REVIEW: TIVOLI AUDIO GO FONICO TRUE WIRELESS EARBUDS

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by Matthew Jens

27th May, 2019

REVIEW: TIVOLI AUDIO GO FONICO TRUE WIRELESS EARBUDS

The technical boffins at Tivoli Audio have taken the reigns and produced a sleek, portable, true wireless IEM called Go Fonico. With strong indicators pointing towards sound quality and portability, we take an ears-on look and listen.

Tivoli Audio

Fonico Go

True Wireless Earbuds (In-Ear Monitors)

AUD $219 RRP

Midway through 2019, “true wireless” is now more than just a buzzword. All the major headphone brands are joining the battle, with each releasing their interpretations of what a true wireless In-Ear Monitor (IEM) should be.

The trend started with the Apple Airpods and spread to brands such as Sennheiser, Samsung, Audio-technica and now, Tivoli Audio.

Established in 2000, Tivoli Audio was born in Boston, MA. The main focus of Tivoli Audio was to break into the premium AM/FM radio market, with products that came in at a reasonable price point.

In recent years, Tivoli Audio has been pursuing a similar vision via different means, with releases such as the high-quality Model One Digital radio, which includes Wifi, Bluetooth, and a gang of other features, all wrapped up in a premium wooden finish, for only a few hundred bucks.

Only once before have Tivoli Audio dabbled in the headphone market; in 2012 the “RSWL Radio Silenz” noise cancelling headphones were released, lathered in walnut and boasting modest pricing.

This time around, the technical boffins at Tivoli Audio have taken the reigns. As a result, a sleek, portable, true wireless IEM has been born; Tivoli Audio's Fonico Go. “Fonico” is Italian for “sound engineer” and “go” is self-explanatory. These are strong indicators of what this product is focusing on: sound quality and portability.

Coming in at a ludicrously low price and boasting some ambitious technical features, the Fonico Go certainly looks the goods on paper. With this new ultra-portable market rapidly growing by the minute, how does this new gadget stack up?

Build

The Fonico Go comes in a small black charging case, which holds the IEMs in place with tiny magnetic latches. The case also serves as a charger; offering up three additional full charges of the IEMs before requiring a power source to juice it back up again.

Upon opening the case, the battery indicator LEDs do a short introductory dance, before displaying the remaining battery level of the case itself. The case is charged via Micro USB, and takes only a few hours to reach its full capacity. 

Each IEM has a small status LED on the underside, letting the listener know the remaining battery life, pairing status, and charging information.

Included in the box are three different size ear tips, and two different coloured ear hooks (which are entirely optional for use). While I didn’t find a perfect fit with the included tips, I was able to throw some other tips onto the Fonico Go without any hassles at all, and your mileage may vary here.

The IEM

Each IEM houses a single full range dynamic 6mm driver.

Despite finding some information specifying Bluetooth 4.1, the Tivoli Audio Australia website lists these as Bluetooth 5.0, so I’m inclined to believe them. The fact that these can be used two rooms down from a source device without hiccups seems to back this up.

By using actual buttons (and not touch panels), and with an IPX5 certification, the IEMs look and feel rugged in hand. I would confidently wear these working out without fear of damaging them too easily, and I don’t have to worry about accidental volume changes or track skipping.

The nozzle does have a long extension off the body of the IEM compared to similar offerings from Samsung or Sennheiser, but throughout regular use, I didn’t find this to be an issue for comfort. 

The IEMs use the common Sub-band Coding (SBC) codec with a maximum bit rate of around 328kbps/48kHz for pairing, as opposed to the higher resolution aptX, or LDAC codecs.

Using the headphone

Each IEM has one solid button on the outside of them. A combination of presses and holds will allow you to play/pause, volume, track skipping, enable voice commands and answer/end calls.

Turning the IEMs on/off is a relatively simple process; hold down the button on each IEM, and a cheerful set of chimes and beeps will inform you of the current power and battery life status. 

The case lets you choose whether you want to charge the IEMs. Many other IEMs will charge automatically, regardless of user input, which means that leaving the IEM alone in its case for a few days will inevitably wear the battery down to zero. The Fonico Go, however, lets you turn the charging mode off, allowing you to keep the IEMs and case charged for longer. 

Putting them back in the case doesn’t always turn the IEM off immediately, which can be a little unnerving at first. The workaround for this is easy; manually turning off each IEM before placing them back in the case is as simple as holding down the IEM button for five seconds each.

While I had a few pairing and connection dropout issues in the first few hours of use, the problems oddly seemed to resolve themselves. Since then, reliability hasn’t been a problem. Waking up the IEMs from sleep mode enabled them to confidently re-establish a stable and reliable connection each time.

While there are no companion apps available to tweak the settings of the Fonico Go through your smartphone, the IEMs are fully compatible with Siri (for iPhones), Google voice assistant (for Android devices) and Skype (for either, or PC). 

Weighing 4.5 grams each, these are very lightweight in the ear and have no major comfort issues. Inserting them and finding a good fit takes a little effort, but once you have the technique down pat, it’s no issue.

Battery life is rated at 3.5 hours of playback per charge, and this roughly rang true through my testing. Having an extra three charges worth of juice up my sleeve was very handy (via the included case).

During phone calls, I had no complaints from callers when I was using these as a hands-free device. 

Sound

Tivoli Audio has always made a point of prioritising sound quality, and it shows. While it can take a few goes to get the right fit with these, they remain solid once this is achieved. 

When listening to Black Balloon Reprise by Flying Lotus, the Fonico Go does an admirable job of reproducing the detailed string instrument samples that hover around at the back of this track without any bleeding or muddiness. The song also contains a barrage of bass kicks throughout the song, which is relatively laid back and relaxed on the Fonico Go, compared to the heavy bass rumble of something like the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless. The aggressive vocals and detailed production have plenty of bite and nuance, and with the right fit, can shine through beautifully. 

On the other end of the spectrum, the Live at Central Park version of The Sounds Of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel can create some real spine-tingling moments with the Fonico Go. The midrange focused tonality of these 6mm drivers lets the vocals ring accurately through the mix. The clapping and whistling of the audience throughout this song are often a good indicator of painful sibilance or high-end ringing, which are thankfully not present here. Instead, we are presented with a solid dynamic range, with emphasis on accurate mids and sweet-sounding highs.

Due to the slightly longer than the typical nozzle, the isolation on these isn’t quite as high as other true wireless releases. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the blessing of an IPX5 water resistance rating means these can be used out in public, at the gym, or even on the bike without too much danger of blocking the entire world out. 

Conclusion

Tivoli Audio's Fonico Go is an affordable, no frills, easy to use, rugged release and a commendable first foray into the true wireless IEM market. With a midrange-focused sound signature with plenty of dynamic range, those of you looking for an affordable true wireless IEM should consider putting these on your shortlist.

For more information visit Tivoli Audio.

Specifications

  • 2 x 6 mm drivers
  • Up to 93 dB at 1 kHz
  • 20Hz - 20 kHz frequency range
  • Sweatproof and rainproof (IPX5 rating)    
  • Two sets of buds and ear adapters for a comfortable fit
  • High-quality Bluetooth 5.0 audio file transfer
  •  Micro-USB charge

Gallery

Matthew Jens's avatar

Written by:

Matthew Jens

Constantly keeping himself busy, Matthew is a production manager, Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, Head-Fi fanatic, coffee enthusiast and all-round cool Dad.

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Posted in: Headphones
Tags: tivoli audio  denco 

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