In this review we take a look at the $649 USD Soncoz SGA1 Fully Balanced Headphone AMP & Pre-AMP.
Disclaimer: HifiGo sent us the Soncoz SGA1 for this review, free of charge. I only covered the customs fees & taxes. All thoughts and experiences with the product are naturally my own. You can find more about it HERE.
SONCOZ (Shenzhen) Technology Co., Ltd. was founded in March 2019, in Shenzhen, China. SONCOZ focuses on the research and development of audio products and offers comprehensive audio-visual solutions for customers around the world. SONCOZ caught my attention with the DAC they launched at the end of 2019, the SGD1. I was pretty excited when I saw that they recently released a new amp. The DAC and AMP market has been very active lately and there is an incredible amount of competition between various companies. When I learned the details of the SGA1, I immediately wanted to experience it and here we are. Let’s explore the pros and cons of this product, together.
SGA1 Balanced HP/PRE Amplifier
The SONCOZ SGA1’s dedicated web page can be found here. It costs $649.99 USD. The SGA1 is SONCOZ’s first amplifier and it shares the same design aesthetics as the SGD1 DAC. It features fully balanced circuitry and it has a quite packed board full of high-quality components. The SGA1 was announced around 2 months ago, so we can say that it is a brand new product. Furthermore, by looking at the specifications and the datasheet, the amplifier seems quite impressive for the asking price. Let’s see if the data matches real-life experience.
Packaging & Accessories
Soncoz’ SGA1 amplifier comes inside of a big, white, cardboard box. Soncoz has placed a small specifications sticker on the bottom of the box, containing some of the details of the product. Apart from that, only the brand name is present on the box. The unboxing experience is similar to other companies, the device is secured in a foam compartment, safe from damage. Unfortunately, I think that the accessories that come with the device are insufficient. I would have liked to see at least a remote control accompanying the device. You get a power cable, a 3.5mm to 6.35mm adaptor, and a manual. That’s it.
- x14 Ultra Low-Noise Muses OP-AMPs
- ELNA Capacitors, WIMA Capacitors, Linear & LDO Regulators
- Custom Toroidal Transformer with Multi-Layer Shielding
- Muses 72320 Electronic Volume & Gain Control
- Fully Balanced Circuitry with HPA & PRE
- Pop-less Design
- Optimized Heat Dissipation System
- Gold 4-Layer PCB
Design & Build Quality
Measuring at 25.1 x 22.5 x 5.5 centimeters, the SGA1 has a big footprint and it will take a bit of space on your desk. It is also heavy at 2 kilograms because of the complex audio circuitry and the toroidal transformer. Let’s talk about the design. I really like the design language of the SONCOZ. The AMP has this simplistic yet elegant outlook. The amp has a gorgeous matte black finish and a glass front panel. There are various vents on the sides and the bottom of the device that helps the heat dissipation process and aids the cooling of the amplifier. The small but remarkable accents in the design of the device prove the company’s attention to detail.
I really liked the overall design as the device looks elegant and professional. However, no matter how good it looks, the matte coat of the device is not scratch-resistant at all. The coating also easily shows fingerprint smudges and it is not easy to clean due to the coating type. I guess it is true that beauty, indeed comes with a price.
Furthermore, my keen eyes can’t spot any milling defects or imperfections. The plugs and sockets of the device are obtained from very good brands like Neutrik. Every I/O port feels durable and rigid. Consequently, I would argue that the device has pretty good build quality, assuming you can protect its exterior.
Let’s move on to the device layout. On the front, we have an OLED, single-color display inside of a beautiful-looking glass panel. On the right side, we have a medium-sized pressable volume knob. The device is controlled with this button since no remote is provided with the device. I must also say that it is quite accurate and the physical feedback feels great. On the left side, we have a 4-Pin XLR HP-out, and right next to it there lies a 4.4mm balanced HP-out. There is also a 6.35mm HP-out between the balanced outs and the display for all your unbalanced needs. Note that there are no other buttons on the front panel or elsewhere.
The SGA1 features 2 sets of inputs and 2 sets of outputs on the back of the device. On the left side, we see the balanced XLR inputs and the unbalanced RCA inputs and on the right side, we see the balanced XLR outputs and the unbalanced RCA outputs.
Features & Technology
The SGA1 features a complex audio circuit with many high-quality components. Soncoz has spared no expense to achieve maximum performance. We can see the custom toroidal transformer with multi-layer shielding, huge ELNA caps, several LDOs, WIMA caps, high-quality op-amps, stainless steel shielding, 4-layer gold PCB, and more. As someone who has been in this hobby for more than 10 years, I have seen many rich and complex circuits that can be considered unsuccessful, but SGA1 is not one of them. After a few hours of listening, you realize that Soncoz has carefully selected these components and done enough R&D. More on that later.
Another interesting element about the device is that it comes with digital volume control. The MUSES 72320 is precise and accurate from 0dB to -110dB. The integrated chip provides perfect channel balance. Furthermore, it is possible to adjust the volume by only 0.25dB per step, thanks to the wide adjustment range, it is easy to fine-tune the volume. The knob has a dynamic control mode. If you turn it rapidly, it automatically enters the rapid volume adjustment mode and skips steps much faster than before. If you turn it slowly, it enters the fine adjustment mode.
It is also possible to adjust the gain by only 0.5dB per step so you can fine-tune the gain setting just like the volume. The headphone amp gain can be adjusted between -6dB ~ 0dB. The preamp gain can be adjusted between -7dB ~ 0dB. There is another bonus of electronic volume control, its ability to memorize the values after a boot. The volume and gain value of each combination of inputs and outputs will be memorized independently and won’t be lost when the power goes down, how awesome is that?
The SGA1 also features a pop-less design and works dead-silent. I know many of you don’t like pop and click noise so it is nice to say that Soncoz added a relay delay to eliminate pops and clicks.
For my night owl audiophile friends, Soncoz did not forget about you and included a stand-by option. The screen will dim after 45 seconds and will not blind you in the middle of the night. On another note, the orange color and the OLED screen are easy on the eyes so you don’t have to worry much about that.
The review continues on Page Two, after the click HERE or by using the jump below.
Page 2: Power, Controls & UI, Specifications & Technical Data, AMP Performance, Technical Performance, Pairings & Comparisons, Last Words