Big Bottle Audio BB3 Tube Phonostage

jdjohn
jdjohn Posts: 2,963
After seeing several positive comments about this phonostage on various forums, I got on the waiting list back in December 2021. The build for my unit started in March of this year, and I finally received the finished product a couple of weeks ago.

These are built individually by a chap in the UK under the dba of Big Bottle Audio. The BB3 is basically the Mk3 of his tube phonostage. It utilizes two PCC88 tubes, and one ECC83/12AX7 (or optionally, a 6N2P). Stock tubes are two Matsushita for the PCC88 sockets, and one Psvane ECC83.

Here are some pics:
s7fxptp2z721.jpg
fdt8aur4czvs.jpg
md2p07fb6s39.jpg
euvimgg5tifz.jpg

I like the simplicity and spaciousness of the interior. There are no dip switches for loading options...just one MM/MC flip switch on the rear panel, and two (R/L) RCA jacks for impedance loading plugs for MC. Capacitance is determined when ordering to spec, but 97pF was the lowest he could go for me. Obviously, those Audyn caps in the signal path are no joke...and they can be upgraded/changed by the user, if desired.

My geographic location has always made me subject to RFI from a somewhat nearby FM transmitter, but RFI has NOT been an issue with this unit, which is quite a relief. Perhaps tube components make this less-likely of being an issue, or simply the added space provides more shielding.

Speaking of tubes...naturally, the tube rolling has begun. At this point, I have a couple of vintage Telefunken ECC83 tubes in-house for experimentation, plus a Valvo 45 degree halo getter, for testing in that slot. Also, I have a pair of Siemens PCC88 in-transit from Germany.

My current reference piece is a Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista Vinyl phonostage. Comparing to the BB3: the feature-set on the Nu-Vista is far above the BB3, with both balanced and unbalanced outputs, plus a myriad of loading options. The BB3 basically only has an MM/MC switch, and impedance RCA loading jacks on the rear panel.

As for MM (w/capacitance at the default 97pF), I will give the nod to the BB3, when matched properly with an MM cart. Trying a Grace F9 (with SoundSmith replacement stylus), I find the BB3 to be more dynamic, have better separation, and a more accurate tonal balance than the Nu-Vista. In general terms, I find the Nu-Vista to be more polite (which is not necessarily a bad thing), with the BB3 being more visceral and impactful. Of course, the key here is getting a proper capacitance load match for the MM cart involved. The fixed 97pF on my BB3 limited my MM cart choices, but I knew that beforehand, and have options available, which is always good.

For moving coil carts, I should probably withhold judgement at this point. The default MC impedance load (with no optional loading plugs) is 1,000 ohms (rather high), so I'm having to order parts for, and build, loading plugs that will better match the MC carts choices I have. There is math involved! Fortunately, I think the default 1K ohm load makes it easier to choose additive/incremental resistors (in parallel) in order to obtain the desired overall load.

In the end, I think Big Bottle Audio is a worthy, yet small, boutique brand to consider. One of his latest incarnations is a 'unity-gain' preamp, which (in my limited experience) equates to a passive preamp.
"This may not matter to you, but it does to me for various reasons, many of them illogical or irrational, but the vinyl hobby is not really logical or rational..." - member on Vinyl Engine
"Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to." - Cicero, in Gladiator
Regarding collectibles: "It's not who gets it. It's who gets stuck with it." - Jimmy Fallon
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Comments

  • pitdogg2
    pitdogg2 Posts: 24,355
    PCC 88 ... 6dj8, 7dj8, 6922 ??
  • jdjohn
    jdjohn Posts: 2,963
    Siemens 7DJ8 is what I've ordered...is this just semantics???
    "This may not matter to you, but it does to me for various reasons, many of them illogical or irrational, but the vinyl hobby is not really logical or rational..." - member on Vinyl Engine
    "Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to." - Cicero, in Gladiator
    Regarding collectibles: "It's not who gets it. It's who gets stuck with it." - Jimmy Fallon
  • mhardy6647
    mhardy6647 Posts: 32,783
    edited June 2022
    Big Bottle seems like an ironic name for a company/product using 9 pin miniature tubes.
    I am just sayin'. :#

    You know, when I think of a Big Bottle, I am thinkin' more along the lines of, say, an 845 -- or two. ;)

    e9mqjadxo6ro.jpg

    Wouldn't make a very good amplifier for a phono stage, though. :#

  • mhardy6647
    mhardy6647 Posts: 32,783
    edited June 2022
    jdjohn wrote: »
    Siemens 7DJ8 is what I've ordered...is this just semantics???

