Sonic Frontiers SFL-1 Preamplifiers

Sonic Frontiers SFL-1 Preamplifiers 

DESCRIPTION

  • Hybrid tube pre-amplifier
  • Line stage only
  • Single 12AT7A tube
  • 4 inputs

USER REVIEWS

Showing 1-10 of 16  
[Nov 15, 2012]
Eddie
Audio Enthusiast

I purchased the unit in 2004 through audiogon and it has been reliably performing in my dedicated 2-channel ever since. It is very neutral and not imposing at all. It doesn't have the deep warmth you might find in other gear like AR, which isn't always a bad thing. I personally prefer the sound of the SFL, a signature sound I'm sure many of you have read about in other reviews. It's pleasingly neutral and definitely not dry or lacking in any way. It presents music in an honest way and can be quite revealing.

The build quality is extremely top notch. The construction is solid and is nothing less than being built like a tank. Even the tactile elements like the volume knob and switches feel incredibly well built. No short cuts were taken.

Recently I noticed a hum from the right speaker and realized it was the SFL-1. I sent it in to Parts Connexion and the day that they received the packaged, the called me up and let me know that it was the tube. They suggested to replace it with a Mullard and I saw this as an opportunity to upgrade a few caps and resistors. I gave them the go ahead and it was actually complete and shipped out that very day. I received it two days later. From sending my SFL-1 out, servicing/mods, to receiving it took a total of 4 days. Incredible! Chris Johnson and Mike (the tech that worked on it) provided amazing service and communication. Definitely surpassing all expectations.

At the price, you can't expect absolute reference, but it will surpass everything worth twice as much. Unless I upgrade to a higher model Sonic Frontiers Pre, this unit is not leaving my system. Absolutely fantastic!

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Oct 25, 2008]
keeratikul
Audio Enthusiast

Strength:

Company reputation. Look. Only taking a glace at them without turning them on, it already sound fantastic !

Supurb sound stage, and 'voice' with the proper cable (IMPORTANT).

Weakness:

Very sensitive to the cable. You might miss the good hidden sound quality.

I have just have this until installed in my system recently. With the price offer and company reputation, I bought this without the second thought.

At first listen, I was very disappointed with the sound stage, and also its 'voice'. I almost returned or sell them again to the people on website. But I heard the sound from no where that I should tried to turn them up a bit with the suitable cable. All my system are connected with Furutech cable. Furutech is good cable with the gentle sound. This cable suited perfectly with my previous preamp; Forte F 40. I replaced the cable with Aerotec, the Japanese 6N cable which produce lively sound.

Woola..this combination give me the pleasant 'voice' and sound stage. I am sure this preamp will be with me for quite a number of years.

Customer Service

-

Similar Products Used:

Mark Levinson ML 331, Forte F 40, TEAC VRDS 10, B&W 801 S 3

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Jun 20, 2006]
wessongroup
Audio Enthusiast

Strength:

I have never had a problem with the unit, runs cool, quite and all the time

Weakness:

None that I have found for me...

This unit has given me a number of years of solid use... bought off eBay with one channel giving hiss... got it from Colorado UPS and by the time they got the unit to me it worked just fine...

I called SF and asked what they would charge to go through the unit... nothing but the shipping.

They had it a month, added in a Mullard, and sent in back stating the unit tested "emperically sound"

Now when is the last time you saw this on a invoice and/or recipt.....

Sonund is what I like, a little sharper edge to sounds..

Running through, Ah Tejob CD, source or Mac G5 through a Sony TA9000ES to bi amp 3.3 maggies (Odyssey HT3 plus mono's for the low end) rears are through the maggie's new wall mounts driven by an old Van Alenstine Dynaco 400.. with a Velodyne CT120 sub

Customer Service

I found them to be excellent....

Similar Products Used:

A bunch over the years, have gone from tube in the 50's to solid state then back to tube then back to solid and have settled with a blend... of mix and match

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Jun 14, 2005]
pangl
AudioPhile

Strength:

Superb soundstage and full sound. Not as sweet as I'd expect, but very natural and nice extension. Lacks a little detail.

Weakness:

No weakness in this price range.

