The return of Leak

Active in the renovation business, Chinese company IAG (International Audio Group) – owner of Audiolab, Wharfedale, Luxman, Mission and Quad – has announced the relaunch of much-loved British franchise Leak.

Founded in 1934 by Harold Joseph Leak, the brand was a trailblazer in the field of high-performance audio equipment. Among its firsts were the Point One series of valve amplifiers (1945) which were the first to reduce total harmonic distortion to 0.1 percent, and the ground-breaking Trough-Line FM radio tuner (1955) still considered one of the finest FM tuners ever. Leak’s Sandwich speakers (1961) heralded true-piston cone action by sandwiching polystyrene foam between outer skins of stiff aluminium foil. And the Stereo 30 all-transistor amplifier (1963) spearheaded the use of transformerless transistor output stages over then-standard transformer-coupled designs, paving the way for solid-state amps.

Dormant for 40 years, IAG is bringing it back with the launch of the Stereo 130 integrated amplifier and CDT CD transport, fusing classic engineering and the latest digital technologies.

The Stereo 130 is a descendant of the Stereo 30, which originally arrived in 1963 as the first commercially available all-transistor amplifier. It resembles its predecessor with an optional real-wood enclosure and tactile front panel. A high-quality, low-noise, JFET-based MM phono stage is on hand for turntables, while connections include analogue line-level inputs and optical, coaxial and asynchronous USB digital ins. Thanks to the inclusion of an ES9018K2M Sabre32 Reference DAC, hi-res PCM (up to 32-bit/384kHz) and DSD (up to DSD256) files are supported. The Stereo 130 also accommodates music streaming from a suitable device over aptX Bluetooth.

At the core of the integrated sits a Class AB power amp claimed to draw on many decades of design experience. A 200VA toroidal transformer is followed by 2x 15000uF reservoir capacity, “helping the amp to maintain firm control of the music while enabling excellent dynamic range.”

Headphone users are catered for via a dedicated amp stage with current-feedback circuitry, while bass and treble tone controls – a feature passed down from the original Stereo 30 – enable sound to be tailored to suit the varying characteristics of different analogue and digital sources. If preferred, these can be bypassed to deliver the shortest possible signal path to the precision analogue volume stage, which is controlled by a motorised ALPS potentiometer.

The Leak CDT is a dedicated CD transport incorporating a slot-loading mechanism and a read-ahead digital buffer to reduce disc-reading failures. The company claims it’s able to play damaged CDs rendered unreadable by conventional mechanisms.

The transport is mounted in its own, electromagnetically shielded enclosure, and includes a dedicated power supply. The master clock is controlled by a temperature-compensated crystal oscillator, enabling the digital output from both coaxial and optical sockets to exhibit low levels of jitter. The CDT also features a USB input, enabling playback from storage devices. Supported files formats include WAV, AAC, WMA and MP3.

The amplifier and CD player are available with a traditional Leak real-wood walnut enclosure – costing £800 for the Stereo 130 and £550 for the CDT – or without for £700/£450. You can find out more about the Stereo 130 here and the CDT here.