Bottlehead Crack: OTL Addiction

bottlehead_crack_13

I think I’m far more excited about the Crack than Lieven is. While the initial frustration regarding the ordering almost made us gave up, by the moment I received the package I really couldn’t wait to start the build and to finally hear what the Crack is all about.

A little DIY Story

If you’ve done DIY before, then you know that doing a clean case work is always more time consuming than doing the electronics part itself. If you’re lucky, the amp that you want to build can be ordered as a package, meaning all the correct parts needed are sold as a package, and you don’t need to order them one-by-one, sometimes from two or three different vendors. So, if I can break down the DIY amp building process, it’s probably something like:

  • 20% getting all the right parts ordered and shipped to your door.
  • 30% installation and soldering.
  • 50% case work: measuring, designing the case for best layout, cutting boards, measuring, drilling, sanding, tapping, all the way to the smallest finishing details.

The last amp I build was a moderately complex electrostatic amp, but I was lucky to have my friend calico agreeing to do the casework for it. So the moment I finished the amp and got it running, I sent the boards assembled and mounted on a plain aluminum plate, so he could start on the casework. I think it took him roughly 6 months to finish the casework, even with his advanced CNC know how. In comparison, it took me 1 month to finish the assembly from the time I got all the parts together.

I still had other DIY projects that I had prepared to build, but I decided to postpone doing any DIY work for an indefinite amount of time, simply because I don’t feel like having to deal with the messy case work.

Building the Crack

In the case of the Crack, I agreed to build the two amps (one for me and one for Lieven) because I knew that the assembly should not be that complicated, and that since we’re buying the package complete with the case and everything being pre-drilled, all I have to do is solder everything together and make sure not to flip the polarity of the diodes and the capacitors.

The Crack arrived, and to my surprise they had included a user building guide that includes step-by-step with pictures! Awesome! I don’t think any other DIY project comes with step-by-step pictures, and it makes such a big difference especially for less experienced DIYer.

The way Bottlehead designed the layout of the amp and the use of mounting posts (for soldering your components into) makes the build easier than a typical point-to-point build. The last point-to-point amp I built was Pete Millet’s SSMH, and though it’s simpler by parts count, the build process was harder than the Crack as it was pure floating point-to-point wiring. Anyway with the Crack, I think they went the extra length to design a layout that’s easy to build. There are some spots that are quite tight for the soldering iron, so it helps to look several pages ahead to see what other components will need to be soldered into that area, and if it would be easier to do the other component first.

On the soldering junction that involves several different components together, the manual clearly state when to solder everything together, again making for a very smooth building process. I also appreciate the fact that Bottlehead included a solid-core hookup wire that makes the wiring work so much easier (solid core wires tend to hold their shape very well, so they don’t move around when you try to solder them). The hookup wire also comes with a heat resistant insulation sleeve, so they don’t melt easily when you’re doing the soldering part.

It’s always wise to take the build slowly, double checking the parts orientation, checking for shorts and ensuring every solder joint is strong and solid. Rushing through the build may lead to mistakes that would take much longer to pinpoint and troubleshoot. Not to mention if you blow a capacitor and need to order a new one to replace it.

I didn’t have any problem with both builds, other than the fact that on my first build, the power switch I received was faulty so the amp is always on (I have to unplug the power cables to turn it off). Out of the three kits we ordered, two amps had the same faulty power switch, so it’ll be good to double check with Bottlehead on this one. On the second amp, I took my time to make for a very clean wiring path, so I can have a nice looking amp for the photos for this article. 😉

I think it took me roughly 6 hours for the first build with the simplistic wiring, and 8-9 hours for the second build with the clean wiring. It took me longer on the second build as I was not in a rush to listen to the amp anymore, and because I needed to measure the length of the hookup wires and to bend them at precise lengths to create a clean look.

If you feel like trying to do a build, I think the Crack is a good project to take on. Not only because the amp sounds very good, but also because it’s relatively simple and it comes with a kickass building manual. All of the parts used are relatively big in size (except for some diodes and LEDs), so it’s not like you have to mess with a lot of tiny transistors, SMD parts, or tiny little op-amps.

I’m so enthusiastic about the Crack mainly because of the sound. Of course the fact that I didn’t run into any problems during the process does make the overall experience easier to enjoy, but ultimately it’s the sound that excites me.

