Creek Evolution 100A integrated amplifier
At the start of every review, the white noise of these diverse creeds fills my head and prevents me from listening in a relaxed and open state of mind. If the product performs amiably right out of the box, I eventually settle down, stop worrying what others might think, and enjoy myself. But my own audio beliefsmy checklists of musical and audio needsnever go away. I don't think they should.
Most audiophiles believe that reviewers can remove their ideological lenses as easily as doffing a pair of 3D glassesand then, on their readers' behalf, perceive a product's sound as it actually is. That is not possible, nor is it desirable. We all need to remain submerged in the pleasurable identities of our audio beliefs, because these constantly morphing predispositions anchor us and tether us together. They become our shared tribal codes.
This is why you need me to always be just Herbso that you can be just you. This is importantit's the only way you can consistently measure the ideological space between us, then apply that measure to the words I write. As you read this issue's Herbprattle, remind yourself that I place exceptionally high value on corporality, texture, and the richness of instrumental and vocal tones. While listening to recorded music, I need to sense the artists' intentions and feel a contagious forward momentum. I value expansive soundstaging and precise imagingbut only if these effects feel tangible, natural, and whole. I believe that multimono is dangerous and louche. But if all you listen to is rock music, multimono may be all you've ever experienced. You may have never heard about binaural recording, or microphones in Blumlein pairs, or spaced omnis. You may never have experienced live acoustic (ie, non-amplified) music. You may not believe that artistic intentions can be audible. You may respond more than I do to dead-silent backgrounds and microscopic resolution. My job as a reviewer is to remember what you might believe and prefer.
I say all this because, when I began writing about Creek's Evolution 100A integrated amplifier, I was distracted by some of your firmly held notions, as revealed in the question, "So, Herb, which of all the integrated amps you've reviewed is the best?" Before I even opened the Creek's box, I could feel your need to know. Well, I'm sorryI can't answer that question. I don't think, dream, or listen like that. In the real world of music listening (and of making love), there's no such thing as "the best." However, on behalf of each of your many diverse selves, I now promise to do my best to elucidate the character of yet another high-quality integrated amplifier.
Creek's website describes the Evolution 100A (base price $2195) as "the most sophisticated and reasonably priced amplifier Creek has ever made." I suspect a big part of this sophistication and reasonable price may be the result of Creek's version of a class-G output stage, designed by senior engineer David Gamble. Mike Creek explained to me that, "Like the Creek 50A, the 100A also uses Sanken STD03 Darlington power transistors, two of which operate as a traditional class-AB amplifier up to 25W. Above that, two more STD03s acting as lifters are switched in, to allow the signal to swing close to the higher-power supply rails. This power-supply strategy allows the 100A to deliver >110W/8 ohms (>170W/4 ohms) in the same chassis as the 55W/8 ohm 50A."
Like my faithful old Creek 4330, the newest Creek integrated has an attractive and subtly charming, asymmetrical faceplate. The volume knob on the right side is bigger than the selector knob on the left, and 1" closer to the Evolution 100A's right edge than the other knob is to the left. Between them is a symmetrical array of four buttons, a lighted display, and four more buttons. Incised directly behind and running under the volume knob is a vertical groove 1?8" deep, and at 1:30 on that dial is a delicately engraved Creek logo. Directly below the logo is the ¼" headphone jack, and to its right the power button. Everything on the 100A's front panel is smart but just a bit off-kilterlike a good old-fashioned British murder mystery.
As I gazed at the Creek 4330 and 100A side by side, the 21st-century model looked considerably more gentrified, with more Whig appeal than my vintage and decidedly Tory 4330. Being a Husbandman, I wondered if the Evolution 100A's sonic character had evolved in a similar fashion.
The 100A's rear panel is more ordinary than its faceplate. Here are up to five unbalanced line-level inputs (RCA), one of them also offering the choice of balanced (XLR) operation. Another input can be configured as A/V direct. As a plug-in option, Line 1 can be configured for Creek's Sequel Mk.2 moving-magnet/moving-coil phono stage (a $200 option). Similarly, the buyer may choose the dealer-installed Ambit FM/AM tuner ($250), or the more fully featured Ruby plug-in DAC module, which includes an FM tuner ($599). The Ruby replaces the Line 5 input and features two 24-bit/192kHz coaxial and two TosLink S/PDIF digital inputs, 24/96 USB, FM, and Bluetooth. As I type, I'm enjoying WNYC via the Creek's wire antenna (included).
Collecting recordings of music provides multiple escape routes from the sufferings caused by vain underclass toil. Consequently, I am a dedicated seeker of the time-wasting, mind-numbing excitements generated by scouring eBay for rare CDs, old microgrooves, and hot stampers. I especially enjoy showing off and playing for friends my hard-won finds. Speaking of which . . .
I was entertaining some flannel-shirted, fear-the-beard guys and their pierced, blue-haired partners when, after explaining the virtues of never wearing socks that match, one of the twentysomething women exclaimed, "Ooooo! The Beatles! They're sooo revolutionary!"