Leema Acoustics Tucana II integrated amplifier

Integrated amplifiers
Leema Acoustics Tucana II

With some speakers though, the Anniversary can sound a bit forward. It doesn’t suit the PMC Fact.8 floorstanders that I generally use as a reference. The sound is a bit lean and lacking in warmth. But partnered with the Bowers & Wilkins 803 D3, it’s a different story altogether; this is a very good combination thanks to the Leema’s power and speed allied with the 803’s very low coloration, high power handling, and all-round detail resolving capabilities. With this combination and a Lindemann Musicbook:25DSD source, Nils Frahm’s Spaces [Erased Tapes], is absolutely mesmerising on every track. It’s not the cleanest of recordings, as most of it is live and some captured on cassette, but the Leema manages to keep music and audio quality in proportion, always putting the music first, and that’s’ what makes it so engaging. It’s a taut, open and rhythmically stable amplifier that sounds as fresh as you like with ‘Judas’ from Esperanza Spalding’s Emily’s D+Evolution [HD Tracks], the lyrics being intelligible despite the tempo with which they are sung and the bass lines remaining as sinuous as ever. Kraftwerk’s live version of ‘Radioactivity’ [Minimum Maximum, EMI] delivers plenty of scale alongside nicely resolved reverb, and suitably bowel-tickling bass.

Detail is never in short supply and if anything the Leema errs in that direction on the tonal balance front, it’s not for those looking to find a valve amp with grunt. It’s for anyone who wants to feel the drive of a rocking track at the same time as being able to tell which reverb effect the guitar player is using. The presentation is always refined though; those fat copper tracks and high quality components show themselves in a clean yet calm fashion by letting the subtleties through, while keeping a firm hand on the drive units. This is equally applicable to all music types: Amandine Beyer’s violin [JS Bach Sonatas & Partitas BWV 1001 – 1006, Zig-Zag Territoires] is both solid and lyrical in equal parts; in fact it sounds beautiful – a true ‘close your eyes and you’re almost there’ presentation.

In the spirit of getting with the now I also tried the headphone output on the end of some Bowers & Wilkins P9 cans, and it sounded pretty damn good. Better even than the headphone output on the Lindemann streamer that was supplying the analogue signal to the amp (and thus has a theoretical advantage). The Tucana has a more dynamic and muscular headphone stage that gave Gregory Porter considerably more presence, it also improved the timing on ‘No Love Dying’ [Liquid Spirit, Blue Note], which shouldn’t be a surprise I guess.

Another interesting comparison was to contrast the sound of the volume control on the Lindemann with that on the Tucana II. You can do this by using the Leema’s AV input, which is effectively a preamp input as well. Once again, the Leema made its qualities clear with a significantly more vibrant and revealing result when the full output of the streamer was connected to one of its regular line inputs. Using it thus with another loudspeaker system, the Eclipse TD510Mk2 and TD520SW subwoofer, proved a thrilling experience. This single driver speaker has phenomenal speed and paired with the Leema this proved virtually impossible to tear myself away from. Rarely have I been so thoroughly gripped by the muse that track after heavily rotated track rolled by, with absolutely no thought about the passing of time or the world around me. It was probably fortunate that a phone call broke the spell; otherwise this review would not have made the deadline.

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