 

Continue to the next page…

Bottlehead Crack: OTL Addiction
4 (80%) 8 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. Coming from a musical family he's always been interested in good sound. Unlike his family members the only musical instruments he plays are amps and DACs. He loves playing with old tubes and discovering new products while staying faithful to the good old Sennheiser HD650.

184 Comments

  • Reply June 4, 2012

    Fabio_Rocks

    Nice review guys! I need one of this for my hd 650, badly! Mike my friend, can you build one for me too?:)

    • Reply June 4, 2012

      Mike

      If the money is good, yes. 😉

  • Reply June 4, 2012

    Fabio_Rocks

    Just one thing guys. If you love this amp is HIGLY RECOMMENDED to upgrade it with the speedball kit. From Bottlehead website: “So what does it do for the sound? The most immediate thing you will notice is a better sense of clarity. Things get tighter and quicker, bass and midrange get cleaner and more dynamic sounding, and the background gets more quiet. As with all of our upgrade kits, the improvement is easily heard.”

    • Reply June 4, 2012

      Mike

      Yes I’ve read that too.. at the moment this is enough though.

      Perhaps in the future when I feel like it I’ll do the speedball upgrade.

  • Reply June 4, 2012

    Jeff Kong

    Great reivew! One day :3

  • Reply June 4, 2012

    Trent_D

    I had said before that I found the K550 to be just a tad analytical sounding. After spending more time with it, I don’t think that is the case anymore. It might be burn in, but more then likely, I am just getting used to the sound. I had planned on getting a MS2+ to go with it, but I am starting to think that the dacport LX would match the sound of the K550 better (I would love to hear your thoughts on that, yes, this post does relate to the crack, i just believe in a good origin story). I was going to pair them with the asgard, but it is hard not to notice the way you rave about the crack. You had mentioned… somewhere, that there was some noise when the K550 and the crack were paired but it was very minor. That is a bit of a concern to me because on some of my classical (MN orchestra’s Beethoven’s 7th per instance), the dynamic range is INSANE, and is frequently almost whisper quiet. If there is any noise, it will be heard. Do you have any thoughts? Would the crack still work, or would I be better with the asgard (or something)?

    Man, all these awesome reviews coming in, it is paradise in headfonia.

    • Reply June 4, 2012

      Mike

      I really don’t notice the noise too much when music is playing, even with quiet passages on classical music.

      You will however appreciate the truly exceptional soundstage reproduction you get from this amp.

      • Reply June 4, 2012

        Trent_D

        Well, you have me sold. Mildly dark also sounds just right for the K550. As the kingRex is a bit out of my price range, I think I will go with the dacport lx. I love the clean, clear, detailed sound of the K550 and the lx seems like the better choice over the MS2+ if that is the sound I am looking for. I am actually really looking forward to building it myself. It sounds fun.

        • Reply June 5, 2012

          Mike

          The Dacport LX is good enough. It’s an excellent DAC, Trent.

  • Reply June 4, 2012

    Chris Allen

    Amazing review you guys! I got a question though, how is the Crack when compared to the Asgard?

    • Reply June 4, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Chris,
      The Asgard is more punchy, more forward, but other than that, the Crack has a cleaner sound, blacker background, far better soundstage, smoother, more refined and all.

      • Reply June 4, 2012

        Chris Allen

        Thanks Mike!
        Another question, would a warm DAC such as the HRT MS2 help the Asgard compete with the Crack by adding better soundstage and refinement? Or is the Crack still the way to go?

        • Reply June 5, 2012

          Mike

          Not quite, Chris. The soundstage on the Crack is very spacious and I don’t think the Asgard can compete with it. The Asgard is also more grainy while the Crack is extremely clean.

          • Reply June 5, 2012

            Chris Allen

            Whoa, really? That right there sold me. The Crack is indeed the way to go! Thanks so much, Mike!! 🙂

            • Reply June 5, 2012

              Mike

              Yes, while I thought the Asgard was a good value for the price, the Crack is even more.

  • Reply June 4, 2012

    Denton Chen

    Since im a complete beginner in audio DIY, its encouraging to hear how easy it is to build!! I think i might give it a go !!

    • Reply June 5, 2012

      Mike

      Do give it a try, Denton.

  • Reply June 5, 2012

    John123John

    mike, your build is SO clean. its Beautiful. Makes mine look like trash… jerk.

  • Reply June 5, 2012

    P. J.

    Unfortunately I paid after the price increase. Anyone know a reason for that?
    I should get mine in a week.

    • Reply June 5, 2012

      Mike

      I don’t remember the exact reason, but if you go to their forum I think they had an explanation for that.

