Musical update

This Creek amp claims a variety of technical improvements over the original. Richard Black investigates how this works out in sonic terms

Rather to our surprise, we find it’s over five years since we first set eyes and ears on the original Creek Evolution amp. Amplifier design may not have made any revolutionary leaps in that time (at least, conventional amplifier design like Creek’s – switching amps have progressed rather more), but it’s natural that a manufacturer would find a few tweaks to apply that could justify adding a ‘2’ to the model name.

Extra, extra

One of the changes is a practical one, adding an ‘AV direct’ inputwhich bypasses the volume control, allowing the Evo 2 to be used as a power amp. As the AV designation suggests, this is most likely to appeal to those with a multichannel AV system (where the Creek would drive the front channels), but it could equally allow upgrading with an external preamp.

Other changes are internal and concern the distribution of gain between preamp and power amp stages. Improvements to the power amp’s performance have allowed it to be run at higher gain without penalties in terms of distortion or frequency response and, in turn, this has allowed Creek to remove a gain stage in the preamp which followed the volume control. Simply put, this means less electronics in the signal path which, all else being equal, is generally a good thing. Apart from anything else, it’s likely to improve noise performance, which in these days of high-resolution sources is more of an issue than ever.

The sum of its parts

Inside its smart and robust case, the Evo 2 features a well-filled circuit board on which we couldn’t spot a single surface-mounted component: everything (even the electronic volume control chip) is through-hole and good quality with it. A couple of op-amps feature in the preamp section, but the power amp uses only discrete transistors.

Features are basic, with just four line inputs, one of which can optionally be converted to phono by adding an internal circuit board, but you do get a headphone output. Output power is a shade down on the original Evo’s 85 watts at about 75 watts, both channels driven. We found the volume control a bit bizarre, with 0.5dB steps (and in fact some 0dB steps!) over the top 30 increments, which will almost never be used in practice. Volume setting 44, out of 80, gives full power from a 2-volt output.

It’s alive

Still, inconveniently scaled volume controls are hardly new and have no effect on the overall sound quality. The original Evo was a lively and energetic amp and this one generally continues in that mould. It has plenty of get-up-and-go, but it is also capable of sometimes surprising subtlety. It has good command of dynamic range and it seems unusually good at managing not just sudden loud passages, but sudden quiet ones, keeping sound clearly in focus when the level drops. This, we found, makes it a very good choice for classical music, which tends to involve more and larger, dynamic swings than most other styles.

Tonally, the Evo 2 is not quite neutral, though its midrange is very even. Bass is quite well extended, but just occasionally a little lacking in real extension. The treble can be a shade bright from time to time, but we didn’t find it particularly distracting.

All in the details

If there’s one area where we feel the Evo 2 advances significantly over the original, it’s detail. This has improved from decent to really rather good, with lovely resolution of those little bits of inside information that can make a recording come to life.

Alongside this, as one would expect, is very good stereo imaging, with precise and consistent lateral placement of instruments and good depth too.

Overall, we found the combination of excitement and insight very convincing in this amplifier. There’s some worthy competition around at a similar price, but we feel few amps can measure up sonically and the upmarket looks and build certainly add appeal.

LIKE: Plenty of energy, with very confident dynamics; smart, too!
DISLIKE: Not many inputs and frequency extremes could be more neutral
WE SAY: An attractive option if you want an amp with performance that’s a cut above the average

PRODUCT:
Creek Evolution 2
ORIGIN:
UK/China
TYPE:
Integrated amplifier
WEIGHT:
8.5kg
DIMENSIONS:
(WxHxD):
430x80x340mm
FEATURES:
• 4 line inputs (one
optionally phono)
• AV/power amp
direct input
• Preamp output
• Record output
• Single speaker
outputs
• Headphone output
(6.3mm jack)
• 75W rated output
DISTRIBUTOR:
Creek Audio
TELEPHONE:
01442 260146
WEBSITE:
creekaudio.com