Croft Series V-C Amp reviewed

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As expected, the taste by-pass continues unabated at Croft. The Series Vc power amplifier and the Vitale SC pre-amp arrived in the new finish called "Antique Gold" - beyond question the most hideous colour scheme I've EVER seen applied to hi-fi equipment. Textured and looking like beaten, aged metal...the last time I saw anything similar was on a souvenir hookah in a street bazaar in Istanbul. If you're picking out a system for a brothel in Babylon, by all means order this option. If not, stick with the black or the wood. Tacky? I've seen more tasteful offerings from Frederick's of Hollywood.

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A thought: this is absolutely for the Las Vegas CES. Croft should donate a set to Caesar's Palace, but the latter might decline on the grounds that it's too vulgar.

Which is a shame, because this latest pairing from Croft is nothing short of remarkable. And you don't know how much it hurts me to say that, for the package commits no less than two of Kessler's Kardinal Sins. The ugliness you know about. The second is that Croft persists in using separate left and right volume controls which are impossible to set equally without using an SPL meter and test tones. (Go on: do it by eye and by feel, and then see if you can get it out of the back of your mind that you're probably off by a couple of dB...) But after a decade-and-a-half of reviewing Croftware, I'm learning that it comes with the territory, just like Mercedes-Benz's foot-activated parking brakes, the non-instinctive operation of Philips remote controls and Labour's need to rape taxpayers.

At the heart of this review is the Series Vc power amplifier, because the pre-amp is actually a hot-rodded version of the model I reviewed last year. (See sidebar.) The Vc uses the exact same case as the Vitale, Croft sensibly ameliorating costs by not tooling up twice. This, for the last time, is the reply to those who whine, "But the inside of the Vitale is virtually empty!" Clearly, GC knows how to get the most out of the least; the low weight is down to a lean and mean circuit, and the wide open spaces are merely the result of using the same 17.5x14x4.25in (WDH) case, .

Unlike the Amps Which Made Croft Famous, those devoid of output transformers*, the Series Vc is the latest incarnation of the company's entry-level, transformer-coupled, ultralinear stereo power amp. Its first stage is a simple phase splitter stage, designed to require only two coupling capacitors (paper-in-oil, natch) in the entire circuit. Bias is fixed, and the valve complement is a pair of ECF82s driving eight EL84s to yield 30W/ch. As with all Croft units, it's hard-wired throughout, using a mix of PTFE-coated silver wires and PTFE coated solid-core copper wires. And the entire unit is a showcase for Croft's in-house designed double-C-core transformers.

Differing from the Vitale only in the simplicity of the front panel, the Vc has a Croft badge back-illuminated in red - more whorehouse chic - and a tiny on/off toggle switch in the lower right hand corner. The back contains gold phono sockets, multi-way binding posts and an IEC mains input. That's it. The unit weighs a solid but not overly awe-inspiring 8kg. It runs cool, but then the top is absolutely filled with ventilation slots. A good thing, too: you're less tempted to vomit on it, knowing that the outcome would mean an unwanted light show.

Although the unit is only rated at 30W/ch, that didn't stop me from trying it with Wilson WATT Puppy System 6 and the hungry Avalon Avatars. It rose to both occasions. But then I remembered: GC is a man after my own heart. Aside from his appreciation of horns (we're all allowed one perversion), Croft is a long-time supporter of both the original Quad ESL and the BBC LS3/5A. And both took to the Series Vc like ducks to the proverbial, especially the latter.

Sorry to keep going on about the now-obsolete Beeb mini-monitor, but the upcoming survey has overtaken my life; my listening room looks like the old Rogers warehouse. As I had plenty of differing pairs to hand, it was a simple case of disconnecting the Krell FPB300 and slotting in the Crofts. And, wow!, does the Vc love that baby! I even had a Croft rival visiting during the sessions, an LS3/5A user, and he was staggered by the result. What the Vc does is extract a shade more solid, palpable bass from the wee system, at the same time lessening the distraction caused by that hump around 125Hz.

Now I'm not, in my wildest musings, suggesting that Croft designed this amplifier to drive LS3/5As. In fact, I suspect he used some vile horn system, as is the norm for tube amp makes in this most odd of audio eras. (OK, OK, I still have a soft spot for smaller Lowthers and the occasional Klipsch...) Rather, what we have is a blissfully accidental synergy which - by sheer serendipity - found a Vc in the hands of someone who hooked it up to LS3/5As.

Continue reading about the Croft Series V-C on Page 2.

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