      Basically it’s common reasons like higher prices on the components and stuff.

  • Reply June 5, 2012

    Altov

    Hello!
    What source did you used with Bottlehead Crack?

    • Reply June 5, 2012

      Mike

      I used many different things including the DACport LX, the Kingrex UD384 (best IMO), the HRT iStreamer, the CLAS, the Tera Player.

  • Reply June 5, 2012

    tre54321

    Mike! V200 vs Crack? 😛

    • Reply June 5, 2012

      Mike

      I think Lieven is the one who’ll answer that as he has both amps. But he told me he’ll be away for three days or so this week. So you may have to wait a bit. 🙂

    • Reply June 7, 2012

      L.

      You can’t really compare both. SS vs OTL DIY. The Violectric can handle about every headphone there is while the Crack is made for high impedance headphones. The V200 is great with hard to drive orthos and with high impedance phones but it’s a different sound. The overall better and 3 to 4 times more expensive amp, is the V200.

  • Reply June 5, 2012

    Mike

    I know man.. sorry it was really difficult for me to even make sure that our orders were processed. You can read about it on the Facebook notes.

    • Reply June 5, 2012

      Keph

      Yup i read it..anyways Great amp and i’m jealous..hehe

  • Reply June 5, 2012

    Nick Tam

    Dacport LX + Bottlehead Crack it is for the HD650!

    • Reply June 5, 2012

      Mike

      Yes that would be nice.

      • Reply July 20, 2012

        Nick Tam

        What is it about the stock 6080/6AS7 that made it preferable over the Tung-Sol and GEC 6AS7Gs for you? my kit came with the GE 6080 and an unlabelled cleartop 12AU7/ECC82 and well just asking before I start going into tube rollin

        • Reply July 21, 2012

          Mike

          I just think that everything about the sound is right for me. The treble, the bass, the pace, the soundstage.
          Some of the other tubes are more mid-centric, some are mellower. Just different sound, but I like the stock sound best.

          • Reply July 24, 2012

            Nick Tam

            I’ve got the HRT MS2+ now, kinda edged out over the Dacport LX for musical sounding, so I was wondering if I should roll in a cleaner sounding tube or a warmer sounding one, although I think I’ve realized it really is just a matter of personal preferences. Though, rereading your review, there’s no mention about which DACs you’ve used? Thx again!

            • Reply July 25, 2012

              Mike

              Nick,
              It would be hard to get rid of the grain if that comes from the source (you mention a cleaner sounding tube, I assume for this reason?). If you want a warmer sounding tube, I’m sure there are plenty to choose from out there.

              I may have forgotten to list the DACs I used. They are: DACport LX, KingRex UD384, HRT iStreamer, Altmann Tera Player.

        • Reply July 22, 2012

          L.

          I only switched the EH for a RCA clear top, so far I like the stock 6080WA most, haven’t tried the TS5998 yes iin the Crack

          • Reply July 24, 2012

            Nick Tam

            My stock tube was a GE 6080 and I can’t get a TS5998 in Hong Kong, so my top picks that are available here are the RCA 6AS7G “Black Plates” or the GEC 6080WA, trying to pick out a musical sounding and a clean and linear 6080 amongst them all. Probably should go digging in some tube rolling threads now xP Tube addiction

            • Reply July 24, 2012

              L.

              The 6AS7G tube rolling thread on Headfi is awesome. I’m sure you can get a TS5998 in Hong Kong. What’s the shop called again? We posted pics of it on our Facebook.

              • Reply August 3, 2012

                Nick Tam

                I think that was wiwi tubes down at central, their online catalog doesn’t have it so i guess ill have to go down and have a look, didja buy anything while there? =D

                • Reply August 4, 2012

                  L.

                  I haven’t been there, it were pictures from a reader

  • Reply June 7, 2012

    Rūdolfs Putniņš

    Great review! I think I’ll do a Crack after I get my Dynalo together. Should complement each other perfectly.

    Now we just need to start putting bets on how long will it take for Mike and Lieven to get the speedball.

    • Reply June 7, 2012

      L.

      Can I bet too?

      • Reply June 7, 2012

        Mike

        I dont’ know, should we do a speedball review? I wont’ have a second Crack around so it’s not going to be an A-B.

        • Reply June 7, 2012

          L.

          I’ll ship you mine back with EMS. They’re fast! 😉

          • Reply June 7, 2012

            Trent_D

            Now I definitely think you should. However, you have been doing so much on the site recently, I think you should take a break and relax. You should send the amps to me, along with your supply of sennheiser headphones and the Kingrex Dac to me. I will take care of this review for you.

