You both (Stanwal and Elevick) provide good points which I kind of surmised, especially about the "weakness of pre-amp sections in most integrated amps.... Let me add some details. The speakers are Acoustic Zen Adagios. I believer they are 89db efficiency; Rega Apollo player, Rega P3-24 T/T with a Dynavector 10X5 and Rega's upgraded power supply. I have changed standard power cords on the amp and CD player. The CD has/had the AZ Tsumani plus cable that was recommeded by Sally Reynolds when reviewing the Apollo. With it the Bass is tighter with somewhat better dynamics. I bought a closeout Shunyata Diamondback PC for $99.00, and have switched the Shunayata to the player and the AZ Tsumani on the Creek to see which offers the best improvement. Results are not final about the switch.
Waiting in the wings is AZ Hologram 2 speaker cable which I have yet to install due to placement and room size....The room is a bit of a dog----12X14 with a wall of glass sliding doors. The speakers are about about 7 ft from my ears on the short wall. The speakers are probably too large for the room, and overall produces a bright sound, though not overly so. The long wall probably would/might provide better sound, but there's a lot of moving to do. I currently use Analysis plus Oval 12 speaker cable which is at least 10years old and will be replaced by the AZ Hologram@ The so-called fourth wall is open for a counter top dining area, There is a big overstuffed couch against that partial wall. The sound is actually good and the Adagios are get speakers.
But, imaging could be more precise, soundstage is only between the speakers and affords shallow to average depth. Two months ago, I changed the rake angle of the speakers by raising the front spikes and that provided better imaging and less of a lower mid-range bulge which is anybody's guess---acoustics, placement, lack of damping material or bookshelves. I am sure the AZ speaker cable will make "some" difference.
I like the Creek; it is an excellent integrated amp, but it often sound edgy---cymbals, highhat percussion are not clean and defined. I would like a somewhat smoother sound, but not less detailed. As mentioned, the Creek is excellent, but I want to give theses speakers their just due. That is why I mentioned the Quad separates, also there was a few pre-amp and power-amps for sale on this site. I have considered integrateds, like Krell, Rega, Cary, Prima Luna,, but they did not fit my needs. I don't need a lot of features, and like the fact the Quad 99 pre-amp has a supposedly respectable MM/MC stage. The question is how much better is the 99 and 909 combo....Two other posssiblities are the Anthem 225 integrated, and the new Creek Destiny 2. The Anthem has a MM phono stage and has gotten very good reviews. Finally, I am not going to spend $6000-8000 for the new super integrateds like Pass, ARC or the Sim Moon 600i reviewed in TAS this month. I tend to play it loud and spin classic rock, fusion jazz, some big band and classical..... So there it is guys, I hope this info helps.