    Yes and no. The ECC is a European designation; 6DJ8 is the US equivalent. I think these tubes were developed in Europe -- but I am not expert on them.
    A 7DJ8, of course, is made for a 7V, series string filament supply. In theory, operating these at 6.3V filament voltage will decrease their useful life, but for all I know the filament construction of the 7 and 6 V versions of this tube maybe identical! :p

    FWIW, I'd probably start here if I were interested in which end is up vis-a-vis these high mu twin triodes.
    vy7m0vtepkbk.png
    https://worldradiohistory.com/Archive-All-Audio/Archive-Vacuum-Tube-Valley/Vacuum-Tube-Valley-Issue-07.pdf
  • pitdogg2
    pitdogg2 Posts: 24,355
    jdjohn wrote: »
    Siemens 7DJ8 is what I've ordered...is this just semantics???

    I was just curious as to what they used. As doc said the the ECC is a European designation and I was wondering what they used as all three fall under the ecc88 banner.
  • ZLTFUL
    ZLTFUL Posts: 5,638
    mhardy6647 wrote: »
    Big Bottle seems like an ironic name for a company/product using 9 pin miniature tubes.
    I am just sayin'. :#

    You know, when I think of a Big Bottle, I am thinkin' more along the lines of, say, an 845 -- or two. ;)

    e9mqjadxo6ro.jpg

    Wouldn't make a very good amplifier for a phono stage, though. :#

    Why you old son of a such and such...I was just coming to make a similar observation! :D
    "Some people find it easier to be conceited rather than correct."

    "Unwad those panties and have a good time man. We're all here to help each other, no matter how it might appear." DSkip
  • Clipdat
    Clipdat Posts: 12,489
    Sounds better than Little Bottle Audio.
  • jdjohn
    jdjohn Posts: 2,963
    Too late for me to edit the subject title, but it's actually one word - Bigbottle. My understanding is that it's a collaborative effort between two guys with the monikers of Bigman and Firebottle. I guess Fireman was too generic :/

    I'll have to ask the builder about the voltage on the PCC88 sockets.
    "This may not matter to you, but it does to me for various reasons, many of them illogical or irrational, but the vinyl hobby is not really logical or rational..." - member on Vinyl Engine
    "Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to." - Cicero, in Gladiator
    Regarding collectibles: "It's not who gets it. It's who gets stuck with it." - Jimmy Fallon
  • mhardy6647
    mhardy6647 Posts: 32,783
    ZLTFUL wrote: »
    mhardy6647 wrote: »
    Big Bottle seems like an ironic name for a company/product using 9 pin miniature tubes.
    I am just sayin'. :#

    You know, when I think of a Big Bottle, I am thinkin' more along the lines of, say, an 845 -- or two. ;)

    e9mqjadxo6ro.jpg

    Wouldn't make a very good amplifier for a phono stage, though. :#

    Why you old son of a such and such...I was just coming to make a similar observation! :D


    I'd say that we must think alike -- but I decided I didn't want to insult you! :#

    ;)
  • mhardy6647
    mhardy6647 Posts: 32,783
    Clipdat wrote: »
    Sounds better than Little Bottle Audio.

    bylrvbog3bub.png
  • heiney9
    heiney9 Posts: 25,016
    pitdogg2 wrote: »
    PCC 88 ... 6dj8, 7dj8, 6922 ??

    I believe you mean ECC88? = 6Dj8, 6922 But to be honest I've not been immersed in tubes for quite some time so I'd have to look it up.

    PCC88 is not a common tube used in pre-amps, etc. Maybe an ECC88 can be subbed? Have to do some research. I never owned anything that used ECC88, 6922, 6DJ8 so I don't know a lot because I didn't need to...lol

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass Pass Labs XA25 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Supreme DAC | MIT Shotgun S1 | Pangea AC14SE MKII | Legend L600 | BlueSound Node 3 - Tubes add soul!
  • pitdogg2
    pitdogg2 Posts: 24,355
    edited June 2022
    heiney9 wrote: »
    pitdogg2 wrote: »
    PCC 88 ... 6dj8, 7dj8, 6922 ??

