Can this amp drive the Hifiman orthodynamics or other planar headphones well? Plus, Bottlehead says this is their level 1 kit, but is it really that easy to build?
"Crack is an output transformerless amp designed specifically for running higher impedance (200 ohms or higher) headphones like the many Sennheiser, AKG and Beyer designs."
Hifiman are low impedance orthos that run in the 36-60 ohm range. So I would likely say 'No'.
The Lyr is designed specifically for low-impedance, high output orthodynamic headphones. It will run everything out on the market, from low-impedance up to high-impedance headphones and considering the price ($449), I don't think there's a better option under $1500. You can roll in different tubes if you are not happy with the stock JJ E88CC's- I plan to replace mine eventually. They're well made, have a long warranty, and Jason is easy to get in touch in.
Audio-gd also has some very nice amps, but they are a bit pricier in the $500-800 range. And I know several big head-fier's are fans of their products. The Audio-gd is a solid-state amp, whereas the Lyr is a hybrid amp which also uses tubes. As I find tubes look pretty, particularly at night when they glow I opt'ed for the Lyr. Aesthetically it's also easier on the eyes, and tube rolling seems like a fun way to fiddle with the sound to get it just the way you want it.
If you're budget limited, and plan to own various pairs of headphones then the Audio-gd or Lyr is the way to go.
P.S. Dont' forget Hifiman's own EF-5 tube amp at $500.
I went with the Lyr to amp my LCD-2 R2.
It is popular due to its price and performance.
Hopefully it is within your budget because I would take the Lyr over the Bottlehead Crack.
As stated earlier, it seems mismatched with orthodynamics and is meant for higher impedance dynamics.
Also tried it with the HE500 and HE6, the Lyr works well with a lot of orthodynamics.
I even bought a balanced cable to go with the LCD-2 R2 thinking I would purchase a balanced amp in the near future... not so anymore.
Totally satisfied with the Lyr now.
And yes, the tube rolling ability of the Lyr is nice to make slight audible changes to your sound.
I just ordered a pair of Fostex T50rp headphones as a start to orthodynamics. And since I'm just a student, I don't have the budget for the Lyr or the EF5 right now, but when I get something like the Hifiman HE-5 or a higher end orhto I will definitely look at the Lyr as my number one choice. But, what about the Valhalla, it's $100 less from looking at the Schiit Audio website?