Bottlehead - Official Thread

Bottlehead are veteran makers of a wide variety of extremely well regarded tube-based audio kits. First offered in 1995, they’ve built up a solid following and are well-known both as an excellent introduction to DIY-audio - with the venerable “Crack” headphone amplifier being perhaps the most common self-assembled tube amplifier ever (and often recommenced as a perfect “first kit”), as well having products with excellent sound.

Based on Bainbridge Island, WA, they are creators of unique, interesting, high-value products with high-performance, excellent support, and can lay claim to a number of very interesting technologies and topologies across their range.

This is the place for general discussions about the Bottlehead brand.


There is a thread discussing the Crack OTL headphone amplifier already … which contains some interesting pictures and discussion, here.


Is the Bottlehead area only for the Crack?

Would like to see the Mainline discussed and I have some “fun” stuff about the Neothriator from BH!!


I dont know if anyone has seen this little “gem” created by Doc and Paul over at Bottlehead…its pretty neat for sure…its
their “I only made 2” TOTL headphone amp. One was/is for sale the other Doc has said is his…approx $10K
I dont know if its sold.

Love watching the amplitude of the output being shown on the 1N-9 neon tubes.

Here’s a pic of the inside of the Neothoriator prototype. Not simple build. The fat copper tubes contain Teflon parafeed output caps suspended in isolation mounts.

Neothoriator at T.H.E. Show Newport 2015

I found out that Doc still has one for sale!!!


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Everyone has a dream!!

Doc is a neat person and is pretty laid back…old school for sure!

If I win the lottery this is “mine”!!!



I wonder if it will drive my Porta Pros as well as my EC Zana Deux Super…

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How do you like those “earspeakers!!” remniscent of the past and some really recent forays into earspeakers aka Raal…SR1a’s…

I have a Bottlehead Crack with the Speedball CCS mod and it works wonderfully with high impedance headphones, like HD600 or HD800+, as well as the Beyers T1, T90 etc…helps tame the high end on the Beyers. Very euphonic IMO and have had hundreds of hours with all these on the Crack. Nothing like a simple amp like this to be able to really have a great experience in audio…that said I have always wanted to have a really nice high end SS amp AND a really good high end “affordable” tube amp…and with the recent addition of the Monoprice 887 at least I have a SS amp that measures really good and is kind of a baseline for SS stuff for “me”…and when BH had a sale on their TOTL Mainline I couldnt resist…I will post some of my build experiences with the Mainline…

Note: I have 12 head amps here now…and 9 are SS and 3 are tube.
So the comment on good measuring is just that, I enjoy all of the amps I have had, sold and died over the years…just having one that is a verified good measuring one allows me to have a device that I can use as a benchmark on other amps of lesser measuring specs…so “I” can see if there are any real discernable differences…etc.


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I was talking with Dan and Paul about buying the other available Neothroiator in July/August last year. Having seen it, and heard it, in person, it’s a very impressive piece.

Ultimately our travel/moving plans meant putting that idea on hold. Still want it though.


Wow!! This amp certainly looks awesome! Doc is an awesome guy…old school to me…
If I were to buy this one I would make sure to get a spare set of tubes for it.

If you get this PLEASE put it on the COMMUNITY LOANER Program!!!

:grinning: :grinning: :grinning: :grinning: :grinning: :grinning: :grinning: :grinning: :grinning: :grinning:


I have had my BH Mainline up for sale for a few weeks, I have three tube amps and thought of thinning the heard to finance a new set of cans!

So today I brought out the Mainline and fired it up and listened with the Focal Clears with the balanced XLR output.

Gee, Why am I selling this amp? Its really good, better than the Crack for sure, bass is tighter and the presentation is more transparent or clear to me…more of a real accurate tube amp vs the euphonic signature that the Crack has…and its really a neat amp especially for Senn’s and other high impedance cans.

The Mainline is “Dead” quiet at the full on stepped attenuator position…you do get some very slight noise when you first plug in your headphones as the amp settles down to match the load…about 1-3 seconds and you only notice this when you immediatey plug in your headphones. Its a built in design thing…so you wait for a few seconds before listening…not an issue and I am picking at straws here.

