The Creek Evolution represents a twenty-first century rethink of traditional British integrated amplifier design. Extraneous features are absent, but it’s noteworthy that the Evolution faceplate is thicker and the machining is more refined than on Creek integrated amps of bygone days. The Evolution has just two knobs—input and volume—and a smallish display. If its 85Wpc power rating into 8 ohms strikes you as pretty average, hold on, because this lean machine can deliver as much as 170 watts into 4 ohms!
The Evolution is the first Creek amplifier to use an electronic volume control, which works in one decibel steps, from -80 to 0db.
I loved the Evo’s beautifully designed remote. Its metal front panel and rubber ribbed backside feel great.
Tip: Vinyl fans should go for Creek’s optional built-in phono stage.
The Evolution liked the easy-to-drive Zu speakers a lot more than the more challenging Dynaudios. On both speakers, the Evolution foreshortened depth and its bass felt a little lightweight, so the little amp didn’t press my audiophile buttons. That said, the sound was tuneful as all get out and a lot of fun. By “tuneful” I mean that the amp consistently got most of the musical essentials (tonal balance, timbres, and dynamics) right—especially through the critical midrange.
The Evolution zeroed in on the heat exchange that went down between Otis Redding and Carla Thomas on their King & Queen album [Atlantic] record from 1967. Backed by Booker T & the MGs, the band’s funky, steamroller grooves were clearly and energetically reproduced by the Evolution.
In the nitpick department, however, tunes with lots of deep low-end kick, such as “New York” from Cat Power’s Jukebox CD [Matador] felt reigned in and less gut wrenchingly alive than I’ve heard them to be when played through other amps. If Creek could give the Evolution a bit more low frequency “grunt,” the amp would be a more satisfying performer with a broader range of speakers.