DAC/AMP Upgrades and Sidegrades Discussion

I’m a total noob at this so it is all very beginner level upgrades at this point…I was even told to just build it as is then go back and add components later as I get more comfortable/knowledgeable with this hobby… I have been looking at Oil capacitors(but I will probably have to wait on that). I might end up just powering through with standard provided pieces then go back and upgrade after, once I am more comfortable with soldering and how all this stuff works.

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I’m going to strongly second the recommendation that you build it with the stock parts, and get it working properly, before you start upgrading bits.

For one, you’ll gain a better understanding of the nature and scale of changes coming from various types/grades of component upgrades. For another, if you’re still developing your soldering skills you’ll reduce the risk of accidentally damaging an expensive boutique part.

I’d recommend:

  • Building the stock model and run it as-is, with the stock tubes, for a while.
  • Roll some basic tubes (nothing too exotic at first).
  • Build and install the Speedball.
  • Go back through the tubes you’ve acquired and give them all another listen.

Then, and only then, start substituting parts.


I’ll probably just do some cosmetic upgrades to start =)

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That would be my exact game plan. What are your favorite tubes? I hear the Tung Sol 5998 is the most well regarded?

I haven’t built my Crack 1.1 yet (waiting on paint), so my experiences with it have been down to listening to units built by others either in their systems or on loan. As such, I’ve not gotten to do any real tube-rolling with it.

My advice, above, was more in the context of general kit-building, particularly with regards to audio. Despite being a long time builder, and the sort of person that can hand-solder small pitch SMD parts, I still like to start off with kits/builds in their “basic” or “default” form.


Wise, I have to slow down and smell the roses more often. I tend to think many steps ahead of where I’m going. I’m working on being more focused in the now.

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I will follow your progress with great interest. Since your braver than me and doing just what I would like to do at some point. So far it’s looking sweet. I have no soldering skills whatever though. I think I need to pick up some soldering gear and just practice on some old circuit boards. Good look though.


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Well, I’ve only tried soldering once before…and I completely destroyed what I was working on lol…so I think just keep at it. I’m a little apprehensive about starting the soldering work…but I think it’s like bungee jumping… Don’t hesitate just jump lol

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Hehe, yeah good analogy. I will keep fingers crossed for you. And good luck.


The best advice I can give with regards to soldering consists of:

  • Wear eye protection.

  • Use a good quality flux.

  • Use good quality LEADED solder (60/40 with a rosin flux core, ideally). Leave the lead-free stuff for situations that require it (only commercial stuff, and not always then).

  • Buy a proper, quality, temperature-controlled soldering iron/station. The Hakko 888 is well worth the $99 it goes for. Especially when you compare it to many of the “compatible” or outright “knock-off” cheap Chinese versions.

  • And of course heat the joint NOT the solder!


Great advice!

  • I wear glases that should cover that

  • Hmmm…lightly licks flux…seems high quality (I didn’t lick it yeesh :wink: )

  • Damn, I bought the unleaded stuff =( throws self on floor with 22month old screaming and kicking

  • You can see which one I got in the above picture, it has temp control, but it is not the Hakko, I knew I should have gotten a Hakko :cry:

  • This lil tidbit I have never heard before and I am very grateful for the info! probably why my previous attempt at soldering went awry

Thank you @Torq I really appreciate your gift of knowledge that you are willing to pass on. It helps me make less mistakes =)


I have the Hakko station at work. Fantastic unit! Heats quickly and maintains temp very well - very important factor especially with thru-hole soldering.

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Thank you very much for your advice.


Definitely a factor with the relatively large connections being made to bus-tie points and connectors with the Crack build. The 888 has decent thermal mass compared to micro-irons, and excellent temperature recovery.

I use the Hakko FM-206 for most of my serious work, since the one unit gives me multiple hand-pieces and lets me swap from standard to micro-irons, run a dedicated desoldering tool and have hot-air on hand (useful both for SMT stuff, rework and, of course, heat-shrink) all at the same time.

But there’s an 888 at the other end of the bench and also one of Weller’s digital micro-iron stations.

Good tools make the work MUCH easier!

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Yeah, I find leaded much easier to work with. I just feel a little weird intentionally bringing lead into my home.

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Paint dried, today I’ll put it together and try and start the soldering process.

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Good luck!

And, seriously, if you haven’t already - get rid of the lead-free solder you bought and get some normal leaded 60/40 … you’ll have a MUCH easier time with it.

You should have seen the look on Doc B’s face when I asked him if he had to use lead-free solder as part of his kit-building service/option …

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These are the two I have now, which should be in line with what you said works best, I had to go digging in my tool box to find them, lead free will be given to a not so good friend lol


This thread is an inspiration towards possibly applying my copper-foil stained glass soldering skills in another direction.
I’ve been wanting a tube amp forever, so building this one (that’s so highly regarded with Sennheiser cans) seems like something I could get behind.
My 100 watt Weller iron is major overkill for electronic work, so I think a variable temp soldering station and some “helping hands” would be a good place to start.
Perhaps start out with some cables for practise, just to ensure I don’t screw up the amp.

I haven’t read the whole thread yet so don’t know if a place to buy the kit is listed?

This has a lot of good info in regards to the bottlehead crack. It wasn’t as hard as I built it up to be, I think you would be fine building one with the resources at hand.