Time. Eighty-six years have passed since Harold Leak founded British hifi company Leak; fifty-one years since he sold the company to the Rank Corporation, just as transistors began to emerge as a dominant force in amplifier design. The amplifiers that helped build the Leak brand – alongside its loudspeakers, tuners, turntable, tonearms and cartridges – were mostly tube designs. Rank would pull the pin on the brand in the late seventies after years of struggling to compete with ascendant Japanese manufacturers. Harold Leak passed away in 1989.
For hifi enthusiasts, like yours truly, who didn’t live through these years, we can now dig into Leak’s company history via a new website. Leak-Hifi.co.uk was recently established by mega Chinese hifi manufacturer IAG (who also handle Quad, Wharfedale and Audiolab) in support of their Leak brand resurrection. And that resurrection brings with it a pair of new products.
With a nod to 1963’s Stereo 30 – one of Harold Leak’s first transistor designs – the all-new Stereo 130 integrated amplifier wraps 45wpc of Class A/B power, a DAC, an MM phono stage and a headphone amplifier in an aluminium chassis with (optional) walnut wood sleeve.
Going deeper: the ESS Sabre 9018K2M DAC circuit is accessible via USB (max DSD256, 384kHz PCM), TOSLINK, coaxial and aptX Bluetooth; the MM phono input is backed by a JFet-based circuit; a 6.4mm headphone output connects us to the Leak’s dedicated ‘high slew rate’ headphone amplifier circuit and rounding out the feature set is a pair of defeatable tone controls — the Stereo 130 wouldn’t be a retro-facing piece without ’em.
Pricing has been set at £799 with the wooden sleeve, £699 without.
The second new product is a similarly-styled CD player. The Leak CDT uses a slot-loading ‘computer drive’ mechanism that’s been “carefully mounted within its own electromagnetically shielded enclosure and provided with a dedicated power supply.”
For those bypassing the internal DAC in favour of the Stereo 130’s (or other outboard model), the digital clock that times data out of the unit’s TOSLINK and coaxial sockets “is controlled by a temperature-compensated crystal oscillator that makes sure the digital output from both the coaxial and optical sockets has minimum digital distortion…”
A front-mounted USB socket permits WMA, MP3, WAV and AAC file playback from directly-inserted FAT-formatted storage devices. No FLAC. And no word yet on gapless playback support.
Details of the CDT’s internal DAC chip/circuitry and the unit’s intended street price are also TBC.
Further information: Leak Hifi UK