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Review: Tivoli Audio Fonico True Wireless Bluetooth earbuds

Put things in your ears.

tivoli fonico earbuds
Image: Tivoli

I’m super picky when it comes to Bluetooth audio. To the point that I’m generally befuddled as to why I keep accepting Bluetooth product reviews. Such is the case with the Tivoli Fonico wireless Bluetooth earbuds. The TL;DR of it all is that at the end of the day I’ll still be using my wired Skullcandy Fix headphones that have sustained over five years of use. That isn’t to say the Fonico earbuds are trash, they are not, they just aren’t good enough yet.

This isn’t a dig on the brand. Tivoli builds a quality piece of audio equipment. It’s a personal thing. While there are some situations where I do use wireless headphones, until they are obsolete, I will use wired. But I really like music, I need it. So I judge harshly anything that doesn’t deliver that music as expected and technically possible. But we live in a world in which people think Apple AirPods are good music delivery devices so what the hell do I know?

I can’t help but compare the Tivoli Fonico earbuds to the Skullcandy Push earbuds I reviewed a few months ago and where the Skullcandy Push failed, the Tivoli Fonico succeeded. By that same logic though, where the Tivoli Fonico fails, the Skullcandy Push succeeded. If there was a machine that would allow me to smash these two earbuds together to create one awesome earbud that delivers perfect sound, I’d pay to use it.

Like the Push, the Fonico earbuds have a charging case and multi-function controls on the earbuds. This is standard. They are water and sweat resistant and offer about three and a half hours of playback time. With a separate speaker driver in each ear, they, of course, offer actual stereo sound. They are earbuds. They better offer stereo sound. My problem with the Push was the sound depth, the Fonico solves this problem.

Assuming you pick the right size ear rubber thingy, the Fonico offers great sound depth for music that actually has it

This is what I want from a pair of wireless earbuds. I want the music to flow through my brain holes, I want to hear all the little things in the composition that I know are there. The Fonico brings out those mid-ranges and delivers them with near full immersion. This was appreciated. I haven’t had this good of a sound depth in a reviewed Bluetooth headphone since these Blue headphones.

Where the Fonico failed slightly for me however was in bass delivery. There was constant distortion. The bass itself was clear, but it left a crackle every single time. When listening to Run the Jewels, my constant for bass testing, I could easily tell when bass that should be clean — without any dubstep-style distortion — was not. This is a paired failing of Bluetooth, even the Bluetooth 5.0 technology used in the Fonico, and the driver technology in the earbuds.

Depending on your music library, this could either be a good or bad thing. Plus, I was streaming FLAC tracks to the earbuds. When streaming from something like Spotify or Apple music, the fidelity was stripped down by attrition anyway so the Fonico had no audible issues with the lows or the highs. Chances are you are using a streaming service and not high-quality FLAC files anyway, so you can ignore that paragraph about the bass distortion over Bluetooth.

It should be noted that I did have some Bluetooth connectivity issues with these things. They connected easily to the nearest iPhone, but wouldn’t easily connect to my Android devices across three different versions of Android. I found this a bit odd as these Android devices have been connected to a plethora of Bluetooth devices and are up to date on operating system installs.

For $129.99, the Fonico is priced well for the quality of sound it delivers. For me, the selling point is the sound depth. You want to actually hear your music, don’t you? Well, I don’t know, since most of you use streaming services that already tear down your music to something more of a functional sound rather than anything else. For that, these are perfect. For streaming FLAC files over Bluetooth like some kind of asshole, the Fonico earbuds are acceptable.

You have a lot of choices when it comes to wireless Bluetooth earbuds these days, all of them better than Apple Airpods (don’t act like that’s a lie). The Tivoli Fonico earbuds are a solid and adaptable entry into that market. Between the variable colors and comfort, the price is definitely appropriate for the level of sound delivered. Great sound depth, questionable bass with high-quality sound files and a streamlined charging case justify the Fonico’s existence.

Do what you want, but treat your music right whatever you do.

A review unit was provided by the manufacturer.

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A tech writer on the internet for over 15 years for outlets such as Forbes, Wired, TNW, and others, Curtis is exhausted, burnt out and happy to just write buying guides and the occasional review for KnowTechie, the best tech blog your mom never told you about. Ephemeral existence for ephemeral times. Please send pitches and grainy pictures of the inside of your elbow to kevin@knowtechie.com

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