            • Reply June 9, 2012

              L.

              I’ll keep it in mind 😉

  • Reply June 14, 2012

    Kevin Cotrone

    At what impedance do you think the crack starts to sound nice at? I can’t decide if I want to build this and keep my 770 pro 80s or sell my pro 80s and buy HD650s or something similar.

    • Reply June 14, 2012

      Mike

      Kevin,
      The K550 AKG has a very low impedance, though I can’t remember what.. I think 32Ω and it’s very nice with the Crack.

  • Reply June 21, 2012

    SoundEskimoo

    Is it any better than more expensive amp like Burson? Or is it just good bang (value for money)? The price indeed very tempting on this one if you said ‘the best amp for HD650’.

    • Reply June 21, 2012

      L.

      If it is only for HD650 like I use it, go for the Crack

      • Reply June 22, 2012

        SoundEskimoo

        Noted.

    • Reply June 21, 2012

      Mike

      I don’t really enjoy the Burson – HD650 pairing, I think the Crack is a better pairing. But saying that the Crack is better than the Burson is like saying my Honda minivan is better than a Ferrari because I can take my whole family in the minivan.

      • Reply June 22, 2012

        SoundEskimoo

        Actually Crack looks like so convenient. Just practical.

  • Reply June 24, 2012

    Nick Tam

    From memory, how would the Crack compare against the WA6 with the Sophia Princess Upgrade? Just curious because you mentioned that the SP upgrade makes the stock config sound congested and really does, open up the sound of the WA6. Just for thought

    • Reply June 25, 2012

      Mike

      From memory, the WA6 is more detailed, more refined, wider soundstage. What impresses me is the Crack’s superior soundstage depth, blacker background, though micro detail is not as good as the WA6.

  • Reply July 16, 2012

    Trent_D

    How is the bass on the hd650 when played through the Crack?

    • Reply July 18, 2012

      Mike

      Very nice bass, I really have no complaints.

      • Reply July 18, 2012

        Trent_D

        A thought occurred to me. Instead of looking for amps to try and increase the bass of the K550, I should go ahead and get the Crack, and then just make my next purchase after that the HD650, which is still a headphone I want very much, and use each headphone for their strength. HD650 for large symphonies and Jazz, the K550 for chamber music and mellow vocals.

        • Reply July 18, 2012

          Mike

          Yes that’s the way to go.

  • Reply July 21, 2012

    Edward Elric

    Mike, when i can try the Crack with my HD600?
    and how do you think it will sound?

    • Reply July 21, 2012

      Mike

      I’ve tried it with the HD650 and the HD580 with great results.

  • Reply July 26, 2012

    Chris Allen

    Hey Mike, how did you check the parts for shorts and such? I think blowing out a capacitor and shorts, along with flipping the polarity of the diodes and the capacitors scare me the most.

    • Reply July 26, 2012

      Mike

      Chris,
      Checking for shorts, the easiest way is to inspect visually. If you see metal or solder tin touching, or very close, you can take a multimeter, switch to continuity tester and test if the two points are indeed shorted.

      Switching polarity of the diodes and caps, this is why after doing a few solder points, I always go back and double check things. On the diodes and caps, I think I re-checked their polarity orientation a million times. 😉

      The best way to do the assembly is to do it very slowly. Fast assembly in my experience is very prone to errors, and troubleshooting would take much longer than the time you save.

  • Reply August 12, 2012

    Trent_D

    How would the Crack do for Rock if I paired it with the Superlux HD660?

    • Reply August 13, 2012

      Mike

      I don’t have the HD660 around, but I think it should be nice, Trent.

  • Reply September 12, 2012

    Psycho

    hey Mike, Want to ask something?
    where to get this amp in indonesia with speedball upgrade? And did i need to order online from their website?

    I want to pair it with hd 650 and dacport lx (still having doubt between this dac or hrt msii+)

    • Reply September 12, 2012

      L.