No need to add more to the previous reviews by other fellow members. I'd just like to add that it is very very very difficult to get a decent tube-based preamp below $1000 (or even $1500 for that matter). If you want champagne but has an beer budget, get this.

Similar Products Used:

Sonic Frontiers LINE 3 and LINE 2; Mark Levinson #26; Kora Equinox; Classe CP60; Krell PMA-3; McIntosh C26/MX110; Audio Research LS-7; Monarchy Model 33c; Melos SHA-Gold Reference; Melos 333; plus many many more.....

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
[Oct 28, 2004]
HIFIVE
AudioPhile

Strength:

Quality build and sound quality. Only one tube to worry about & I understand this tube will last a long time.

Weakness:

You must be joking!

The SFL-1 is an excellent preamp. Two of the things that strikes me about the the SFL-1 is its ability to throw a huge soundstage and the dynamics it produces which are in my opinion as good as solid state preamps. Beyond the dynamics is the level of transparency & depth no doubt contributed by its one tube. I have had tube ARC preamps that might slightly edge the SFL-1 in transparecy but the SFL-1 sure beat them in dynamics. This preamp is both musically satisfying & a joy to listen to. For its used price point I easily give it 5 stars.

Similar Products Used:

ARC, CJ & many others.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[May 10, 2002]
Calvin Banks
Audio Enthusiast

Strength:

Great match with solid state amps, excelent build quality, reliability, clarity, life like midrange, accurate full low end.

Weakness:

None............at this price are you kidding

My SFL1 has been a wonderful product, I have never had a single problem or malfunction. The highs are clear and detailed, the midrange is superb, voices are full bodied, clear and life like. The low end is abundant and rich. The soundstage is wide, and vocalist and instruments each occupy their their own space. I am very satiisfied with this piece, and have never felt the need to replace it. Thanks Sonic Frontiers for producing such a reliable and great sounding product. Unbeatable for the price!!!

Similar Products Used:

Aragon, Bryston

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Feb 15, 2000]
melvin x
Audio Enthusiast

Strength:

lovely retro design, awsome direct mode option, tow outputs for biamping

Weakness:

no phono stage

I am new to the whole high end audio thing, so alot of the descriptive stuff like an amp sounding "dry" is still voodoo to me, but this is one fine product. there is a noticable difference between using the direct line and the other line stages. everything is a bit clearer. I upgraded the tube with some NOS exotic tube that the guy in the store recommended and it sounds a bit cleaner. I tinkn sonic frontiers products are beautiful, well built and the best I have heard in my limited experience. A plus: You can email them with questions about their stuff and they are very responsive and helpful. I'd give them five stars, but what the hell do I know? These amps sell used on ebay for between $450 and $600 ( the gold face plate model seems to be more valuable than the black face plate -why this is I couldn't say...)

Similar Products Used:

I also have a sonic frontiers sf 80 watt tube amp driving the mid and high end ( marantz 125 watt mono blocks do the bass end, Definitive speakers have 125 watt subwoofers mounted in them)

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Aug 27, 2000]
Jeff Giles
Audio Enthusiast

Strength:

Warm,strong midrange, sonic clarity - appearance - built like a brick ----house

Weakness:

no phono stage

This pre-amp is amazing. Jazz heads - Coltranes sax will leap into your living room with pure and absolute sonic pleasure on "Moments Notice" and " Lazy Bird " - The Doors " LA Woman " reveals little quirks during the recording process I dont believe I've ever heard before. Rock tracks are not congested on the high end and seem to tighten the bass without distortion.

This pre- amp will find midrange - and deliver it with great detail. " It must be that little tube "

As a musician - I strive for a realistic presentation of the original recording session - and get geeked when I hear a recording 30 + years old that can extract the suttle sounds and sometimes imperfections that make that moment in time so damn human.

Not an audiophile - just a drummer - but I like what I hear

I have the SFL-1 Signature Model - paid $650.0 (used) - I believe its original cost was about $2,000. - What an investment !!

Equipment Used

Ah Jobe 99 - tube output stage CD - another great buy
MCA 2 "Sonic Frontiers" 200@8/rms solid state power amp
PSB Stratus Bronze speakers

Similar Products Used:

Krell
Conrad Johnson

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Jan 17, 2001]
John Lysaker
Audio Enthusiast

Strength:

clarity, depth of image, ability to keep bass tones focused, direct input for single source users, bi-amp inputs, awesome mid-range warmth and detail

Weakness:

nothing worth highlighting, but see below

I am writing mainly for those who are often underwhelmed by tube equipment and prefer solid state details.

