If there is one thing I’ve learned about myself, it’s that I’m highly intrigued by the esoteric. I love products and technology that exist on the fringes of regularity, and whose nuanced performance require a refined sensibility to appreciate. I discovered Phiton by accident, while I was watching an Instagram video by French Bassist Yves Carbonne. Yves was playing some insanely lovely music on his fretless Jerzy Drozd signature bass, which had this funny looking apparatus clipped to the headstock. phiTon_resonaTors was tagged in the post and I clicked over to their profile. Suffice to say, the rabbit hole opened up.
phiTon_resonaTors is the work of Switzerland-based Corrado Faccioni. So what is the deal with these things? What exactly is going on? Well, you can read Phiton’s white paper for yourself, which, although translated into English which poses some challenges, conveys the philosophy behind the inventions with lots of verbiage and mathematics. My simple little mind has kind of distilled it down to this, in my mind: Musical instruments create sound by producing a set of different frequencies, the sum of which is what we perceive as, (for example) a low E on a bass. “How” that low E sounds, its tone, is the product of the resulting frequency profile. Its content is both harmonious and dissonant but is most often not properly phase-aligned (not in time).
phiTon_resonaTors asserts to harmonize the content produced, by aligning its components back into time(Phase). So essentially, it’s a phase-aligning technology, but fully mechanical as opposed to just electronic. Maybe that’s a stretch. I don’t know, it’s hard to talk about stuff like this, especially without a degree in physics and acoustics.
phiTon doesn’t just make clips for guitars and basses.
In fact, they make a wide array of products utilizing their technology to for piano, reed, brass, violin, cello, and double bass, as well as products for home hi-fi audio and pro audio. Notable users include the impressive and industry-towering likes of Dave Holland, Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter, Christian McBride, Lionel Loueke and Carlitos Del Puerto.
Corrado Faccioni sent over a handful of products which claim to produce sonic benefit for me to check out, including their headstock clip, neck screws and inserts for bolt on necks, Schaller strap lock buttons (and inserts) and their “Allfix” cable clips, which attach to your instrument and power cable and incorporate the technology.
I was able to install the strap locks in my main bass, and I installed the neck bolts on a fretless 4 string I have here. Both of those products require drilling out the existing holes to a larger hole to accommodate the included metal inserts that the screws mount to. Once I got everything installed, I was off and running.
The easiest product from the line for me to evaluate is the headstock clip, as one can repeatedly and quickly A/B compare with and without it.
The neck bolts and straplocks by contrast are kind of “in there” once installed, so it’s harder to compare and quantify. I will say here that this is all pretty subtle, nuanced and subjective stuff. I don’t like to only trust my ears and am acutely aware of personal bias and the placebo effect, so I did the best thing I could think of to combat this, which is: let as many other people listen/play with it and see what they think. I was especially interested in the opinions of people who are not nerdy music folk, like me, as I think they are less predisposed to any preconceived notions (feel free to disagree). Going back and forth with the clip on and off, I got comments like: “it sounds more… together.. somehow”, and “I feel like it sounds smoother”. My 8 year old daughter was a particularly good data point, as someone who doesn’t actually care about stuff like this at all, or really want any part of it. She interestingly echoed the sentiments above. One audio engineer friend likened it to a subtle compression effect, but even that he said, wasn’t quite the right descriptor. One thing seemed clear: There is an effect. I personally like it and found it to benefit my fretted six-string in both rhythm and chordal playing. With the neck bolts on my fretless 4 string, my perception was that the instrument was slightly louder acoustically and spoke with a touch more “velocity” to the notes. However, not being able A/B test it, I hesitate to write off my own preconceived notions. I would love to see some technical measurements of the phiTon equipment, so that there could be some objective quantification of the technologies effect on a given instrument.
All in all, it’s hard not to be really curious and intrigued by products like this, which are essentially designed to enhance or improve the equipment you already know and love. I love love love love my custom Erizias 6 string bass, and the phiTon clip made me enjoy it even more, even if subtly.
Granted, it’s hard to find good info about the products online, and certainly there is very little info about its applications in the electric bass world, but I am happy to report that Corrado is very responsive to online communications and on top of being a very kind and warm person, took the time to discuss all these things with me, so I would encourage people to reach out directly with questions about application, pricing and availability.