Creek amplifiers are designed by Mike Creek and a team of electronic engineers, who employ the latest CAD technology and sophisticated test equipment to achieve the innovative and astute designs with which Creek is associated.
The first of the Creek amplifiers, the £99 CAS4040, was launched on the UK market in 1982 and created a somewhat mixed response. Praise for its sound quality was tempered with disbelief that a fledgeling British Hi-Fi company could be successful taking on the established brands and undercutting their prices. However, what was not realised by the reviewer of the first Creek amplifiers was that Michael Creek already had a long experience in the audio industry!
It was in 1970 that Mike started working in his father’s audio company, Wyndsor Recording Co. Ltd, initially as a stock controller, then buyer, factory manager and finally as a production engineer. Wyndsor made low cost ‘reel to reel’ tape recorders, record players, cassette recorders and FM/AM radios. Working for Wyndsor provided Mike with a broad understanding of how to run an electronics company from the shop floor upwards.
In 1976 he left Wyndsor to form his own company – M R Creek Ltd – trading as a design consultant to the audio industry. He concentrated mostly on product development but also bought and sold parts to audio manufacturing companies.
By 1981 Mike started manufacturing products to his own design. He based his first product on the Wyndsor philosophy of high quality at a low price. Designing the product proved less difficult, however, than choosing a name for the company. In the end, the choice of Creek Audio Systems proved to be successful.
The 30 Watt CAS4040 integrated amplifier was the first of the Creek amplifiers, built in a metal case with a wooden cover which was fashionable at the time. One year later, Creek launched a matching tuner – the CAS3040, also at £99, which was soon used as a benchmark in radio design. The initial success was achieved working from an unused room in his home and space in his garage.
When demand exceeded 100 pieces per week in 1983, it became necessary to move to larger and more professional premises. The new factory space and the use of a sub-contractor enabled the company to expand rapidly.
By 1985 Creek Audio was selling up to 1200 CAS4040 amplifiers and 350 CAS3040 tuners per month. During that year Creek introduced the more expensive 4140 integrated amplifier that excluded tone controls but was slightly more powerful. The market became far more competitive, with up to six UK companies in fierce competition with Creek, who remained the market leader. As a result of exceedingly good UK press, export demand accelerated and before long the 4040, 4140 and 3040 (later to become the 3130 and T40) were selling in 20 countries!
During 1988 Mordaunt Short (which was acquired the previous year by TGI PLC group, Goodmans and Tannoy) made an offer to buy Creek Audio Systems in order to add an electronics capability to its loudspeaker sales. The offer was accepted, with Mike Creek agreeing to undertake the role of chief engineer. During his time with Mordaunt Short, Mike helped to introduce the 5050 and 6060 integrated amps. He also designed the series 2 and 3 versions of the 4040 amp, which had radically different circuitry. The company also successfully launched a Creek loudspeaker, the CLS-20, and later the first Creek CD player, the CD60 and the matching DAC60. After his three-year contract expired with Mordaunt Short, Mike left to start a new company.
In 1991 Mike formed EMF Audio and started manufacturing in a small way back at the family factory premises in north London. EMF produced a 50W integrated amplifier and a Delta Sigma D to A converter marketed under the names Sequel and Crystal. These were more expensive products than those sold by Creek and new markets were established in Europe and the hi-fi hungry the Far East.
In 1993 when TGI took the decision to sell Creek Audio, Mike Creek, together with partners from Switzerland, the USA and Germany purchased the rights to use the name Creek Audio.
A new company – Creek Audio Ltd – was formed and new products were designed. Creek Audio’s sales and R&D department moved back to its original office facility in north London. However, since most of the people skilled in making Creek products over the years were now in the county of Hampshire, Creek Audio Ltd initially employed a group of ex-Creek employees who left TGI. The products were manufactured in a small facility near Havant. The first products, launched in 1993, were a 40 Watt integrated amplifier, the 4240 – a 50 Watt Power amplifier, the A42 together with the P42 Pre-Amplifier. The CD42 CD player took longer to develop and went into production in 1995.
In 1995 Creek’s USA distributor Music Hall ordered a miniature vinyl disc amplifier to be made in a small case. Roy Hall, Music Hall’s president, christened it the OBH-8 and from there the OBH range increased to include phono pre-amps, headphone amps, remote-controlled pre-amps, plus a 24 bit D to A converter.
Early in 1997, Creek Audio began introducing the highly successful 43 series products together with the higher-end 52 series. During the year Mike Creek, together with his American and his Swiss partners, bought out their German partner.
1998 was an exceptional year for Creek Audio Systems. The 4330 integrated amplifier was voted ‘Budget Component of the Year’ by the acclaimed U.S. magazine Stereophile. The novel T43 AM/FM Tuner received What Hi-Fi’s ‘Best Buy’ award in August 1998. In France, the CD43 CD Player, with 24 Bit DAC, received the ‘Diapason D’Or’ award for the CD player of the year. The P43 pre-amplifier, A52SE amplifier and OBH-12 preamplifier received 5 Star reviews in Hi-Fi Choice and What Hi-Fi.
