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To test my Crack’s bottom end, I searched my shelves for songs featuring the tremolo of the Fender Bass VI and similar instruments. I started with Glen Campbell’s Galveston and Wichita Lineman, moving on to Noel Redding of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The Bottlehead shines with upper mid-bass. The Burson can’t touch it. I moved on to Mark Hoppus, a brilliant bass player in a delightfully silly band, Blink-182. "What’s my Age Again?" was handled brilliantly by the Bottlehead. I moved on to the demonic AC/DC tune "Squealer." Cliff William’s menacing bass lines can sound flabby with cans. Until now only my Burson could do Williams justice. Add the Bottlehead to that list. Solo electric strings including Angus Young’s tremolo on "Live Wire" from the LP High Voltage are rendered in all their simple complexity. Geddy Lee’s crunchy Rickenbacker is full of bite and verve. Chris Squire’s "Roundabout" sounded wonderful through the Crack.

I had the privilege of seeing Steve Swallow play at Ronnie Scott’s in 2010. His electric bass is, in the world of jazz, nonpareil: dry as a bone. He plays it the way Scott LaFaro used to play his double-bass—like a guitar. I spun three CDs on which Swallow appears with mates Paul Bley (piano) and Jimmy Giuffre (clarinet, soprano sax): The Life of a Trio: Saturday; The Life of a Trio: Sunday; and Fly Away Little Bird. Again, simply wonderful. Swallow’s bass can overpower some headphones but not with the Crack.

If you have ever fallen for the guilty pleasure that is Arnold George Dorsey’s Please Release Me, take solace in the little known fact that the haunting reverb of that guitar comes from the hand of a certain Big Jim Sullivan, the world’s greatest sessions guitarist (he played on at least 55 N°.1 hits and over 1000 hits in general). The Bottlehead puts you in poorly damped reverberant Studio 2 of Abbey Road in which Dorsey (aka Englebert Humperdinck) recorded this classic of adult listening.

But enough of the ridiculous. Back to the sublime. There is a passage starting around the 3:40 mark in "Never Let Me Go" on the Keith Jarrett Standards Trio’s LP Standards, Vol. 2. Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock engage in a Tantric back and forth until the tension becomes unbearable and DeJohnette unleashes three  blistering brush salvos across his snare between 5:00 and 6:10 only to see Jarrett reenter and resolve the situation with a heavy left hand accompanied by his trademark Aspergrunts. This is alternatively a manic and soothingly hypnotic 70 seconds of music. It is a good test of an amplifier’s PRaT, its pace rhythm and timing. My sadly departed Naim 200, 202, Hicap 2 and NAPSC system nailed this passage like no other.

Most headphone amps won’t be that fast. The Burson comes close. You won’t buy a Bottlehead and expect one half of Naim’s PRaT. The Bottlehead simply could not keep up with DeJohnette’s rapid-fire brush strokes. This passage seemed utterly unremarkable through the Bottlehead. Unfortunately the same was true with an original vinyl pressing of Filles de Kilimanjaro. The battle of egos and instruments associated with this recording is legendary. Tony Williams and Miles Davis were not jamming, they were boxing. Again you wouldn’t feel that with the Crack. At the end of the day these are surface blemishes where $269 headphone amps are concerned. To appreciate the grandeur of Filles de Kilimanjaro and the magic of the Jarrett trio’s rendition of "Never Let Me Go", one must turn the Crack’s volume to eleven. Not my cup of tea.

If 6 was 9. Speaking of power, the Bottlehead has oodles of it should your ears be amenable. I have rarely felt the need to turn the dial past 9:00. But the Crack’s power is hard to control. The volume pot is probably one of the few weak parts. Even with a weak 12AU7 providing gain, there’s simply too much of it. Six can sound like nine. One must move the dial slowly and with precision lest the decibels run away. The advantage is that the Bottlehead takes the low 1V output of an iPod with no problem. I used both my iPod Classic 160GB and my iPod Touch 4th generation with files in Apple Lossless connected via the amazing Oyaide HPC-35R 1.3 meter 3.5 mm to RCA interconnect. I also bypassed the iPod’s internal DAC and connected it to my Pure Audio, surprisingly with less success.