mrwippy

Smash...

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Now running with an ALPs pot - wiring was a bit fiddly but managed in the end. Wouldn't say that it made an improvement to overall sound quality, but at least I no longer have an annoying 'scratchy' sounding pot.

Paul

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I have to say that this is the first Bottlehead product that I’ve not really liked that much on completion, indeed I feel it is rather flawed in its ‘standard’ configuration. Now considering I use all Bottlehead products in the amplification chain (Seduction Phono Pre, Quickie Pre and Paramour II Power amps) I had hoped that it would slip seamlessly in replacing my Quickie, well it wasn’t really the case. It was also one of the less successful kits from another aspect as well in that there has probably been a few component changes an these didn’t really fit the top-plate too well. I also found the supplied RCA sockets to be rather poor and basically didn’t meet my expectations – all fairly easy to resolve, but IMO I shouldn’t have had to.

So what don’t I like about the finished product, well first off let me say that there is a stunning pre amplifier just waiting to be set free here, you can hear the inherent ‘rightness’ in the way music is presented. Going back to my review of the original Quickie where I tried to explain how I felt the Pre presented the music;

I find many systems give you music delivered;

“…a bit like a jigsaw - once you completed it you can see the picture but you are only too aware of all the parts…”

But when using the Quickie;

“…this little pre just delivers the picture - but that picture is a bit like 'post-impressionist' art almost verging on 'expressionism' where the emotion, colour, light and shade is more important than getting all the detail perfect…”

Just so much more musical!

The Smash follows this trend but is more vibrant, with more delicacy, depth & texture, however, due to the high output of the pre I have to use -14db of attenuation to reduce inherent noise, a consequence of this is that to get to my preferred listening level I have to turn the volume up beyond half way and at about half way I find there is an ‘edge’ or ‘glassiness’ to the upper mid-band and above. After quite a period of listening I feel this sounds to me to be the onset of distortion and indeed becomes quite evident as the volume increases.

In the blurb about the kit there is mention of;

“In the stock configuration of the Smash, priority was given to having complete regulation of both the filament supply and the high voltage supply. Accordingly, a balance was struck between grid bias, plate current, and load resistance to achieve good distortion performance with adequate gain and a useful amount of output...”

There is of course the Smash-up(grade) with which;

“…we are able to increase the gain, lower the distortion, and bump up the bias on the tube to allow it to accept more source voltage and provide more drive voltage from the preamp…”

On the Bottlehead forum there are quite a few instance where the solution too many of the problems regarding noise and source generated distortion (due to overloading the input?) is just to add the Smash-up, so this is where I’m now going. Indeed since I purchased mine, the Smash-up is now included within the kit and is no longer optional. This is a bit of a pain from my perspective as I’d not budgeted for the upgrade, didn’t particularly want to add the upgrade (just wanted a pre that was better than my Quickie) and I’ve had the top-plate engraved with the valve designation OD3, the upgrade replaces this with a 6SN7. From the perspective of my recommendation of the kit prior to listening to it, the build is relatively easy, and I’d be happy to have recommended it to a novice. However, after having used the pre for a month I’d consider it too flawed in basic form to recommend, but that is in the context of my system, then again it is all Bottlehead amplification, so I’d hope it is all compatible – though my Pi 7 horns are over 100db/w/mtr efficient, so noise problems have nowhere to hide.

As it is I’ll reserve judgement now until the Smash-up is installed, but this does however add a higher level of complexity to the build, so not such a novice level build perhaps. Bottlehead recommend building the kit stock initially, then adding the Smash-up later as it is far easier to troubleshoot the basic kit if there are any problems and when all is well and the Smash-up added you will know that any problems are attributable to the added Smash-up parts.

My main concern regarding the addition of the Smash-up(grade) is where it mentions “..increase the gain..” and “…provide more drive voltage from the preamp…” I’m already using -14db attenuators so not too sure how this will work out within the context of my current system.

This Sunday saw the basic Smash’s first public outing at Simon’s bake-off where I could try it out with other components rather than just my flea powered amps & high efficiency horn set-up and I have to say that I feel it acquitted itself rather well, especially plugged into 200watts of Class AB amp in the shape of Colin’s (greybeard) Luxkit Z504 driving a pair of Harbeth HL5’s. Loads of dynamics, well controlled bass, but with the sumptuous DHT detail. Indeed I felt it was actually better within this set-up than my own all Bottlehead/horn set-up which was a bit disconcerting to say the least, then again perhaps it is just that I know my system so well and I’m being overly critical being far too aware of any shortcomings. For now I reverted to using my Quickie ‘clone’ as my main pre and also thinking it’s perhaps about time I replaced the poorly stepped attenuators in my Foreplay III with and Alps stereo pot and have another listen to that – at least I’ll have something to plug all those OD3’s into!:roll:

Paul

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So the upgrade kit was dispatched a week ago, which was great news, unfortunately, even though correctly addressed it ended up in Canada :shock: why is a total mystery to all concerned, of course this was therefore undeliverable, so is now on it's way back to Bottlehead HQ to be resent.... :dunno:

Just as well I'm a patient soul and have lots to occupy my time.

Paul

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I have to say it's been awhile since I even thought about this Pre' basically after the last post above, I took the Smash out of my system and went back to my 'brick' Quickie and it was only when a few weeks ago I was clearing my workbench that I decided to actually fit the upgrade that arrived last May!

well it used to look like this;

DSCF7895_zpssugfupu9.jpg

Now it looks like this;

Sm3_zpsfynhbsfq.jpg

added a few cosmetic changes as well

Sm1_zps1pw0ywnu.jpg

needed to cover up the old OD3 valve designation as the up-grade replaces this with a 6SN7

Sm2_zps9buqmo0c.jpg

Sound quality wise, the upgrade has resolved all my problems, the 'flatulent' bass has turned into a; fast, tight, deep and detailed bass and the edginess to the treble has disappeared completely being replaced by a very detailed but at the same time smooth sound allowing great insight into the music across the board - think it's actually time to retire my Quickie at last!

Paul

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