      You have to order it from Bottlehead’s website indeed. I seriously doubt Mike still has time left to build amps nowadays, but I’ll let him reply

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  • Reply October 1, 2012

    tim ramich

    I find their stuff to be good, but overpriced. You can get something equivalent that doesn’t need to be built, isn’t just a plate that sits on an open box, doesn’t take 2 months to arrive, and quite frankly is better looking for around the same price or less. You aren’t getting a nice headphone jack nor potentiometer and knob. The tube sockets aren’t that great. Slotted hardware is just blah. The placement of the power switch makes me reach past the tubes, hence I burn my arms on the tubes. The transformer bell end cover isn’t coated with anything and gets hot, so it rusts. The only thing that prevents a person from making this kit themselves is that the power transformer is custom-wound by some manufacturer. I still doubt that with the numbers they’re getting that they cost a lot.

    Their Speedball is really way over-priced. $125 for a few PCBs, a few transistors, a few resistors, a few LEDs, some heat sinks and mounting kits, and standoffs and screws… I could build and sell the same thing with a better PCB design for $50 and still make plenty of profit…and not have it take 2 months to arrive.

    If a friend asked me if they should buy one, I would tell them no, and I would just offer to make them one for much less than they could buy it, including the labor. It wouldn’t be too hard to figure out the power transformer issue.

    • Reply October 1, 2012

      Nick Tam

      yes but if you could have built something better, you wouldn’t have a crack right now. if you could put a bill of materials together to justify that they’re overpriced, be doc.b’s guest.

      • Reply October 2, 2012

        Trent_D

        You are just jealous of his mechanical ability, Nick.

  • Reply October 20, 2012

    bala

    Quick question, can someone shed some light on the cost of the Crack imported to the EU?

    • Reply October 20, 2012

      L.

      Hey Bala, I honestly can’t remember. I think shipping was $30 and import fees I think was around 30€. The crack is still a very good value for the money, but back when we bought it at the old price, it was an incredible value for money. Mike and myself are also thinking of taking on a new Bottlehead project…

      • Reply October 20, 2012

        bala

        Thanks L. I was considering the Crack as an upgrade from my Little dot III to suit the HD650 but I also have a recently acquired HE500 😉 to consider! I know the crack is divine with the 650 but is it as good with the HE500? Or maybe I should wait until you and Mike try out your next bottlehead project – which I guess would be the SEX 2.1!

        • Reply October 20, 2012

          Nick Tam

          No. Mike has noted that the Crack does not drive orthos at all including the easier to drive HE400

          • Reply October 20, 2012

            bala

            Thanks Nick & L. I will wait for the Headfonia impressions of the Sex 2.1 – feel I should have got suitable amplification before getting the HE500! I’m currently driving it with a Matrix Mstage and its not living up to my expectations 🙁

        • Reply October 20, 2012

          L.

          The crack doesn’t do good with the HE500 Bala. Yes, it will be the SEX, but it might take a few months, we’re pretty busy.

  • Reply October 20, 2012

    L.

    There are several NOS pairs of 2399/5998 tubes for sale on EBAY right now if anyone’s interested or looking for those tubes

    • Reply October 21, 2012

      Nick Tam

      None of them are very balanced though so I think buyers are better off using them in the LF339

      No returns either :

      • Reply October 21, 2012

        L.

        good luck finding a balanced pair. I still think they’re good enough in the crack, they’re not bad at all, most shops don’t even test them and you never know what you get…

        • Reply October 21, 2012

          Nick Tam

          I picked one off ebay some time ago… and a expensive boxed NOS one locally

          I guess I was lucky picking a balanced piece off ebay when nobody was looking :

  • Reply October 22, 2012

    L.

    If someone want a second hand Crack, there is one for sale for only $800 on Head-fi 😀

    http://www.head-fi.org/t/624063/bottlehead-crack-w-speedball-upgrades-tubes

    • Reply October 22, 2012

      Nick Tam

      with the TKD pot, Speedball, caps and all that, he’s selling it as new rather than used though

      Great for someone who doesn’t want to DIY it themselves though!

      • Reply October 22, 2012

        Mike

        The pot is how much? $400-$500? TKD is not cheap.

        • Reply October 22, 2012

          Nick Tam

          Pot is around $100 so that’s pretty high end, caps are worth another $100, speedball another $100, Chatham 2399 around $65… TFK 12AU7 another $60… plus the labour costs maybe? I’m not paying $800 for that used though : especially with those tubes

          $400 for a pot… lol

    • Reply December 1, 2012

      Trent_D

      And big surprise, it is still for sale.

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  • Reply November 3, 2012

    Joshua Tsang

    What DAC would you recommend to go with this amp and HD 650?

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Trent_D

      The dacport lx should work very well, and that can be had for $200-250. The Kingrex ud384 with the uPower supply runs $700 and is suppose to be phenomenal.

