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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. Tom-s
    So. Who's first to guess what's in my Crack?
  2. adydula
    1pc Dual Gold GEC A2293 CV4079 instead 6AS7 6080 tube adapter.
  3. pure5152
    Not sure if this belongs here, but where do you guys get 6FJ7 tubes for the SEX 3.0? And do you know if the tubes have to be matched, or can you just use any 6FJ7 tubes from any manufacturer?

    EDIT: While I'm at it, I'll say I LOVE the amount and quality of soundstage out of the SEX. Very wide, yet resolving with excellent imaging and texture. Coming from the Lyr 3, it's an appreciable improvement. It's just that one of the tubes has started to develop crackling/noise...
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2019
  4. adydula
    Any tube that is a 6FJ7 should work in the circuit. Of course it needs to be a good, functioning tube. There wil be many people that will tell you one tube of the same type is much desired over abother brand etc...this has been debatable since the beginning of time.

    There are many places to buy these....

    pure5152 likes this.
  5. pure5152
    Hey thanks Alex. Yeah I read in this thread and other places that tube swapping doesn’t really make a difference for the SEX, but didn’t know if the two tubes still had to be the same brand/matched, or if any old tube would work. Based on your answer, it seems like any old tube would work, so I’ll plan on just buying a 6FJ7 anywhere I can find one :)
  6. adydula
    If the tubes are made to the same specs thats great, if I were you I would try to get the same brand in the same date/time if at all possible.
    But if you cant then you could buy two tubes and replace them both, and ask the supplier to match if they can.

    But again I doubt it that it really would matter that much...

  7. SilverEars
    I finally got the crack working correctly after trouble shooting for longest time. It was a struggle, but I found out something really interesting about something to keep in mind of building this amp. I'm sure people that has gone through the build would know well, but I will emphasize, make sure soldering are done well with smooth fluid soldering appearance like stated in the manual.

    I issue I finally realized is in regards to the headphone jack soldering (which probably or maybe quite common). The soldering of the headphone jacks needs to be soldered really well or you will run into following symptoms:

    1. buzzing or hummm, you will notice when nothing is playing
    2. sound distortion like there is clipping when you raise the volume
    3. Only one channel working, or one channel has significantly more loudness than the other.

    And yes, this is from ineffective soldering job (it's not just lack of solder, it seems like the leads needs to be completely covered with fluid solder). I was surprised as this isn't something I'd expect.

    Otherwise, I am pleasantly surprised with this thing. I didn't expect this to sound like it does. I expected it to sound too warm being OTL, which isn't the case. It's a good amp for HD650/6XX like others has been saying, and if you are itching to try a tube and want to tackle a build, this one is definately worth building. But, I want to warm you that it's not easy if you haven't done this sort of thing in the past or never soldered before.

    I've got the speedball all soldered and ready to add it, and just listening to the crack without the upgrade before trying out with the speedball. I wonder what the speedballl will do, it doesn't sound like the amp is slow or anything.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2019
  8. adydula
    Congratultions on the build....my advice to you is to not do the Speedball for some time, give it a few weeks or months to really make sure all is well and you really get to become used to the sound that the Crack makes with the music you listen to.

    Especially if you had issues with soldering etc....if you install speedball and have issues like before your going to be really depressed that you took a good working amp, spent more money and are having issues again!

    Soldering is an "art" I hae been doing it for many years its like second nature, its takes practice and more practice, learning how much heat to apply and for how long, and learning how to make sure your leads, wires, contacts are clean of any residue that might impede a good bond.

    Flowing solder on a large contact with several wires attached and a resistor etc requires lots of heat. flowing solder around the joint might look shiney and good, but if not heated all the way thru..not getting the contact on the headphone jack or potentiometer lug you can get a "cold" joint that looks good from the outside but really is not.....some parts here might have a good connection but possibly not all to the lug or terminal strip etc....thus reheating stuff to get them really hot fixes those kinds of things as well.....

    But sometimes if the lug or pin your soldering too, if not clean will cause the same issue...this is relieved by cleaning the area, using flux to aid in cleaning and promoting a good joint.

    Many people have built Cracks as their first time DIY project and have been successful, others not so successful..but most get thru it and are glad they did....

    Its a really simple, great design and once your done its a real treat to listen to!!

    I use HD 600's T90's and T1's on it and they all are superlative to listen to with the Crack!

    When you get ready to install the crack take your time, make sure your parts are in the right place and orientated correctly.

    It does change the sound and most like it....this is why you should listen to what you have now so you can tell how it changes etc..

    Again Congrats on your build!

