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Review of my 5 DIY amplifiers. 2012/03/21: Bottlehead Smack and new analyses - Page 2

post #16 of 67

Well... the Speedball Crack looks similar to the Woo Audio 3, or 3+ - which is superb amp (uses the same tubes), and which costs only "a few dollars more." 

 

http://www.wooaudio.com/products/wa3.html

 

If it were me... I'd be opting for the WA3. 
 

And... while I liked the WA3 a lot... the Whiplash Audio Millett MiniMax sounds virtually as good - depending upon what tubes and phones are used. 

 

So... for my money... I'd be getting one of these - much easier and only "a few dollars more."

post #17 of 67
^ Err well that wasn't a helpful post at all.
post #18 of 67
The three amps listed by the OP are all DIY kits, so the discussion of commercially built amps may deviate from the topic to some extent. That being said,  Woo3 is indeed an OTL based amp, but the circuit is slightly more complex, it has a 3 tube compliment and doesn't have the constant current mod like the speedball. The modded Woo amp does have a somewhat similar sound to the modded Crack though. The MiniMax is quite a bit different though (imho of course) and I wouldn't put it in the same level as the other two amps.
post #19 of 67

Oh yes... I thought I was on the Amps forum... not the DIY forum - how did I miss that... I'll have to read more closely.

 

Regardless... I've got the MiniMax, as well as the WA6SE Maxed, and had a lot of other great amps, and with the right sources, and phones (pretty much all of the good sources and phones), the MiniMax is one of the best sounding amps out there - right up there with the WA6SE Maxed (or pretty close).  This... regardless of how good the other DIY amps noted above may sound. 

 

It's important that readers are aware of that. 

post #20 of 67

Quote:

Originally Posted by Gradofan2 View Post

Oh yes... I thought I was on the Amps forum... not the DIY forum - how did I miss that... I'll have to read more closely.

Please do. Shenanigans like this are highly offensive to all of us.
 

post #21 of 67
Thread Starter 

I did post this thread in the amp forum, since I thought a comparaison between DIY amps would interest more persons here than in the DIY forum (where many have already build some). Since this is the amp forum, Gradofan2 is welcome to compare the Crack with a commercial amp, though I would disagree with "a few dollars more" between the Speedball Crack and the WA3, since the price I quoted includes change rate, shipping and taxes (the base price before these was $300 USD, compared to $495).

post #22 of 67

Thanks for the impressions.  I have had a great time listening to my Crack+speedball which has a wonderfully engaging sound.  I am interested in doing another build and seems like the Hangerman would be a good choice.  I crave clarity and detail but I dont want to loose that magic you get from tubes.

post #23 of 67
Thread Starter 

Since someone asked me to do the comparaison for the AKG k 601, here it is:

 

AKG k601

Starting with the MiniMax, I get a neutral sound: nothing is pushed to the front, and nothing seems missing. However, I rapidly became aware of two things: the istrument separation is rather weak and breaks down on complex passage, and the soundstage is very two dimensional, which I find kind of strange on an AKG. Moving to the Speedball Crack, the first thing that hits is the wide soundstage, a very good illusion of instrument placement... Ok, that was a lie: the first thing that hits is the up-front time-keeping cymbal on "Tom Sawyer", THEN the soundstage. I completely missed that cymbal on the MiniMax: it's there, but the bass and drums often go over it, and break the rythm. Not so on the Crack: when it's present, it's in front of whatever else is playing. The instrument separation is also very good. I'd say it's an upgrade.

 

Moving to the Castanet, and "it's dark... so dark on the edge of time..." (sorry, it just came over me ; kudos to the one who gets the song). It has much more bass than the Crack: better extension, better definition, better presence. Going from one to the other is always a shock. Is the bass overpowering? No, as my ears get acclimated, it maintains a good balance in the whole spectrum. The instrument separation is excellent, but the soundstage is not as good as the Crack: which I believe is due to the bass that weighs it down. What always strikes me is the dynamic range of the Castanet: the slight variations in volume are audible, and the softest instruments can still be heard. Other than that, I'd add a great, prolonged decay (is it accurate or not? Don't know, don't care, sounds fantastic).

post #24 of 67

^ Thanks for the impressions.  I am curious what tubes you are using in the crack, I have an RCA 6AS7G which is a darker more relaxed tube compared to the stock 6080.  You might find a good combination of tubes that give you a more dynamic sound.  The K601 was my first AKG and while it had a good amount of detail I always felt it sounded thin compared to my other headphones, maybe because I did not have a proper amp at the time.

post #25 of 67
Thread Starter 

RCA 6AS7G and Electro-Harmonix 12AU7 (which I actually prefer to the kit 5963).

post #26 of 67
Thread Starter 

My master thesis is finally done! I finally have time to post until I start working... next tuesday.

