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Leema Tucana II Anniversary - review

insider9

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Sep 20, 2016
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To make it easier I've split this into parts and only wrote about things that are relevant to me.

If you're after specs you can find them here.

List of equipment and music can be found here.

Believe it or not this is the short version. Hope you enjoy!
 

insider9

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When I was offered the opportunity to write this review I felt as much of a sense of dread as excitement. It's not only the level of amplification that I've never owned nor one that I would ordinarily demo. It's clearly a step up and would be an aspirational product for me.

So how is it you may ask that I even got my hands on an amplifier with a RRP of £4,995. As usual life writes the best stories and this one goes back to right before Christmas and my infatuation with Densen and a desire to compliment it with a better DAC. Little did I know that with some good advice from Rick at Musicraft in space of weeks I will end up Densen-less and with Hegel Rost. Some of you may even remember that I took it upon myself to write a review for the Rost and I actually quite enjoyed it. You can find it here.

Ever since the whole Hegel saga I got to know Rick and in one of our chats I've mentioned I would be quite willing to give it another go should he have something exciting, something worth writing about. I may not have a YouTube channel but feel I have a good enough hearing and I'm not half-bad laying it out, if you don't mind me saying so :) I'll be honest when I first floated this idea I didn't really think anything would come of it... well, not until recently. Not until a few weeks ago when Rick offered me an opportunity to review Leema Tucana II Anniversary.

I've long been wanting to hear a Leema.
 

insider9

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Sep 20, 2016
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The build quality is excellent both for the amp and the remote. The handbook that accompanies the unit looks home made at first but when you look closely it shows off a huge number of individual inspections and very strict quality control that the amp has to adhere to. I like the confident simple and modern look of the amp. LEDs thankfully are not too bright. Great so far.

The one quirk I found was that the balanced inputs were the other way round. I didn't care to look but it didn't take me long to realise after I connected a DAC. Another thing which is not how I'd like however not really a criticism is that the volume up and down buttons on the remote have a mute in the middle. I often pressed it by an accident. What I did like about the remote that it almost didn't matter which way it was pointed and it still would work.

One thing I did not like is the sensitivity of the volume pot or its lack of. Tucana have a serious amount of power and with a balanced source you will find yourself not having much of workable knob-space (yes that's a word). However where this is redeemed and credit for this design is that each input has a gain setting. It's not only useful for AB comparisons ;) but for me by lowering the input gain I've had more control over the volume pot. That's excellent functionality. Worth adding you're also protected from blowing up your speakers as Tucana reverts to preset volume with each input change. Apparently this works differently in AV mode according to a handbook but I've not tried it.

The amp never got hot in operation but it stayed constantly warm to touch even when not in use. It would remain room temp when in standby. I kept it on most of the time as I've notice best performance was with the unit warmed up. Over the 3 weeks I've used it I really have nothing negative to say about it. And that's the bare minimum I expect from hardware that it doesn't get in the way.
 

CnoEvil

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I love your genial and readable style, which has just the the right amount of subjective and objective analysis.

IMO You cannot come to realistic conclusions about HiFi without experiencing it....and I am not in the least surprised by the extent to which the Source makes a big difference.

The better the Speakers, the better the amp needs to be to get the most out of them. The better the Amp/Speaker combination are, the more they highlight the Source and the better it needs to be.

Now, what's next?! :)
 

insider9

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These are very kind words Cno! I'm glad you enjoyed reading it.

What's next? Mac, suggested an Esoteric on another thread. I believe Rick has ordered a DAC board which he's now waiting for. In the meantime Tucana is still here. No promises though :)
 

insider9

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How do you assess the sound of a component? It's not like you can listen to just the source... or an amp in isolation. Putting it in a familiar system helps but what if the familiarity is based on false pretense? How do you distinguish between preference and improvement? I'm not a professional reviewer, so I was quite confused at first. Unfortunately more confused than I'd usually be and in no small reason because of I've encountered things I did not expect.

The first admission has to be the most damning, I underestimated the importance of a source in a digital chain. You hear it everywhere that all DACs sound the same... I wasn't a great believer of this school of thought but then again I've not experiences massive differences before. Differences... yes. But nothing prepared me to how Leema behaves with different sources. In fact it took me almost two weeks to figure this out.

What made it worse is how revealing the combination of amp and my resident speakers was. I was not prepared for the amount of ambient info I was getting. Which with a good source was great, but when quality was not on par or pairing was not quite perfect the results weren't at all impressive. I won't repeat here my initial impressions as it would be just too much. Needles to say I liked what I heard but that was only the beginning.

