48 hi-fi choice september 2009 HFC323.leema 48 2

48 hi-fi choice september 2009 HFC323.leema 48 2
48 hi-fi choice
HFC323.leema 48
september 2009
2/7/09 17:34:38
Leema Antila II CD player and Tucana II integrated amplifier [ Review ]
Second coming
Leema has improved upon an already successful formula
PRODUCT Leema Antila ii and Tucana ii
TYPE cD player and integrated amplifier
PRICE £2,735 (cD player); £3,425 (amplifier)
KEY FEATURES (Antila) Size (WxhxD): 11x44x30.7cm
P Weight: 12kg P Digital outputs: Toslink, RcA phono
P Analogue outputs: XLR, RcA phono P LiPS system
integration P 10x 24/192 stereo DAcs P Real-wood
finish P (Tucana) Size (WxhxD): 11x44x30.7cm
P Weight: 18kg P inputs: 5x RcA phono, XLR, unity
gain, 3.5mm MP3 P outputs: tape, preamp, 3.5mm
headphone P Rated power: 148 watts (8 ohms)/
285 watts (4 ohms)
CONTACT  01938 811900 q www.leema-acoustics.com
L
eema Acoustics has had a busy year. Not
only has it put the substantial Xanda
loudspeaker into production, but it has
also delivered a complete range of high-end
amplification topped by the mighty Altair
500-watt monoblock power amps. The
powerhouses arrived just in time for
demonstration at the Bristol show, where their
scale rather overshadowed the appearance of a
new version of the Tucana integrated amp in
the same room. Tucana ii, as it has been
dubbed, is now joined by a revised version of
the Antila cD player bearing the same suffix
which is also now known as the Antila ii.
We reviewed the first Antila a year ago
(hfc 291) and got a very engaging and
revealing result, so naturally, we were very keen
to obtain the revised model. The changes are
not huge, though – obviously Leema realised
that as the player was hardly broke it didn’t
need fixing – just a bit of refinement. What
Leema has done, however, is to replace surfacemount (SMD) components with hand-matched,
high- grade alternatives in ‘key areas of the
player.’ interestingly, this is the second instance
of this approach that we’ve come across in
recent times. Rotel has done the same in its
new 15 series, so maybe SMD isn’t quite as
desirable as some make it out to be? The other
change to the Antila ii is to the analogue
output filter, which is said to introduce less
noise and cross talk than its predecessor.
The most striking aspect of this player is its
use of no fewer than 20 DAcs, in what Leema
calls its MD2 topology. This parallel
arrangement of 24/192 converters is said to
produce ‘analogue-like midband and highfrequencies’ and naturally lends itself to
balanced output.
The most obvious change to the back panel
of the Tucana ii amp is the addition of
balanced inputs to match the player, but it’s
the front panel that is really different. it has
gained a row of switches which can be used to
ability to control a loudspeaker. The transistors
themselves have been changed to
Thermaltrack devices, which have internal
thermal sensors and are better able to combat
heat distortion. finally, the PcB layout has
been optimised to minimise interaction
between stages. All of which has added
around £500 to the price of the
Tucana ii, making it one of the more expensive
British integrateds on the market.
The remote control has also changed to a
slimmer and more attractive device that
operates both player and amp – its buttons
arranged in a manner that suggests it
shouldn’t be too easy to change input when
you want to change volume, a factor which
undermined its predecessor. The only minor
irritation that remains is that output level
“The most striking aspect of this player is
its use of no fewer than 20 DACS, in what
Leema calls its MD2 topology.”
adjust input gain, alter channel balance,
instigate tape monitoring and mute output.
There is also a mini-jack input for your MP3
player next to the mini-jack headphone output,
plus a shallower volume knob.
Under the lid, the ‘Altair project’ has made its
mark: the input and voltage amplifier stages
have been re-designed to increase slew-rate
and to make it more symmetrical on positive
and negative swings, the goal being
improvement of detail resolution and a
resulting increase in image-precision. Leema
has also lowered the impedance of the output
stage which effectively increases the amp’s
drops when the input is changed, this may be
more of an issue for a reviewer, but given that
input gain is now adjustable it does seem a
shade Kinnock-esque insomuch as it thinks it
knows what’s good for you!
in practical terms the display on the Antila ii
is a little bit deep in the casework which makes
it hard to read at an angle, but you can easily
defeat it with the remote for a subtle sonic
improvement. There are no track access
numbers, but keeping a digit on the ‘next’
button causes it to scroll through the tracks
quite quickly – when you get there it goes
straight into play. or, at least, it does if you
have programmed it to operate in the style of
a DVD player, standard cD-style operation is
the default. one surprise... the balanced output
level is lower than the single ended, usually it’s
the other way around.
