Creek Audio Destiny integrated amplifier Page 2
I can't comment on the timbral characteristics of the Creek Destiny because, across the entire frequency spectrum, I heard not a single deviation from neutrality—this is the least colored component I've ever reviewed. Here are its strengths:
• pristine, extended, and detailed high frequencies with no trace of hardness, and a purity and delicacy that reminded me more of the pricier Jeff Rowland Design Group products than of older Creek designs; appearing in my listening notes many times: "Clean! Clean! Clean!"
• an organic rendering of low-level dynamic articulation and subtleties that reminded me of expensive tubed gear, and a powerful sense of high-level dynamic slam that, with the right recordings, could be startling
• superb rendition of inner detail across the frequency spectrum, combined with abilities to render hall sound, image specificity, and ambience that rivaled much more expensive separates
It's that detail thing that most got me. Throughout my notes appear such comments as: "never heard that bongo part," "vocal phrasings I'd never noticed before," "guitar detail I'd never heard before"—all about recordings I'd heard dozens of times before. The Destiny is the kind of amplifier that made me want to put down my pen, kick back, and listen to music. Which I did—for many, many hours.
The Destiny's rich, silky, holographic presentation of Madeleine Peyroux's voice on her Dreamland CD (Atlantic 82936-2) was one thing, but I focused more on Marc Ribot's finger-picked dobro. Although very familiar with this disc, this was the first time I'd noticed that Ribot uses different dynamic attacks on his instrument's lead, rhythm, and bass strings. Similarly, listening to the a cappella "Our Prayer," from Brian Wilson's SMiLE (CD, Nonesuch 79846-2), I was easily able to follow the dynamic inflections of each separate vocal line.
Listening to Timothy Seelig and the Turtle Creek Chorale's recording of John Rutter's Requiem (HDCD, Reference RR57-CD) was a treat. Aside from the glorious and airy voice of soprano Nancy Keith and the extended upper register of the flute, I was amazed at how easy I could follow the low-level organ-pedal lines way down in the mix. They were deep, effortless, and uncolored. My notes: "with tears in my eyes, the naturalness, the drama, ahhhh!"
Twentieth-century chamber music let the Creek strut its stuff on difficult high-frequency passages. The shimmering extended partials of all the percussion instruments in George Crumb's Night Music (LP, Candide 31113) were breathtaking. Swedish composer Christer Lindvall's bombastic chamber work Earth Bow, from Rhizome (CD, Phono Suecia PSCD 154), features electric guitar and percussion—my speakers seemed to disappear, with all instruments placed precisely along the wide, deep soundstage.
The Destiny's ease with highly modulated passages of orchestral recordings made it easy for me to analyze each work's structure. Listening to David Chesky's Violin Concerto, from Area 31 (SACD/CD, Chesky SACD299, CD layer), it was very easy to hear the subtle pitch inflections on the timpani, violinist Tom Chiu's phrasing in his solo passages, and the low-level bassoon line under the hairier orchestral parts.
Jazz freaks will love the Destiny. On "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," from Bill Frisell's East/West (CD, Nonesuch 79863-2), the Creek's superb articulation of transients let me follow the subtle dynamic inflections of Kenny Wollenson's brushes as if I were attending a live performance. With Keith Jarrett's Radiance (CD, ECM 1960/61), I could follow the master's inflections and dynamics in excruciating detail—it was as if I could see his fingers on the keys. The upper ranges of the piano were shimmering and extended without a touch of brightness. The neo-romantic dynamic swells that are critical to this music shone through as they do when I see Jarrett live in performance. And the tandem crescendos of Don Fiorino's guitar and Mark Flynn's drums in "Crushing Heaves of Silence," from Attention Screen's La Tessitura (CD, Hojo HOJO110), were reproduced without strain or hint of compression.
The Creek's high-frequency purity came through in spades with Sonic Youth's "Becuz," from Washing Machine (CD, Geffen DGCD-24825). The upper registers of Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo's just-intonation Fender Jazzmasters shimmered with endless decay and pristine drama. The Destiny's abilities in high-level dynamic slam were particularly noteworthy with recordings that had dramatic and extended bass information. When I cranked up Kraftwerk's "Man Machine," from Minimum/Maximum (CD, EMI ASW 60611), to well past 100dB through both the Monitor and Joseph speakers, the lowest bass-synth blasts caused visible and tactile movement of my pants legs from across the room.
I was dying to compare the Destiny ($2395) to my own Creek 5350SE integrated ($1495). John Atkinson also sent along NAD's C 372 integrated ($899), which Jim Austin favorably reviewed in the October 2006 Stereophile.
Like the Destiny, the 5350SE is a neutral performer, although its midbass is very slightly warmer. To me, this implies that the Destiny may have set a new standard for midbass clarity in my system. Dynamics at both extremes were superior with the Destiny, whose highs were more detailed, delicate, and extended. The Destiny also revealed more inner midrange detail and had a greater sense of ease. Both amps were superb at articulating transients.
The NAD C 372 had a sweet, delicate midrange, but revealed less detail than the Destiny, and vocals were not as holographically presented. The NAD's highs were less extended and airy, while the Destiny revealed more hall sound and ambience. The NAD's midbass, too, was warmer and not as defined as the Destiny's, which also did better with high-level dynamics.
I've been a fan of Creek Audio for many years, but even I was surprised at how impressed I was with the Destiny—Mike Creek had already set his standard very high with the 5350SE. But I'm happy to make the Destiny my new reference in affordable integrated amplifiers, and have decided to buy Creek's superb Destiny CD player as well. In fact, I was intoxicated by the combination of the Destinys with the Monitor Audio Silver RS6 speakers. The trio produced a detailed, delicate, dynamic, uncolored sound that rivaled what systems costing twice as much can manage. I strongly suggest that dealers who sell both Creek and Monitor gear audition this system.
Mike Creek, you've done it again. Keep raising that bar!