Creek Audio Destiny integrated amplifier

The one thing I've liked about designer Mike Creek of Creek Audio as much as his design talent is his predictability. I've been following his integrated-amplifier designs for nearly 20 years now, having reviewed, in sequence, the CAS4140s2 (for another magazine), the 4240SE (Stereophile, December 1995, Vol.18 No.12), and the 5350SE (March 2001, Vol.24 No.3). In each case, I was sufficiently impressed with the review sample that I bought it and made it my new reference in my second, affordable system. The predictable part comes from Creek's traditional nomenclature: an "s2" or "SE" (Special Edition) designation has always denoted a modest upgrade, and a numerical uptick in the model number a more significant upgrade, the level of significance denoted by the specific digit being increased. Hence, the update from 4240 to 5350 is intended to indicate a greater improvement in sound than the update from 4140 to 4240.

But with his latest integrated amplifier, Creek has thrown his entire numerical upgrade system out the window. In his view, the Creek Destiny ($2200) is such a giant step up in design and sound from its predecessor, the $1495 5350SE, that it requires entirely new nomenclature. Still, he's keeping the 5350SE, now slightly redesigned and rechristened the Creek Classic, in production as well.

The Creek Destiny's external appearance indicates significant improvements in construction quality and cosmetics. The spartan, minimalist aesthetic of earlier Creek gear has been replaced by the sleek, the sexy, the modern, the rugged—the Destiny's 22-lb weight reminds me more of Krell gear than of Creek. In an e-mail, Mike Creek explained: "The Destiny amp is enormously strong and could probably withstand being driven over with a car, although nobody has tried this yet, due to the value of the parts involved." Moreover, the front-panel controls are logically laid out, and the elaborate remote control is designed to also control the companion Destiny CD player.

My comments here reflect the Destiny integrated's performance with my usual analog and digital front-ends, as well as with the new Destiny CD player (footnote 1). (Roy Hall, of Creek importer Music Hall, insisted on sending me a Destiny CDP as well.) I listened to the Destiny with a number of different loudspeakers, but most of my conclusions here were drawn in the context of Monitor Audio's RS6 Silver and Joseph Audio's RM7 XL Special Edition speakers (a review of the latter is underway).

The Design
For the Destiny, the discrete analog MOSFET circuitry Creek has used since 1993 was refined and upgraded with the introduction of separate power-supply and voltage-referencing circuits for each channel. The Destiny also includes Surface Mount Technology (SMT) to reduce the space taken up by the amplifier circuits and improve the layout. This, according to Creek, allows the signal path and amplification to be located on the top layer of the circuit board, and the power supplies and ground to be located on the bottom layer. The Destiny is also fully dual-mono, and its low-noise, 300VA toroidal transformer has separate windings for the preamp and power-amp circuits. In addition, the left and right channels have their own low-impedance DC power supplies, fed from two separate Shottky-barrier diode bridge rectifiers and multi-capacitor reservoirs, for a total of 20,000µF. Creek claims output power of more than 100Wpc into 8 ohms (both channels driven) and 200W into 4 ohms (one channel driven).

The Destiny's elaborate array of protection circuits is designed to monitor temperature, current, DC offsets, power-supply status, and overdrive situations. If any of these conditions exceeds preset conditions, a microprocessor takes action and either mutes the input signal, separates the speaker outputs, or, in extreme cases, shuts off the main power.

These protection circuits turned out to be a problem with my first sample of the Destiny, which shut down several times for seemingly no reason, the shutdown in each case preceded by a slight, phasey high-frequency distortion in one channel. I sent the amp back to Mike Creek, who couldn't replicate the problem but said that the sample was from an early production run and may have included some off-spec capacitors. The second sample he sent me, from a later production run, ran flawlessly. Aside from the minor hiccup with the first sample, the two Destinys sounded identical.

The Destiny has five line-level inputs, a tape-monitor loop, a headphone amplifier, and two sets of speaker outputs, which can be run concurrently or separately. The Destiny will eventually have optional plug-in boards for either a moving-magnet/moving-coil phono stage or an integrated DAC, but as these were not yet in production, I used the phono-stage plug-in from my 5350SE and an additional pair of interconnects. The Destiny's preamp and power-amp sections can be used separately, and, although the integrated has a passive preamp section, there's also the option of switching in an additional gain section in the line stage, which can add up to 9dB in increments of 3dB.

I have mixed views about the unorthodox speaker terminals on the rear panel. They're rugged and angled—it's literally impossible to short them out—but they're designed for bare wires or banana plugs. I'm used to spade lugs and five-way binding posts, so this disturbed me at first. And with the spade lugs fastened to the Speaker A terminals, the odd angle made it impossible to fit a second pair of banana plugs into the Speaker B terminals. That said, I found that the Destiny's posts grabbed the spade lugs on my speaker cables better than most five-way types do.

Footnote 1: Creek Audio's 24-bit/192kHz Destiny CD player ($2500) visually resembles the Destiny integrated amplifier and seems cut from the same sonic cloth. It shared with the Destiny integrated the same pristine, extended, and delicate high frequencies, along with portrayals of ambience, air, and subtle low-level dynamic articulation that more resembled a good vinyl front-end or analog master tape than anything digital. Unlike Creek's CD53 Mk.II, a sample of which I own, the Creek Destiny so clearly outperformed my California Audio Labs Icon Mk.II Power Boss that I was looking for some way to justify its purchase. The CAL made my decision easier: Toward the end of the reviewing process, after 15 years of loyal service as my reference CD player, the CAL gave up the ghost.—Robert J. Reina
Creek Audio Ltd.
US distributor: Music Hall
108 Station Road
Great Neck, NY 11023
(516) 487-3663