Second, I am opting to describe the way it works with my other components rather than compare it other pre-amps. This should give those contemplating the kind of mix I've pursued a sense of what awaits them.

I've paired the SFL-1 with a Bryston 4B-st amplifier, Magnepan IIIa speakers, and a soon to be replaced Marantz CD-63SE. Also, Kimber Hero interconnects.

I've listened to numerous recordings, from hi-resolution classical pieces (solo and chamber) to low-fi indie rock to first generation jazz and rock issues (i.e. 16 bit remasters). In each instance, the SFL-1 has significantly improved the sound of my system. (Before I ran direct, using the CD player's volume control.) The SFL-1 takes the bite off high tones, e.g. cymbals, and deepens the mids to an astonsihing degree. True, it sacrifices certain details and brightness, e.g. the snap of a snare drum, and it does mildly compress the huge sound stage opened by the Magnepan's, but it throws numerous other details -- that I prefer-- into greater relief, e.g. vocal harmonies. Overall, then, I would claim that the SFL-1 adds to detail and separation rather than substracts. (In my experience, the whole game here revolves around additions and substractions and one's preference for certain mixes over others, and that goes for live music as well.) Moreover, it warms up human voices as well as most piano, horn, and cello tones, and if those are the kind of instruments you enjoy, then this pre-amp is marvelous. I confess, I was worried that it might negate what makes the Bryston such a strong amplifier: tight bass and detail. But it doesn't. Instead, it complements it beautifully. So, if you think you don't want to take sides in the tube wars, but want a little of both, I'm here to say, I think it's possible, and that the SFL-1 complements solid state well, or at least the Bryston as they power Magnepans. Also, if you're upgrading with demos and second hand components, this one gives you a good deal for your money.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Feb 18, 2001]
Wiley Wesson
Audio Enthusiast

Strength:

Runs cool, build, super customer service

Weakness:

None found

As most everyone else who likes to try different components for sonic differences, I was going over pre-amps on Audio Review, plus I had heard some Sonic Frontier gear at Upsacle Audio, while checking out the Ah Tejob CD player and was impressed with the overall sonic quality of the units. I was not however ready to spend that much on Sonic Frontiers top end stuff. I find that in may cases just because a unit is a few years old is not reason to dump it.

Well anyway I started looking for a unit and found one on Ebay for $400 dollars. Seller indicated a buzz on the left channel.

When I got the unit, shipped from Colorado, I pulled off the top and found one lose connection. After correcting the problem, I plugged it in and it work just fine.

Doing some A-B comparisons with some of the other pre-amps I was really impressed with the overall sound of the unit.

The overall sonic characteristics of the unit were just great and has become the pre-amp in my stereo set up in the garage.

After a little while I just wanted to have the unit checked out to see if it was operating at maximum efficiency, so I contact Sonic Frontiers and got a REM number and shipped the unit back to Sonic Frontiers.

I got the unit back in two to three weeks.

In the interim, I received update calls on the progress of the inspection of the unit, plus they informed me that there were updates on the unit and these updates would be installed.

I guess the great surprise when getting the unit back, was that they had not charged me for anything at all, even though the unit was way past warranty, unit was made in 1994.

The unit had been gone through completely and bench test with a report card issued. The unit check out without any problems and the language used to describe the operation of the unit was "empirically correct".

The only thing that I have modified on the unit was to add in a Mullard tube, which has given the unit a little different sound.

Like others have said, it is a very inexpensive way to change the sonic characteristics of a component, plus it is fun to experiment with the sounds that finally come out of the speakers.

As an other reviewer stated, the direct out's, really gives one another sound again.

To conclude, if your in the market for a really good pre-amp at a reasonable and would like a company that will treat you more than fairly, then check out the SFL-1 made by Sonic Frontiers.



Similar Products Used:

Dynaco PAS 2, PAS 3, PAT 4, Sony TA-9000ES

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Showing 1-10 of 16  

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