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Trent_D

      The dacport lx should work very well, and that can be had for $200-250. The Kingrex ud384 with the uPower supply runs $700 and is suppose to be phenomenal.

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Guest

      The dacport lx should work very well, and that can be had for $200-250. The Kingrex ud384 with the uPower supply runs $700 and is suppose to be phenomenal.

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Nick Tam

      I think I’m about to jump if another one of these questions come up…

      Please do scroll around this page. I think your question has been answered more than once and I’ve asked that same question ages ago.

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Nick Tam

      I think I’m about to jump if another one of these questions come up…

      Please do scroll around this page. I think your question has been answered more than once and I’ve asked that same question ages ago.

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Nick Tam

      Please do scroll around this page. I think your question has been answered more than once and I’ve asked that same question ages ago.

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Nick Tam

      Please do look around this page before asking that question.

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Nick Tam

      Please do scroll around this page and the Q&A section before asking that question. I believe that question has been asked at least 5 times.

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Nick Tam

      Please do scroll around this page and the Q&A section before asking that question. I believe that question has been asked at least 5 times.

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Nick Tam

      Please do scroll around this page and the Q&A section before asking that question. I believe that question has been asked at least 5 times.

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Nick Tam

      • Reply November 3, 2012

        Nick Tam

        Erm @headfonia:disqus sorry about that… Disqus kind of screwed up and I’m seeing double… double posts XP

        • Reply November 3, 2012

          Mike

          Yeah I figured it’s Disqus’ fault.

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Nick Tam

      Before posting THAT question, please do look through the Q&A section, the Crack and the HD650 page first as that question has been asked countless times. We’re kind of tired of answering questions related to Crack + HD650 here D<
      http://www.headfonia.com/bottlehead-crack-otl-addiction/#comment-547545388

      http://www.headfonia.com/bottlehead-crack-otl-addiction/#comment-547534629

      http://www.headfonia.com/sennheiser-hd650-600-and-580-updated-drivers/#comment-691600666

      • Reply November 3, 2012

        Trent_D

        breathe Nick, breathe!

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Trent_D

      The dacport lx should work very well, and that can be had for $200-250. The Kingrex ud384 with the uPower supply runs $700 and is suppose to be phenomenal.

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Trent_D

      Nick does have a point though. The same two questions (which dac and which amp) have been asked, which out end, on here. Search around. You will find the answer.

      • Reply November 3, 2012

        Mike

        It would be good if we can improve the search function on the Disqus comments. Unfortunately the platform is quite limited on that regard.

        • Reply November 3, 2012

          Trent_D

          I don’t know the platform at all, but would it be possible to tag particular posts with a subject (like, HD650).

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Nick Tam

      I second the Dacport LX at $200. However if you just like a tad bit more warmth with your music, go for the HRT MS2 or MS2+. The Kingrex UD384 is a step up for $500 and can be upgradable with the PSU MKII for $420 later putting it in the hign-end category. I’d upgrade directly to the PSU MKII and avoid the UPower since the UPower runs off batteries

    • Reply November 3, 2012

      Mike

      Joshua,
      What Nick and Trent said.

  • Reply November 19, 2012

    m17xr2b

    How would the crack go with the HD700?

  • Reply December 1, 2012

    My Nguyen

    Do you recommend the Crack for Dt880 250 ohm? How does the crack sound like compared to the Asgard and the Audio-gd NFB 12 ?

    • Reply December 1, 2012

      Nick Tam

      Yes, yes and yes. Crack and DT880 250Z is a good combination.

      Crack compared to Asgard: Crack has far deeper soundstage, cleaner sounding and deeper bass. Trumps the Asgard completely if I recall from one of Mike’s earlier comments.

  • Reply December 29, 2012

    Babbo Phicci

    where i can get this if i’m from indonesia?

    • Reply December 29, 2012

      L.

      You could ask Analog Head in Jakarta, I think they were planning on selling it. If not it will have to be directly from Bottlehead in the USA

      • Reply December 31, 2012

        Babbo Phicci

        thanx L..i will wait till analog have it to sell it

  • Reply December 29, 2012

    Babbo Phicci

    where i can get this amp at indonesia?

    • Reply December 29, 2012

      ryan

      Probably you could ask mike to build one for you 🙂

      • Reply December 29, 2012

        Mike

        @ryan79:disqus no no no…

        • Reply December 30, 2012

          ryan

          What if the money is good? 🙂

          • Reply January 28, 2013

            L.

