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Bottlehead Amplifier Discussion / Comparison Thread: Crack, SEX & Mainline

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by loquah, Sep 24, 2013.
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  1. ZachPtheDude
    Hey everyone. Happy early 4th! I don't post much on these parts but I've always lurked, but soon I think I'm going to take a break from head-fi (and HiFi in general). Thanks for all the informative posts; without you guys I never would have ever considered starting down this path with my first Bottlehead Crack (which I modded the hell out of, had to fit in with you guys :p :D )

    I am going to sell my unfinished Bottlehead SEX, thread should be in my sig; I think. I still have everything needed to finish it, and I wish I had the motivation but I lost a loved one recently and sadly hifi is the last thing on my mind.

    I hope a Bottlehead lover or new-to-be Bottlehead picks it up off me.
  2. Loquah
    Sorry to hear of your loss. Take care.
  3. deserat
    Hey all. I've a Crack w/ Speedball. I alternate between it and an HDVA 600 depending on my mood. I do love the Crack. Generally speaking i like it better than that more expensive HDVA, hard to say why - just call it magic,  but it does loose detail and doesn't image as well. I'm running a Schitt Gungir Multi and HD 800's. I'm considering upgrading to either the Crackatwoa or the Mainline.  Has anybody heard the two amps with the HD800 and what are your impressions?  Is the Crackatwoa that much better than the Crack? Would the Crackatwoa w/ TwoQuiet match the Mainline given that I don't care about low impedance headphones.   Also any impression on the Crackatwoa before and after the TwoQuiet upgrade?
  4. Loquah
    I'm keen to read the responses to that question as I've heard HD800s with each of the BH kit amps except Crackatwoa
  5. gab840
    Check the past posts, experts like Loquah,jamie have all said that mainline n 800 are a boom-boom combo.
    Also sale is currently on Mainline.
  6. JamieMcC
    While I have not heard the Crackatwoa I do have the Mainline which I have found to be an amazing amp.  For me the progression was from Crack, Sex to Mainline and as you moved up the price range correspondingly the performance noticeably improved so I would assume the Mainline due to its higher price still sits at the top of the tree performance wise.
    In case you a where not aware the Twoquiet attenuator and BeeQuiet attenuator are essentially the same attenuators and this attenuator comes as standard with the Mainline.
    One thing I noticed is the Crackatwoa doesn’t look to have a balanced output like the Mainline does and I did find that I prefer to run my HD800s in balanced mode.
    Loquah and deserat like this.
  7. deserat

    Hey I appreciate the RTFM.  I suppose perhaps I didn't pose my question properly.  Finding any information on the Crackatwoa has been tough. Other posters in this forum have done some really nice documentation of the forums stated goals.  Crack, S.E.X. Mainline. S.E.X. was replaced by Crackatwoa awhile back. Perhaps what I didn't adequately get across was my interest in this new lineup.  S.E.X. seems to be a product targeted toward people who were stilling deciding what combination got them to the ultimate high. Not sure whether you prefer to be highly impeded or lowly impeded on your path to bliss... try S.E.X. ... 

    The introduction of the Crackatwoa, says to me... "Our customers like Crack better than S.E.X. We know they like Crack better then S.E.X so we're serving up some better Crack. So we are making better Crack instead of trying to sell  some S.E.X that that you're not interested in... Oh, and by the way, maybe you'd rather blaze up some better Crack than Mainline?

    Or less metaphorically.  Is an amp designed specifically for OTL and high impendance headphones of the same or better quality than a more expensive amp that tries to serve all comers? Is the higher quality Crack circut as good or better than the less focused Mainline Circut for high impedance headphones. 

    One thing that was brought up to me was that the mainline has a balanced out.  Using the HDVA 600 and the Gungir Multibit, I'm familiar with the quality difference between balanced and SE. Perhaps I should have noted the HD800 are being run in balanced mode. The HDVA 600 is being fed balanced from the Gumby. The Crack is being fed SE from the Gumby.  The Crackatwoa would be fed SE and deliver SE. The Mainline would be fed SE but deliver balanced. 

    I guess an advantage of the Crackatwoa would be that I can transfer the Tung Sol 5998 and my Brimar 12au7 to the Crackatwoa.  Another advantage to going that route would be.. helping contriubute the to community of Crack Addicts who taught me how to  reach an aural high on the cheap. Because honestly I prefer the $500 in Crack to the $1600 in brand aware engineering.

