With the Creek T50, my Complete integrated had found the perfect dance partner. Mixing the livelier tuner with the more sedate integrated revealed a synergy - opposites definitely attract! Connecting the T50 to the more transparent and resolving BVaudio was not as successful because the BV did not compliment or make excuses for the brash excesses of the T50. The BVaudio equipment presented the music truthfully with a wide and deep soundstage, whereas the Complete offered a slightly reduced soundstage but it did soften the glare slightly. I am exaggerating for emphasis, but the T50 is ideal for equipment that is less analytical and more laid back in character. Adding the Audio Magic power cable and the Audience interconnects mentioned earlier revealed another level of refinement in the T50. To hear Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels Band, Puccini, and Billie Holiday in your listening space with enough presence to come close to the original recordings qualifies the T50 as an integral source component.

AM radio
I have been mad at AM radio ever since the Solid Gold Soul station in Durham/NC changed its format to Gospel music. I have nothing against gospel but it was shocking to hear Barry White replaced by Shirley Caesar. Many AM stations where I live are filled with talk radio - listening to other people complain can't be good for the heart. My wife likes to fall asleep to several late night programs on AM radio, but other than that, we really don't listen to AM much.

The Creek tuner offered the same qualities for AM as it did for FM and almost made a silk purse out of a sow's ear. The AM signal normally sounds fuzzy, with significantly rolled off highs and wimpy bass. Cheaply made tuners will exhibit an annoying hum. The T50 is not cheaply made! There was no hum and the tuner added vital clarity to talk stations. Male announcers had appropriate fullness to their voices, avoiding chestiness or boominess. The sibilants of female announcers sounded crisp without sounding hissy. There was some background hiss, but this was an effect of the simple wire AM antenna that came with the tuner, not the tuner itself.

I did not have a better AM antenna to use with the T50. A better antenna could improve the reception and reduce the background hiss. With the T50, the limited dynamic range of music stations was still limited and since all of the broadcasts were monaural, soundstaging via AM was M.I.A. However, I always felt that the tuner could do more with a better signal. It's like the difference between driving a Jaguar coupe along a street that has been torn up for construction or a newly paved street. A better antenna would fill in the chuckholes in the AM signal. Regardless, the T50 made the listening experience as smooth a ride as possible.

I would be surprised if there were many audiophiles who want to run an AM signal through a megabuck system but you never know. If I lived in an area with greater variety on the AM band, or if Solid Gold Soul would come back to Durham, an 'audiophile grade' AM source might be more than just an unused option.

A night at the opera
On Thursday nights, the local classical station (WCPE 89.7) plays opera. The announcer usually gives a synopsis before each act and also chooses other interesting selections to spice up the program. On the Thursday I wore my critical ears to the opera, Bellini's Norma was playing. I dug out my CD copy of the same performance with Maria Callas singing the title role and Franco Corelli as her supporting tenor [EMI 66428 1998]. Callas' voice was an amazing instrument. She could sound nurturing and warm like a mother one moment and sharp as a saber the next.

These qualities could be heard through the T50. Sure, the noise floor wasn't as low as hearing the same recording directly from CD and the varying compression could get a little annoying - but the passion was still there. The Creek T50 made the opera exciting and alive. Crashing gongs trailed off into the air. Horns had an appropriate amount of brassy bite, probably resulting from the T50's up-front perspective. The soundstage was very wide and deep enough to make it easy to distinguish the "approaching" horns in the background from the horns in the foreground. The tuner also had a detailed midrange presentation; the voices of the soloists were distinguishable even when they mingled with the choruses.

I wondered if there were any truckers who listen to opera as they pass through town on an overcast night. OK, so I'm the only one who thinks about these things but I'm sure that someone out there in an Eastbound 18 wheeler could enjoy Callas' bel canto singing as Norma ascends the burning pyre with Pollione - at least for a few minutes before switching to the nearest country station.

The opera was followed by a piano trio performed by the Beaux Arts Trio. Menachem Pressler's piano revealed the T50's abilities with midrange and bass frequencies (as low as my Haydn loudspeakers can reach). The left-hand notes sounded appropriately rich and deep. When I had the T50 downstairs in a different system, the 12" drivers on the aging Pioneer speakers were never starved for low frequencies either. As the trio continued, the string instruments were presented with enough detail to follow the bowing on the strings. The trio was followed by a
piece of Lars Eric Larsen where the plucked strings sounded like someone dropped a Tupperware container filled with pudding. To my ears, this sound is correct and the T50 rendered it accurately.

My late night listening also taught me that the older announcers on the classical station in Raleigh really know their music. Almost every selection the announcer chose to play was something I was interested in hearing. Like listening with friends, I learned about new music and new performances.