Sonic Frontier Line 3 vs McIntosh C2500

Anyone has an opinion on this?
Should I switch my 15 yrs old Sonic Frontiers Line 3 Preamp for a newer McIntosh C2500?

677556f6 0ee2 4a6b a74c da1bf0f83374fjjunc
Some of my other components that would go with it:
B&W 802s
Pair McIntosh MC 402s
McIntosh MCD 201
Pro-Ject RPM 10.1 - 10cc Evolution Carbon Arm - Ortofon Black MM
Pro-Ject Speed Box
Manley Chinook

Beautiful system! I really think that you would love the McIntosh....But I would give another one a look... the Manley Labs Jumbo Shrimp is great for injecting a lot of rich organic earthy quality with a real palpable sense and a huge soundstage with plenty of rise and decay, I say this because you currently have a Chinook and the combo is amazing! Its what I use over a Mac pre amp. My brother has the C2500 with the exact same system as mine, and it sounds very accurate warm and detailed as hell. I have a Project Xtension 10 and I spin a lot of vinyl, and I wanted something special sounding. You would not be making a bad choice either way. IMO.

Matt M                                P.S. never heard the SF pre amps
Thanks for your input Matt... It is really helpful!
I'm not sure if it's ok to connect the chinook to the phono inputs on the Mac, or should it be connected to one of the auxiliary. The C2500 has imputs for both MM & MC, so my mental debate is whether I will still need the Chinook.!
Have you thought of some upgrades for your SF L3? Ask at PartsConnexion. The owner was a founder of SF. :)

I'd ask around though, I loved the SF preamps I heard, but have not kept up with tubes at all.  I'm just mentioning it as a way to go, without necessarily championing it. :)

Be well,

Erik ...I did speak to them, and that's exactly my quandary ... Upgrade or trade?? I really love the neutrality of my SF3 and the Chinook seems to have made a perfect marriage to it. I listen mostly to vinyl and the combination is pristine. I think that I just answered  my own question...? 

Hehe.  If I wasn't still unpacking I would have told you that your pre-amplifer was absolutely garbage but for $50 I would help take it off your hands..... :D :D :D
fijunc I would say it's probably a better allocation to go the upgrade route, the preamp you have is well made with a robust power supply. And upgrade and refresh of older parts after 15 years may be a bit of a revelation soundwise, and I don't know that the McIntosh would be that much of an improvement. Either way good luck and happy listening and to answer your earlier question you would connect the Chinook to a line level input and not a phono input.
Thank you Jond...
True. Some of the caps they are using now are a huge improvement over what was available 20 years or so ago. Worthwhile.

I honestly don’t know of a preamp that is inherently better than the SF 3. I know of a lot using more modern or more expensive parts, but not better sounding or better designed.

I would not let a SF 3 go out of my hands. However, I might loan it to Chris to modernize the caps. :) In preamps caps have a very large contribution to the sound, and paying for an upgrade is relatively cheap compared to buying a new preamp with the same caps.  You can really go up a few notches with the right cap upgrade.

I would however encourage you to listen to other british speakers like Monitor Audio and see if you feel the B&W's are still the best match.


That's awesome feedback Eric... I think that I'll follow your advice. I'm keeping my 15 year old (!) 802s for a while. Gotta save some $$ somewhere! The SF3 is shipping off to Canada tomorrow morning...
Great! Chris is a great guy.  I buy parts from PCX all the time. 

Let me know what upgrade you get and how it sounds. :)  I'm unable to switch right now because of my 5.1 needs... but the SP3 has always been one of those romances I wish I had committed to. :) 


I'll let you know ... Thx again. 
Hey Erik... This is more or less what was done...:

PGA 2311PA - Volume Mod
3A SB 6.3X32mm Fuse Supreme
Let us know how it sounds after break in (at least 100hrs).  
Which brand is the fuse?
Agreed on the break in... I'll let you know in about a month..
The fuse is Hi Fi Tuning Fuse Supreme
Prettty awesome.  What duelunds did you get?
Not sure, but they're 4 massive things! He built like a 'rack' on the motherboard to hold them... I should've taken a picture b4 I closed it up.!

I still haven't changed the fuse but may try that next.

My coupling caps are Audio Note Silver, I often wonder how V-Caps would sound, they are great in my cross overs.

My last re-tube consisted of NOS Telefunken diamond base E88CC (LV1, V2), NOS Sylvania 6U8A (V1, LV2), and Russian 6H23p-eb for the rest as recommended by Chris at the time. 

Hi DZ... Do you also own a Line 3? I'm not very savvy with electronics, so I don't even know what the caps do! My set of tubes seem to be the same that you have though... This was a major rehaul though because I got a bagful of all the old stuff that got removed. I could take a picture of the guts so can see what was done... I have before and after....
All the tube bases got replaced also...

@fjjunc please would love to see before and after pics thanks!
Caps do a lot of thing, but unfortunately in tube preamps they are a necessary evil we wish we could avoid.

The biggest issue with caps in a tube preamp are the caps used in the signal path, and are almost never neutral or transparent enough, so good ones command the big bucks, and some makers will provide "special editions" of a model which are identical except for the caps. Conrad Johnson and PrimaLuna are examples, but may add other part upgrades.

The coupling caps must is block the DC voltage that's always present at the output of a tube while letting the music through untouched. The DC is around 300V. Obviously, you don't want your amp, designed for 1-2 Volt signals getting the high voltage bias, so you have to use at least 1 coupling cap at the output. These are small farads (2-4uF) but high in voltage.  They must be high enough to block DC even if the full voltage of the power supply should be applied, which is possibly around 4-500 Volts.  The physical size is proportional to the farads x voltage (more or less). So, a 4uF cap at 600 V may appear enormous.

Then, for fancy caps, the higher the price, usually the larger and more complicated they are physically.  Some use serial construction, a hugely wasteful (of uF) design where you put one cap after another in the same tube. Trouble is, each cap must be double the final size.  That is, for a 2uF cap, you build 2 x 4uF.  That is, you create a cap with 8uF of which you'll get 2 out. I have no idea if this is actually better, but it's the basis for the highest end Mundorf among others.


It's kind of funny, but kind of true that a good tube preamp is:

"A bunch of the very best caps money can buy surrounded by tubes and other such nonsense"

By the way, only 1 or 2 caps per channel are coupling. The rest are power supply related, or feedback and the like and less critical.


Holy crap... How do you know all that stuff..! But thank you, I get the picture now. The upgrade was big bucks for certain. So far, in the initial 10 hrs of break in I can tell a HUGE difference than before.. It's going to be awesome! Thanks for convincing me to keep it and upgrade it. 
And I convinced you to do this without explaining the major part of the upgrade! :)

Please be careful opening up tube gear. Voltages inside are LETHAL at 300V or higher. This is different than solid state, that is rarely over 15V for a preamp, 60V-ish for an amp.

Turn it off, unplug and let sit for about 10 minutes to ensure caps are fully discharged before poking around inside. :)


Got it... I'm not messing with it.
But take some pictures for us! :-)
I did, but the forum does not allow for posting pictures.!
Audio asylum or diyaudio should let you. ;)