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25.12.2010
A PHANTOM STORY


The development of the Black Rhodium Phantom DCT++ Stereo Interconnect Cable

The new Black Rhodium Phantom DCT++ interconnect has a very distinguished pedigree, being a further refinement of based progressive development of two prestigious award winning Black Rhodium cables.
In April 2003 Black Rhodium introduced the Illusion stereo interconnect which won the prestigious 5 Star award in What Hi-Fi?, being described as being “ fresh, wide open and exciting, with a powerful bass and clarity in the midband. .”.
Illusion was followed in July 2004 by Polar Illusion, offering customers the additional benefits of a Deep Cryogenic Treatment. The audible effect could be described as greater Depth and Clarity to the music and an improved sense of Timing to the rhythms.
In September 2010, Black Rhodium launched Phantom stereo interconnect. But the story goes back further.

Earlier Black Rhodium had submitted a stereo interconnect cable for review in What Hifi? Designer Graham Nalty was piqued to see that the Black Rhodium cable was only awarded 4 stars in the review whilst another cable of very basic design that was fitted with Eichmann Bullet plugs had been awarded the coveted 5 stars.

The Eichmann Bullet plug
So to Graham, it was a case of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. Immediately Graham decided to design a simple low cost high (audio) quality cable using the Bullet plugs.

The Eichmann bullet plug employed a revolutionary design in that the return conductor was connected to the socket via a single point socket rather than by a circumferential connection. The effect in terms of sound quality is very similar to the effect achieved when a ‘star’ earth system is applied to an audio amplifier. When the earth system in an amplifier is connected with all circuits sharing the same earth wire, it is possible for the current in the output stage to create a very small voltage in the earth return wire and this ‘noise’ voltage can be added to the very sensitive input signal. The sound quality loses focus and the sound is less clear. With a star earth all the amplifier circuits are referenced to a true zero voltage and this ‘noise’ voltage is eliminated. As a result, voices and instruments become much sharper and better focussed.
This is the same audible effect that occurs when an RCA plug with a full circumferential connection is replaced by an Eichmann bullet plug.

Solid Core Silver plated wire
Solid core silver plated copper conductors was chosen to complement the benefit of using the bullet plug. The sound quality from silver plated conductors is much faster and more detailed than pure copper on its own. Solid core conductors were chosen because a solid core conductor can deliver a slightly clearer quality of sound at a slightly lower cost of manufacture, giving better value for money.

Tight twist in the wire
The cable, manufactured by one of Black Rhodium’s UK cable suppliers, was specified with a tight twist to reduce the possibility of distortion to the sound by RFI being picked up along the length of the cable.

The Launch of the Black Rhodium Illusion
Following the launch in April 2003, Illusion was reviewed in the September edition of What HiFi? That year and was awarded 5 stars for its sound described as “it is fresh, wide open and exciting, with a powerful bass and clarity in the midband, making vocals impressive, with a breezy and involving top end.”

The Launch of Polar Illusion DCT
During 2004, Graham had been developing a range of high end cables that were processed by a Deep Cryogenic Treatment (DCT). Tests on various cables had shown that the DCT process added Depth Clarity and improved the timing of the musical rhythms. A DCT version of Illusion was launched and was then called Polar Illusion DCT.
The first review of Polar Illusion DCT was due to be published in a magazine that unfortunately ceased publication before publishing the review. However, we did see the proof copy of the review that stated that the DCT version of the Illusion, even at its higher price, was better value for money that the award winning Illusion cable sold without DCT processing.

Applying the benefits of quality control of wire ‘direction’.
Not content with the success of Illusion and Polar Illusion DCT, Graham Nalty changed the design of the cable and further improved the performance of both cables. Using the directional properties of the wire, the cable was designed so that the sensitive sound signal could travel along the wire in the same direction in both ‘out’ and ‘return’ directions. The cable would be made from a single length of wire that would be printed with small directional arrows in one direction. Half the total length of wire would be rewound to reverse its direction and the two lengths of wire would be would closely together.

