Croft Series VC amplfier and Vitale SC preamplifier

CROFT Pre-Amp and Power Amp or sound paradise

I donīt know how it came about or why, but many readers and associates think that I donīt like valve amplifiers.

Let me inform those of you who think this way that for many years I had amplifiers that used EL 34, KT 88's, etc..

Many valve amplifiers tested by the club really seduced me and if I didnīt end up owning them it was only down to the lack of money and space and to prevent my home looking like a stereo warehouse.

Not only do I like them, but I can also recognise their tremendous virtues.

Not many of my readers know that when I was a manager for Oliver in Brazil, (a Roland Group enterprise), I vigorously defended the production of valve amplifiers for guitars.

I was even on the brink of open confrontation with the engineering department, trying to prove the superiority of Fender, Marshall, Chorus Roland and Mesa Boogie, when compared to any solid state PA amplifiers.

In a last bid attempt to quash this false impression, I offered to test the Croft Hi- Fidelity valve amplifiers, as I had keenly followed their progress for many years so that I had a burning curiousity to audition them myself.

The Croft arrived with my return from the audio fayres and fuelled my enthusiasm to listen to records in an uncompromising situation. As the distributor sent them already set up, all I had to do was to put them in situ and make the necessary connections.

Both amplifiers have a somewhat "70īs" design. Their wood front with gilt knobs certainly will not please everyone.

The Croft pre-amp has three audio inputs and one for vinyl records for use with Moving Magnet pickups.

There is no remote control and, to the despair of many, the volume control is independent for the right and left channels. After two days, I confess to having already overcome this small obstacle.

Nowadays, when we talk about pre-amps, we usually think of a passive type. However, one look inside the Crofts instantly tell us what we really need to know, revealing a pair of ECC83 valves, Oscon capacitors throughout the entire circuit, point-to-point soldering, silver wire and ALPS potentiometers.

The power amplifier uses 8 EL84 valves, a custom made double C-core output transformers, and, once again, silver wire in the point-to-point soldering.

The stated specifications of the power amplifier is 30 watts per channel into 8 ohms.

For the evaluation, we mostly used the following components:-

Digital sources: SACD Sony 555 ES, CD player Jupiter (see Test 2 in this edition) and DVD Q 50 (playing CD player).

Interconnecting links: Cabo Baron (see First Impressions in this edition), Siltech SQ 58 and The First Metal Screen.

Loudspeaker cables: Ocos, Wire World Equinox and Bedroek from Audioquest.

The loudspeakers were: Kef Reference One (see Test 3 in this edition), Elac - Elegance 340 and Dynaudio Audience 52.

The first conclusion I arrived at after two days of listening was that the Croft appears to have much more than 30 watts per channel. The same impression was formed when tested with loudspeakers between 86 - 87 dB sensitivity, working very well with this amplifier.

Those who expect a relaxed behaviour from this pair will surely be disappointed. Both act with great impact and firmness. The music is treated delicately, with rhythm, punch and amazing transparency.

Many systems costing twice as much, will have problems keeping up with the impetuosity, the warmth or the refinement of the Crofts.

I really made them work hard, I listened to everything, even - hold your breath! - Megadeth!! And they did not throw in the towel!! They may have weakened at the knees, they may have been thrown against the ropes, but they did not fall.

They will play classical music masterfully. Although I listened to at least half of my favourite lyrical songs, I received a beautiful surprise at every listening.

The sound is clear, natural and very harmonious. You feel enraptured with their refinement and detail of the atmosphere, stages, texture and the physical presence in good recordings.

The best result was achieved when I mated the Rega Jupiter with Siltech interconnects between the CD player and the pre-amp, and Metal Screen between the pre-amp and the power amp, and Ocos interconnects between the power amp and the Elac loudspeakers.

Oh, readers, that was not impressive... it was enchanting!!

The music flowed in such a liquid, immediate way that, in certain sessions, I was truly moved.

I must tell you that this complete configuration gave one of the best synergies Iīve found in the last three years.

In a room of up to 25sqm it could be the dream system of all of us who love music.

The power of seduction of this system was so great that I had no desire to try out any other combinations. I call it Sound Paradise.

The way it redefined the acoustics of my listening room revealed the star performance capabilities of this amplifier combination.

"THE POWER OF SEDUCTION OF THIS COMBINATION IS TREMENDOUS"

It is interesting how nothing is permanent in the audiophile market. When everything points to the explosive prolifertation of integrated amplifiers, allowing us to eliminate the cost of extra wiring and resolve the problem of limited space, a "beautiful" solution appears on the market, pre-amp and power amp in separate cabinets. Happily, this pair is within a much more accessible price range than its peers and predecessors, which places them in a privileged position in the market place.

If you asked me if the Crofts attend to the needs of any audiophile, the answer is ...NO.

Within this diverse consumer universe, there is a parcel that doesnīt open its door to the convenience of a remote control and much less to enough wattage to force you to leave the house.

Paradoxically, within this same universe, there is a parcel that saves the customary pilgrimage in search of the Holy Grail of 'perfect sound' simply allowing you to listen to your records with warmth, life and emotion.

For such pilgrims, not only do I recommend a careful listening of these pieces at the Hi-Fi Show, (or better still, at a distributorīs showroom), but I also suggest that they should be placed at the head of the list of highly recommended products.

If you havenīt yet come to believe that paradise truly exists, substitute it for a Sound Oasis. The Crofts can really quench the thirst of those who truly love music.

Croft Pre and Power Amp 

  • Tone balance 7.5
  • Sound stage 7.7
  • Texture 8.0
  • Dynamics 6.5
  • Transients 7.0
  • Harmonic body 8.0
  • Appearance 5.2
  • Musicality 8.5

Total 61.4

 


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