The Voyage i20 integrated amplifier was styled to be ergonomic and luxurious in operation. It is constructed using only the highest quality materials to provide a simple to use but high-end stereo experience.
The i20 combines an analogue pre-amplifier and digital to analogue converter with a power amplifier, powered by a unique stabilised power supply, housed in a slim and attractive case.
In producing the Voyage i20, Creek’s engineers have combined several advanced techniques to achieve a hugely impressive powerhouse of an amplifier in a deceptively small case.
“the move upmarket because the Voyage i20 is a step-change for the brand in terms of its technical capabilities and engineering depth”
Mike Creek – Creek Audio
The i20’s intuitive user interface is easily navigated via its large OLED display. Its sophisticated Menu system is navigated either by remote control or rotary control knobs.
The i20’s is extremely flexible, boasting ten analogue and digital inputs. Analogue signal sources may be input via three pairs of RCA sockets or one pair of fully balanced XLR sockets. Gold-contact relays direct input signals to a state-of-the-art MUSES electronic volume and balance control circuit. The MUSES’ resistor-ladder attenuator enables precise adjustment over an 80dB range, in 1dB steps, with extremely low distortion. The i20’s pre-amplifier circuit is normally set for unity (0dB) gain but, if required, each input can individually amplify the input signal, in 3dB steps, up to +12dB max. Each input can also be set to bypass the pre-amp and volume control. This user selectable DIRECT mode allows the i20 to be used as a power amplifier with four inputs, or a combination to suit individual needs.
Line input 1 can be enhanced with an optional plug-in Sequel mk4 Phono pre-amp, to provide for Moving Magnet or high-output Moving Coil vinyl record reproduction. The Sequel is selectable for 40 or 50dB gain, 100pF or 200pF capacitance and RIAA filtering, to reduce disc warp frequencies.
To ensure compatibility with a wide variety of headphones, the i20 uses a dedicated headphone amplifier fed from the pre-amplifier’s output. The high-current amplifier is capable of driving headphones loads specified from 8 to 300 Ohm, with no added noise or loss of fidelity.
DAC (digital to analogue converter)
The i20 incorporates a cutting-edge DAC circuit with multiple inputs for USB, SPDIF, optical, USB and Bluetooth.
The i20’s USB Class 2 digital input provides bit-perfect audio streaming potential. Its multi-core XMOS streaming controller can handle a wide range of high-resolution PCM and DSD signal sources, up to 32-bit 768 kHz – PCM, and 22.4 MHz – DSD. To further enhance performance, the i20’s USB circuitry is galvanically isolated from its DAC to eliminate ground loops or interference polluting the signal path. Software updates may be downloaded from the internet via USB, so the i20’s operating system can always be kept up to date.
In addition to USB, the i20 supports 24/192 SPDIF signals via 2 co-axial and 2 TOSLINK inputs, for connection to television sound, CD Players, streamers, and other digital sources.
A “Comet mk2 aptX HD Bluetooth” module is built-in, for handy wireless streaming from mobile or static computer devices, capable of CD quality performance.
“This new integrated may have a premium price tag, but it’s a top-tier product and an essential audition if you’re in the market for such a thing.”
David Price – Stereonet.co.uk
All signals are electrically buffered and output via a pair of RCA sockets after passing through a volume control stage.
The power amplifier’s task is to increase signal amplitude and current to a level capable of driving a loudspeaker. Modern, multi-driver loudspeakers with complex cross-over circuits can often present a heavy demand on an amplifier. The i20 has been designed to drive even the most difficult speaker loads with delicacy and power yet be equally at home with simple 2-way monitors.
Powerful Sanken STD03 transistors are augmented by multiple MOSFETs to deliver prodigious power output current if required. The thermal tracking Sanken bi-polar power transistors immediately correct idle current, to accurately control and minimise cross-over distortion and reducing warm-up time to a minimum.
To optimise performance and maintain left right symmetry, Creek has developed a modular plug-in voltage amplifier circuit. Their discrete transistor circuitry and relatively low negative feedback allow input signals to be fed to the power amp without the need of additional gain in the pre-amplifier.
Emitter resistors are a necessary feature of bi-polar amplifier designs but, commonly used high-wattage wire-wound resistors are a source of unwanted inductance and potential non-linearity. To combat this problem Creek has developed an alternative high wattage, low inductance, resistor module, using multiple surface-mount resistors. To improve loudspeaker damping by maintaining the amplifier’s ultra-low output resistance, both left and right channel outputs are channelled through separate 10A relays. Internal wiring is kept to a minimum and isolated terminal posts allow connection by 4mm plugs, spade lugs and twisted wires, as required.
In Creek tradition, conventional coupling and feedback decoupling capacitors have been eliminated to optimise sonic performance and directly couple input to output. An electronic servo circuit compensates for small DC offsets and maintains the amplifier’s output at 0 volts DC.
To protect both the i20 and any loudspeaker connected to it, the i20 employs three forms of protection, constantly monitored by the i20’s system microcontroller. In the event of a fault, the output will be disconnected, and the input muted.
In the event of a pre-set current-limit being reached, either by driving an unacceptably low impedance speaker load, or a short-circuit in the output, both speaker relays will interrupt the signal to prevent potential damage.
“this new Creek’s superlative detail resolving ability; things were extremely atmospheric, with an almost ‘glass-clear’ quality to the midband.”
David Price – Stereonet.co.uk
Direct current voltage will damage loudspeakers, as they are only meant to handle AC signals. Therefore, if DC is detected at the output, speaker relays will interrupt the signal instantly to prevent damage.
Like most electronic circuitry, the i20 is designed to be reliable when working withing a range of temperatures from 0 to 95 degrees centigrade. If the upper limit is reached the output will be disconnected until the temperature drops to a more acceptable level and the volume setting will automatically be reduced.
Class G amplifier mode
The i20 biases its output stage with a more efficient form of Class AB, called Class G. Class G allows the powerful i20 circuitry to fit inside a slim case yet run cool, even with a relatively small heatsink.
Creek has further enhanced the efficiency of Class G circuitry successfully used in the Evolution 100A amplifier.
A Class G amplifier operates with two voltage levels. The i20 tracks the input and output signals and a clever MOSFET circuit switches momentarily to higher voltage if required. To identify to the user when the amplifier is operating in Class G mode a letter G is displayed on the OLED display.
The key to the i20’s impressive performance is in its high-frequency power supply, optimised for audio electronics, enabling the latent quality of its amplifier to be realised. The Voyage i20’s performance is unaffected by mains quality or voltage stability. Unlike most conventional amplifiers, its massive 1500Watt power supply is voltage stabilised, enabling it to double its two-channel power output each time the load impedance is halved, regardless of mains voltage.
Standby power enables the amplifier to go to sleep after no signal is detected on the output for 30 minutes. Touching either control knob or remote handset will wake the amplifier up again.