    I believe you mean ECC88? = 6Dj8, 6922 But to be honest I've not been immersed in tubes for quite some time so I'd have to look it up.

    PCC88 is not a common tube used in pre-amps, etc. Maybe an ECC88 can be subbed? Have to do some research. I never owned anything that used ECC88, 6922, 6DJ8 so I don't know a lot because I didn't need to...lol

    H9

    Jody in the first post mentioned that was the tubes. That is why I was questioning Brock.
    It utilizes two PCC88 tubes, and one ECC83/12AX7

    If you Google pcc88 it comes up with 7DJ8 I was double checking if he fat fingered 😉
  • jdjohn
    jdjohn Posts: 2,963
    edited June 2022
    I'm sure Ivan was simply responding to what I posted, but indeed, this phonostage uses two PCC88 tubes. But Brock is correct, they are not common.
    "This may not matter to you, but it does to me for various reasons, many of them illogical or irrational, but the vinyl hobby is not really logical or rational..." - member on Vinyl Engine
    "Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to." - Cicero, in Gladiator
    Regarding collectibles: "It's not who gets it. It's who gets stuck with it." - Jimmy Fallon
  • pitdogg2
    pitdogg2 Posts: 24,355
    pitdogg2 wrote: »
    jdjohn wrote: »
    Siemens 7DJ8 is what I've ordered...is this just semantics???

    I was just curious as to what they used. As doc said the the ECC is a European designation and I was wondering what they used as all three fall under the ecc88 banner.

    I need to correct this while we are correcting 😜
    When I originally searched one sight listed all 3 as ecc88 I feel it was wrong as it really encompasses 6DJ8 and 6922.
    PCC88 is the 7DJ8.
    Some have stated that you can sub a 7DJ8 for the 6DJ8 once again I'm not intelligent enough on this to form an opinion.
    😎
  • heiney9
    heiney9 Posts: 25,016
    IIRC, the first number of an American tube designation denotes the voltage, hence 12AX7, etc is a 12 volt tube, 6Dj8 is a 6 volt tube and 7Dj8 is a 7 volt tube. It must have a characteristic that works well with a phono stage or maybe they have a good supply of them and they can modify a 6DJ8 circuit using the 7DJ8. B)

    I did read awhile back some of the small tube gear builders sometimes built a circuit that uses a tube they can get in large supply and/or something more cost effective. Not saying that's what's going on here, but the PCC88 is not really all that common for audio/gain stage use........but I'm not a builder of tube circuits...lol

    I wasn't trying to correct anyone, just adding my "foggy" .02c since it has been awhile since I was immersed in tube land. :) .

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass Pass Labs XA25 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Supreme DAC | MIT Shotgun S1 | Pangea AC14SE MKII | Legend L600 | BlueSound Node 3 - Tubes add soul!
  • jdjohn
    jdjohn Posts: 2,963
    I have posed the question to the UK builder of this phonostage about the differences between 7DJ8 and 6DJ8 tunes for PCC88 application. Stay tuned.
    "This may not matter to you, but it does to me for various reasons, many of them illogical or irrational, but the vinyl hobby is not really logical or rational..." - member on Vinyl Engine
    "Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to." - Cicero, in Gladiator
    Regarding collectibles: "It's not who gets it. It's who gets stuck with it." - Jimmy Fallon
  • heiney9
    heiney9 Posts: 25,016
    The build, parts and case look top notch. Nice piece of gear

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass Pass Labs XA25 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Supreme DAC | MIT Shotgun S1 | Pangea AC14SE MKII | Legend L600 | BlueSound Node 3 - Tubes add soul!
  • pitdogg2
    pitdogg2 Posts: 24,355
    All good Brock. If someone stumbled upon this thread I just wanted to clarify a bit.

    You're correct in the first number being the voltage.

    In the last few years many have advocated the use of very similar tubes as a substitute, I'll reference 12sn7 for the 6sn7, does it work? I've no idea. I used 6bl7 and 6bx7 for substitutes per Brent Jesse's advice. He sent me a pair of each in triple mica's from the mid 40's. They were cheaper and worked very well. In old tube manual's for TV's they were recommended over 5692's for whatever reason.

    The old 12sn7 tubes can be dirt cheap and plentiful at times. I guess it makes it attractive. The Prices have made a good leap in price since I was buying 6sn7 tubes. Not much of a leap to think the 6dj8 and 7dj8 at first look could also.