 

First some news: the Castanet is discontinued. Hagerman might still have some PCB, but it's been removed from his website. frown.gif It's my favorite.

 

About the Crack and the 5998 tube. I tried switching the 6AS7 for a 5998A I just purchased and, frankly, it's terrible. The highs are pushed even higher, and for me it's just completely unlistenable.

 

I've tried my other headphones (Beyer DT770/600 and Sennhieser HD600) and, though it may come as a disappointment to some, it's basically the same stuff I've written about the AKG 601. So let me reiterate:

 

- MiniMax: Neutral to the point of sounding boring sometimes. Not very refined: instrument separation, soundstage and texture can be lacking. I can't hear the diference in volumes in the songs which my other amps easily reveal. Rember, that's in comparaison to my other amps: it's still, a good amp, especially for a starter DIYer.

 

- Speedball Crack: Hoter than neutral, the cymbals can be overwhelming and cover the rest of the instruments. It can make certain songs iritating. Bass can be a bit bloated. Good soundtage, good separation, good impacts. If you don't mind the brigthness, or can adjust for it, it will come close to the Castanet for a fraction of the price. The Speedball upgrade is worth it, as it helps bring up the bass a bit. The temptation for tube rotation can be strong (and costly).

 

- Castanet: It might be a bit dark, but it's nowhere as noticeable as the brightness of the Crack, and it might be an effect of A/Bing with my other amps. Great separation, soundstage and texture (especially the bass). I can detect the slightest variation in the music's volume. It's the only one that can actually give me goosebumps on certain songs. You have to push the volume pretty high for high impedance headphones or orthos. Unfortunately, it's no longer available.

 

Up next, if it works when I first plug it in, the EHHA revision A!

post #27 of 67

I'm running a 5998 in my crack with a 5814 up front driving an HD600.  To my ears the 5998 is very detailed and punchy compared to the 6as7g which I enjoy.  I am curious if the ECC99 is similar in any way to the E80CC which I have been looking into getting.  I also favor neutrality and hope to find a good tubed combo that doesn't add much coloration.

post #28 of 67
Thread Starter 

If the 5998 improves your Crack, than great for you. It may be that mine is a bad tube, I don't know since I can't test it. No idea about the E80CC, but I believe it's one of those "possible" listed in the Bottlehead.

 

Now, for the main reason for my post: my EHHA revision A is up and running!

 

I played it a bit against my Castanet this morning with the HE-5LE so here are my first impressions:

 

- It has no trouble powering my orthos: the volume is at noon, versus 4 o'clock on the Castanet (maximum being 5 o'clock).

 

- It is very detailed, with very good impacts and great instrument separation. The Castanet sounds a little blurry compared to it.

 

- The Castanet however still has it beat on soundstage and the "emotional" factor, which I attribute to the "SET magic". And by the fact it has a slow start which won't kill my headphones if I leave them plugged in when I turn it on.

 

Both are great amps, and I would heartily recommend them. Basically, my choice is now between an amp that delivers a near perfect image of the recording, or an amp that sounds more spatious and gives a more blurry representation of the music.

 

P.S. I now hate casework and wiring, both of which you'll have plenty on the EHHA, so consider yourself warned.

post #29 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gradofan2 View Post

Well... the Speedball Crack looks similar to the Woo Audio 3, or 3+ - which is superb amp (uses the same tubes), and which costs only "a few dollars more." 

 

 

Just FYI - the WA3 uses a pair of 6dj8's/6992's/7308's as driver tubes - as compared to a single 12au7 on the Crack. This translates to major savings in favor of the Crack if you're buying well regarded NOS tubes.  

 

My Crack kit is only half assembled as of this evening, but even before I drop the speedball upgrade in, I fully expect it to give my Woo a real run for its money.  For whatever reason, the Crack seems to be getting disproportionate bad press in this thread.  To balance it out, particularly for any head-fi newcomers, make sure you also check out the main Crack thread - in which one user has even indicated that he often prefers his Crack to his Zana (an extremely high-end and well regarded amp) when listening to his HD800's.  (see http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/476650/crack-bottlehead-otl/390)

post #30 of 67
Thread Starter 

Just posted: first draft for the EHHA rev. A. I'll update with a comparaison against the Speedball Crack later.

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