Classic hi-fi principles updated for the modern age — no wonder we feel rather at home with Creek’s updated stereo system.
You might expect some traditional hi-fi manufacturers to be contemplating retirement after years in the industry enduring the rise of evil MP3s, music compression and the like. Mike Creek must have seen his fair share of two-channel action during stereo’s golden years, but he’s not about to hang up his soldering iron just yet. And that’s good news for audio and music lovers alike.
With true British stiff-upper-lipness, Creek Audio continues to defy the technological odds and deliver what it’s always done — really decent two-channel audio kit. It’s stuck to its guns over the years, concentrating purely on reproducing stereo music — you won’t find a multichannel amplifier or AV processor among its line-up. Back in 2006 it introduced a new CD player and amplifier, the Evolutions — the entry-level for the Creek brand. Both have now been ‘tweaked’ to Mk 2 status, and we’re here to pop the lids on both new models, find out what Mike Creek’s been up to, and have a listen to the new versions of these popular Creek models.
Starting with the source, the Evolution 2 CD spinner looks at first glance just like its predecessor. But there are several significant differences, both internally and externally. The chassis, although it looks identical, has undergone improvements including a 12mm-thick aluminium front panel (finished in either black or brushed silver) and steel casework. Rubber isolation feet have been fitted to help absorb any unwanted vibrations (which don’t do tracking/error correction much good). And physically, it’s exactly the same size as the matching Evolution 2 amplifier.
The guts have been reworked using a Philips CD12 transport mech (still one of the best around) with a bit of Creek fine tuning such as fine rubber brushes which aid playback during vibration, plus a silky-smooth drawer movement. Electronically, the Evo 2 CD incorporates a new Philips chipset for CD decoding and servo motor control duties, while digital number-crunching is now performed by a Burr-Brown PCM1796 D/A converter, capable of 24-bit/192kHz decoding.
In between these two electronic components lies a new low-jitter master clock to accurately sync the data between CD decoder and DAC. All of this depends on a clean stable power supply, and here the Evo 2 employs a healthy eight voltage regulators, while keeping the digital and analogue stage supplies completely separate.
Amplifying what the CD player outputs, the Evo 2 integrated has also been much improved over the original model. Creek has concentrated on removing unnecessary processing from within the signal path. In the preamp stage, a gain stage after the volume control has been removed, also to reduce unwanted noise and lower distortion. Capacitors deemed unnecessary have gone, and board topography has been rationalised to shorten signal paths. Much lower distortion and noise is claimed by doubling the amp’s open-loop gain.
What the Evo 2 amp has gained is a separate AV input that directly feeds the power amplifier stages, allowing the Evo 2 to be used to power the main front speakers in conjunction with an AV receiver. And the all-important power supply has been beefed up with a 250VA toroidal transformer.
Vinyl users can have an Evolution phono card (either MM or MC) popped in place instead of the auxiliary line input — the modules will set you back $175 for the MM version and $185 for the MC, a small price to pay for a slice of vinyl heaven, we think (though it would be nice to see it fitted as standard). Unfortunately, our review sample came without that addition installed, but knowing Creek’s dedicated phono preamps, we’d recommend the option if you’re still into spinning vinyl on the odd or regular occasion.
Both CD player and amplifier are solid, well constructed and reassuringly weighty. Some time ago now, Creek outsourced its production to China, but it keeps a watchful eye on production standards and quality. You’d be wholly convinced if the Evos still carried a ‘Made in England’ sticker.