Leema Acoustics Tucana II Anniversary Integrated Amplifier Review
Review
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An Anniversary Amplifier

The Tucana integrated amplifier from Leema Acoustics has been around for over 10 years, this amplifier is not only the second iteration of the Tucana, its also the anniversary edition to celebrate those 10 years and its upgraded even more.  I have been using the Tucana II anniversary amplifier for a few months now using it to review a variety of different speakers and I have taken my time on purpose because I wanted to properly get to know the amplifier before going to print.  I am also using it as the main amplifier for a speaker group test I am conducting and I have chosen the Tucana II for the test quite on purpose.

The Leema Tucana II is a 150w per channel class A/B integrated amplifier that almost doubles its power down to 290w at 4 ohms and it can deliver over 50 amps of output current so its fair to say its got plenty of power. This power is all housed in a very domestic friendly sized package that’s heavy at 18kg but not crazy heavy and its not overly tall and doesn’t get crazy hot so its very accommodatable amplifier for most audiophiles in real world situations. Although you may want to keep the Tucana II out on show as it has some nice decoration on top for want of a better word.

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On the inside

There a few stand out visual features such as the logo and the anniversary edition badge but apart from that I think the Tucana II has a nice looking if understated front panel with everything laid out and labelled to be obvious what does what with one exception. There is a headphone socket for using the Tucana II as a headphone amplifier which is a nice addition but below that is another socket that says mp3. This is an analogue 3.5mm source input not an output. I think some audiophiles will definitely appreciate the option to adjust the gain for a specific input by +/- 10db to help balance different sources volume levels

On the rear is a nice layout with lots of RCA connections for inputs and outputs including an AV or home cinema by pass, a balanced input and then two LIPS Link connections. LIPS stands for Leema intelligent protocol system and it’s a communication system for sending important information between Leema units such as volume and input selection.  Overall the amplifiers build quality is impressive for its solid feel but I would prefer to see the larger style RCA connectors being used in a HiFi component at this price point.

On the inside or under the hood some things really stand out such as the Tucana II having 3 toroidal transformers not two as you might expect, one for each amplifier channel and one for the control board of everything keeping everything separated. The main transformers are large and they are Norotel Xtra quiet units so expensive good quality supplies, nice.  The anniversary edition Tucana II has double the weight of copper on the circuit board traces, key capacitors are upgraded to Nichcon Muse and the internal wiring is Leema’s own Reference 2 speaker cable being their highest quality. Leema have used three pairs of power transistors per channel as they feel it offers technical benefits over single pairs. There is more technical information in the manual and Leema explain about the importance of the amplifiers timing and they describe the amplifiers overall topology and I suggest you read up if you would like to know more detail.

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Sounds like what exactly ?

Power up the Tucana II and things get a little more exciting visually with the use of blue LED’s with the main event being the volume control which uses a series of blue dots to indicate volume.  I didn’t think I would like this approach to volume indication but its made all the better because there are half steps in between each level and I got very used to selecting the volume I want just by eye without having to count the dots or think about it too much, my muscle memory adjusted very quickly. The included remote control is an all metal affair that is heavy and well built. It features a lot buttons and does feel a little busy more like an AV remote but Leema are thinking bigger for customers who have multiple Leema units that can all be controlled from the one remote. One thing that did stand out to me with the remote control I couldn’t find where you install the batteries which made me feel a little silly.  All you need to do is unscrew the little feet on the underside and the door can be removed to install the batteries and I like this design more than remotes that have sliding door system or that need a screw driver.

But what does the Tucana II anniversary sound like, as I mentioned I have used it with lots of different speakers costing between approx. £10k and £1000 and I have compared it to much more expensive amplifiers and in the main I have been very impressed but like everything in HiFi and especially when you get to this level some pairings click better for you than others.  The review started at such a lofty point that its been hard for me to get anywhere near it again after, the first speakers I used with the Tucana II were the Marten Parker Duo and the pairing was just fantastic giving me one of the best sounds I have had in my room to date. The sound was big bold rich and clean with detail and smoothness great sound stage separation and powerful controlled bass. I feel like the quality of the Marten speakers, their slightly more relaxed, high priority on tonality sound signature but with a very flat and extended frequency response and floorstander like bass was the ideal speaker signature for the Tucana II amplifier.  I see the Tucana II anniversary as being right on the edge of giving you clean immediate power delivery, its an amplifier that digs up lots of fine detail in music not because it sounds analytical but because its fast and is not getting in the music’s way.

