Sonic Frontiers SFD-1mk2 Vintage DAC for $750 That Stomps Most Modern DACs

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by purr1n, Nov 9, 2015.

  1. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    From the looks of things, the SFD-2 MKIII used 8 x PCM1704 chips and the PMD200 for HDCD decoding.

    You can see them here in your picture of the board.

    PCM1704 were single channel DAC chips. So 4 per channel.

    SFD 1704.PNG
     
  2. JeremiahS

    JeremiahS Facebook Friend

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    There is a good chance that it's going to sound warmer than the SFD-1 / SFD-2 if it's based on the PCM 1704.
     
  3. loadexfa

    loadexfa Friend

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    Comparison notes between SFD-1 MK II and SFD-2 MK II
    I also posted a version of this in a FS thread but it really belongs here...

    Both Dacs have the SE+ upgrade done by Parts Conexion though the SFD-1 only had the RCA path updated. Listening was done on a Stratus with the LCD-4 (RD modded).

    Note when the SFD-2 got the SE+ upgrade, the DAC chip was also replaced. I assume the old one went bad or something, I forget which one they used but archer88 has the paperwork.

    My notes:
    • Took a minute to understand the differences, the Sonic Frontiers house sound is very apparent in both. Looks like using a different DAC chip didn't have a negative impact on their overall sound
    • SFD-2 is more refined, no grit (the bad kind) that I hear from the SFD-1
    • SFD-2 is more resolving
    • SFD-2 is a bit more incisive. This difference could also be tubes
    • SFD-2 has more slam
    • SFD-2 is a little richer, I like the tone better. The richness is not overdone, just right IMO
    • Both have great timbre, not hearing much of a difference here
    • Both have a nice open presentation, not exaggerated, feels just right. I think this is one of the reasons people rave about the SFD-1 their DACs are particularly good in this way.
    When Bill-P heard this chain (below) he called it "perfect" and I agree:
    Ambre -> SFD-2 -> Stratus -> LCD-4 modded by RD

    Obviously there's synergy and upgraded tubes involved but still, the SFD-1 doesn't have the resolution or refinement to get to this level. We compared with a Moth DAC with the Ultraanalog chipset that the SFD usually uses and the SFD-2 won for both of us though they were somewhat close. The Moth was too bright.

    If you have a DNA amp, I'd highly recommend snagging the SFD-2 if it ever comes up. If you don't have a DNA amp, you should solve that problem by emailing Donald. :D
     
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    Last edited: Jul 24, 2022
  4. archer88

    archer88 Friend

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    With the SE upgrades Parts Connexion has been replacing the UltraAnalog chips with the AD1862.

    I hear Chris is working on new updates which include SparkOS opamps.
     
  5. JeremiahS

    JeremiahS Facebook Friend

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    Thanks for the info, that's very interesting... so the DAC chip is not original anymore with the latest SE+ upgrade. It's pity the SFD-2 is so rare now because it will be fun comparing the original chip with the new one. I won't mind sending mine for testing if only I don't live across the ocean.
     
  6. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    A search turns up 2 UA D20400 replacement modules offered by PCX.
    Standard: https://www.partsconnexion.com/PCXDACS-89507.html
    Premium: https://www.partsconnexion.com/PCXDACP-89508.html

    When I emailed them last year, Glenn said, "we do have an original UA DAC module…..taken out of CLASSE DAC-1…..it works perfectly. $250 USD + install labour." So if yours needs a replacement, there's a chance they'll have an OG module kicking around.

    I hear you. He also said, "we can reduce the shipping costs substantially by using our UPS account."
     
  7. Peti

    Peti Facebook Friend

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    I have an original SFCD-1 MkII and snagged two driving mechanisms along with it so I'm all set, I reckon. There's just something about this UltraAnalog dac that won't let me go. Mind you, the tube upgrade to NOS Tungsrams bumped up the performance even more. If it wasn't this forum I would have never heard about this vintage DAC.
     