Interest in Creek amplifiers increased significantly and the product was in great demand. This necessitated finding a way to increase production while maintaining high levels of quality. Existing production facilities were proving to be inadequate and therefore a decision was made to move to a subcontractor in Kent. This subcontractor already had 15 years experience assembling the circuit boards for Creek. Subsequently, they themselves moved to larger premises thus increasing their capacity for growth.
By 1999 Creek Audio Systems was supplying its products to 30 overseas markets whilst at the same time working towards increasing its home market share.
During 1999 Michael Creek independently acquired Epos Acoustics, a company whose legendary loudspeaker systems were renowned for their quality.
During 2000 the 5250 and 5250SE integrated amplifiers were phased out. These products had been winners of several awards, particularly in Germany. The 5350 and 5350SE integrated amplifiers were introduced, immediately receiving high acclaim. In the same year, the CD43 CD player was phased out and replaced by the CD43 Mk2, a product awarded 5 stars by both What Hi-Fi and Hi-Fi Choice. The 4330R and 4330SE integrated amplifiers were updated to the Mk2 versions featuring full short circuit protection. At the same time, the A43 amplifier was updated to the Mk2 model.
2001 saw the introduction of the all-new CD53 CD player, a product which scored a 5-star review in What Hi-Fi, Gramophone and Hi-Fi Choice. At the same time, the CD43 Mk2 was announced the winner of the Diapason D’Or CD Player of the Year. Through 2001 the A52 and A52SE amplifiers were phased out as was the OBH.14 DAC.
The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 2002, saw the company receiving the 2000/2001 Stereophile Component of the Year Award for the 5350SE integrated amplifier. It was during this year that planning began for the 43 series replacements.
In 2003 the 50 series was released displaying an all-new design for Creek amplifiers. Gone was the familiar black and green look, replaced by a solid 10mm brushed silver anodised aluminium front panel. The new sleek styling not only made the 50 series highly desirable but ensured any of these products could be used with 53 series models, as both product lines shared a similar styling. The company still produced its products with the older style front panel to order – for those long time owners of Creek products wanting to upgrade just one component. The 50 series range incorporating two integrated amplifiers, a tuner and a CD player have all gone on to be highly praised globally, some receiving awards for their outstanding performance.
Such was the appeal of the new styling that the OBH range was re-designed to incorporate the new silver fronted look. This also provided the company with the opportunity to upgrade the performance of these very popular products and the range early in 2004 included two headphone amplifiers, two phono pre-amplifiers and a passive pre-amplifier. 2004 also saw a dramatic change in Creek’s company structure when Mike bought out his partners and assumed 100% ownership of the company.
The first of Creek’s Classic range – the Classic 5350SE Integrated Amplifier, was introduce in 2005. This was followed by Creek’s most ambitious development in its 23-year history – the Destiny Integrated Amplifier and Destiny CD Player. One year later a power amplifier was added to the Destiny products together with high quality dedicated plug-in boards for either MM or MC cartridges.
As prices and production costs had risen considerably since the turn of the century, it had long been Mike’s desire to recapture that part of the budget market that his products had served so well. With this in mind, he had set up an office in China in late 2004, to investigate the possibilities of manufacturing in that country. With his own staff in place, extensive research was undertaken and allegiance was formed with one of the country’s specialist high-quality manufacturers. With extensive Creek input into the designs and Creek’s own Q.C. staff on hand to oversee production, the Evolution amplifier and CD player were released in early 2006. An FM/AM tuner soon followed. With this exciting new range, Mike had been able to release the products at prices to match the 43 series which had been discontinued in 2003. Evolution has gone on to capture many awards in many of Creek’s international markets.
As a direct consequence of the acceptance and extraordinary success of both the Destiny and Evolution ranges, demand for Creek’s Classic products started to wane. Production of this series was therefore discontinued in 2007/08. Creek remained true to the 2 channel market, not being tempted to venture into multi-channel. As a consequence, it was inevitable that Mike would develop a turntable. He had long held the view that vinyl reproduction is important to Hi-Fi reproduction. As his company had produced a popular range of affordable, stand-alone phono stages able to extract high-quality signals from vinyl discs, it was logical that a turntable would follow. Named in memory of his late father’s company Wyndsor Recording, Creek’s Wyndsor turntable was released in 2007.
In 2008 the budged priced OBH 11 headphone amplifier was re-introduced to satisfying the growing demand for a lower-priced, quality headphone amplifier. 2009 saw the Evolution 2 amplifier and CD released to replace the original models.
Throughout the years, Mike Creek has not wavered from his basic product design philosophy. The key elements of which can be summed up in the following way.
- The products have a simple uncluttered design brief
- They exhibit technical sophistication
- They feature State of the Art electronics
- They are designed for people who love music
- They are minimalist in operation
- The focus is a total system approach
From a sales and marketing perspective, his principles remain constant…
“Our staff will always be available to assist customers, past and present.
Products are sold through specialist outlets prepared to devote time to customers.
Information on every product ever manufactured by the company remains available.
The company is staffed by a dedicated team of enthusiasts.”