Length of wire drawn from manufacturer’s supplier’s reel
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Wire cut into 2 equal lengths
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Return conductor reversed in direction
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
Wires then twisted tightly together during manufacture.
The cable for Illusion having been untwisted, cut and stripped for assembly to the Eichmann bullet plug. In order to maintain strict quality control and to avoid the sound quality degradation that would occur if conductor ‘direction’ was changed, the positive conductor is always chosen as the conductor with the arrows pointing in the direction of the signal (ie from CD to amplifier).
A further improvement was made in the construction of the cables. Because the wires were of small diameter, the two channels of both Illusion and Polar Illusion DCT were twisted together and bound in a heat shrink that identifier the direction of use. This had two advantages.
1.
Because the two channels were twisted together, the effect of the two earth return wires in each cables acting as an inductive loop aerial to pick up RFI noise was much reduced. Test carried out by Black Rhodium on all interconnects in its range showed that if the wires in a stereo cable pair were twisted together, the sound quality was audibly better than if the two wires were spread apart. For this reason, most of the stereo interconnect cables in the Black Rhodium range are supplied twisted together and held by directionally marked heat shrinks.
2.
By binding the cables together, this ensured that the cables could not be connected in ‘opposite’ directions. Black Rhodium tests have shown that when the direction of all the wires in a cable are controlled for the designated direction, the sound quality is seriously degraded when one cable only is reversed. Many cable suppliers often state that their cables perform better when connected in the direction shown on the cable. The experience of tests by Black Rhodium is that cables do sound slightly different when connected in reverse direction, but the difference in sound quality when the cables are connected in different directions is considerably greater.

This picture shows the two channels of Illusion bound together with a directionally marked heat shrink. To the left the two channels separate out to the plugs. To the right the two cables are wound around each other.

HFC Interconnect of the Year Award
Polar Illusion DCT was reviewed in Hi-fi Choice in 2009. It was awarded a Best Buy rating. It was later selected as Interconnect cable award winner for 2009.

Development of Phantom
Phantom was developed directly from Illusion DCT. We had for some time been aware that the more advanced DCT++ process was significantly superior to the DCT process. At a time when we were low in stocks of our Warrior mains cable we took a cable from our more expensive Crusader, which used DCT++ cables as well as rhodium plated connectors, and used that to assemble a Warrior, but without having the plugs processed by DCT. We found that this cable, using the DCT++ cable with connectors that had not been DCT processed sounded better to our ears than our production Warrior. We then changed the production specification of Warrior to improve the sound.
We were also aware that many customers really liked the sound quality of the Illusion DCT, but also wanted their cable to look expensive. We used a screened tube that we had been using for hand-made high end cables as a screen for the new cable.
To give the cable high-end appeal, we covered the cable with a high quality braid and used labelled heat shrinks for identification.
The Phantom has been well received by all who have heard it. During the Xmas show given by Zouch Audio in Ashby de la Zouch in December 2010, we demonstrated the pedigree of Phantom to a small audience of serious enthusiasts and all agreed that the improvements were quite obvious, firstly from Illusion DIVA to Illusion DCT, and then from Illusion DCT to Phantom.
A further testimonial to the improvement that Phantom offers over Illusion DCT is given by a customer in Romania.”
“The Phantom interconnect use the very same silver plated solid core copper conductors as Illusion does? I`m asking you that because I tried before the Illusion DCT and the difference is pretty obvious! Phantom is much better, it has a tighter bottom end and is even clearer than Illusion in the mid and high range.” A. N from Romania
GRAHAM NALTY, Black Rhodium



13.09.2010
THORENS TD309 Awarded, European Turntable of the Year 2010-2011


"This eye-catching turntable is clearly the most novel design to emerge from Thorens in the last decade. (...) The TD 309 is a stylish and affordable passport into the realm of the vinyl LP."

Paul Miller, HiFi News (UK), October 2010

EISA
for details...



06.05.2010
CREEK ELECTRONICS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME 2010


DESTINY 2 INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER & CD PLAYER are being shown at the High End Show and release is planned for June 2010 – the changes are noted in the enclosed press release documents.

