Sonic Frontiers SFD-2 D/A processor 1995 Review System

Sidebar 3: 1995 Review System

I put the SFD-2 Mk.II into my reference system, driven by a Mark Levinson No.31 transport. The SFD-2 Mk.II's output fed an Audio Research LS5 Mk.II preamp, which drove a pair of Audio Research VT150 tubed monoblocks. This chain was all-balanced (from before the DACs inside the SFD-2 Mk.II to the loudspeakers), and all-tubed. The VT150s drove a pair of Genesis II.5 loudspeakers (see my review last month), augmented by the 800W Genesis servo woofer amplifier. Interconnects were AudioQuest Diamond x3 and Lapis, loudspeaker cables were AudioQuest Dragon, and digital interconnects included AudioQuest Diamond x3 (AES/EBU), and Parasound's new $89.95 coaxial digital link. As the input stages in digital processors improve, I'm tending to lean more toward AES/EBU and away from ST-type optical.

On hand for comparison were an original SFD-2, a Mark Levinson No.30.5, and the Theta DS Pro Generation V (the last reviewed in February '95, Vol.18 No.2, p.127). The 30.5 served as an absolute reference, and the Gen.V as a competitor in the price range of the SFD-2 Mk.II. My impressions were made listening to the Mk.II's balanced outputs (footnote 1).—Robert Harley

Footnote 1: The original SFD-2 sounded significantly better from the balanced outputs. In fact, the unit sounded merely good unbalanced. This problem has been addressed in the Mk.II: the single-ended output sounded nearly as good as the balanced outputs.—Robert Harley