Build quality is very high with both units. The
casework is made up of aluminium top, front and
heatsinked side panels, with stainless steel used
for the base and rear panel. The Tucana’s rear
end is now ventilated for extra cooling capacity.
SOUND QUALITY
We have been using the original Tucana
amplifier as a benchmark for some time now,
so it is interesting to hear what Leema has
september 2009
HFC323.leema 49
hi-fi choice 49
2/7/09 17:34:41
Leema Antila II CD player and Tucana II integrated amplifier [ Review ]
done to improve it. The only minor
shortcoming with the Mk1 is a slightly forward
quality that discourages high-level listening.
having said that, there are those that prefer
this sort of balance because it is more lively
and up beat. Tucana ii still has some of this
characteristic – it sounds better at low and
medium levels than high ones with our Bowers
and Wilkins 802D loudspeakers – but the
changes have brought about a reduction in
background noise which means that you can
hear more low-level detail. it is much easier to
hear subtle details and the amp has a more
natural, organic balance.
Alongside this is a distinct improvement in
the dynamics department, the first Tucana was
no slouch in this respect, so this is a
remarkable achievement and one that means
you hear the life and vitality in every recording
that manages to capture it. it also means that
the compressed ones sound very much that
way, but that’s the price you pay for fidelity.
Timing remains a strong point as well and
this is reinforced when you add the Antila ii
cD player to the mix: both units are very much
on-the-ball when it comes to the definition of
leading edges. They do this rather better than
most and without adding anything in the way
of edginess. in fact, if anything, the balance
errs on the dark side.
The cD player’s top end is also a little more
shut-in than our Resolution Audio opus 21
reference, but it has a focus to it that allows
you to hear precisely what the singers are
CLEVER LIPS
LIPS or Leema intelligent protocol
system is the bus system that Leema
incorporates into all of its components,
essentially it lets components ‘talk’
to each other. They don’t just say turn
on or off either, in a mixed stereo/
multichannel system the individual
components are programmed to
decide whether they need to be on
for a particular replay requirement.
For instance if there is a Hydra power
amp driving the rear channels in a
multichannel system but you play
stereo material the Hydra ‘sees’ that
CD has been selected and powers
down as only the main left/right
amplification is required.
LIPs is also designed to integrate with
custom installation set ups, the manual
detailing its protocol headers, packets
and specifications in great detail. In
the context of an Antila/Tucana set up
it allows the CD player to control the
amplifier and display volume level and
input selection (meaning that the amp
itself need not be on view), it will also
let the Antila II override another source
when you press its play button.
Antila II CD Player
MD2 active differential
multi-DAC converter
Analogue output stage
Regulators and
transistors for
power supply
Power supply
Philips VAM 1282
CD transport
mechanism
Preamplifier PCB
Balanced output board
Right channel
output transistors
Separate toroidal
mains transformers for
dual- mono power amp
Tucana II Amplifier
saying rather better than the opus 21 – so,
in many respects, it’s a stronger contender.
Bass is very well served, the amplifier in
particular having a chewy bottom end that
gives bass guitars and drums a real shape and
presence. The Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese
Dream is a horribly compressed album, but it
has some great guitar work which makes it
worthwhile. With the Leema pairing this was
augmented by heavy, juicy bass that times
superbly. We got through three or four tracks
before the call of duty reasserted itself.
it’s clear that the refinements made by the
Leema team have paid off. The original
products were already good and the ii-suffix
kit is now even better. The Tucana ii is the
more changed of the two, both mechanically
and sonically, and it sounds more earthy and
organic for it. its character is more up-beat
than average, but now that impressive lowlevel resolution has been added to the mix it is
an amplifier to reckon with. The Antila ii is a
fast and resolute player that should hold its
own against anything in its price range and
the way in which it times so well. combine
these qualities with high-quality build and you
have a very welcome addition to the ranks of
the British high end. HFC
Jason Kennedy
VERDICT - ANTILA II
SOUND
FEATURES
CONCLUSION
The Antila II is a fast and
accomplished performer that
is among the most revealing
at its price. The display could
be easier to read, but build
and finish are excellent.
BUILD
VALUE
OVERALL SCORE
URL www.techradar.com/612396
VERDICT - TUCANA II
SOUND
FEATURES
CONCLUSION
The new Tucana II is a more
resolute and organic amp
than its predecessor, this
combined with great
flexibility and fine timing
make it a serious contender.
BUILD
VALUE
OVERALL SCORE
URL www.techradar.com/612396
september 2009
HFC323.leema 51
hi-fi choice 51
2/7/09 17:34:41
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