The amp doesnt have any turn on or of relay’s…so with typical tube gear, you turn it on, wait for a few minutes before you start pluggin cans in it…also it has two sets of RCA inputs that make it nice to compare 2 different sources or dacs…at the flick of a switch…

Also another nice thing about this amp, is the 6C45pi tubes are it…no real NOS replacements out there with one very expensive alternative, that IMO is not any worse or better that the stock tubes.

Paul Birkland told me they picked the 6C45pi because of its very good linearity range…the tubes that are out there are mostly Sovteks, but EH makes normal and gold pin versions…the Gold Pin versions are hard to find (at WooAudio in their FireFlies) for about $150 a pair!! the Sovteks are about $50-$60 a pair.

I have tried the Sovteks and the EH non gold pins and I do prefer the EH’s…seems like the soundstage is wider and just suits my taste in tonality.

The only other tube amp that bests the Mainline is the T4 I recently reviewed and had in house from Tom Blanchard…its a $2000 amp and the Mainline is now $1299 and yes you have to put it together, but thats half the fun…

If you have never done a DIY, the anticipation of that first voltage check, setting the tube bias etc…makes you really appreciate this stuff much more than just buying an appliance.

Ok enough rambling…just really re-enjoying this amp and its wonderful…now to decide to keep it or sell it!





Here is a really neat video on Vimeo…“Wood & Wires”…

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Ok tube experts.

What is a no-fuss (ha) tube combo for the BH?

Talking good sound, but low microphonics, background noise, that sort of thing.

And is random noise a normal tube thing? Like maybe a certain pitch noise through a left channel for 15 seconds. Then sometimes right.

I have the Crack here for a few years…and have gone thru a lot of tubes etc…$$$

no-fuss tube combo?

Well…there is a hundred page plus tube rolling thread at thats a great read…

IMO having gone thru most all of the $$$ tubes…I found many have issues with microphonics and sensitivities…like hearing my keys being typed on the pc while the amp was a foot or so away etc.

Most always the large coke bottle 6AS7 tubes that look really neat seem to be more senstive. I have several that are like this and several that are solid…but most of them while warming up have some whine, squeel noises etc…some of this goes away but I have several that are pretty solid.

If you want something to be pretty much free from all this mechanical resonance etc stay away from the coke bottle variants…

The smaller more rigid 6080 tubes are the way to go for less microphonics…but they look small and your brain might think they will sound “small” the old bigger is better…

When I do testing and am really honest there really isnt that much of a difference …but thats a debate that will never end…and to many a real joy to do…I did it and its over for me.

The 12AU7 tube has many variants and again it can be expensive or not…Most 12AU7A’s in the crack dont exhibit the issues that the larger tubes 6AS7’s do ie the coke bottle types.



Thanks for the reply mate.

I’m not into the tube rolling, tinkering sort of thing. I know a lot are, but not something that I enjoy.

I have read a few pages that have been linked on those BH forums. Had the same effect on my brain as listening to 4 hours of a professor talk about traffic light scheduling and road gradients in Civil Engineering 12 years ago.

Any easy to get options you recommend? I don’t need something from 1942, ripped from the hands of Adolf himself. A brand new one is fine with me :stuck_out_tongue:

Do I look for a Tung Sol 7236? Or some other new easy to get 6080? Or fork out big $$ for a 5998?

And the little tube, well no idea. People don’t seem to talk about it as much. I have a Brimar CV4003 currently. Havne’t pin pointed the culprit(s) to the noise/weirdness yet though. Def think the Chantham is one though, currently using the RCA one though.

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Thompson - CSF 6080WA made in france from, parts connexion in Canada…

I paid $11 for it…excellent.

JJ 12AU7A Gold Pin…low cost…excellent…

and u wont have to worry about any Adolfs heirs knocking on your door!!!

you DO NOT have to fork out big bucks for great sound with this amp…as Doc said many times its the circuit the tube is in that matters most…

But as always us humans want to tinker…


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Thanks mate. I’ll try find some.

$180 for 4 delivered to Aus. Welp.

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Smomething like this would work well:

The idea here is to get a short bottle tube…they are more rugged and less prone for microphonics…



Hmm ok. Will try find.

Needs to come across the world to the isle of kangaroos-in-everyones-backyard.