  8. JeremiahS

    JeremiahS Facebook Friend

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    So what tubes do you guys end up using on your SFD-1 / SFD-2? After trying many different types in a long time period of a couple months I seem to always come back to either Siemens E188CC or Soviet Reflektor 6N23P 1974. Both of these tubes have "solid state" characters in general so a bit lean, fast and airy. I thought the 6N23P is especially a good deal since a matched pair Reflektor can be bought for under $100.

    I did some reading here and seems some people especially like Western Electric 396A with adapters for this application. Has anyone run these tubes with the Sonic Frontiers DACs?
     
  9. Clear Water

    Clear Water Friend

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    On SFD-1 mk2, I like using 1973 voskhods. These are way too bright in the SFD-2 mk2, however. In the SFD-2 I am using USA production white print amperex 7308. SFD-2 is much more sensitive to tube changes than the SFD-1, in my opinion.
     
  10. JeremiahS

    JeremiahS Facebook Friend

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    Thanks. Amperex is quite rare here, seems from your impression it's leaning towards warmth?
     
  11. archer88

    archer88 Friend

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    I liked the Volkshod 74s and the Tungsram ECC88 the best with the SFD-2. They had all round balance. The Telefunken PCC88 had better slam and gave those peaky highs when needed.
     
  12. Clear Water

    Clear Water Friend

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    The USA made amperex is not warm to my ears (compared to the holland production) but rather the most balanced. It's extremely clear and expansive but without having a grating quality in the treble (something the SFD-2 has but the SFD-1 doesn't with the same tubes).
     
  13. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    I was lucky to be gifted some Philips JAN 7308 gold pins. My notes say:
    But I also have a later note saying I couldn't hear any difference between the 7308 and some GE black/gray plates. So who knows.

    Swapping tubes on the SFD-1 is rather a hassle, and pretty much impossible now the way I have my stack set up, so I'm happy with the 7308s in there.
     
  14. A Child of the Jago

    A Child of the Jago Facebook Friend

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    I run a pair of 1975 Voskhod Rockets in my SFD-2
    I run a pair of 1975 Voskhod Rockets in my SFD-1 Mk2 - in fact I haven't thanked @Clear Water publicly for this but he sent me a pair free of charge if I covered postage - absolutely massive thanks to him for that - a great guy on a great forum. I owe him a write up and a comparison with the stock tubes which I've been very bad at getting around to.

    On a separate note re amplifier pairings with the SFD-1 Mk2: the Mk2 is so good I would build my chain around it - I have a DSHA-3F hooked up at the moment - I absolutely love it but was wondering if anyone else had heard the 3F on the SFD-1 Mk2 and how it compared to other amps they might have heard - I suppose what I'm trying to find out is there a better amp pairing out there (and I'm not assuming for a moment there isn't)?
     
  15. JeremiahS

    JeremiahS Facebook Friend

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    A lot of recommendations for the Voskhod. The Soviet 6N23P I have is Reflector branded, construction looks quite similar to 1970s Voskhod (mine looks the same in left most photo). I wonder if the sound is similar as well.

    [​IMG]

    My friend is lending me a Philips Heerlen E88CC with D getter from 1958, I'll report back how it works in the SFD-2.
     
  16. dasman66

    dasman66 Self proclaimed lazy ass - friend

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    FWIW, the 3F and SFD1-mk2 (rocket tubes) is my pairing as well - SFD adds soundstage to 3F at the cost of a minor loss of resolution. I didn't care for the SFD and EC Studio B(holographic soundstage, but sounded dynamically soft and boring). SFD and SW51+ was good; LauX was ok, but prefer it from bitfrost2. Haven't tried SFD with my other amps...
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2022
  17. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Here's @Zampotech on 6N23P types & brands (from the Vali 2 thread):
     
  18. loadexfa

    loadexfa Friend

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    I’m a big fan of the Stratus pairing with the SFD DACs, especially the SFD-2 due to the better resolution and clarity. So far my favorite synergy outside of the Rockna Wavedream.
     
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