As Norma Jeane Mortenson (otherwise known as the incomparable Marylin Monroe) once said, “A wise girl knows her limits, a smart girl knows that she has none” – and that’s how I feel about the all-in-one, high-end Bluetooth record player you’re looking at.
If I could but hear it for just a few fleeting moments, I’m quite sure it would find its way onto my shortlist for the best turntables currently on the market – and it would not be low on that list.
The limitations I might mention include the fact that Fennessy, the gifted Chinese manufacturer that has created this thoroughly modern and somehow minimalist gramophone (yes, I consider that bright red ‘bugle’ horn minimalist) is a hard company to reach – and it doesn’t currently sell its products in the US.
Although I’m based in the UK, I’m struggling to find the British hi-fi dealership able to source me one, either. Apparently, it sells for somewhere just upwards of 13,999 yuan (approximately $2,071, £1,723, or AU$3,000) before any duties or shipping, but even this information was hard to come by.
And yet I do not care. As Marylin also said: “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
So, without further ado, let’s have a closer look at the photos Fennessy has kindly taken to showcase its beautiful creation – an all-in-one turntable system with Bluetooth, which none of us is ever likely ever own.
“It’s all make believe, isn’t it?”
Yes, that’s another Monroe quote, as is: “If I’d observed all the rules, I’d never have got anywhere” – and maybe that’s how one goes about getting hold of one of these gorgeous items (not that I’m suggesting any rule-breaking, you understand).
What I can do is furnish you with some specs. The Fennessy Donut i5 comes in at 66lbs (or 30kg, so delivery won’t be cheap), and at just over 5ft tall, it’s a conversation piece, too. You also get plenty of drivers: that horn (or bugle) includes a 10W, 1-in tweeter, and under the deck itself there’s a front-firing, 40W 6.5-in midrange driver plus a downward-firing 60W 8-in woofer.
There’s an onboard RIAA phono pre-amp and class-D stereo amplifier. So, you’ve got a complete plug-and-play record player – and since there are no analog or digital outputs, you couldn’t hook it up to your existing system even if you wanted to. A single knob on the front takes care of power, input switching, and volume.
I’m not certain of this, but I think the Bluetooth situation is receiver-only. So, while you can stream music from your phone to the Donut i5’s onboard speakers, you can’t ping your vinyl collection to your best Bluetooth speaker outside, or your favorite wireless headphones in the same way you can with the Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT, say.
The turntable is belt-driven and features a 2.2lb all-metal platter including a custom slip mat (Marylin would demand nothing less) and the carbon fiber tonearm comes pre-fitted with a conical bonded diamond tip Audio-Technica (AT) moving-magnet cartridge.
Fennessy’s standard Donut i5 is available with a black wooden base and fabric grille, but that charming bugle comes in your choice of orange, dragon fruit, red velvet, banana, avocado, chocolate, matcha, or milk, all of which sound delicious – but it’s not the one I’m after.
This Monroe deck is one of Fennessy’s special edition Donut i5s (so named, of course, because records are shaped like donuts), including Van Gogh – a sort of pixellated version of arguably the most famous of the artist’s self-portraits, including a glorious yellow bugle – and the monochrome Quicksand.
They’re all works of art, for me. I could put one in each room and be content. Would I live to regret such a purchase in the age of streaming sites, Dolby Atmos 7.1 surround systems, HEOS, and multi-room audio? I truly doubt it – vinyl’s continued resurgence is no accident and that warm analog sound endures.
“We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid. So are regrets.” Thank you, Norma Jeane. I’ll resume my quest to get hold of a Fennessy Donut i5 soon.