Perhaps the most noticeable change is the move to blue LEDs to replace the green previously in use. One of the reasons behind this move was the fact that we must make it possible for those Creek customers who want to use the new Evolution 5350 amplifier together with the Destiny CD player – and we cannot expect them to accept one product with a green display and one with blue!

The Destiny 2 CD player continues to sell at £ 1,400 (U.K. retail) – the amplifier increases to £ 1,600

SEQUEL PLUG-IN PHONO BOARDS.

The range of phono boards which have been supplied for many years are now discontinued. These are to be replaced by the new Sequel line. This will include only 2 versions – MM and MMSE. The boards will fit the new Destiny 2 amplifier, current Evolution 2 and Evolution 5350 amplifiers together with most earlier model Creek amps. They will not fit the first Destiny amplifier.

It should be noted that the MMSE is suitable for low output moving magnet and high output moving coil

The pricing for the two boards is set at £ 90 and £ 130 (U.K. retail). They will be available by the end of May.

WYNDSOR PHONO PRE AMPLIFIER which was shown in Munich last year in prototype form has undergone vast improvement in the past twelve months. The product on display at the show now reflects all those changes. Most noticeable is the addition of a separate power supply.

The Wyndsor phono pre-amp will sell (U.K. retail) at £ 1,500 and we anticipate availability to be July/August.

The phono pre-amp measures 195 x 65 x 210 mm (w x h x d) Note that the height includes feet and the depth includes sockets and knob

The power supply measures 110 x 65 s 225 mm(w x h x d) Measurement includes feet and power socket

WYNDSOR DAC

You will have seen a sample of a DAC in the Creek display – this is still very much in the development stage but a considerable amount of work has already been done and we hope it will reach completion within the next 2-3 months.

Creek made stand-alone DACs in the past called OBH-14 and DAC 60. While they offered excellent performance for the price, they did not support the higher sample rates generated by new digital sources.

With this in mind and seeing the increase in demand once again for such a product, Creek has developed a novel multi-standard DAC with unusual features, similar features to the old OBH- 14. The Wyndsor DAC will support three SPDIF and one USB input. It re-generates the master clock and up-samples any digital signal to a 35 bit word. This allows it to control volume, balance treble and bass, if required, in the digital domain, with no loses normally associated with doing that in an analogue pre-amplifier.

The Wyndsor DAC has up to 4 stereo output channels to either drive multi-way speakers which can be configured to be flat frequency Line outputs. Alternatively the multiple channels can be summed together into a balanced two channel output to provide the very best performance and professional standards of connection to feed separate power amps, via XLR connection. The diminutive size of the DAC belies the host of different features available within its aluminium extruded case. This case is similar to the Wyndsor Phono pre-amp, with the exception of the connections at the rear.

This makes this product not simply a DAC, but a comprehensive digital pre-amp as well. All the functions are operated from three simple front panel controls and are displayed in large letters on a vacuum fluorescent display. A Creek SRC3 remote control handset will enable to the user to control everything remotely.

To maintain accurate performance, the DAC’s power supply has been separated into a custom stand-alone power supply, which is common to the Wyndsor Phono pre-amp. The size is similar to that of the Wyndsor Phono Pre-Amp.

At this time we do not have a projected price. We expect to see the release of this product before the end of 2010.



06.05.2010
Creek Audio New Evolution 5350 Integrated Amplifier


Creek Audio will unveil its new Evolution 5350 amplifier in Munich in May 2010.

Using a time honoured Creek design, this 21st century amplifier is the latest addition to the popular Evolution range of hi-fi separates. The company has developed a completely new high-current bi-polar transistor power amplifier to enable it to drive low impedance loudspeakers with modern dynamic music from high resolution sources. This has required a radical approach to enable it to be fitted into a slim-line case. Each power amp is built as a self-contained module, using a high proportion of Surface- Mount components, on a double sided PCB, bolted to a massive 18 fin heatsink. Both channels are identical and can be removed easily for servicing if necessary. The power amp topology includes a cascoded differential voltage amplifier and MOS-FET current drive stage feeding a double Darlington output stage with four high-current bi-polar transistors to produce a very powerful amplifier capable of driving the most demanding of loads, with high resolution and accuracy. DC stability is maintained by a servo amplifier that rejects DC and allows the amplifier to be coupled directly without capacitors.

