Sonic Frontiers Line 2 or 1 compared to new SE

I've used and enjoyed an SF Line 2 for near 4 years, but my dealer has never had the SE versions either as demos or in stock, and I've not heard them. Are there some out there who have had the opportunity to compare the Line 2 (or Line 1) to the SE versions? And if so what did you think?

SF is now offering factory up-grades and I'm seriously considering having it done. Any observations or thoughts on these pre-amps and/or the SE versions. I see they are now putting 2 NOS Seimens and 4 Brimars in the SE versions (they ran out of Valvos). But I tried the Valvos in my stock Line 2 and found them to be too bloomy and diffuse for my taste and went back to the stock Sovteks. Thanks. Craig
Garfish, the local dealer in my home town has informed me that the SE versions are much better than the normal versions of line 1 and 2. I would also play around with NOS tubes in the meantime. I did the same thing here with the NOS tubes I got... I keep going back to the stock Electo-Harmonix tubes. Although I did leave those new Mullard CV4004's in there! If you have 12AX7's in there I would definitely listen to them. I got mine at
Hi Garfish:

I've been a Sonic and Anthem dealer for some years now and am proud to tell you that I helped author the SE versions back in early '99. It all started with a few mods I'd requested from Chris Johnson, President of the company, and slowly snowballed from there. I was so thrilled with the outcome that I nearly begged him to offer either an 'SE' or 'Signature' version at some point. I sold a few of these to clients before an official nomenclature was added and they were thrilled! I think that persuaded Chris it was a good idea. BTW, the pre-'SE' owners are still loving their pre-amps today! While I've heard all three of the SE pre-amps, I'm only intimately familiar with the 3. I contend that it is one of the finest pre-amps available today for under $10,000. The SE's are faster, much more liquid and musical than their counterparts, have better extension top and bottom, better decay, a more solid soundstage image and a weightier and more tuneful bass. I had a full compliment of Seimans put in mine, which I prefered to the stock Sovteks. While I would certainly suggest you do the upgrade, I would more adamantly suggest you get yourself a Line 3 first and then upgrade that when you can. You can contact me on this if you'd like.

Garfish, I own a Line 1 SE. Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio gave me a great price and I love the unit. I think the 3 matched sets of Siemens tubes alone is worth the increase in price over the Line 1 standard. But there are numerous other serious parts uprgades too.
I don't know how much SF is asking for the upgrade, but it may be smarter to put the Line 2 up in a classified and at a high amount. See what you can get, because the going rate on a new Line 1 SE version will astound you. I can't believe the difference between a Line 1 and Line 2 is significant enough to consider a Line 2 SE. And I'll bet you can get pretty close to the amount needed for a new Line 1 SE from the classified.

What are the differences between the SE and regular versions of the Line 3?
Graig- you can pick up a mint Line-3 for <$2500 now.
Go for it babe,ya only live once!!
I'd talk to Mario about one.He knows his S.F. better than anyone.
I remember when he was having his Line-3 upgraded by S.F.He sent them his Line-3 and told them what he wanted them to do to it.I guess they took off from there with the S.E. version.
Good luck Craig....
Garfish, Call Kevin Deal and see if he has a Line2SE left. I bet you can buy a new one and sell your Line2 for less than the upgrade cost.
I have a Line2SE with two Amperex 7308s , which I prefer to the Valvos it came with.
Thanks to all for your thoughtful responses. I have had experience with all of the stock Line series pre-amps, and I also own a Line 1 that I use in a "sort of" HT set-up. But I've also used the Line 1 in my stereo system, and Jason is right in that there is not a big difference in music quality between the Line 2 and Line 1-- still, I prefer the Line 2 for music-- it's a bit smoother and more refined.

Mario; 2-3 years ago I did audition a Line 3 in my system for about a week and it produced that "big bloomy diffuse forward" sound effect that I dislike so much. I now have somewhat different components and wires, and I'd like to try it again, but it's difficult to arrange as I live out in the boondocks. Your involvement in the SE up-grades is interesting.

Re the SF website, the up-grade for the Line 2 is $999. USD, or $585. without the Seimens/Brimar tubes.

As of now, I'm leaning toward having the upgrade done and getting the new tube set too-- then if I don't like the new tubes, I'd hope I could exchange them for the stock Sovteks with SF. I've done some tube rolling with the Line 2, and keep going back to the very neutral stock Sovteks.

I may start another thread about what causes that "big bloomy diffuse" sound character that I don't like at all-- it sounds very un-natural to me. Any comments on this? I don't know what causes it, but I've had it happen with a Levinson 331 amp, SF Line 3 pre-amp, an ESP power cord, and two different set of NOS tubes in my Line 2. I have assumed there is some kind of weird electical reaction going on that produces it in my system.

From the above responses, it looks like everyone thinks the SE upgrade is worthwhile for any of the Line series pre-amps. David, thanks for the encouragement. In this hobby, we've always got to have the "next and final?" up-grade in the planning stage at least ;>). Thanks, and Cheers. Craig
Hi, Craig. How are you? As far as the Line 3 sounding forward, bloomy and diffuse, it sounds like you had a bad unit. No one has ever characterized it sounding like that; to the contrary, almost every reviewer has characterized it as having a somewhat recessed midrange, and a "cool" rather than "bloomy" sound.

If you have the opportunity to listen to one in your system, I would do it. And don't be foolish -- if you have the upgrade done and don't like the tubes, sell the tubes and buy the Sovteks from Sonic Frontiers. You'll come out way ahead.
I would have to concur that the Sovteks are very good tubes for SF preamps. They are damn neutral. I have settled with 2 Valvos and 4 Sovteks, which improves bass weight a bit.
Lneilb; That's an excellent suggestion-- thanks. I had a full set of Valvos (six) and didn't care for the sound when all six were used-- wish I had tried it with just two as you are doing. I do think my system could use a touch of warmth. Hi Kev; yeah, I'd like to try a Line 3 again. Cheers. Craig.