Minimalism reigns supreme here. The mono preamps bristle with just three buttons and a single light above the name. The buttons raise or lower the volume control (and act as a child lock if you press them both together – this can make for some interesting moments for those of us who have a habit of mashing buttons), while the third button – marked SRC/Mute – runs through the four inputs or mutes the amp if pressed and held. These relate to volume, source, and mute controls on an RC5 remote control. The single light is deceptively useful, as it blinks and runs through a series of different colours to denote volume level, input selected, whether it’s run in unity gain, mute, or running at -12dB part mute (which can only be activated by a remote, but is useful for lowering the volume while talking on the phone, or if it’s connected to the TV and the adverts are played at peak loudness). The Tundra mono has two blue LEDs, which can be turned off.
The preamps are best left perma-powered (they don’t draw much current and don’t get warm), but the power amps come on song after an hour, and are best powered down if the system is left fallow for any length of time. I don’t know whether or not my samples came extensively run in or brand new out of the box, but their performance didn’t vastly improve over hours of listening. What you hear from day one is what you get.
What you get is a remarkably taut, precise, and exceptionally entertaining sound. OK, those who want a big, loose, flabby, flubby sound, full of saccharine sweetness, and buttery richness will want to look elsewhere. But, not everyone views music through the medium of diabetes and furred arteries, and the precision the Lejonklou Quartet brings to music is extraordinarily persuasive.
I must admit to there being a listening learning curve with the Lejonklou Four. At first listen, you think the sound a little lean in the bass, slightly drier sounding in the midrange, and that presents a small, forward soundstage. As you progress with the amplifier combination, you start to discover that your focus changes. That leanness in the bass is in fact a taut, overhang-free bottom-end that is both extremely well controlled and – most importantly rhythmically ‘right’. That drier than usual midrange becomes more about expressing the harmonic and melodic structure, the metre of the music, and the lyricism of the musicians, rather than the ephemera of how ‘nice’ the sound gets.
Perhaps the best way of demonstrating this presentation is with the title track from the album Room 29 by Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales [DG]. The album – set around and played in Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont – can easily be just a pleasant, slightly bland, spatial event of piano and voice. You’ll listen to it, nod along politely, and leave the rest of the recording unplayed. Through the Lejonklou, though, the poignant piano rhythms coupled with the metre of Cocker’s sing-speak sarcasm as he says “help yourself to pretzels”, locks you in place and the whole album has to be played. Rinse and repeat with the rest of your collection. You realise most amps focus on the wrong parts of the music. In fact, they often don’t focus on the music at all. However, the Lejonklou amps burrow into your musical DNA, and it’s one hell of a heady retrovirus!
The elephants in the room are, for once, not hidden. The Tundras are 40W amps that omit overload protection, so no playing it with insensitive loudspeakers to thrash levels (it goes surprisingly loud with the right speakers, but party levels are not recommended). Meanwhile the Sagatun is a two box, dual-mono, minimalist preamp design, and that compromises ease of use ‘somewhat’. There are no bells and whistles, and if you aren’t good with remembering flashing lights and colour schemes, you might want to keep the manual out as a cheat sheet.
Room elephants be damned! To my mind, the Lejonklou Sagatun and Tundra Mono amps are how amplifiers are supposed to sound. There is a tendency for some amplifiers to follow Beecham’s quip – “The English may not like music, but they absolutely love the sound it makes” – in that they make music sound beautiful, but completely free from what makes people passionate about music itself. The Lejonklou Four invert this: they get to the core of what makes people enjoy music. Recommended!
Lejonklou Sagatun Mono 1.3 preamplifier
Inputs: one RCA (purist mode) or four RCA mono inputs
Signal input impedance (all inputs): 10 kΩ
Signal input maximum level: 5VAC
Frequency range: 2Hz to 200kHz
Volume range: -80 to +20 dB in 1dB steps
Output impedance: 300Ω
Output recommended load: More than 1kΩ
Output Level: 0 to 7.5VAC
Dimensions (W×H×D): 35 × 6.9 × 35cm per chassis
Weight: 3.4 kg per chassis
Price: £3,050 per channel
Lejonklou Tundra Mono 2.2 power amplifier
Inputs: one RCA mono input
Output power (all ratings continuous): 40W into 8Ω 20Hz–20kHz RMS (at less than 0.1% THD) and 57W into 4Ω 20Hz–20kHz
Frequency range: (-3 dB) DC to 130 kHz
Signal input impedance: 10kΩ
Signal input maximum level: 1.65VAC and 40mVDC
Signal gain: 20.8dB
Output impedance/Rec. load: 0.05Ω/4–16Ω
Output peak voltage 26 V
Dimensions (W×H×D): 35 × 6.9 × 35cm per chassis
Weight: 4.4 kg per chassis
Price: £2,850 per channel
Manufactured by: Lejonklou HiFi AB
Sold in the UK by: Hidden Systems Ltd
Tel: +44(0)1252 845400