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Compared to more expensive

I would describe the Tucana’s sounds as being on the front foot, its trying to really get the musical information across to you in a very honest unimpeded but lively way. This makes it sound fast and it has an immediacy to its sound and it sounds powerful, music is full of energy and its difficult to trip it up, it always seems in total control and you can throw really complex music at it, classical for example and its timing stays consistent and composed no matter what. This is all really impressive and the last amplifier I experienced this with was the Gryphon Diablo 300 which costs around £16000 and my initial thoughts were wow the Leema is giving me that kind of sound but for 1/3 the cost, it just really clicked for me with the Marten Parker Duo speakers.

From there I used it a little with the Marten Oscar Duo speakers, then with the Bowers 705 Signature speakers and then the speakers in my group test the KEF LS50 Meta the Burchardt S300 MK2 SE the ATC SCM11 and lastly the Amphion Argon1. I have also put the Tucana II up against two other classic amplifiers for comparison purposes the Gryphon Diablo 120 and the Manley Labs Stingray II Tube amplifier.

So its been interesting and I have been comparing the Tucana II to amplifiers costing about 20% more and nearly double. Out of these three amplifiers the Tucana II is the most neutral, it’s the most immediate sounding and it sounds the fastest of the three, its timing really is something. I have found its sound signature has worked well with all these speakers but better with some than others. I have really liked it with the Marten speakers as I mentioned, with the Buchardt and with the Amphion Argon1 and the ATC SCM11 but with the Bowers 705 Signature it sounded good but I preferred the Gryphon Diablo 120 for its warmer and darker overall character and how that balanced with the leaner and lively top end Bowers sound. Interestingly with the KEF LS50 Meta these speakers took on a whole new sound character with the Manley Labs Stingray II tube amp in particular with vocals compared to the very honest sounding Tucana II. Good tube amps do have a special way about them.

I suppose what I am trying to explain here is the Tucana II is not going to add character or add extra warmth or tonality to the sound like some other amplifiers do, and I think its sound being on the front foot with an honest delivery possibly could be not ideal with leaner sounding setups and just speakers that are also more on the front foot and that could result in a little bit too much of a good thing, unless that’s a sound you really enjoy of course.

I will be honest this is a hard amplifier to talk about for “its own” sound because it doesn’t really have a stand out character that I can tell you about, its sound is mostly very neutral and balanced.  Maybe it’s a little more forward sounding than some other amplifiers but that could be an illusion because it’s a clean sounding amplifier from top to bottom.  That is where I would say an amplifier like the Gryphon Diablo 300 separates itself from the Tucana II in its delivery of bass, its more authoritative sounding in the bass but again the Diablo 300 costs 3x as much, its much bigger and has double the power on paper.

As a reviewer I feel like I am always expected to break down the sound of a HiFi component into bite sized chunks like bass mid range and treble and that is hard with the Tucana II because the sound I have enjoyed with it has very much depended on the speakers plugged in at the other end.  I have had smooth and big full vocals from the Tucana II with the Marten Parker Duo speakers and also fast crisp and ultra clean vocals from another speaker like the KEF LS50 Meta and Amphion Argon1, this cant be the amplifier doing both so it has to be the difference in the speakers sound.  I can say the bass from the Tucana II has been tight and controlled across all the speakers I have used it with and the treble is a little more forgiving than with some other amplifiers.

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Final Thoughts

The Tucana II anniversary costs £5495 so it’s a fair chunk of money for a HiFi amplifier and its unlikely you will be using it with speakers in the £1k range as I have recently but you could and those speakers would sound great. I do think there are a lot of speakers out there, especially larger floor standing speakers that sound a little bit reserved, maybe a little bit held back which can be a modern slim speaker design characteristic.  These speakers can sound like they want an amplifier that will help their sound really come out and shine, cutting through with more clarity and great control and timing.  These speakers would work great with the Tucana II, like the KEF Reference 3 speakers that I owned and other speakers I reviewed recently like the ATC SCM50 I can see them being a good match, the Piega Coax 511 and the Fink Team Borg too.

I also really like that the Tucana II is just an amplifier and not a DAC and streamer and Wi-Fi other bits built in,  its just an amplifier and I almost wish it didn’t have a headphone amplifier in it just to make it that bit more pure but I am sure a lot of people would disagree with me on that.

I am not finished with the Tucana II anniversary yet as I will be putting it back to work straight after this, its got important work to do helping me hear the differences in lots of different similar speakers and its making that difficult job much easier by not getting in the way.  In saying this praise I don’t think the Tucana II will be for every Audiophile and every system because HiFi doesn’t work that way as we know and some Audiophiles will chose an amplifier for its distinct character and how that suits their system, nothing wrong with that.  But I think there will be a lot of Audiophiles who find their end game amplifier with the Tucana II, an amplifier that has enough power and quality to impress and keep giving even as they improve their speakers and other system components over time.

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For the full Specification of the Leema Acoustics Tucana II Anniversary Amplifier
See the website here

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