Magazine article Gramophone

Creek Audio Evolution 50a/ambit: Sleek Amplifier's Slot-In Tuner Module Seals Its Appeal

Magazine article Gramophone

Creek Audio Evolution 50a/ambit: Sleek Amplifier's Slot-In Tuner Module Seals Its Appeal

Article excerpt

One of the long-stayers of the British audio industry--that's Creek Audio. When the company launched its first amplifier in 1982, company founder Mike Creek had already been in the audio business for 12 years, first working for his father's Wyndsor Recording Company, leaving in 1976 to set up in business as a consultant and parts supplier before becoming a manufacturer in his own right. Within a few years the company was selling well over 1000 amplifiers a month, thanks to its mix of quality and sensible pricing--the original CAS4040 amplifier was pitched at 99 [pounds sterling]--and had already outgrown its 'spare room and garage' manufacturing origins.

The company has had some twists and turns in its fortunes. Creek Audio Systems was bought in 1985 by speaker manufacturer Mordaunt-Short, then under the same umbrella as Tannoy and Goodmans, and it was on a visit to the M-S factory in Havant that I first met Mike Creek, who then had a three-year contract as chief engineer. When that expired, Creek went back to the family premises and founded the rather upmarket EMF Audio, in 1993 joining up with partners from Germany, Switzerland and the USA to buy back the right to use the Creek Audio name from TGI.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Eleven years later, Creek bought out his partners and took 100 per cent ownership of the company bearing his name, as well as setting up an office in China with a view to manufacturing there. In the meantime in 1999 he'd also bought the Epos speaker name, bringing things full circle (Epos used to be built at the Havant factory). Oh, and in 2009 he launched his own turntable, bearing the name of his late father's company: the Creek Wyndsor.

All of which brings us to the amplifier we have here, the 700 [pounds sterling] Evolution 50A. It's a typical Creek product, in that it flies in the face of the 'big and hefty' school of design, being instead slim and (in the optional silver finish of the review sample) particularly stylish. Neither does it play the numbers game when it comes to power: it delivers 'more than 55W into an 8 ohm load or 'more than 85W into 4 ohms, and has four line inputs--one of which, unusually for an amplifier at this level, offers a choice of conventional RCA phono or balanced XLR sockets.

But that's just the start of the Evolution 50A, which is far from a 'hair shirt' design. Two sets of four backlit buttons straddle the central OLED display and a menu system allows a range of functions to be accessed. For example, there are 'hidden' tone and balance controls, adjustments for display brightness and blanking when not in use, and the ability to choose whether using the headphone socket turns off the speakers or leaves them on. You can also select 'power amp input' connection, bypassing the preamplifier section, on two of the line inputs; that's handy when using the Creek in tandem with an AV receiver, or indeed the company's matching CD player (which has its own volume control built-in, and balanced outputs).

The design here was in the hands of Creek senior engineer David Gamble, who has come up with a new bi-polar transistor power amp circuit with high open-loop gain and low distortion. This makes its debut in the Evolution 50A but will go on to be used in future Creek products, partnered with that highly flexible preamp section.

What's more, in typical Creek style, you can add modules to the 50A to suit your requirements: there's a choice of three phono stages, designed for different cartridge designs and outputs, ranging from 100 [pounds sterling] to 140 [pounds sterling]. Fitted internally, one of these takes the place of the Line 1 input.

The sample of the amplifier I received was also, as far as I know, the first let out of captivity and into the wilds of reviewing with the optional Ambit FM RDS/AM tuner module fitted. Selling for 100 [pounds sterling], this little plug-in has been designed by John Westlake and Dominik Peklo of Lakewest Audio, in whose CV are products for the likes of Audiolab, Cambridge Audio, Peachtree Audio and Pink Triangle. …

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