To enable 2 x 200 Watts into 4 Ohms to be produced from a small case, Creek has developed a massive power supply using a high grade 350 Watt toroidal mains transformer that powers left and right power amp channels separately, plus pre-amp and digital circuits.

To keep the power amps operating safely, they are monitored to protect against overcurrent demand, short circuits, clipping, over-temperature and DC offsets. The signals are muted by the volume control or operate the speaker relays to switch-off the output in case of faults that might damage the speakers.

5 inputs are selectable by gold plated relays and if required the power amp can be driven directly by the front channels of a 5.1 AV receiver. Creek’s new SEQUEL range of plug-in MM Phono pre-amps are an optional extra. Alternatively Creek’s standalone phono MM / MC pre-amps could be used. In either case, Aux 1 becomes a dedicated phono input. When in use the display indicates Phono. A high-grade PGA2320 active volume control circuit together with non-inverting OPA604 Op-Amp buffer are used to provide a pre-amp with high overload margin, low noise and low distortion.

Thanks to its innovative AV direct input, it caters specifically for those people who whilst more than happy with their AV performance, are not so happy when it comes to listening to stereo through their AV amplification. A simple connection from the Evolution 5350 AV input to the front pre-amp output of the AV processor means that the Creek amplifier becomes a standalone power amplifier for the front speaker system.

Gold plated input and output sockets have been chosen to provide a good connection and appearance for a product at its price point. Loudspeakers are connected by up to 2 sets of high current gold plated binding posts, with plastic touch-proof covers. The amplifier also has a headphone socket; something which is becoming an increasingly rare feature in modern amplifiers. Mains is supplied via a fused, 3 pin IEC chassis plug, mains voltage selector and 2 pole high current switch on the front panel. A high quality power cord is supplied with suitable mains plug for the country of use.


A large vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) on the front panel indicates the status of the amplifier. Input selection, volume position, loudspeaker connection and protection status is displayed though a blue filter. The brightness level can be altered from the remote control handset.

The Evolution 5350 is operated from the front panel by rotary digital controls for input selection and volume control plus push buttons for Tape and Speaker selection, Mute and Power On/Off. A new Evolution system remote handset has been developed, which uses a microcontroller similar to that used in the Destiny remote and can operate different products in the Evolution and Destiny range.

The Evolution 5350 completes the current Evolution range which includes a lower powered integrated amplifier, a CD player and an FM/AM tuner.

The Evolution 5350 has a U.K. price of £ 1,075. Detailed information and specifications can be viewed at www.creekaudio.com



26.06.2009
CREEK AUDIO NEW WYNDSOR PHONO PREAMPLIFIER


Creek Audio has a long history of making fine sounding Phono pre-amplifiers. Dating back to the company’s first product, the 4040 manufactured in 1982, and more recently the fine sounding OBH range of stand-alone Phono pre-amplifiers, Creek has always applied extra attention to this part of an amplifier’s circuitry to obtain the best performance and price. The complexity and accuracy of previous Creek in-built and external Phono pre-amplifiers has always been balanced to suit the total cost of the product and to match the grade of performance versus price.

Creek’s first step towards a no-compromise Phono pre-amplifier was introduced in 2006 when it produced the plug-in Destiny Phono pre-amp. Lessons learned from that experience have been applied to the new stand-alone Wyndsor Phono Pre-amp.

The Wyndsor is special in many ways. Its analogue SMT circuitry is placed on separate dual Mono pre-amps inside one case. Three stages of gain and equalisation are achieved using very high performance Op-Amps and Balanced SSM2019 integrated amplifiers, with extremely accurate passive components to achieve ruler flat RIAA EQ. Gain and matching is achieved by switching selected resistors and capacitors with high quality gold contact relays.