  9. SilverEars
    Thanks, I have been listening to it plenty so that I get an idea of it's characteristics before the Speedball upgrade. I'm getting pretty familiar with it as this point. I can imagine the tonality being one of the characteristic that people would prefer if they like this amp. It does seem to make headphone tonality a bit on the warm side and thicker. Kinda gives a pleasant and musical character to the output. Sometimes technical headphones needs tonal change bring it down to earth to be pleasant sounding. I think HD650/6XX sounds well this this amp is because 650/6XX tends to smoothen out the sound a bit, works well in this combo. The female vocals particularly has the 650/6XX forwardness with smoothness out of this combo.

    I can see HD800/S getting a bit of body to the sound if that is what one is seeking (in which I know people want a bit of). I was thinking perhaps, more warmth on the 6XX may not be desirable, but actually seems fine and pleasant in a way, as I was expecting more warmth. I think what's likable that is brought out from this amp is the extended decay of the sounds, probably related to the warmth adds a bit of ambient feel to the sounds. I think the amp adds a bit of thickness to the sounds. For something like the 650/6XX I think it sound slightly warmer than the clarity can be brought though (this is likely due to the high output impedance), but it's in exchange for rich tonality (so, it's about the amount that one wants, more saturation or damped).

    Does the Mainline get more refined sounding?
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2019
  10. adydula
    Does the Mainline get more refined sounding.....in one word "Yes"....

    Its definitely a TOTL amp for headphones for me....no question.

    It too pairs so well with the HD600's as well as other lower impedance devices....a lot more detailed in the build...lots of stuff to
    do..and get wrong if your not careful....

    I listen to the Crack for days, then try the Mainline and ask myself why bother with the Crack at all....its that good..

    But....whe I go back to the Crack the sound is just different in a good way...so I have kept it for the past few years.

    The mainline is just clearer, more open sound, better soundstage IMO etc...just more like real music....

    I would say the Crack is say 80-85% "there" and the Mainline is "95% + "there"....

    Its quite a price delta, but it works well with cans that the crack just can not and never will.

    Also with the Mainline there is little tube swapping, the 6C45Pi's are a fantastic linear tube that is just magic.

    There is really no need to look for the golden tube here, its there already!!.

    Good luck with you Speedball upgrade when you get around to it..let us know how it goes.

  11. SilverEars
    I like pop vocals with HD6XX out of the crack. HD6XX blends sounds well for vocals out of this thing giving a bit of that full-ness to the vocal sounds when listening. I don't feel satisfied when vocals doesn't sound like it has full tonality, and the treble sounds like it has some glare/unruliness, undesired bits of sparkle, and this is result of mix of the mastering, tubes, and headphone tonal response. Tubes and solid-state responds differently to peaky treble from the mastering. This is the reason why I have a 6XX around.

    The bass sounds increased and sounds more responanced or sounds with more decay, and this I think is likely caused by the 120 ohm output impedace being OTL. So, there is increased warmth due to the output impedance, but not significantly as expected. It does cause vocal to sound sweet and pleasant with HD6XX like mentioned above.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2019
  12. B0NES
    CAPT Deadpool likes this.
  13. JamieMcC
    Sex would be my choice of the bottlehead headphone amps for best bang for your buck for sure.
    CAPT Deadpool likes this.
  14. KcMsterpce
    I also recommend using the Crack for a few weeks. Get used to it, then upgrade. The Speedball is a dramatic improvement, made even more "fun" after getting used to the unmodified build. I talk about my Bottlehead stuff on YouTube. The videos are meant for my friends who ask about my stuff, and so my descriptions are fairly topical and elementary. I plan to get more descriptive as I go into future episodes. (If I do more.)
    Either way, episodes 6-8 talk Bottlehead (Crack, Crack w/Speedball, then the Mainline). If you just got yours done, take a look at how different the Speedball is, and maybe even use the closeup shots as a preparation/example when you plan to move forward with the Speedball...

    If you want more detailed description(s) about one amp to another, PM me and I will try to help with specifics on my impressions.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2019
    JamieMcC and CAPT Deadpool like this.
  15. CAPT Deadpool
    I have a Bottlehead Crack with Speedball and a Mainline. I love both.

    I'm still working on a bunch of mods to my Crack to include separating the power supply into a separate enclosure, adding a Schotky diode rectification circuit, upgrading caps (Daytons), input selector 2 pair RCA in, output selector (rca pre and head), dual mono black velvet attenuation, vu meters, and more. I'll try to post Pics when done.
    KcMsterpce likes this.
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