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Sonic Frontiers Line 3
17 Reviews
rating  4.53 of 5
MSRP  4995.00
Description: Two chassis line stage


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Reviews 1 - 5 (17 Reviews Total) | Next 15

User Reviews

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:5
Submitted by pangl a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: November 19, 2002

Bottom Line:   
This is a follow up to my review an year ago. Well, I sold it and miss it and bought another one back!

Meanwhile, I got a chance to own (and sell) more kinds of equipments. IMHO....

1) Not to add flame to the Upscale Audio opinion a few posts ago. But my 1st ("brand-new") unit, from Upscale Audio, did not work correctly due to a remote problem. The "replacement", "brand-new" unit was an open-box which had loose screws and smoke smell inside the unit. I ended up asking my 1st unit back with the fixed remote. And I got nothing note-worthy from Kevin's "Cookie Jar". I ended up getting much better tubes at lower price elsewhere (mostly in Audiogon). Nuff said. I think underwoodwally is a much better seller to go to if you want good deal.

2) SFI is done. They stop making tubes gear nowadays. So the price of Line 3 in used market has taken a serious beating. If you want bargain, this is it. (warranty is still not transferrable).

3) Although I bought the Line 3 back, I sold it once I got my Mark Levinson #26 w/phono option. I think the Line-3 sounds more spacious but the ML #26 definitely has a much better imaging and "attack" (if you listen to a lot of jazz and brass music,you will know what I meant).

4) At one point, I used an all SF setup: Line 3 + Power 3 + Processor 3 + Transport 3. Let me tell you, this setup produces the very gorgeous sound that I have not been able to get with the same amount of money ever since (before or after). But in retrospect, even the sound is gorgeous, I found I am not "pulled" into music as much as in my ML #26 / ML #23 combo, or the Wadia 25 / Kora Galaxy combo.

So when you are ready to dump over $2K into a pre-amp., there are so many good choices out there. I persionally think it is one of the very best sounding pre-amp (tube or SS) out there, but it is NOT one of the most involving one I have used.

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Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2001

Price Paid:    $2300.00

Purchased At:   Audiogon

Overall Rating:2
Value Rating:2
Submitted by Lonnie Carmichael a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: December 4, 2001

Bottom Line:   
The unit I purchased was a complete lemon. The sound was full bodied when the Line 3 worked but, "whew" that was rare. Relay problems, tube problems, volume control problems...you name it. Shipping alone cost me a bundle on the times it went it for service.

A fellow decided to roll the dice and purchase it from me after the last 'reconditioning'. I was nothing but relieved to get rid of it.

A word of advice as well for all interested, Upscale Audio in Upland, CA headed by self proclaimed 'Tube Guru' Kevin Deal carries fabulous brands of equipment. Just make sure you get a new unit and not a 'reconditioned one' at a discount price. This is a common practice pulled by questionable small specialty audio stores such as this one.

My advice is to go with Levinson. It is superior equipment in every way, including reliability and service.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   2000

Purchased At:   Upscale Audio Upland, CA

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Keith a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: September 14, 2001

Bottom Line:   
This preamp model SF3SE is amazing if:
1 - You have a great front end.
2 - You have any passive preamp ever made.
3 - You want a world class preamp.
4 - You want to hear music.
5 - You want a soundstage that has to be heard to be believed.
6 - You want to combine your HT and 2-channel setup. (It has pass through inputs)
7 - You want your system to sound more like analogue with your digital.
8 - You want one of the best tube preamps in the world.
9 - You like monstrous power supplies.
10 - You want to see what your front end really can sound like.

This preamp is NOT amazing if:
1 - You want to hook it up to a PS Audio power generator. (They have been known to blow up plugged into PS audio gear)
2 - You want surround sound out of the preamp... (Sorry it is only 2 channel)
3 - You want a color of faceplate besides Black or Gold.
4 - You want a solid state preamp. (Sorry this is tube.)
5 - You want equalization. (No comment.)
6 - You cannot read or follow directions. (Good luck putting the tubes in correctly.)
7 - You have something agains knobs. (It uses a knob for volume control.)
8 - You loose remotes easily or your dog eats them. (The remote looks so cool, you'll hate yourself if you ruin it.)
9 - Your wife/sig. other does not like black or gold faceplates.
10 - Your rest of your system is not up to par with this preamp.

Well, nuff said. I must get back to listening.

My system is listed at audiogon.com in their virtual systems.

My only complaint is that they forgot to put the remote in the box. However, they are sending me another remote. Customer service was great and responsive. Had they not been responsive, my SF3SE may have blown up (had it plugged into a PS300).


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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   2000

Price Paid:    $3300.00

Purchased At:   underwoodwalley

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Steven a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: September 11, 2001

Bottom Line:   
Look at every review posted thus far for this preamp. Every one is 5 stars except one, and that person rated it 1 star. Why? Regardless of your personal experiences with SF, there is NO WAY anyone should be rating this less than 5 stars. This piece is an engineering marvel!

I've heard many different preamps (both tube and SS), and this one will go toe-to-toe with any of them. The biggest strength of this unit is the soundstage that it can provide. I've used it recently with both the SF Power 3 monoblocks and the SF Power 2 amps and in both cases the match is phenomenal. I have Magnepan 3.6 speakers that I used the Power 3s with, and I'm currently using the Power 2s on a pair of Talon Khorus speakers. And in both cases the sound is just incredible. I prefer wireworld or cardas I/Cs with the Line 3, but that is just my opinion.

Sonic Frontiers build quality components and the Line 3 is one of the very best products to date, bar none.

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Used product for:   1 to 3 months

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   2000

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by John McCabe a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: April 26, 2001

Bottom Line:   
The Line 3 made a dramatic improvement in my system, easily surpassing the performance of my $1500 Bryston Preamp, which I was already impressed with. I don't think I'll be tempted to upgarde the preamp any time soon - it's so good, it's hard to believe there's anything out there that's noticeably better. I also like the cosmetics, but that's subjective.

I found that the performance changes with tube upgrades though. I bought 8 matched premium Sovteks, 2 matched Amperex and two Valvos (for front positions) from Upscale Audio and found the presentation a bit dry and unexciting. I then bought 10 1970's Siemens tubes from Sonic Frontiers and the presention is now highly rich and engaging. I believe 1960s Siemens are even better (but more expensive). A full Valvo set up also sounds fantastic.

One suggestion I'd make to potential buyers of the Line 3 is to also check out the BAT VK5i - it's only available on the used market now, but it's a great competitor to the Line 3, and is a little cheaper. The sounds is a little richer, but you could also argue less neutral.

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Used product for:   1 to 3 months

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   1999

Purchased At:   Audiogon

Reviews 1 - 5 (17 Reviews Total) | Next 15

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