LEAK Stereo 130

MJ01.01.2021

Integrated amplifiers

Do you miss the times when engineers were more into signal paths than creatively milled aluminum panels? The original Leak was conceived in 60’s and has become a British legend. Its resurrection is a great news for those looking for a great sounding and affordable amplifier with a touch of wooden case nostalgia.

Funkce a forma

90%
Ergonomie
38%
Zvuk
88%
Zpracování

The Leak Stereo 130 is an integrated amplifier that features rich analog connectivity: 2x RCA inputs, RCA pre-outs, a headphone amp, and a phono preamp for MM cartridges. But that is not all – the Stereo 130 is a full-fledged DAC too. At the heart of it is ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9018K2M chip and the DAC works with up to 192kHz sampling rates (on optical and coaxial inputs) and up to 384kHz and DSD 64/128/256 on USB-B. The music can be streamed into the Leak via Bluetooth from any portable device including mobile phones. This is what I call versatility. The amplifier delivers 2x45W (8ohm)/2x65W (4ohm).

The compact size of the Leak’s case (302 x 118 x 270mm) contributes to its rigidity. The case is totally inert and resonance-proof and this give confidence for minimal microphony of parts inside. Many high-end amplifiers are much less sturdy than the Leak. The only inconvenience is at the back panel: speaker posts do not provide room to comfortably fit spades or bare wires so I guess bananas are the best option if you need to reconnect from now and then.

I liked quite a number of small things that made my life with the Stereo 130 more pleasant:

The input selector knob has no start/end positions and I could run it around the clock as I wished.

The active input is indicated by a small orange-glowing LED, very relaxing to eyes. I wonder why so many manufacturers think that their devices must burn audiophiles´ eyes.

One can select for how long the Leak will remain powered on in case of no signal is present. Good in case you leave your home and forget to switch it off.

The powering on sequence connects the speaker terminals as the last thing, thus the Stereo 130 does not send any subsonic pops into speakers. It is not clear to me how it is possible that many boutique audio brands miss such an important feature.

Nízké frekvence

Váha
74
Výbušnost
67
Artikulace
60

With 2.5V output from my SACD player and my speakers´89dB sensitivity I could listen at comfortable loudness with the Leak´s volume knob at approximately 25%. Really loud I played at around 10-11 o’clock. The Stereo 130’s sonic character did not change, no matter if I played soft or loud, there were no artifacts of the amplifier being driven beyond its comfort zone. I am not competent to comment the Leak’s technical parameters, but I have to comment its voicing: I could hear this little British gem is voiced by experienced ears and it provided me with amazingly balanced sound.   

The Stereo 130’s sound is tuneful and juicy, with honest midrange, supple bass and delicate highs. In essence it respects the preferred frequency response that is very slightly sloping down towards the top end. The best thing was that I could not find any anomaly in how the Leak sounded, no obvious peaks or dips. Even with complex music it was resolved enough, neutral enough, and entertaining enough to keep me in my listening seat. Often I found my feet tapping and my hand not making notes, a good sign of being absorbed by what I heard.

Čistota rozlišení

Detail
59
Vzduch
54
Transparentnost
58

The Leak Stereo 130 can throw an impressive soundstage. It does not make sounds leap forward, instead it projects the images beyond the plane of speakers which contributes to great depth of image and live performance perspective. The same can be said about the Leak’s lateral imaging which stretches well beyond the left and right speaker. The soft roll-off on highs makes recording acoustics less present but if you want you can always bring it back with defeatable tone controls.

To test the Stereo 130 in its preamplifier and DAC modes I used Inner City Blues track from Reel & Soul Association (50 US Cents, Flying Sparks Records). This piece is a Marvin Gaye cover by a band including a mandolin, banjo, fiddle and Irish drum.

Tonální věrnost

Témbr
57
Dynamika
54
Časování
58

In the Leak’s DIRECT mode I heard warm and purring bass lines, dynamic drums, resolved instrumentation, and – above all – the music played with great verve, as if the Leak had fun and did not have to try hard.

With tone controls in the signal path the sound did not change. Perhaps there was slightly less separation but I could not swear on it, so negligible it was. The tone controls work reliably and always in tune with music so if you need to sculpt the response to something better you can do it. I don’t think you’ll have to do it as the Leak is extremely fine in the direct mode, but it is good to know the option exists.

Prostorovost

Trojrozměrnost
68
Šířka scény
66
Hloubka scény
70

If you are OK with 2 analog inputs and the phono board the Stereo 130 can become your preamplifier. I will not claim it can replace a dedicated (and usually expensive) preamplifier in an high-end set-up, but for usual hi-fi application the Leak will not be the weakest link. I regret that Leak Audio is not manufacturing monoblocks which would be great partners to the Stereo 130. However, the Stereo 130’s preamp capability can be used to control active loudspeakers, or to control volume in its DAC mode.

I sent digital data from the S/PDIF output of my Accuphase through Krautwire Numeric Digital cable and listened. The sound of the Leak changed. It was as if the amplifier lost its analog saturation and become just…digital. I missed its magic, its sound dimensionality and its dynamic control. As a DAC the Leak was just average.

I would consider the DAC an add-on, a bonus to otherwise great analog integrated amplifier. The Leak Stereo 130 is a budget amplifier that, with the right budget speakers, will easily become a contender to serious systems. I can imagine it in partnership with KEF LS50 Meta that I have reviewed recently. It is also worth testing Leak Audio’s own recommendations: stylish MoFi Edition LS3/5a and Wharfedale Denton 85 speakers.

Cena v době recenze:23 200,- Kč

Doporučení prodejci

RP Audio, Ostrava, +420 737 366 831

Připojené komponenty

  • Sources: Accuphase DP-720, Topping BC-3
  • Amplifiers: TAD M-2500, Leak Stereo 130
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: AudioQuest Dragon Bass | Zero, Krautwire Numeric Digital, Krautwire MAX-S, Ansuz Signalz C2,  Accuphase RCA
  • Loudspeakers:  TAD Evolution One E1, Sonus Faber Gravis I, KEF LS50 Meta
  • Power conditioning Block Audio Snakeblock, Shunyata Research Denali, Synergistic Research Atmosphere Level 2, Nordost Qv2, Stromtank S-1000, Shunyata Research Omega XC

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