Need upgrade from Dark Voice Tube amp

I’m thinking of upgrade from my DV. Any recommendations? I heard the Bottlehead crack is the same pretty much. So i was thinking about the Feliks Echo or Elise. Also the Tor Audio amps. But i prefer to stay OTL. I want a wet sounding amp. I want a amp that changes per the tubes I put in it. So the Echo is sounding really good cause I like its price point at 800$. Is there anything else I should be looking at? I have some high quality headphones im gonna be using with it like a HD800 and Verite Closed.

Also theres’s 2 versions of the Elise. The one off the Feliks site is 1550$, but there’s another one off thats not on the Feliks site, a mk2 version. its 1999$. What’s different about them?

I feel like this post was targeted at me lol.

I own Verite Closed and HD800S. I currently have both the Bottlehead Crack w/ Speedball and the Feliks Elise MK1 in house. I have not heard the Elise enough to fully evaluate it yet, but I’m likely to sell it in the near future.

Both Darkvoice and Crack have similar circuits but use different components so that’s as true of an upgrade as you’ll get, but the speedball upgrade elevated the Crack for me in terms of resolution and speed. I might even go so far as to say I didn’t like the Crack before the speedball upgrade, though I didn’t have tubes to roll back then so different tubes probably would have changed my opinion.

You can reuse the power tubes from the DarkVoice on the Crack, and the input tubes if you use a 6SN7 to 12AU7 adapter.

So far, the Elise to me is a cleaner, warmer, richer (possibly wetter) sounding amplifier than the other two OTLs, but might be slower sounding than the Crack. I can’t AB directly right now because I don’t have the same tubes in both, so take that with a grain of salt for now. I’m using pairs of Mullard 6080 and Tung Sol 6SN7s for now.

I believe I heard a review that said the MK2 Elise has an upgraded transformer that outputs more power and less noise. I haven’t heard it so I can’t verify. I don’t know which one the Feliks site currently sells, but the one should be MK2.


The Bottlehead Crack would be closer to what you like and with a good (read: expensive) tube and the Speedball upgrade its performance will be a lot higher than, say, Feliks Echo, which is more neutral and smooth.

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If you wanna keep it

                            😤 wet 😤

like @kcrack says its mostly the Bottlehead crack. There is a specific tube though that is quite sought out for being notoriously gooey I’ve got one in my collection, I’ll see if I can find it. and I don’t mean like rolled off I mean thicc

Found it, the RCA clear top. Very much loved gooey ass tube extremely thicc midrange for reference its a 12AU7 tube so its only going to fit on a crack not the Darkvoice but something to note if you end up buying it.

If you’re going to go for that tube I would also recommend trying studio grade E80CC tubes. They really are a huge step up and always fit with 12AU7 tube sockets [no adapters required] and can be had for a good price. See linked below

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Well I must say I’m very surprised with this. I thought the Elise would be a more obvious upgrade at least.

What about Bottlehead’s other amps. Like the Crackatwoa or Mainline?

But I haven’t done any soldering in a long time. Or done anything as compilated as this. Is there anyone providing a service out there putting these together for people?

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Crackatwoa is a bigger Crack with shunt voltage regulation, among other things. It’s literally “Crack-two” so to speak. Mainline is not OTL and will sound more like a reference amplifier. I personally have not heard either.

I believe several folks on ebay or etsy put together Bottlehead amplifiers for folks but the cost of their service is not cheap.

Elise is good. Echo is likely also good. I just don’t think it will replace my Crack, personally.


Yes Headphone & Loud Speaker Amplifier Kit by TheHeadAmpBuilder

Several people here including me have gotten a crack built from James. The attention to detail and quality workmanship put into his builds are very impressive. He can also offer a full upgrade suite to really max out the crack if you’d like, upgraded caps, Cree diodes, choke, etc. To really take the BHC as far as it can go. Buy with confidence!


Great thanks! I was thinking of getting the Crackatwoa. More of an upgrade I guess

This guy charges the same as the price of the amp itself to build it. Is there a more affordable option?

I’m sure there are individuals out there that might be willing to do it for cheaper but personally I feel jame’s price is fair considering you get the peace of mind that it’s not only being built right but also to a level that you won’t have to worry about any shoddy work. His work is proven and of the best quality I’ve seen for this particular amp in wiring, soldering, finish, etc. Even the shipping is superb with the utmost care taken to package it correctly so it arrives in one piece.

If you are wanting cheaper then I would just build it yourself if it was me, at least that way if something goes wrong you know the inner workings of the amp and can fix it yourself
In my opinion if your gonna pay somebody to build it you might as well pay the right person to build it and not cheap out.


Agreed it wouldnt be cheap for someone to build it. At least you know it will be built right.