The circuitry is built into a stylish case complete with display allowing the end user to set the parameters for a number of cartridge options which can then be saved by a chosen name. The front panel display indicates which functions have been selected. A micro-controller based control interface is accessed through a push button rotary input selector and two separate push buttons. Virtually unlimited types of cartridge with different parameters can be programmed and the user can store them as pre-set numbers and names in the unit’s memory. It is possible to write up to 32 characters on the display for each selection. For each entry the display will show either the cartridge name and type, or a full description of loading, gain and input type.

The product can be muted whilst changing records – and the display can be switched off once cartridge selection has been made.

To power this excellent pre-amp a power supply of equal quality is essential. Needless to say, this is housed separately in a slim extruded aluminium case. It contains two oversized toroidal mains transformers, driving separate analogue and digital power supplies. High-grade Schottky rectifier diodes are used in combination with low impedance capacitors and LM317/337 regulators, to achieve an exceptionally low noise power for the pre-amp, which is connected via a custom multi pole plug and socket and umbilical cord to the Wyndsor Preamp. The Wyndsor Phono Pre-amp will sell in the U.K. for £ 1,500



06.05.2010
CREEK AUDIO NEW DESTINY 2 FAMILY...

Creek Audio will unveil its latest Destiny products during the 2010 High End Show.

The popular and well respected Destiny Integrated Amplifier and CD Player have been upgraded and Destiny 2 is scheduled for release in June 2010.

The Destiny 2 amplifier is Creek's latest high-end model and represents significant improvement to the original Destiny model. It does of course continue to use all the analogue sound optimisation techniques and components collected by Mike Creek during his many years in the industry and importantly, continues with its use of a unique Mos-Fet power amplifier circuit and passive or active pre-amplification. This circuitry continues to outperform alternatives and together with Creek's policy of continuous development, is now better than ever.

The Destiny 2 uses a 300VA low-noise toroidal transformer with separate windings for high and low current analogue circuit requirements. It incorporates separate ultra-fast Schottky diode full wave bridge rectifiers for each channel. 10 x 2200uF low impedance high temperature reservoir capacitors for each channel provide 44,000uF in total for maximum isolation and good dynamics. There is a separate toroidal mains transformer for both standby operation and digital circuit requirements to isolate the digital from analogue circuitry complexly. Standby power consumption is less than 1W, to conform with European regulations.

Volume is adjusted locally and by remote control by a motorized 27mm ALPS Blue Velvet potentiometer.

The Destiny 2 has 4 unbalanced pre-amp inputs, plus a tape loop and an AV Direct input to the power amp. Connection is via gold plated high quality RCA connectors, selected by gold contact relays and indicated by blue LEDs.

The AV Direct input separates the pre-amp and power amplifier and passes the signal directly to the power amp, without the volume control in circuit. This is especially useful if the amp is used in both a combined 5.1 front channel and hi-fi system with one pair of speakers. Source (including AV) is selectable from the front panel. The amplifier also has a front panel selectable passive pre-amp or gain selectable active pre-amp. Three gain settings are adjustable from underneath the pre-amp with a 3-way slider switch.

The Destiny 2 amp can be fitted with the new Sequel Phono plug-in board. This plugs into the input circuit board and is available in 2 settings – low and high MM. For MC application Creek recommends its OBH 15 standalone phono pre-amplifier.

Most types of dynamic headphones can be connected to the standard size 1/4" jack socket on the front panel for high performance reproduction. Loudspeaker connections are available for 2 pairs of speakers. 8 extremely strong, touch-proof binding posts are bolted to the rear panel and are selected either from the front panel switches or remote control. Loudspeaker connection is controlled locally and by remote control by 2 x 8 Amp gold contact relays The Destiny 2 uses precision protection circuitry that monitors current, temperature and DC offset. If any condition is exceeded a fault signal is sent to the microcontroller which immediately disconnects the signal and indicates the error condition on the front panel display. If the level is too high, it will automatically reduce the volume setting before reconnecting the input signal.

