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Creek Audio Destiny - power amp

Remote-controlled power amplifier!

[Creek Destiny]
[Italian version]

Product: Destiny power amplifier
Manufacturer: Creek Audio - UK
Cost: 1000 (YMMV)
Reviewer: Maarten van Casteren - TNT UK
Reviewed: February 2009

Introduction

Creek is one of those really English audio brands. One with a history and a reputation for good quality. It's a brand where you know what to expect, and never really be disappointed. And Creek products have always been affordable. Their little passive preamps are well known for being excellent value, for example. In recent years Creek have added a new, more upmarket line: the Destiny products. Currently there's a CD player, an integrated amp and the power amp under consideration here. These products represent the best Creek has to offer and have received excellent reviews everywhere.

The power amp is actually very much like the integrated Destiny amp: the two share their case work and the main circuit boards. This power amp even has a remote control! Basically this is the integrated amp, but without the preamp parts and with a slightly bigger power supply. Fine with me, and actually quite clever: why design something new if you have an excellent product right there.

[Creek Destiny]

The amp uses mos-fets, as do most Creek amps, and develops a healthy 100 watts into 8 ohms with a claimed maximum current delivery of over 25 ampere, but power into 4 ohm loads is only 160 watts. It should still be able to drive most speakers with ease. The power supply is created with many small reservoir capacitors as opposed to the more normal solution with only 2 or 4 big caps. This should perhaps make the power supply faster and give it a lower impedance. I liked the fact that the rectifier diodes are quiet schottky types.

Build quality is excellent, and everything seems well thought out and nicely designed. This amp is compact and easy to accommodate while still substantial enough to impress. I really liked the rounded edges that make the amp easier to handle and create a more solid, chunky look. The amp has two sets of speaker terminals that can be switched from the front, or from the remote of course. The manual claims that spades can be used, but this turned out to be wrong and only banana plugs or bare wires can be accommodated. There are also two inputs at the back, one XLR and one RCA. The single ended RCA inputs connect to the amp section directly while the balanced XLR ones have some additional active circuitry. The correct input can be selected with a button on the back. I only used the RCA connections during the review.

[Creek Destiny]

The amp has sophisticated protection circuits that monitor the load, current and temperature continuously and switch the power off when things become a bit difficult. This never happened during the review period, by the way. The amp can be switched into a stand-by mode, even with the remote, in which it uses less than 1 watt. The amp was used with my Django transformer preamp and my Astin Trew At3500 CD player. Speakers were mostly my Dynaudio Contour 1.8 mk2, and also a pair of XTZ 99.36 floorstanders later in the review.

The sound

The short story is that this sounds exactly as you would expect a good, powerful transistor amp to sound. But I expect you would want to know a bit more. Well, bass is deep and very tight, actually tighter than anything else I've tried. And the top end is very detailed, airy and open. The midrange is a little bit dry, but very precise. Dynamics are excellent and the amp will play very loud without any problems. If that's not a typical transistor amp, I don't know what is. But, luckily, there are no real drawbacks here. OK, a class-A amp, or a valve amp might be a bit warmer, and have a richer midrange, but there's certainly nothing wrong with the way the Destiny presents things. Its biggest talent is the bass, as far as I'm concerned. It really goes deep and is fantastically controlled and precise, without being overly dry. It's fast, powerful and has outstanding resolution, helping to give instruments real physical presence. It makes your foot tap and works with everything you throw at it. The way this amp does bass is a constant joy.

The next thing that is very obvious is the top end. Actually, the amp is voiced on the bright side and the higher frequencies are ever so slightly accentuated. I'm not sure if this is caused by the bass, which is a bit dry, or by the treble itself, but that isn't too important as it's the overall balance that counts in the end. The top end is very clean and detailed, so this emphasis isn't a problem, but if you like a more relaxed, warmer presentation you might prefer other amps.

The midrange feels a little bit squeezed in between the impressive bass and the strong treble. There's nothing wrong with the midrange itself, it is just the case that the lower and higher regions draw a bit more attention to themselves. Actually, there's real transparency and resolution over the whole spectrum with the Destiny, including the midrange. But with the dry-ish bass and an overall presentation that is on the bright side the midrange can feel a little bit cool from time to time. On the other hand there is excellent precision, even in the tonal domain. This saves the Destiny from being too analytical. It is capable of bringing you close to the musical event, but not by adding warmth or sounding safe. Instead it focuses on getting the information across, pure an uncensored.

Sound stage is fine, with good focus, but there's a slight tendency for the centre of the stage to be set back a bit and with some recordings it almost feels like there is a gap in the middle. This must be related to the brighter than usual voicing and a softer sounding (valve) amp might do better in this respect. I was able to correct for this by moving my speakers a little bit closer together and/or by using a bit more toe-in.

Dynamics are excellent, not only because the Destiny is able to go loud, but also because it sounds very lively and crisp. This makes listening engaging and exciting, even if it isn't as relaxing as some other amps. It makes it more an amp for individual listening and less for background music or romantic diners.

One of the defining characteristics of this power amp is the precision it brings to the music. Take Madonna's 'Ray of light'. With the Destiny it is as powerful and massive as with any other power amp I've used, but instead of just being a wall of sound there is an unprecedented amount of texture and separate instruments that can actually be heard, the lyrics are easier to understand and several new sounds and instruments can be discovered. Moreover, many of the instruments now sound quite natural where I was always convinced it was all a digitally (over)produced orgy of sound effects. Even better: the track still works: it hasn't lost any of its overpowering, larger-than-life appeal. And it will still do this while playing at quite impressive levels, making this an excellent party amp, especially considering the sophisticated protection circuits. The flip side of this is a slight lack of smoothness, of course, but you can't have it all, sadly.

[Creek Destiny]

Conclusion

This is a fine amp. It is very well build, works like a dream and is very user friendly. It will also work with almost all speakers, thanks to its excellent power and driving capabilities. The sound is precise and highly resolved, albeit slightly on the bright side. Bass is tight, deep and powerful and of absolute reference quality in this price range and well above. This is an excellent example of affordable, practical transistor amplification, as far as I'm concerned, and I can only give it my highest recommendation.

Copyright 2009 Maarten van Casteren - www.tnt-audio.com

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