  • heiney9
    heiney9 Posts: 25,016
    I do have to tell you a story about Brent Jesse. Great tube seller, very knowledgeable. But I bought one of his odd substitutions he recommended and it didn't work. Something like a 12DT7 or some other oddball replacement ( I don't remember exactly). I did my own research as to why it didn't work to find the pin layout was different. I emailed him all the info and he thanked me and took the substitution recommendation off the website...lol

    So even the "pro's" make a mistake now and then....

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass Pass Labs XA25 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Supreme DAC | MIT Shotgun S1 | Pangea AC14SE MKII | Legend L600 | BlueSound Node 3 - Tubes add soul!
  • jdjohn
    jdjohn Posts: 2,963
    You guys are operating well above my pay grade when it comes to tubes/valves, but let's try to keep it relevant to this to thread.
    "This may not matter to you, but it does to me for various reasons, many of them illogical or irrational, but the vinyl hobby is not really logical or rational..." - member on Vinyl Engine
    "Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to." - Cicero, in Gladiator
    Regarding collectibles: "It's not who gets it. It's who gets stuck with it." - Jimmy Fallon
  • invalid
    invalid Posts: 1,245
    You can substitute a 7DJ8 in a 6DJ8 circuit if the tube isn't run too hot ( maximum cathode emissions)
  • mhardy6647
    mhardy6647 Posts: 32,783
    edited June 2022
    The recent posts are all about the filament voltage, and very much on point to discussing tubes that can be used in a given circuit.
    I think it was mentioned above, but the first letter in the European tube type designation relates to the filament voltage.

    It's kind of an important parameter ;)

    54fzaanb7dme.png
    https://www.diyaudio.com/community/threads/heater-wiring-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly.211731/page-2

    As an aside, I am still on the hunt for the original source of that graph.
    It's from an RCA study (apparently) and it shows the somewhat counterintuitive result that running a tube at a slightly higher than spec filament voltage has a relatively small effect on its useful life, but running it at a lower voltage results in a more precipitous drop in tube life!

    PS Note that the y-axis on that graph is logarithmic. The drop off of tube life at slightly lower than spec'd filament voltages is very steep! :o
  • jdjohn
    jdjohn Posts: 2,963
    edited June 2022
    mhardy6647 wrote: »
    The recent posts are all about the filament voltage, and very much on point to discussing tubes that can be used in a given circuit.
    I think it was mentioned above, but the first letter in the European tube type designation relates to the filament voltage.

    It's kind of an important parameter ;)
    So the PCC88 is a 7V tube, and the ECC88 is 6V. I reckon the ECC83/12AX7 doubles-down then somehow to get to 12V?
    "This may not matter to you, but it does to me for various reasons, many of them illogical or irrational, but the vinyl hobby is not really logical or rational..." - member on Vinyl Engine
    "Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to." - Cicero, in Gladiator
    Regarding collectibles: "It's not who gets it. It's who gets stuck with it." - Jimmy Fallon
  • pitdogg2
    pitdogg2 Posts: 24,355
    edited June 2022
    Good stuff in that link Doc, very good stuff indeed.
    jdjohn wrote: »
    I reckon the ECC83/12AX7 doubles-down then somehow to get to 12V?

    I believe it is two 6.3v to get the voltage for 12xx7 tubes.

    It is very interesting that less kills quicker. One would think that less would extend the life of the filiment somewhat verses more than the rated voltage.

    I do know that when testing tubes one should ALWAYS check voltage FIRST. I also know when testing 6sn7's and 12xx7 that the 12v setting will make your 6sn7 life span last just seconds..... :smiley:

  • mhardy6647
    mhardy6647 Posts: 32,783
    edited June 2022
    jdjohn wrote: »
    mhardy6647 wrote: »
    The recent posts are all about the filament voltage, and very much on point to discussing tubes that can be used in a given circuit.
    I think it was mentioned above, but the first letter in the European tube type designation relates to the filament voltage.

