I heard this at a bake off (an audiophile get-together and listening session) a year or two prior to this purchase.
For me, at that bake-off, the Romulus totally blew away all comers and I’d been nagging its owner since then to sell it to me. Well, due to the completion of his own DIY valve amps the owner finally succumbed and so off I trotted on the 280 mile return trip to collect the amp from his place in Plymouth.
Here she is – pretty, no? It’s the ‘export model’, with gold trimmings.
CR Developments are a now sadly defunct small British hifi company based in Southend that specialised in valve-based equipment and focused predominantly on Far East markets, and maybe came to grief as a result of that region’s economic woes. They made some really gorgeous kit, including monoblock power amps and a range of pre-amps and phono-stages.
Their website is still available on-line at www.crdevelopments.com but it hasn’t been updated since 2002. Worth a look, though, some lovely gear there!
The sound from the Romulus was pretty much as I remembered it from the bake off – fast, detailed, open and amazingly transparent in the mids and treble, with astonishing musical life and pizzaz. The tonality is spot-on and voices have a very life-like presence.
If it has a minor failing it’s in the bass. Not that it’s bad, but it doesn’t have the heft and slam that some amps can deliver. But it is tuneful and gets the feet tapping. The slight lack of bass whoomph is noticeable on fullrangers like my MBL speakers, though.
But it’s the immediacy and realism of the mids and treble that are what this amp is really about. Really quite a jaw dropper. I understand that the 6L6 family of power valves has quite a reputation in this regard, and I now I know why!
There was no remote control with mine, but it was an option with this model if pre-ordered with the amp.
I did some tube rolling to excellent effect. The two JJ’s 12AX7 that fed the power stage were swapped out for some Watford Valve TADs – more my type of pizzaz and speed with these rather than the mellower tones from the Mullards.. And the Mullard 12AX7 in the pre-stage was swapped for one of the JJ valves – once again the Mullard was a bit slow for my tastes.
I had quite a few “my gawd, I didn’t know the recording could do that!” moments due to its sheer hear-thru transparency and delicacy. Very nice indeed and plenty of power for most speakers.
The Romulus over-lapped with my time with a lovely Graaf Graafiti 5050 valve power amp (Hifi Pig review soon!) and the comparison was interesting. The Graaf was clearly more powerful with better controlled bass, but the Romulus shone through with greater clarity and refinement in the mids and treble. Both were excellent amps – I happily spent months with each of them!
I can heartily recommend the CR Developments Romulus amp – it is to be seen now and then used on eBay and it is well worth snoofling out.
Author – Jerry