Listening to different sources revealed another interesting aspect. The character of the source was reproduced so faithfully that initially I associated many traits that of a source with what the amp sounds like. Where in fact only certain traits translated between sources and also different speakers used. But lets leave this for a minute and let's talk abou the amp.
 

insider9

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Sep 20, 2016
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I should probably start this part once again thanking Rick as it was an amazing experience. It really changed how I view what's achievable in this hobby. At the very same time I want to express my amazement as to how it is that Leema products are not better known. I won't be able to offer up any indication of value for money but then again this was not a point of this review.

Second thanks are to... you, if you made it this far. I'd really love to make it shorter, so big thanks for taking the time. If you have any comments or questions please share and if there's any clarification needed please ask as I should have the amp for a few more days.

If the main criticism of a piece of equipment is that it needs to be paired with good ancillaries then is this really a criticism...

How do you know if you're listening to exceptional piece of kit? It's when it challanges everything you know about the music you know well. It's when it redefines albums and makes you appreciate the tracks you took no notice of before. Tucana did this for me.

If you get a chance go out and listen for yourself, you'll thank me later :)
 

newlash09

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Aug 28, 2015
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This was almost at a professional level I must say :)

I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and feel you have rightly highlighted certain things that made me sit on the fence before. Like the part on the digital source being important, and differences between dac's. You are right in that, the differences can only be apparent if the rest of the chain is transparent enough. And iam pleasantly surprised that tucana has that level of transparency, where you don't know if you are listening to the amp or dac or source or the recording itself. That was very well put indeed :)

I also liked your inference to improvement vs preference. Never realised it was so difficult to honestly review a peice of hifi kit. Not easy to get impassionate over night and start judging by merit alone.

Great write up again :)
 

insider9

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It was a great learning curve. It really made me realise just how good my speakers are and how important the source is actually is.

Not to mention how lucky I was to do it in the first place :)
 

insider9

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No actual interest in teles. And no one would like my mobile reviews either I'm afraid. I can already see those raised brows when I question manufactures on putting big hires screens and inadequate batteries in the same device :)
 

paulkebab

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Dec 26, 2014
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enjoyed that! :)

Re Rumours, did the Tucana reveal the setting for Songbird? No looking at the album notes!
 

insider9

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Just had a listen. Some things that stand out. Noise floor is higher than on the rest of the album. Listening closely it sound like there are actually two acoustic guitars playing in the left far channel. I always felt it was one. Vocal does have a very natural reverb. And so does the piano. You're not saying this is was recorded live are you? I'm now going to have to check.
 

paulkebab

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you've almost got it! I think someone accidentally kicks or bangs something at one point too.
 

insider9

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I've read the notes now. They mention only one guitar player, no mention if they overdubbed. But the strumming is not what you'd do on one guitar unless you just learned how to play ;)

Anyhow thanks for sharing this interesting story. Didn't know about it. And if there's anyone bumping into anything I wouldn't be able to tell. At present my 8 year old is enjoying his new Dragonball Xbox games which involves a lot of jumping and noise in general. Not idea for critical listening. However it's a beautiful song and so is the album.
 

paulkebab

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to it, it was recorded live in the empty auditorium they were scheduled to perform their live show. I don't think it was originally intended as a cut for the album, but Christine McVee was so happy with it it went in. A really beautiful song and melody but written to carry a level of sadness with it too. Hope you get some silence soon for another listen :D
 

insider9

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For non critical listening I won't mind as he's downstairs. So no problem listening for pleasure. But trying to take in every last detail is something completely different.

But, yes I will as I'm now curious so will be trying to see if I can find it.
 

drummerman

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Insider, I don't know if you are planning to buy the Anniversary but if that is a little to steep why not look for a mint Tucana second hand?

It will likely give you a large proportion of the quality without having to sell an organ.
 

Macspur

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insider9 said:
For non critical listening I won't mind as he's downstairs. So no problem listening for pleasure. But trying to take in every last detail is something completely different.

But, yes I will as I'm now curious so will be trying to see if I can find it.
Thanks for your impressions on the Leema Insider, you've really worked hard at it and I'm sure we all appreciate it.

I must have a listen now to Songbird... one of my all time faves, reminds me of an old girlfriend who sadly died at a very young age, on a happier note had it playing at my wedding to Mrs Mac

Mac

www.realmusicnet.wordpress.com
 

insider9

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Sep 20, 2016
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plastic penguin said:
...write up, insider.*good* Your summing up reflects why I love the amp so much.

Think you'll need to a good lay down in a dark room - and patches for your blistered fingers. *smile*
It's a big compliment coming from a Tucana owner, thank you PP. I'm glad I managed to capture it well. It was really important to me to try and understand it as opposed to just list a bunch of traits and hope it will stick.

And luckily no blisters here but it took quite a few drafts, on top of pages of notes. Sadly a lot of my notes were useless and not very descriptive and dominated by words "wow", "goosebumps" and "gorgeous" next to sing titles *biggrin*
 

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