Upgrading Sonic Frontiers Line 3SE to ???

Have owned the unit a few years now, think it's time to upgrade to something better. I am happy with the midrange, top end, soundstage, transparency and all are important to me. One area I think I can use more is bass weight and dynamic, but don't want to lose any of the strength. Also like to have both SE & XLR input/output.

Have considered the following:

Aesthetix Calypso
ARC Ref 2 Mk II

Rest of my system is in flux, but what will stay is BAT VK-75SE, SF Amati Homage, VPI SSM Signature w/ Shelter 901.

I might add a solid state amp like Pass XA or X.5 series and still keep the tube amp, might upgrade my SF Phono 1SE to something else as well if I change my pre.
The Line 3 is certainly not shy in bass and dynamics. I've heard tighter bass but I would look more at the amp/speakers. Have you tried tube rolling?
Have you tried a different amp to see if that makes a positive difference in your system? I'm using a Line 3SE and don't have issues with dynamics and bass weigth, but I've got Bryston 7B-STs so there's plenty of bass drive.
Forgot to mention I run a 5 meter long XLR interconnect between pre and power, I do know some pre does not like long IC.
the 3se is one of the finest pre's ever. the bass issue u are you have is more likely one of the room, the amp, or your speakers. you can pend more on a pre, but most likely you will just get different, and not better.
I did bring my Line 3SE to a friend's house for A/B in the past, his ARC Ref 2 Mk II outgun my Line 3SE on bass weight and dynamic for sure. I later found out the 6GH8 was worn and replaced them, that restored some of the dynamic but 6H30 pre (ARC Ref 2 Mk II or BAT 51SE) do have an edge on dynamic from what I read/heard.

Currently I have Sylvania 6GH8, Siemen 6922, and Sovtek 6H23 in buffer. I have plenty of Valvo and Tunsgram to put in buffer after 6H23 are worn. What will be a good choice for driver without costing a fortune. Don't have $500 to spend on a pair of pinch waist, but can swing $250 for a pair good tubes if that will improves the bass.

I tried many amps in the past, but only BAT 75SE gave me the goosebump I was looking for. For sure 75SE does not have solid state like bass and that's the reason of 2nd amp like Pass, but I like the amp enough I am willing to search for a new pre to go with it.
Amperex A-Frame 6DJ8 in the buffer should help you achieve the dynamics/bass weight you are looking for.
I think you'll get more dynamics and slamm by going with solid state amp with more power than your current BAT amp.
SF speakers typically are laid back sounding, so if you want more slam, pair them with SS amp.
Also, you may want to have your friend bring his ARC preamp to your place to compare. This way you'll know better in your system and your room.
This may sound too simple, but if you really like your BAT VK-75SE, and you've heard and enjoy the 6H30 tubes, why don't you just try/buy a BAT VK-51SE and be done?

FWIW, yes, I agree that the 6H30 tubes are more dynamic and powerful, however, they do seem to lose a bit of that midrange bloom that tubes are famous for, IMHO. They do blend solid state and tube attributes, though to some, this is not a good thing. Perhaps it's because there are no NOS 6H30 tubes to roll, as I've found Sovtek 6922's to sound a bit sterile as well compared to NOS Amperex/Mullards/Siemens etc.

FWIW, I would try rolling the 6H23's with the Valvo and Tungsgrams, since you already have them. It can't hurt.

Happy hunting,

You might consider the Electron Image Amati which is currently listed for $4,100 (I have no affiliation with the seller). The Amati is designed and built by Mike Kerster, whom I believe was the design chief for the Sonic Frontier Preamp 3. In the Amati, Mike Kerster incorporated some of the technical knowledge he gained will work for Audio Note. The Amati has a built-in very high gain phono section. The Amati also has XLR outputs. I am currently using an Amati my Audio Note system. If you want any additional information feel free to contact me off-line.

I owned the Line 3SE for awhile, and liked it but didn't find that it did much more for me than my SS pre at the time. I also thought the bass was just a bit loose and lacking in detail. If you can put up with no remote and a clunky 23 step volume control, you might look at either of these preamps. They sound great with solid tight bass, exceptional soundstaging and dimensionality, and grainless high frequencies. These can easily drive any length balanced output cable. Linestage tubes are 12AU7 and 6SN7.



The BAT and ARC models you listed are both supposed to sound great also. You would do best to try them in your own system, if possible, so you know if they really sound better to you than your Line 3SE.
thanks for the great suggestions.

I have not experimented with tube rolling much in buffer stage, has been running 6H23 since day one. For the driver stage, maybe it was the system and room, different type of tubes produce more difference in midrange and up but not a whole lot of difference in bass. That's why I came to the conclusion maybe SF L-3SE just does not have the bass weight I am looking for.

I should have borrowed the ARC Ref 2 II from my friend, but I did hear a highly modified LS-25 Mk II in my system and it did not produce any more bass than my L-3SE.

One of the reason I haven't pulled the trigger on BAT 51SE is the "dark" nature and bipolar user feedbacks. Some, inlcuding Stereophile review, thought 51SE was on the dark side of spectrum. Some people did not care for 51SE's sound at all which is very troublesome when you are about to spend that much money for a pre amp. Like to hear more opinion about 51SE from users that have compared it to others.
I think the polarity that you mention regarding the VK-51SE revolves around the 6H30 tube. Some people love it for it's dynamic's and power, certainly more dynamic than other tube designs. Others don't like it because of a sense that it sacrifices the midrange palability that make tubes popular. I owned a 51SE for awile, and I would not characterize it as dark, the warm side of neutral maybe, but not dark.

I believe the polarity is based solely on the 6H30 tube, which seems to be gaining popularity now that ARC and CJ are using in their top preamps too. For me, it is a very tough call. I did love the dynamics/transparency of the 6H30 tubes, but I did not enjoy the more sterile midrange presentation.

That's my take anyway. From those that I've talked to that hated the VK-51SE, most blamed the 6H30 tube itself. They laugh at the 'Supertube' reference and say give me my old 6DJ8/12AX7/6SN7 preamp and let me roll with NOS tubes. Since you won't find any Mullard/Telefunken/Amperex/Siemen's 6H30's, it's hard to say if it's the tube design itself or the lack of good NOS tubes.
If you had no choice but to run your Line 3SE with Sovtek 6922's, you would have some idea of the midrange sterility that I speak of. Of course the benefit of this is the price of NOS tubes is getting pretty outrageous, especially if you need 8-10 of them to fill your preamp....OUCH!!!

Just my $.02

From the discussions here regarding bass and what tubes are best in preamps, I really think you would be plesantly surprised if you were able to try one of the Atma-Sphere preamps, the MP-1 or MP-3 (6SN7 and 12AU7 in linestage), in your system - maybe if you have a friend with one to bring over. I also just thought of a couple of others you could consider - the VTL 6.5 (2x12AU7) or 7.5 (2x12AX7), which are both supposed to be quite good. I have heard the same things posted by others here about the 6H30 tubes (although never used them), and I know the 6922's in your Line 3 are getting expensive, for good NOS, and the Line 3 has a lot of them.

Which sockets are the buffers in the SF Line 3? These are different than the front two gain tubes, right?