During the last three years, the Destiny CD Player has established itself as a benchmark in quality standards for CD reproduction. Creek Audio has made it clear that the aim is to produce a truly high-end product range and Destiny was created with that in mind. One look at its custom-extruded casework will confirm that it is truly a luxury product. The CD Player has now been upgraded to Destiny 2 and the standard has improved even further.

At the heart of a good CD Player is a high quality transport mechanism. The Destiny 2 uses a dedicated CD transport mechanism comprising of custom made drawer loader and high quality laser assembly. Soft rubber bushes help to maintain playability under conditions of mechanical vibration. This brings improved playability strength and smoothness to its operation which Creek believes cannot be bettered by CD players at any price.

CD decoder and servo motor control functions are performed by a new Philips Compact Disc chip-set. This is now located on a dedicated circuit board mounted directly under the laser assembly for the shortest possible signal routing. This provides the Destiny 2 with a selfcontained CD transport module.

Creek Audio has a long association with Cirrus Logic products and continues to use their Delta- Sigma CS4396 digital-to-analogue-converter, long after it has been superseded by other devices. This decision was made purely on the basis of sound quality, since with its 24bit 192kHz reading capability, the CS4396 far exceeds the resolution of the 16bit 44.1kHz CD format. Re-clocking circuitry is used to eliminate jitter, or timing errors, from corrupting the performance of the Destiny 2 player.

A total of 11 voltage regulated, low-noise, power supplies are used in the Destiny 2 player. All rectifier diodes used in the power supply are Schottky-Barrier types, for low noise, which do not require RF snubbing capacitors. All other power supply decoupling capacitors are audio grade low-impedance 105 degree Centigrade types. Audio signal path passive components are selected for sonic purity, such as high-stability MELF type resistors and film and polypropylene type capacitors.

DAC performance has been enhanced by careful attention to PCB layout. The Destiny CD player uses a modular, low phase noise (5pS) and temperature controlled, master clock oscillator. It also uses separate, instrument grade, OPA134 Op-Amps in the audio output to buffer each channel and the filtering of unwanted digital artefacts is improved. The op-amps in the output are also powered separately from their own low noise voltage regulators.

Unbalanced audio output RCA sockets are high quality, solid metal and gold plated. Digital SPDIF output is by co-axial RCA and optical TOSLINK sockets.

To maintain the isolation between digital and analogue supplies, Creek has designed a truly stunning mains power supply for the Destiny, with all components mounted on a thick double sided plated-through-hole PCB. Three separate fully encapsulated PCB mounted toroidal mains transformers are used to completely separate digital and analogue supplies. A multi-element, common mode mains filter is used to prevent interference to, or from, the Destiny power supply. The mains IEC plug with built-in double fuse holder is mounted on the power supply PCB together with the double pole mains switch. A voltage selector switch is accessible from under the case for multiple country operation. All the power supplies are separately connected to the mother and display boards for improved serviceability.

A new Creek system remote (SRC3) has been designed for use with Destiny 2. This remote will become standard with all Creek products manufactured after May 2010.

The Destiny 2 amplifier has a U.K. price of £ 1,600 and the CD player £ 1,400.



06.05.2010
CREEK AUDIO NEW SEQUEL SERIES PLUG-IN PHONO CARDS

Creek Audio will release its new range of plug in phono pre-amplifier boards during May 2010.

Designated Sequel MM and MMSE, these boards will fit all current Creek integrated amplifiers (Destiny 2, Evolution 2, Evolution 5350) as well as many of the earlier Creek models now out of production. The exception is the initial Destiny amplifier which required a different size of board.

Until now Creek’s phono plug in boards used only a positive power supply and the construction was based on a transistor circuit. The new Sequel range uses a split positive and negative power supplies with the immediate advantage of a doubling of the overload margin. A split power supply also reduces interference.

Importantly the design has moved to an integrated circuit one which results in a much improved performance.

Sequel plug-in boards sell in the U.K. at MM £ 90.00 MM SE £ 130.00

The SE version is suitable for low output moving magnet and high output moving coil. If the application is for low output moving coil, Creek recommends the use of its standalone OBH-15 model – or the soon to be released Wyndsor Phono pre-amp.




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