Sonic Frontiers Preamps - Cold & thin?

In reading reviews on SF preamps, there seem to be two camps: those who think they are among the best tube units out there, & those who think they sound analytical, & thin in the midrange & treble. Would like to hear other's experiences & how they would rate them against AR & CJ. Also, how does the SFL-2 compare to the newer Line models?
Yes, to keep it short, amazing (given the parts qualtiy involved) that my frequent auditions (dealer friend who carries line) have consistently found these--and not ony MY ears here--to be exactly as claimed: cold, clinical and not "tubey" sweet at all....but cold and clinical, and as you mention...thin. Of course, system matching can undoubtedly emeliorate this negative aspect of the sf equipment...but is it really worth it at this price point to be building "tone control" components to make these better in your system? Is it any wonder, given their advertising, product line, etc. that they haven't sold more? In last audition, even solid state gear (but not Classe, which sounds similar in many of their components in their product line @ same price point) sound not unlike the SF gear. Worst tube equipment I've auditioned...but as I mentioned above, system dependent. Caution: no matter how many ancillary items we used with the SF amps, preamps, andCd players, they tended to retain the same signature. Found they worked OK...not spectacular, with the dark Sonus Faber Extremas only...brightening (in the best sense of the word) this particular speaker system. Sorry
I had a similar experience with the SF Anthem line. I think system matching is the answer. In my case at the time I was looking to upgrade my preamp, so the Anthem was not a match. I have heard them (SF and Anthem) in systems where they sounded great!
Just purchased a Anthem pre 2L and don't have the same conclusions as above. This pre has a bold non tubey sound. I am using a Aragon 4004 and Krestral spkrs. I think the anthem is a lot of bang for the buck and with the Marsh(just auditioned)amp this pre really did stut it's stuff.
Cold and sterile!!! What a joke - I own the Line-3 and it's superb! The fact is: it doesn't sound like solid state OR tube. It's not supposed to - it's supposed to sound like a wire with gain and it does just that perfectly. SF nay-sayers are just die hard hard cj/arc fans who like tube warmth (ie: harmonic distortion).
I have been in high-end audio for the past 25 years and tried most high-end preamps out there in the 2k-4k bracket. If anyone finds the SF preamps thin or could, look elsewhere in your system. Most people finding thin sound had thin sounding cd players and other gear. Sonic Frontiers is serious equipment but above all very neutral, meaning it will bring out the best and worst one has from gear and cd's. The older SFL=2 preamp was more euphonic and tubey, while the current line 1-2-3 are less so but VERY accurate. I beleive that for the money nothing else touches it. I am tired of preamps that sound ok but lack modern conveniences like remote (a beautifull piece in itself), phase inversion, a mono switch, gradual fade-in, and so much more. The build quality is also unheard of at the price of the entry-level Line-1, with the exact same casing, faceplate and controls of the most expensive line-3, which is amazing. For you information, I am not a dealer but an ordinary audiophile, and there is no way a beautifull preamp such as the sonic Frontiers Line series should not be considered as a terrific purchase in audioland!
Hmmm: I listened a SF CD player a while back. I did not give it too much attention as it was way out of my price range (even used). I did not find it to be thin or cold at all. The speakers in the demo were Linn's and I did not pay any attention to the amp/preamp, they may have been Plinius, but I am not certain as the shop has quite a few combinations on a switch box. People have certain expecatations when listening to a tube unit for the first time (they expect it to sound tubey). Audible Illusions L1 and various AR models do not sound tubey, but they do sound musical.
I had a SF2 & SF3 in my system for a few weeks and did not like either of them. I found them dead sounding. If that is what the reviewers mean by "cold and thin", I agree fully with their assessment. I personally like the BAT VK50SE and the ARC Ref 2. The ARC is not what I would call neutral, but it is fantastic. The BAT is my "current" favorite peamp. If you do not need balanced and remote you should also listen to the CAT.

I auditioned all the above mentioned preamps in my system with no preconcieved ideas about their sonic characteristics. The SF were my least favorite. Sorry to all the Sonic Frontier owners.
