The company Pink Faun is one of those manufacturers, that are fully based on only one personality, the personality of the man being the owner, designer, PR-man and everything else what he can be at the same time. The fact, that a product of Pink Faun landed in our hands, happened not by accident. Do you remember the E-Sound CD-5E player modified by East West Audio Shop? If not I propose to read it now (test HERE), as it will be an introduction to the world of Mattijs de Vries – the owner of Pink Faun and at the same time of the company Machmat, responsible for the analog stage in the mentioned player.
If you have already read that review, let us proceed with the real presentation of this incredibly intriguing personality. Mattijs described himself and the company with the following words:
“Passion for audio equipment
The Dutch preamplifier has a clear personality of it's own. Similar to devices like Kondo, Audio Note, and to a great extent also Zanden (please note, that I mentioned three Japanese companies in one breath, because those came first to my mind), also the Fettle was perfected in an incredibly refined way, but not in all directions. Such pursuit of perfection in one chosen direction is always related to a strong personality of the constructor and is a reflection of his idea of the sound. Because the Pink Faun creates a brilliant, until now reserved only for very expensive tube devices, effect of a large and warm sound, with emphasis on the voices. In a blind test I would never guess that that a transistor device is playing. Full, large bass, resonant, slightly sweet, but not very strong treble and this midrange – warm, strong, thick, as if it would come directly from the insides of the 6SN7 tubes. But silting, warming, making enjoyable of the sound with the aid of a tube is very easy. Really easy. It gives a nice, dense sound. Meaning just like the Fettle? Absolutely not. The problems begin when we approach higher quality of the sound. Warm and nice sound does not mean the sound of high quality. Let us assume we want to get a maximally natural and physiological sound. The first step might be warming up the sound. And this is OK. The next step must be the improvement of the resolution, dynamics and keeping a good tonal balance. And those three things are in contrast with warmth and “physiology”. Because when we want to fight with the resolution, the striving to reach the best possible tonal balance is a must and we are out of the nice groove we were in just a moment ago. We have to keep our fingers on the pulse, to not over slim the sound, because this does not guarantee good resolution, and is sometimes more disturbing than warming, and in addition completely not physiological. That is why good devices are those that were able to combine those strivings in some way.
The Fettle is one of those devices, where combining fire and water was a success. There is a price to pay for that – like in the mentioned earlier Japanese products – and it is a character, while not being ultra-neutral, as the Reference 3 Audio Research or VK-51 SE of BAT, is fully acceptable and one can learn to love it. What is it about? On the disc of Novika, Tricks of Life (Kayax/EMI, KAYAX-13, CD) with club music we had low bass, but without special control on the deep end. In “Depend on You”. In “Tricks” it had a similar character, but the character of the low sounds was splendid – full, with kick. From the very beginning the timbre of the midrange came to voice, that we later obsessively search for in other products. The fagot, or whatever it is, sounded in a refined way, with multilayer stages, textures, combining plans with voices and instruments. Those were shown in good proportions and places, but there was no distance between them, often characteristic for multitrack recordings, with different, many times not incompatible with each other, acoustical surroundings. The recording sounded as a whole, almost as coherent, as I remember from the brilliant, absolutely reference playback of this disc with the Jadis JD1 MkII/JS1 MkIII system. The midrange was not as open (I will come back to that later), but it was a step in that direction. Direct hook-up of the player prime to the power amplifiers of BAT VK-250 BAT-PAK and Theta Dreadnaught II cleared-up the upper midrange, opened it, and allowed to show the treble stronger. But it did not give such well saturated midrange, so coherent stage, and frankly speaking did not sound that pleasant. And the midrange on the Novika's disc was in the center of attention. It was nice and filled with harmonics, and although it was audible that not all the pieces have equally well recorded vocals, as if they would come from different sessions, recorded by different sound engineers. That was the case for example in “See-Saw” - here the sibilants were underlined, but presented without the usually present, annoying hissing.
It becomes apparent, that in spite of playing to the same goal in terms of timbre, the Fettle is characterized by a very good resolution. So when putting on the player (please look at the photo of the Lektora Prime and you will know why ON and not IN) the sampler of the company Stockfisch Records Closer To The Music (SFR 357.4006.2, SACD/CD), recorded in an incredibly fluent, one would like to say “analog” way, with a tendency to treat the treble and midrange in a warm way, we did not get the addition of those tendencies – the Fettle just sounded as it should, by this showing how well the disc is recorded. So we had many vivid planes, very, very low bass and attention focused on the vocals. In spite of their supremacy and warm character they were not pulled in front of the speakers, they were not enlarged in an artificial way – the Duch preamplifier showed them exactly where they should be, meaning a tad close than when the Prime was hooked-up directly to the power amplifiers, but never too close, just behind the line of the speakers. Their presence was underlined by their depth and “palpability”. However this last characteristic was not a simple consequence of projection placed near the listener, what happens with some tube amplifiers. It came from good resolution (but with superimposed warmth) and a kind of “completeness” of the voices. That was for example the case with the splendid recording of Eugene Ruffolo – The Same Kind Words. Also here the bass was big and somewhat soft, but on the very low end it was not as well controlled as by the preamplifier built into the Prime, as with the mentioned preamplifiers from AR and BAT, or as with the splendid in that area preamplifier Audionet PRE 1 Gen 2 + EPS. Interestingly this could be heard best with the speakers Dobermann of Harpia Acoustics, I use now, and with speakers not going as low as those, it was less evident. Although even with the stand mount Reference 3A Dulcet (test in preparation) slightly better attack of this frequency range could be desired, but here it could be left alone, as it did not influence the overall impression.
