Review: Sonic Frontiers SFC-1 Amplifier

Category: Amplifiers

SFC-1 In my humble opinion, does not particularly call attention to itself. For example, when listening to the CJ-Cav 50, I had noted at the time from some of my memory that it's ability to present the grandeur and scale of music was enveloping. At the same time, the Cav-50 also had a sweetness in the top end, one that is akin to the stereotypes of a old fashionable tube amp, an coloration of its "ancient" circuitry, I suspect. The SFC-1 on the other hand possessed no such trait. When listening to the Krell Cav 150, one immediately knows that this is a solid state amp. The coolness of the notes is quickly recognizable, including the occasional sibilance. On the other hand, the SFC-1 sound is smoother, more delicate and truthful to the music. The tube midrange magic is present. It does not have the quickness and impeccable speaker control of the Krell CAV-150 nor its ability to establish a solid bottom foundation. But for a tube amp, it is not bad. In fact, it is better than all Integrated amps i auditioned. Bruckner Symphony No. 4(Naxos 8.554128)is so bold and powerful in both concept and rendition. Same with, Hungarian Rhapsodies (Philips 456 570-2) Sound was colorful and uplifting. The SFC-1 portrayed the various musical pictures with fabulous palette of emotional colors.

Another CD's that I continue to be fond of Calamus The Splendor of Al-Andalus and Mudejar, Begona Olavide both on MA Recording. They are such powerful melodies with a wealth of unusual instruments that that despite the age of the amplifiers design (1990) one immediately senses that the SFC-1 is a special amp. It captures the steely reverberations of Metal Darbuga, acceleration and deceleration of Indian Cymbals, texture and content of Begona's voice that it sometimes feels like live presence of vocalist im my room.

The SFC-1 casts a more dynamic presentation than the Cav-50. It's soundstage is however a tad less spacious on the sides and not as deep in the middle, hence the instruments seem to emanate from a darker space. The CJ Cav-50 outperforms the SFC-1 in terms of soundstaging and grandeur. However transparency, micro dynamics and imaging are much more obvious SFC-1 strenghts.
After having Sonic Frontiers SFC-1 more than two years, I have come to conclude that it is one of the most underestimated amps in the high end used equipment market. It is truly musical and assertive amp without colorations of classical tube amp.It can use different output tubes from EL34s, 6550s to KT90s. Its construction and parts quality are first rate assuring long term trouble free ownership, aside from the usual need to periodically replace tubes. The output tubes can be biased easily via flat-head screwdriver from the back externally accessible adjustment controls. This is an amp for serious music lovers with financial restrains

Associated gear
Dpa T1 transport, Dpa 1024 Dac, Diy Watt/Puppy CLONES, Discovery 1-2-3 8' speaker cables, Kimber Pbj Ic's, API 313 pc,s on amp and transport.

Similar products
Linn Majik, Conrad Johnson Cav-50.
Correction on the year of production. It is 1993, not 1990. I suppose 93 was the last year when SF made 'listenable' tube amps. After that unfortunately SF went to make their amps to sound more like solid state. Ala Audio Research.
I'm looking to replace my SF line 1 and SFM-75's with a SFC 1. Looking to simplify my system. Ill miss the balanced inputs though.. Using Sony 5400ES balanced to line 1.
I mailed Chris at parts connextion to ask opinion on swaps. Would like to continue using KT120's... Hope they fit! Also the remote control would be missed. The current system pulls 800watts when in use! Also feel terrible turning on and off all week.
The Reflector 6922 tubes have been a huge upgrade in micro-dynamics and inner detail.
What tubes were you running in your SFC-1?