  8. Loquah
    Hopefully Doc will chime in and clarify this, but I think the S.E.X. was retired because they could no longer by bulk lots of 6DN7 tubes. The Crack-a-twoa may have arrived at the same time, but wasn't a replacement as I understand it.
    Also, the Mainline may not be focussed on high impedance, but it is highly capable of driving both sorts of loads (without a compromise) and I expect will clearly out-perform the Crack-a-twoa, although this is still speculation on my part. That said, some people might prefer the sound characteristics of the OTL design for high impedance cans. After all, who can really say what is "better"?
    If it were me, I would buy the Mainline every time because it is a stellar performer and much more versatile. It easily has sufficient power for any high impedance can going around these days and will only really risk falling short on power with tough planars (i.e. Abyss) and AKG K1000s.
    grausch and deserat like this.
  9. mcandmar
    What he said...
    Crackatwoa was not a S.E.X. replacement, it is intended to give hard core Crack modders a better platform to modify.
    S.E.X. was a speaker amplifier first, headphone amplifier second.  Personally i would still take one over a Crackatwoa as its a great little amplifier.
    Mainline is a clear step up from the other models, and combines the best bits of them all if you like. If i had to pick just one it would be a Mainline.
  10. NightFlight
    ... in short, the Crack (original) can be a bit shouty on recordings which already posses this attribute. The Mainline is a little more subtle in this respect without loss of detail.  I can't speak to the other amps as I've not built them or heard them.  The crack E80CC / 5998 is a hard to beat combo on the crack. 
  11. Doc B.
    Hi guys, I have been on an long overdue vacation so just now seeing this. The Crackatwoa was not intended to replace the S.E.X. amp. The S.E.X. amp is in limbo while we sort out what to use in place of the 6DN7s that other manufacturers started glomming onto due to the success of the S.E.X. amp, thus depleting the supply chain. We have had a POC prototype of the redo running for a while and and will be working up functional and production prototypes in the near future.
    The Crackatwoa is not intended to be a "better platform to modify". Not that you can't swap caps or whatever, but it is a more mature design than Crack in stock form. It came about because I saw so much of the "I changed a tube socket (or headphone jack, or the color of the stain) and incredibly transformed the amp" kind of posts. I felt like I should show users what I would do if I modded a Crack. Crackatwoa is a Crack modded with circuit changes that are actually audible and measurable. It includes shunt voltage regulation and a precise stepped attenuator, which are both very audible improvements to my ear. 
    It is not intended to be as refined design-wise as Mainline and to my ears Mainline is more resolving. Note I don't say "better sounding". Some people like a sound I like, and others like a sound I would call unlistenable. That's what this whole game is all about, choices. I do find the realism and resolution of the amps to go up as you go up the ladder from Crack to Crack/Speedball to Crackatwoa to Mainline to Neothoriator.
    So if you want to get what we consider our top line, best sounding kit headphone amp, get Mainline. If you use high impedance headphones and want a step up from Crack, but Mainline is too much of a stretch for the budget - get the Crackatwoa. If you simply want the best headphone amp we make, consider a Neothoriator.
    Loquah, gab840, Thenewguy007 and 2 others like this.
  12. NightPhotograph
    Is Crackatwoa's sound signature similar to that of Crack? As an HD 800 owner, I think it needs to be driven by a warm amp. Some warm amps lack clarity and resolution like La Figaro 339 which don't do the HD 800 justice, some are very clear and resolving but lack warmness. From what I've read, Crack sits somewhere between. It is warm and it's fairly clear. If Crackatwoa is more resolving and clearer and has kept that warmness, I'm all in. But if blacker background and higher resolution have been achieved at the expense of warmness, I think Crack + Speedball would be a better buy for me. Due to a dearth of information on this amp, only you can shed some light on what the Crackatwoa's sound signature is. It would be of great help to potential buyers like me.  
  13. Doc B.
    I would say that the perceived dearth of info is in part relative to the thousands of posts that Crack has generated over the years. The Crackatwoa has all the good stuff you are looking for from Crack, with a blacker background and a sense of better extension at both ends of the audio spectrum. Not louder bass and treble, but rather deeper bass and higher treble. It has the same slightly mid-forward tonal balance as Crack. Mainline, on the other hand, is more neutral. Thus you would probably perceive it as less warm. As an aside, if your HD800s seem too bright you might want to consider one of the mods that are out there. I find them a little bright in the stock configuration.
  14. deserat
    Mainline ordered.  Now begins the wait and the fear of screwing up the $1,200 build. Ya, like crack but straight to the bloodstream. :)
  15. JamieMcC

    Great choice
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