Odd, I know a guy who got rid of his Ref2 for a Line3... He ran mostly arc ref equipment - it looked so strange. Anyway, I do have to admit though: I've heard the Line3 sound bad in a system also. SF doesn't mate well with all electronics. I would guess this is probably where some people are getting these odd reviews from. Jtinn what is your system composed of? I'd like to know what NOT to buy in the future because I love my pre. :)
Don't have SF preamp, but own the SF Power3 amps with CAT Ultimate preamp. What a great combination! Yes, SF products are definitely more neutral than cj or arc stuff, not as sweet or rich sounding. But, taste is a very subjective thing. I have heard arc Ref. line products, they are good, but i am not about to give up SF because I think they can do wonder, especially with my CAT preamp. Good luck hunting guys!!
Hi Kevziek; We once clashed on a thread, but I'm over that, and I hope you are too. I like your thread. I've owned or auditioned (in home) all the SF pre-amps you mention. And I presently use the SF Line 2 in my main system, along with a sweet sounding McCormack DNA2DX amp, and the somewhat warm, forgiving Vand. 3Asig. spkrs. (Levinson front end). In my system, the Line 2 is neutral, timbrally accurate, detailed, and holographic, and it's also musical if you like accurate rather than euphonic. I've read the criticisms of the Line series preamps, and none of them have been my experience. I certainly do not find them cold, thin, sterile etc. in my system, but I do agree that it is a matter of system matching and also preferences. Personally, I've decided that I don't care for the "syrupy rich, tubey sound" that characterizes some (especially) older tube equipment, mainly because it sounds to soft to be real to me (I've played guitars, both acoustic and electric for 40 years, and a steel stringed acoustic guitar does not sound soft). In fact I very much agree with the Stereophile review of this pre-amp. IMO, the SFL-2 is the finest sounding pre-amp SF has made, ie it's a bit "richer" than the Line 2, and somewhat more involving, but the one I auditioned had bad transformer hum, and I returned it. Then the Line series came out. The Line 1 sounds much like the Line 2, but it's a little more aggressive, and I use it in a 2nd system. I tried the Line 3, but in my system it was much too forward with a big, bloomy (un-natural) soundstage. The SFL-1 is an excellent older SF hybrid pre-amp with just one tube, and its sound character can easily be changed with just the change of one tube. I used the SFL-1 for several years. A good friend has an older C-J pre-amp that is much more "tubey" sounding, but I prefer the more neutral sound of the Line 2. I haven't heard recent ARC pre-amps, but from what I've read, they are also trending much more towards neutral than their past products. Cheers. Craig.
I have owned the SFL1, SFL2, and currently have a Line 1. I find the SF products to sound neutral and accurate. I also have a Rogue 66lsr which souds very different. The Rogue is warmer sweeter and richer, but it is softer and less accurate. The SF is much more neutral and revealing. It depends on which flavor you like. I thought the SFL2 was richer than the Line 1 but the Line 1 is faster and more neutral.
I have found all SF products I've auditioned in my system (pre's and power amps) to range from neutral to a bit thin. The electrostatics I have now are probably a contributing factor due to their detail and transparency. But I have not found SF to be lacking at all -- just a different sonic signature. I know this thread is about pre amps, but... those Power 3's certainly don't suck. Certainly not with speakers thar rock yo balls off. They gots big ones. So far as SF's or anything else sounding like "wire with gain" is concerned, please pass me whatever it is you're smoking right now ;-)! Isn't this everyone's dream? Best, Jim.
I used to own an ARC LS22 which I sold after I bought a Line 3. The Line 3 sounds more neutral than the LS22 (I find that I like it better as I don't won't my system to add or subtract anything from the source material). Added bonuses are the seperate power supply and superb digital volume control. I suspect that one would have to go up to the ARC Ref 2 to get equal or better performance. Considering that the Ref 2 costs more than twice as the Line 3 makes me view the later as a 'best buy'.
went from pre 1 to line 3 and it was an incredible transformation to my system. line 3 resolved more information and delivered a seemingly wall of power or additional force that my system previously lacked. have had other gear and the SF products seem to agree with my ear. the source is everything improve it and you improve the result