            I doubt Mike can be persuaded 🙂

            • Reply January 28, 2013

              ryan

              Bottlehead charges $150 if I remember correctly. Mike should charge $300

              • Reply January 28, 2013

                L.

                Bottlehead stopped doing it

                • Reply January 28, 2013

                  ryan

                  Another reason why Mike should build it for $300

                • Reply January 29, 2013

                  Trent_D

                  Actually, I think they will still do it, but I believe that they would be charging an hourly shop rate of around $65. So, even if they build it in an extremely swift four hours, that would still be $260.

                  • Reply January 29, 2013

                    L.

                    I’m sure there are some DIY’ers in Jakarta that want to build one 😉

                    • January 31, 2013

                      Mike

                      I really enjoy the building process actually… it’s just that I’m not sure I can commit to a reasonable time frame, unless he would be content with a 12 months timeframe. 😉

  • Reply January 14, 2013

    Steve

    Can anyone recommend me a DAC for the Bottlehead Crack with speedball and HD650’s?

    • Reply January 14, 2013

      Mike

      Steve,
      The HRT MS2+ or the DAcport LX works very well for $300 level DACs.

    • Reply January 14, 2013

      L.

      I usually use the Fiio E10 when I use the Crack + HD650

      • Reply August 16, 2013

        Bradford

        Is this still your goto? The Crack + HD650’s are a lot of $$ together. Can I get by with the E10? Or must I splurge on the MS2+? I see the Modi has good reviews for around $100. The Audioengine D1 Premium is also under $200.

        • Reply August 19, 2013

          Mike

          I don’t know about the Modi but the Fiio E10 or E7K works pretty good for the HD650. The Crack however is on a totally different level.

  • Reply January 19, 2013

    Ashneel Parahoo

    Best review I read on the cracks..Thank you

    • Reply January 19, 2013

      Mike

      You’re welcome!

      Sent from my mobile device. Sorry for any mistype.

      • Reply January 28, 2013

        Ashneel Parahoo

        I couldn’t just decide whether I could build it or if the stock crack would have been “good enough”. Well, speaking of the Stock version it is very enjoyable and I bought one after reading this and Tyll’s review. Are you planning to do a review of the Crack with the Speedball upgrade soon?

        • Reply January 28, 2013

          L.

          We do have a guest review coming up that will cover the crack with and without the speedball (in combination with the HD650) But I can’t tell you how soon we will get this

          • Reply January 29, 2013

            Trent_D

            As long as the voltage checks go fine, I suck with a multimeter, the speedball will be added this weekend, so I would like to say two weeks on the review. Detailed DIY work doesn’t become me with my big sloppy butcher’s hands.

    • Reply January 19, 2013

      L.

      Thanks!

  • […] Headfonia: "Bottlehead Crack: OTL Addiction" […]

  • […] Headfonia: http://www.headfonia.com/bottlehead-…otl-addiction/ […]

  • Reply August 9, 2013

    Hariadi Mastoyo

    I like the sound of my PS1000 just the way they are but I don’t mind adding a bit of a warm tone to them. I am tempted to build this amp myself but I wonder the quite low impedance (32ohm) of my Grado might not suitable with Crack. I also considering ALO PAN am. Which one is better match? I really appreciate some suggestion here. Thanks a lot guys!

    • Reply August 9, 2013

      Mike

      It’ll be good if you can come and test things out really. The PS1000 is not a very common headphone and so I have very little experience pairing amplifiers with it.

  • Reply October 1, 2013

    netmask254

    Can some crack owner help telling the 3-dimension of the finished box? Posted on Bottlehead forum but no response. Thanks a lot!

  • Reply October 5, 2013

    Arya

    Mike, I like to build crack, but I’am green with any electonical and soldering. Is it really easy to do it? Oh, what kind of lead that you used for soldering your Crack? Is it the same as lead for ordinary electrical PCB?

    • Reply October 5, 2013

      Dave Ulrich

      If you go slow and follow directions, it isn’t that hard. If I can do it, most people should be able to manage.

      • Reply October 6, 2013

        Arya

        Okay. Thank you Dave.

      • Reply October 7, 2013

        Mike

        True.

    • Reply October 7, 2013

      Mike

      Soldering skills is a must have for building the crack.

      What lead? You mean the internal wire? They supplied their own solid core wire which is very good and easy to solder.

      • Reply October 7, 2013

        Arya

        Oh, I mean the copper you used to solder, Mike. I’m sorry for my previous word, my friend said “lead” instead of copper. Hahahaha

        • Reply October 7, 2013

          Mike

          You mean the tin?