    It's kind of an important parameter ;)
    So the PCC88 is a 7V tube, and the ECC88 is 6V. I reckon the ECC83/12AX7 doubles-down then somehow to get to 12V?
    @jdjohn I promise I won't stay in this rabbit hole for much longer! :#
    "We" can start a thread on tube operating points and parameters if anyone's interested. :)

    The 12AX7/ECC83 and its kin are called 12 volt tubes because they do have a 12 volt filament (heater)*... but the filament has a "center tap" (which is just what it sounds like -- a connection exactly halfway between the two ends of the heater).
    If the two halves of the heater are wired in series, the heater voltage required to operate the tube is 12 volts. If that center tap is used to wire the two halves of the heater in parallel, the heater voltage required is 6 volts.

    yxtqbmsgw0rg.png
    The heater connects to the circuit through pins 4 and 5. Pin 9 is that center tap.

    The 6DJ8/ECC88/6922/7308 is a "high mu" dual triode in one bottle, just like a 12AX7. The pinouts of the two tubes are different in one important way: the lack of that center tap on the 6DJ8/ECC88 heater. The 6DJ8/ECC88 has to be connected to a 6 volt filament supply. It's not a 12 volt heater in these tubes!

    nqpy55xomzpz.png
    Pins 4 and 5 connect to the two ends of the (6 volt) heater. There is no center tap, and pin 9 of the tube isn't connected to anything. :|

    Oh, not to muddy the waters, but the "nominal" heater voltage for a "6 volt" tube is 6.3 volts, and for a "12 volt" tube, it's 12.6 volts.

    OK, I'll stop now.
    :D

    _____________-
    * Actually, a 12 volt heater, since the 12AX7 is a "modern" tube (it's all relative!) with a separate heater and cathode. The old "direct heated" tubes, like a 2A3, have a combined heater and cathode which is, technically, called a "filament" (as in a light bulb filament). :)

  • heiney9
    heiney9 Posts: 25,016
    Doc Hardy, don't make me go down the tube rabbit hole again..........my addiction/appreciation was really bad. I've gone cold turkey for quite some time........but reading all your posts, I'm starting to twitch.....lol.

    Seriously, I had fun on/during my 10 year tube journey and I hunted/bought/listened to just about every 6SL7, ECC81, ECC82, ECC83 and many variants that there were. I quite hunting for tubes cold turkey about 3-4 years ago. The addiction was real.

    Going to keep a couple tube integrated's, but I'm revamping the main rig and I will no longer use tubes. I'm going to simplify, get back to basics with really good gear.

    Anyway to the OP sorry for more derail, but that's how these threads go sometimes. Enjoy your new piece of gear, tube rolling is a blast, but be careful of the rabbit hole addiction...........it's expensive...LOL

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass Pass Labs XA25 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Supreme DAC | MIT Shotgun S1 | Pangea AC14SE MKII | Legend L600 | BlueSound Node 3 - Tubes add soul!
  • jdjohn
    jdjohn Posts: 2,963
    heiney9 wrote: »
    Anyway to the OP sorry for more derail, but that's how these threads go sometimes. Enjoy your new piece of gear, tube rolling is a blast, but be careful of the rabbit hole addiction...........it's expensive...LOL

    H9
    No worries. I don't know why I was so sensitive about that the other night. I have seen much worse de-rails! There is some good information being shared here.
    "This may not matter to you, but it does to me for various reasons, many of them illogical or irrational, but the vinyl hobby is not really logical or rational..." - member on Vinyl Engine
    "Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to." - Cicero, in Gladiator
    Regarding collectibles: "It's not who gets it. It's who gets stuck with it." - Jimmy Fallon
  • mhardy6647
    mhardy6647 Posts: 32,783
    jdjohn wrote: »
    heiney9 wrote: »
    Anyway to the OP sorry for more derail, but that's how these threads go sometimes. Enjoy your new piece of gear, tube rolling is a blast, but be careful of the rabbit hole addiction...........it's expensive...LOL

    H9
    No worries. I don't know why I was so sensitive about that the other night. I have seen much worse de-rails! ...
    More often than not precipitated by me. :blush:
  • How are you getting on with it?

  • jdjohn
    jdjohn Posts: 2,963
    bigbottle wrote: »
    How are you getting on with it?
    Is this Oliver, himself?!?
    "This may not matter to you, but it does to me for various reasons, many of them illogical or irrational, but the vinyl hobby is not really logical or rational..." - member on Vinyl Engine
    "Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to." - Cicero, in Gladiator
    Regarding collectibles: "It's not who gets it. It's who gets stuck with it." - Jimmy Fallon