Sonic Frontiers Line 1 Preamplifiers

4.48/5 (31 Reviews) MSRP : $2495.00

Product Description

Fully balanced circuitry

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Reviews 1 - 5 (31 Reviews Total) | Next 15

User Reviews

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

Date Reviewed: July 8, 2007

Bottom Line:   
I was looking for a new preamp to replace my Adcom GFP-750; I wanted (1) remote control, (2) balanced XLR outputs, and (3) tubes, never having used tubes before. I looked at used BAT and ARC tube models with balanced outs but the only thing under $1000 was the LINE 1. The reason for the balanced outputs was to get good match with my Monarchy SM-70 Pro amplfiers that are designed for fully balanced operation when used as monoblocks. I'm driving Magneplanar MG16QR's. I listen mostly to classical music.

Potential buyers should be aware that the Sonic Frontiers products have been out of production for some time. However expert repair is still available from Parts ConneXion whose president, Chris Johnson, was also president of Sonic Frontiers.

The LINE 1 is very impressively constructed and of handsome appearance -- in my opinion, sorry if you're one of the people who loves a forest of tube and transformers on top of a box: it rather have that stuff inside the box. The puck-shaped remote control looks eccentric but is actually very handy.

As for the sound of the LINE 1, I was a little disappointed at first. Where was that tube warmth, liquidity, and depth?? In fact the LINE 1 sounded VERY like my former Adcom., (pretty good actually, but totally solid state). So I decided to roll out the standard Sovtek 6299 tubes. I bought a pair of Siemens 6299 tubes and put them in the gain (that is, middle) position: as small improvement i.e. a tiny bit sweeter. Next I took Chris Johnson's advice and bought a pair the Refektor tubes to put in the gain position: somewhat warmer sound, more "tube-like". Finally I got a pair of Amperex USA white label "PQ" tubes. BINGO! with these in the gain position and the Seimens in the input (rear) position, I'm getting the tube liquidity and depth I was wanting, with no compromise in detail or transparency.

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Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2000

Price Paid:    $900.00

Purchased At:   Audiogon

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:4
Submitted by ryder a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: September 3, 2004

Bottom Line:   
My system :

Sony XA7ES
Plinius SA-100MkIII
Sonus Faber Concerto Grand Pianos
Nordost Blue Heaven speaker cables
Wireworld Eclipse interconnects

I don't know about other users who have complained about reliability problems but I've never encountered any so far after almost 1 year of usage.

The SF Line 1 is a very good preamp with a refined and detailed presentation. A total pleasure to listen to if your musical tastes lean towards jazz, vocals or slower pop material. Not exactly the suitable candidate if you listen to faster pop and rock. Anyway most tube amps falter when it comes to playing pop/rock.

Highly recommended judging from its price point used. Excellent sound quality from a beautiful piece of equipment. The remote is cool and a breeze to use.

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Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Price Paid:    $1000.00

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:4
Submitted by T Lama a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: July 10, 2002

Bottom Line:   
I have not had this long enough to give a complete review, but wanted to throw something out here to maybe save fellow audio lovers the same headaches I am going through. I bought this used and when turning the volume up last night, I heard some harsh 'static' coming from my speakers then the Line 1 shut off. I found a blown fuse, replaced it, then the Line 1 powered up for a few seconds then died again...blown fuse. I went through 2 fuses this way. Obviously it needs to go back in for repair, however what caused it? Well I think the it was the use through a line conditioner. The previous owner said he used a Power Wedge with the Line 1. SF says plug it straight into the wall. I think prolonged use of a L/c causes problems with the Line Series' power supply. s*%t.

For the few days I had with it, it sounded wonderful. It was so much better in every way than the Lexicon DC1 I was using. I hope this won't be a huge bill to repair, but if it is, it will be worth it...unless I could have bought a Line 2 for the amount I spent in repair and initial cost, but I can't imagine it would be that much to fix.

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Purchased At:   Used

Overall Rating:2
Value Rating:3
Submitted by Ben Choad a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: November 26, 2001

Bottom Line:   
B&W Nautilus 805 speakers
Vandersteen 2Wq subwoofer
Bryston 4B-ST power amp
Sony XA-7ES CD player
Creek OBH-8 phone preamp
cheap Technics turntable

After 10 months of fairly regular use, my Line 1 refused
to wake up from standby. I shipped it out to
Sonic Frontiers and six weeks later I have still not
received it. Only after repeated phone calls have I managed
to find out that the power transformer shorted out and they
think it's the power conditioning I use. Three of the 4
components above are connected to the same conditioner and
appear to be fine. Apparently this is not covered by their
limited warranty and will cost roughly $300 to fix, all

While it was running, I was generally happy with it, except
for its bass handling (in comparison to the AR and C-J
preamps) and its long warmup routine (40 seconds from
power up, 25 from standby). I had to crank up the level a
notch when using this preamp versus the AR.

It's a feature-rich and intelligent preamp that does not
sound overwarmed like other tubed products. I used the
stock tubes. The remote is cool, the built-in headphone
amp works well, the balanced inputs and outputs mean the
noise floor is low.

If it weren't for my experience with the transformer, I'd
have given this a 4.5 for value and a 4 overall.

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Used product for:   3 months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2000

Price Paid:    $1500.00

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by John Elstad a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: October 5, 2001

Bottom Line:   
I just wanted to chime in and say that I'm another very happy SF Line-1 owner. I bought the preamp as a demo from a high-end retailer that was changing its business model. Unfortunately, it arrived with a non-working volume knob and old stock tubes that needed replacement. SF happily did the warranty repair of the volume knob in a reasonable amount of time.

While the preamp was being repaired I bought some new NOS tubes (can't remember specifics) from Kevin at UpscaleAudio (highly recommended).

Anyway the preamp sounds great coupled with my McCormack DNA-1 Deluxe. I haven't auditioned anything else in the room as we moved-in recently, but I can say that the sound is full and realistic. The only thing that isn't great is the soundstage which probably has nothing to do with the preamp, but instead room dynamics and speaker placement (which I can't do much about).

I'd also like to comment, like many before me, that the remote is great--very intuitive and comfortable (it's shaped like a hockey puck), and useful.

Anyway, it appears as if these are selling for about $1000 in the used market these days. So, you really can get a quality tube preamp with solid customer service at a reasonable price.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2000

Price Paid:    $1200.00

Purchased At:   Random retailer via Web

Reviews 1 - 5 (31 Reviews Total) | Next 15

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