"it’s a single-ended triode design, which many audiophiles consider the best possible type of audio amplification. Whether or not that’s true is a matter of debate, but if you want a simpler way to amplify audio, you’re gonna have to get a megaphone."
Brent Butterworth, Sound+Vision review of the Quickie
Skill Level 1 - A great place for beginners to start and for experimenters to jump off
Bottlehead hit its stride as a manufacturer of bang for the buck preamps nearly 20 years ago, with the now classic $99 Foreplay 1 line stage kit. Even though that kit has been retired for years we still get calls asking us if we sell it. We all know how much prices have inflated in the 12 years since the end of those $99 Foreplay preamp kit days. Can a great sounding $99 preamp kit still be built in 2013? We decided to figure out a way, and came up with what we think is one of the coolest new ideas in tube audio.
Introducing Quickie 1.1
With the periodic price increases from our suppliers and the relative scarcity of the power switch used in the original Quickie, we were faced with having to raise the price of the kit and deal with continual back orders. So PJ and PB revisited the original design looking at all possible areas for improvement. The goals were to maintain the $99 price point, to find a better arrangement for switching power, and to make any improvements that were learned over the past four years.
The most visible change was to use a single switch to heat the tubes and select the inputs. This makes wiring the preamp quite a bit easier, and phases out that pesky power switch. While we were at it, we replaced all the resistors in the kit with higher quality Vishay-Dale parts, and even used audio-grade cathode bypass capacitors that appear in our top of the line BeePre 300B preamp. Additional tweaks to the chassis eliminated several holes and one entire tool from production, helping to keep the price unchanged.
The result is the same exceptional sound quality with fewer parts, easier construction, and more room for upgraded parts.
Safe, long lasting battery power
The Quickie is a tube preamplifier kit with two switchable inputs that runs on batteries. Sure, battery tube preamps have been done before, but with rather non linear old car radio tubes running at low voltages that required big sealed 12 volt lead acid batteries to operate. Quickie uses a stack of 9 volt batteries to deliver triple that voltage, allowing the use of much more linear, high resolution, directly heated 3S4 tubes. The 36 volt supply is still perfectly safe - in fact we asked one of our staff to test it by grabbing the terminals of the battery supply. He couldn't feel even the tiniest tingle. The filaments of the tubes run on a couple of D cell batteries. The tubes we use draw so little current that the preamp will run for well over 100 hours before you need to replace the batteries. And you can even try rechargables in the circuit.
This is our easiest kit. The circuit is just perfect for the first time builder, because it uses so few parts and goes together in a very short time. That simplicity also makes for a very good sounding circuit, the battery power means the preamp will be super quiet and the simple wide open layout just cries out for modification with your favorite boutique audio parts. The assembly manual comes in PDF format and you can blow up the high res step by step photos of the assembly to zoom in on the tiniest details. A few sample pages from the manual can be found here.
OK, so where's the catch?
Well, batteries are not included. Why should we charge you for batteries that have been sitting on the shelf going stale when you can buy fresh batteries for discount prices at your local Costco or Radio Shack? Members of the Bottlehead community watch for the best battery deals and report them on the Bottlehead Forum. Also the kit comes without a base, just like the original Foreplay kit. You can build your own, buy a Hammond 1444-15 aluminum chassis for a few bucks from an electronics supplier like Mouser or Digi-Key, or we can sell you the same alder wood base kit we supply with our Seductiion phono preamp kit, for $40, as shown below. And the last catch is that the chassis plate is made from acrylic plastic and the colors we get are random. Actually that makes it kind of fun - you might get white pearl like the Quickie shown above, red, bright yellow, green, white or who knows?
For crying out loud, it's $99! What are you waiting for?
the Quickie sounds great, btw. I'll reserve the audiophile grade poetry for later, but per all the others before me, wow, best 100 bucks I've ever spent for something audio!
onaquark, on the Bottlehead forum
OK I am not done but wow! Am I ever having fun building the Quickie! I am about half way done having spent 1 hour per night for three nights with my sons looking over my shoulder, talking more than building really. Instructions are great! Easy to follow and I have never built anything like this before. My son says this is better than Legos. I agree.
Thanks Eileen and thanks Bottlehead.
To evaluate the Quickie’s sonic character, I compared it to the preamp stage in my Krell S-300i integrated amplifier. That’s a $2,500 piece of gear, but it has a 150-watt-per-channel stereo amp built in, four inputs, an iPod interface, remote control, a gorgeous chassis, and it comes fully assembled, so the comparison didn’t seem out of line.
What really surprised me about the Quickie is how similar it sounded to the preamp section of the S-300i. Most of the tube gear I’ve used had a somewhat soft, rolled-off treble. Given the Quickie’s primitive design, I expected it to double-down on the tube warmth thing, but it didn’t. The treble was only subtly softer than the Krell’s. Switching between the two, the difference wasn’t obvious.
OK, figure the Quickie would cost $600 to $800 if it were assembled and had a real power supply (nah, we could do it for under $500 - Doc B.). Even at that price, coming close to the Krell’s performance is pretty remarkable. Is it the magic of tubes? The simplicity of the circuit? The clean battery power? The particulate from the cigar I was smoking when I did the solder joints? Who knows?
Brent Butterworth, Sound+Vision
I normally enjoy building my amps from scratch. Researching, ordering/finding parts for them.
I wanted to try something that my 9 year old son could actually read and follow along with so I took the plunge and purchased the Quickie.
My son was really excited when it showed up. He read the manual right away (which he found a bit boring...lol, it's no comic book!!!)
The first thing we did was make the wood case for it. After that was all stained we went to work on building the Quickie.
Two easy evenings and it was done.
He did most of the work (90%) of it with me looking over his shoulder the entire time.
I only did a couple tricky solder joints and the voltage checks. (he did the resitance checks)
It fired up right away perfectly with no trouble shooting what's so ever.
After it was all said and done, he said "Well, that was easy!"
He listens to it daily, loves it. Want's to move it to his room once we build him his own power amp.
To be honest I wasn't expecting this level of performance. I am glad I ordered 2 of them for sure. Thanks to you all for this insanely easy awesome product.
Your pre-order will be charged the day the kit is ordered. We do this to allow cash in advance payment to our vendors to keep the price you pay as low as possible. We try to keep all kits in stock, but delivery can take up to 4 weeks when demand is high.