano’s vocals is definitely no Dusty, devoid of any air or presence. But the Tono has breathed new life to all other aspects of the recording. The soundstage expanded beyond the walls of my listening room opening up the recording while maintaining excellent focus on the horns, drums and orchestral accompaniment.
This is also true for the Temptations “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”and “Cloud Nine”;
rendering pinpoint accuracy of the wah-wahs on the former and fantastic imaging of the percussion on the latter while presenting a sprawling soundstage to both.
“Tell Her No” by the Zombies has likewise left me with the same sentiment. Although the highlight on most Zombies’ songs is the voice of Colin Bluntstone, again it is the soundstage that has given new life to this cut. Imaging between the drums and keyboards
is precise as they interplay with the vocal “woo-woos” behind Bluntstone.

I have often mentioned about the attack on certain recordings which consequently conveys the emotions of the artist such as Greg Rolie’s keyboards on “Treat” (See part 1). And though this attack can set the pace and dynamics in a recording, the Tono has revealed to me the other side of attack. This “restraint” is of equal importance in unfolding such emotions and can only be heard when one is truly drawn into the music.
This I experienced while listening to Jobim’s “Look To The Sky”.
As suggested by the title of the song, Jobim employed his signature tip-toe tapping on the piano and it seemed that I could actually feel him hold back when striking those piano keys. In contrast to “Treat’s” aggressiveness, “Look To The Sky”, conveyed a sense of calmness evident on Jobim’s feathered fingering.

The Tono can attack when asked to, but more importantly, it can hold back if the music calls for it.
This is truly one of her greatest strengths.

“Her loose low cut v-neck did more to reveal than conceal.
And as she bent down in front of me to whisper in my ear, I caught a glimpse of the splendor where “the sun don’t shine”.
She caught me taking a peek.
I smiled.
She smiled back.
Then . . .”

See you when I set up the analogue rig!





 P.S. And yes, Carly Simon did say “sonovagun” on the intro of “you’re So Vain”.




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