          I use whatever I have. We just finished a new built using Oyaide tin and it does sound better than my first build.

  • Reply October 12, 2013

    Andy Kurniawan

    Hi Mike and L,
    A bottlehead fan here, can u tell me what tube you prefer with the crack?
    I use speedball plus tungsram e80cc or valvo e80cc with tung sol 5998, iknow that doc prefers the mullards but i have no experience with it.

    • Reply October 12, 2013

      L.

      Wasn’t that mentioned. Stock power and 12AU7 RCA clear top for me 😉

      • Reply October 13, 2013

        Dave Ulrich

        I like the RCA 6AS7G for the power tube and the current production tung sol 12au7.

        • Reply October 14, 2013

          Andy Kurniawan

          I read about the new tung sol production in Russia. Basically they bought the brand name and stick the label on their own tubes. Are they any good?

          • Reply October 14, 2013

            L.

            I wouldn’t say they’re terrible but they’re not close to the NOS tubes

          • Reply October 14, 2013

            Dave Ulrich

            I have found this tube in particular to be excellent. It was recommended over on the bottlehead forums awhile back. With the RCA 6AS7G, I would take it over the Clear Top for sure (I have a clear top, as well).

    • Reply October 14, 2013

      Mike

      I prefer STOCK tubes by far.

      So much I like the Stock tubes that when the stock tube broke I tried really hard to pry it from another Crack owner’s hands but they won’t sell me. Eventually I got another stock tube from Bottlehead.
      And I’ve tried LOTS of different tubes with the crack. None of them has the bass and the soundstage depth the stock tube has.

      • Reply October 14, 2013

        Andy Kurniawan

        Is it just me, because I noticed noise even when there’s no music playing with the stock driver. It’s gone when I switched to e80cc.
        I don’t even know what my stock tubes are, all the markings gone on my stock tubes.

        • Reply October 14, 2013

          L.

          Well that’s what tubes can do unfortunately

  • […] castile beyerdynamic 770,880,990,T1 etc) mai bun decat multe amplificatoare dublu ca pret. Bottlehead Crack: OTL Addiction | Headfonia L-am comandat din US, kit-ul standard + upgrade Speedball. Speddball aduce claritate in plus, bass […]

  • Reply June 25, 2014

    Linuels

    Mike and L,

    I’m planning to purchase this or the S.E.X. 2.1 for my HD 650. However, I don’t have any soldering experience. Can you provide me other pre-built desktop amp that has the same performance/sound signature of the OTL crack even if it is more expensive?

    • Reply June 25, 2014

      L.

      Lafigaro 339 or 336, Woo Audio WA3, Woo Audio WA2

      • Reply June 27, 2014

        Linuels

        Thanks mate. I will look these amps.

  • Reply August 13, 2014

    Igor Sheykin

    Hello! Can you give short summary for the devices and source used to build Crack? Used sort of tin, length of wires, …
    I mean if you tried different variants, and one is definitely better than others.

    • Reply August 13, 2014

      L.

      Just use what you can get and follow the instructions. Should be good 🙂

      • Reply August 13, 2014

        Igor Sheykin

        Thanks. Just have to wait till it arrives to Germany.
        Here I have one more small question: if compare T90 and HD700 with Bottlehead Crack as amp, who would win? Who pairs better?

        • Reply August 13, 2014

          L.

          I dont think there is a better. They both perform exceptionally good with the Crack. Just choose the headphone which sound suits you most

      • Reply September 2, 2014

        Igor Sheykin

        Important question: what do I need to make it?
        soldering-iron, tin, pliers, wire cutters, ???

        • Reply September 2, 2014

          L.

          yes, all of that

  • Reply October 17, 2014

    Sergio Mejia

    Hi, I have two questions, could help me please

    What Fiio device would result is the best combo for HD700 + CRACK Bottlehead, basically fulfilling the function of a DAC?

    You better just be a DAC or ideally buy a Amp / DAC to also fulfill the function of portable amp?

  • Reply July 15, 2016

    Neo

    Lieven, I see you recommend this amp to the HD 600/650s very greatly. When you talk about the crack, do you mean with or without the speedball upgrade? Since the writing of this review have you had the chance to try out the upgrade out?

    • Reply July 15, 2016

      Lieven

      This is without Speedball, I don’t have any plans to make it sound faster or cleaner or …. I like the original

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