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Phono Stages - Croft Acoustics

The output level from a turntable is lower than other "line level" music sources (e.g. hi-fi streamer, CD player), so to use a turntable, your hi-fi amplifier needs to have a "turntable" or "phono" input, which indicates it has a built in phono stage. However, these are generally built to cost (a tick on the features list) rather than being optimised for performance. As such, we recommend using a dedicated phono stage for the best sound quality. We are passionate about vinyl and analog, so if you need advice on matching a phono stage to your turntable and cartridge, please call or e-mail for advice.

Established over 25 years ago, Croft Acoustics has an extensive portfoilo of handmade bespoke amplifiers of founder Glenn Croft's own designs. A hallmark of cottage industry UK hi-fi, Croft Acoustics make some of the finest sounding valve amplifiers we've heard.

Despite Croft's first commercial product being a tubed amplifier, Glenn has dedicated over 20 years of his professional life to developing hybrid amps which are minimalistic in a purist sense with solid-state output sections.

Croft amplifier products are unique in that they employ this hybrid technology – combining the benefits of valves and solid state technology. Models include the popular Micro 25 pre amps and Series 7 power amps. These models are all no compromise designs, meticulously handmade with the absolute highest regard for preserving signal purity.

Throughout the years, Croft Acoustics has garnered much praise. By 1985, after only a few years of trading, HiFi News' Ken Kessler summed up the Croft power amplifiers as 'frighteningly good, an incredible achievement from so small a firm." A year later, the Croft Series 4 amps were being compared "with models at two or three times the price."

In 2002, HiFi+ proclaimed that "over twenty something years Croft has been one of Hi-Fi's better kept secrets, supplying sparklingly superior sound quality at surprisingly realistic prices. Its quirky individuality should ensure it remains a small specialist/enthusiast brand, but in truth I wouldn't really want it any other way."

In recent years, Croft have expanded their range from pre and power amplifiers to include integrated amplifiers and phono stages – all which are indisputably Croft products, carrying the same passion for quality audio that has been the hallmark of Croft for the past 25 years. At Croft everything is about enjoyment of music and value. This is why Glenn Croft has earned a reputation as one of the most innovative and technically gifted designers of fine valve electronics.

Some turntables feature an on board phono stage, which will allow for direct connection to an amplifier. Many amplifiers also include a “phono” amplifier internally, enabling a direct connection from a turntable. However, as mentioned, there is a wide range of separate standalone phono stages available, varying in price, size and quality to suit every taste and budget. Using a good quality separate unit can have a profound effect on the overall sound and tonality of your system, and can also be used to augment and adjust a system which is tonally too bright or too lacklustre. For example, a system which is too bright may benefit from a valve-based phono stage to remove some harshness and to offer more tonal warmth to your music. We appreciate that matching your kit can be a complicated and daunting process, so our knowledgeable team is always happy to offer recommendations or to arrange a demonstration.

The separation of components and units is a key technique in hi-fi. Power supplies are typically noisy and produce unwanted resonance, which can interfere with audio signals and the sound you achieve from your hi-fi. Separate pre and power amplifiers are preferable to integrated amplifiers, as the separation of power supplies for the pre and power circuitry prevents unwanted resonance effecting performance. This same logic applies to a standalone phono stage, and is perhaps even more significant due to the analogue nature of vinyl records, and the adverse effect that any unwanted resonance or vibrations can have on a cartridge’s ability to track and play back vinyl records. By housing the phono stage in a separate unit, the stage’s power supply is essentially isolated from the turntable, making it easier to prevent any undesired effects of resonance on you enjoying your record collection.

It is essential to match your phono stage to your phono cartridge, in order to ensure that they are compatible. Some Moving Coil (MC) cartridges are very low output, and so will need a correspondingly high output phono stage able to boost the signals to an audible level. There are also some High Output Moving Coil cartridges, whose output levels are closer to levels found in Moving Magnet cartridges, and higher than those typically found in standard Moving Coil cartridges. Some phono stages are suitable for use with these High Output cartridges, but not every type of Moving Coil cartridge. It is vital to check that your phono stage matches the power output of your cartridge, although if you have a Moving Magnet (MM) cartridge then there should be no issues with pairing.

Phono Stages - Croft Acoustics

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