It is important, as this kind of bass requires careful choice of the power amplifier. Mattijs is preparing now transistor power amplifiers (SE in class A), that will probably be the best companion for this preamplifier, but if we would like to connect it to something else (and it is really worth it, as such a combination of characteristics is hard to find) then – watch out! The mentioned Theta and A-30 Accuphase are unsuitable. This combination was listened to by my guests from Ostrawa, that visited me together with Zdenko, the Czech distributor of Oyaide and Leben, at the occasion of the Kraków concert of Van Der Graaf Generator. They have unanimously praised this combination for coherence, but missed opening of the treble and tightness of the bass. And even with the quite bright recorded remasters of Peter Hamill (this was meant to be a warm-up before the concert), that received support from leveling of the tonal balance, this set-up was not acceptable on the long term. BAT, however with some reservations, sounded better. It's strong, muscular low end did not allow to be reigned, but the midrange was not as open as from my Leben CS300. And, frankly speaking, with no power amplifier, I combined this preamplifier, the problem was not fully resolved, however I noted a significant step forward with the A-45 Accuphase. The disciplined, precise sound of this power amplifier put the Fettle in best position.
The tested unit was prepared as line-gramophone preamplifier (for MC cartridges). And as a RIAA preamplifier it is even better than as a line preamp. Although the character of the line section remained unchanged, and was superimposed on the section rectifying the RIAA curve, the supremacy of the Dutchman over everything in the 5000-6000zł in terms of resolution and timbre of the vinyl was evident. Attaching a nice preamplifier LAR MCP-02 in parallel with the built in section, I lasted until the second minute of the first piece of the Madeleine Peyroux disc Careless Love (Rounder/Mobile Fidelity, MFSL 1-284, Special Limited Edition; promo copy; 180 g LP). There was no comparison, this was a massacre. As if somebody allowed music to breathe, added dynamics to the whole and timbre. But even here some opening of the midrange was lacking.
The Fettle is a dream come true – a dream of Mattijs of the ideal sound. Such characteristics like presence, naturalism, density were tuned to maximum. Also the resolution, although that becomes clear after some time, and it is really good. Two characteristics make us impatiently wait for the new Pink Faun preamplifier, that we were promised, and also for the partnering power amplifier: bass control and opening of the midrange. The make of the devices is very good, although the switch for volume control is too stiff for me, and it makes us wonder if we deal with a luxury product. And the lack of the remote control – some things are, at a so low margin of profit (believe me – the parts used in the Fettle are hellishly expensive) unattainable.
The Fettle of the Dutch company Pink Faun is a line and gramophone preamplifier. Usually we write about a line preamplifier with a gramophone input, but in this case these are two amplifiers put into one enclosure. The device is split in two parts: the main one with the circuitry and the power supply. Both are rather small and resemble with their dimensions the products of the Italian AudioNemesis, like the D/A converter DC-1 or the RIAA preamplifier PM-1, and the Cello. the proportions are very good, and the splendid enclosure suggests to think good about it’s insides. The thing that attracts attention from the very beginning is the phenomenal logo, in pink color, placed on the power supply. There are also 4 orange LEDs. It turns out, that the Fettle is fully supplied from batteries. And that is the reason the box is so heavy. The part with the circuitry is a bit lighter, but inside we find real treasures. On the first sight nothing points to this – flat, aluminum front plate (it is a pity that the aluminum on the front plate has a different color than the top cover – open-work and with the Pink Faun logo) with two black knobs – input selection (from 1 to 4, and #4 is for the MM cartridge) and stepped volume control. On the back nothing big is happening either, there are gold plated screwed-on RCA sockets for the inputs, a gold plated speaker terminal for the turntable grounding and two pairs of RCA outputs. And of course a socket for the multi-pin, 1.5m cable running from the power supply.
But when we look inside… Only beauties. The circuit is split into a few specialized PCBs. One of those, the largest one, contains the gramophone preamplifier, that can be ordered in MC version as well (cobalt input transformers are added then, from Tribure Amorpheous; there is also the possibility to order the device in RIAA version only, without the line preamp). We have here almost exclusively costly, quite rare NOS elements, including Allen Bradley resistors, oil capacitors, decoupling, placed in the end section of the power supply (placed on the amplifier PCB) Rubycon Black Gate FK capacitors, capacitors with silver covered plates with mica and the beautiful American oil capacitors Sprague Vitamin Q coupling the separate stages. The RIAA circuit has two D9505 transistors per channel, and the resistors are connected in parallel to achieve ideally the set resistance. The output of this section is identical to the line part. We have one transistor per channel, with a round heat sink. The other two PCBs are part of the power supply. All PCBs are screwed to a plywood board and that board, via special dampeners to the very rigid, thick plate of the enclosure.
There is so much happening, and we haven’t mentioned yet, that after entering the device the signal flows through cables of the company’s own manufacture (braided cables in Teflon, each input uses it’s own cable) to the selector on the front panel, and later to a beautiful selector with Dale resistors. So in every setting we have only one resistor in series and one in parallel in the sound path. And this is important, because just as in the case of AudioNemesis Fabio Camorani, now also Mattijs de Vries, the owner and constructor of Pink Faun – they both underline the importance of minimizing the elements in the signal path. Mattijs says, that in the Fettle, in the line part, we find only six elements. For active elements he chose specially selected, military grade JFET transistors, used just as tubes (Mattijs is an expert and connoisseur of NOS tubes and products based on those). The circuit does not have a feedback loop. The devises are supported by anti-vibration pads, that are not very cheap.
Overall the manufacturing quality does indicate, that the product comes from a small manufacture, as the lettering is not very appealing to me, and the front plate isn’t worked well. But for testing I received the demo device, the first that came from the Dutchman’s hands. And even though, the Fettle makes a very good impression. And that logo… Maybe I was lacking only a remote control. So what – I will be nitpicking ;-)
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