It doesn’t seem that long ago that I reviewed the first Leema Tucana, but the anniversary appellation added to this latest and third incarnation of the company’s first integrated amplifier suggests it is longer than I thought. Leema has been making loudspeakers since the late nineties but it wasn’t until 2006 that they got into electronics that featured heavily machined and heatsinked casework in the distinctive matte finish that remains to this day.
Made in Welshpool, North Wales, electronics is Leema’s bread and butter, although it still makes a range of loudspeakers with names starting with an X (alongside a range of cables that seems to grow on a regular basis), but the focus is on electronics: amplifiers large, smaller, and phono, a music server, an all in one streamer/amp, and a couple of CD players.
The Anniversary edition of the Tucana II integrated is a rather smarter looking and pricier version of the standard amp. While the shiny chrome logo and badge differentiate it aesthetically, the specs go a lot further. The circuit and power ratings remain the same, but the components used within the amp have been seriously upgraded. The PCB traces on the circuit boards, the ‘veins’ of the amplifier, have twice the amount of copper on them, all the critical capacitors have been changed to Nichicon Muse-series devices – the bees knees of caps – and the cable that connects the boards to the speaker terminals is now Leema Reference 2; the best cable that the company makes. This has silver-plated copper conductors, and with eight cores per side, it’s far more chunky than you will find in many power amps.
The output transistors are precision matched, which is crucial for both timing and imaging. Each power supply for this truly dual mono circuit is driven by a Noratel Xtra Quiet mains transformer, which made not the slightest hint of hum even with my higher than average mains voltage. If there was a picture of the inside, you’d see it gives you some idea of why this amplifier is so much heavier (18kg) than you expect of its fairly conventional scale.
As with the standard Tucana II, this amp is full of features that start with six line inputs, balanced in, tape in/out, and preamp out. Then there’s the minijack input on the front panel for smartphones and tablets, alongside a headphone output of the same size. You can adjust gain for each input and hook the Tucana Anniversary up to other Leema components using their proprietary bus system for intelligent control. The biggest physical difference between this and its less shiny brother is the machined aluminium remote; this is from the more expensive products in the catalogue and reflects the build and finish of the amp... it even has chunky rubber feet!
The Tucana II, with its 150 Watts into eight Ohms that nearly doubles into four, was always a pretty powerful amplifier – more so than most integrated designs – and that remains the case here. What has changed is that the grip that power delivery bestows on the music has been joined by something even more important to an engaging musical experience; speed. It’s difficult to combine these two qualities effectively, it’s one reason why the ‘pace, rhythm, and timing’ brands tend to stick to relatively low power outputs. But Leema has proved that ‘PRaT’ can be consistent with higher power and that is even possible with integrated designs, which makes this amplifier rather special indeed.
It’s a funny thing, timing: you can have immensely impressive systems that don’t do it very well, but what tends to happen is that when the initial excitement has passed and you’ve got used to the rock-solid imaging and/or room shaking low end, you don’t feel quite so compelled to play a lot of music. Timing is a fundamental part of the musical experience and arguably more important than distortion levels or bandwidth. You can spot a live band down a corridor because of the speed with which notes stop and start; in fact you can do the same with almost any acoustic instrument. And that comes down to immediacy, both of attack and decay. So the extra 25% asked for the Anniversary over the regular Tucana II is a small price to pay for such quality.