Leema Acoustics Neutron/Graviton Pre/Power Amplifier Page 2

Playing Steeleye Span's Live At The Bottom Line album [Omnivore Recordings OV-531; 44.1kHz/24-bit], recorded in New York in 1974 and coming up fresh and ever so slightly raw 50 years on, the Leema duo's combination of clarity and guts serves the music very well indeed. The band's sound is delivered much more how I remember it live at the time, rather than in the glossy Mike Batt-recorded albums of around this era. The sound quality on this release is by no means perfect but, conveyed by the Neutron/Graviton, it's certainly full of atmosphere, and the band, playing up the Englishness for the US audience, is clearly having fun.

lucid dream

In the same vein, but with up-to-date production values, the latest release from Fisherman's Friends [All Aboard; Island 5891765], also benefits from the lucidity on offer here. They open out the clean, well-rehearsed harmonies, whether played direct from a computer source via USB or – even better – when the amp is fed via its analogue inputs from DAC/network players ranging from the iFi Audio NEO Stream [HFN Mar '23] through to the mighty (and mighty spendy!) Naim player. In fact, there's an argument for saying that the preamp is at its best when used as an analogue device, and that the digital section is perhaps best viewed as a get-you-started bonus. The power amp is the 'ringer' of the two here and might well be worth investigating for systems in which a suitable source with a volume control, such as many network players, is fed direct to the Graviton.


Inside the Neutron, a Noratel transformer [left] feeds multiple PSUs [via centre PCB] with independent regulation on the analogue preamp PCB [lower right] – that includes a TI PGA2310 volume chip – and digital PCB [lower left]. The latter hosts an XMOS USB solution and 'low-consumption' surface-mount ES9018K2M DAC

Massive Attack
And when it comes to delivering sheer power, the Neutron/Graviton delivers excellent bang for the buck. As a long-time devotee of Saint-Saëns's Third Symphony, I followed up a recent Radio 3 recommendation for the 1984 San Francisco Symphony/Edo de Waart/Jean Guillou version on Philips [4126192]. I discovered that it has all the subtlety required for the 'Poco adagio' section, while the 'Maestoso', opening with that great organ chord, sounds simply massive via the Leema amps and the compact PMC speakers. That's in no small part thanks to the recording's masterful balance between the orchestra, the piano and the organ – no easy task, given how many releases fudge it – and the way the power amp unleashes its power in a great, tautly-controlled flow.

Mind you, equally well-handled is the intimate balance of Anaïs Reno's live set at London's Pizza Express, released on the in-house PX Records label [PXRCD1008]. This has a gorgeous warmth both in Reno's glorious voice and the atmosphere, along with a really spontaneous live feel, and a fine balance between the vocals and other instruments. There's not a duff track on this album, and the Leema amps, though perhaps not delivering as much sheer detail as some rival set-ups, just immerse the listener in the music and leave the performances to work their magic.


The preamp [top] has a balanced (XLR) and five single-ended (RCA) ins – four line and one MM/MC – alongside USB-B, three coax and three optical digital ins. 12V triggers are included on the pre and power amp [bottom], the latter also hosting RCA and balanced XLR inputs, and twin pairs of loudspeaker cable/4mm binding posts

Yes, there are times when the Graviton's bass can seem a bit loose – deeply impressive, but lacking a little grip – such as on Billie Eilish's 'Bad Guy' [When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Darkroom/Interscope Records; 44.1kHz/24-bit download]. That said, the bass here will challenge most systems, and is at times so distorted it may well threaten your woofers if played too loud. The Graviton can go very loud indeed, so exercise some care.

Dizzee Heights
There are no such problems with the deep, clean bass of 'What You Know About That' from Dizzee Rascal's Don't Take It Personal [Big Dirte3 Records, 48kHz/24-bit download] which just keeps on hitting hard while Mr Rascal's lyrics remain clear and easy to follow above. And unsurprisingly these amps can rock out, too, for example with Paul McCartney's 'underdub' of the title track from Band On The Run [MPL/Apple/Capitol 602455435651] or, more extremely, the hard-hitting take on 'Jumpin' Jack Flash' from The Rolling Stones' live edition of Hackney Diamonds [Geffen 602458802962]. This has snarling guitars and a pounding rhythm section that threatens to subsume Sir Mick's vocals. You want attack, these amplifiers can deliver – and do so in spades, at high playback levels.


Compact IR remote also caters for Leema's CD players but, here, offers control over input, volume, mute and standby for the Neutron preamp

Winding down to the romance of Frank Sinatra's recording of 'Meditação' with Antônio Carlos Jobim, from their eponymous 1967 album [UMG International 0602527209579], and the Leema amplifier combo conveys the whole package – Francis Albert's close-miked but reverberant voice, appropriately almost dreamlike, Jobim's subtle guitar and the silky sheen of Claus Ogerman's strings. It's perfect late-night listening, with the amps at a shimmering tickover.

Even if some other pre/powers, or big integrated amplifiers, may get you even deeper into Sinatra's seemingly effortless phrasing, it's hard to argue with the warmth and lushness on offer here, and indeed the ability of the Leema combination to impress across a wide range of music. And all, I might add, while remaining at a very sensible price.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
There's much to admire about this more affordable Leema pre/power, from their no-nonsense style and feel to a sound that's undeniably big on power and drive. The Graviton is certainly impressive, and a winner when fed direct from a source with its own volume control, but the duo still meets its brief on value for money, flexibility and speaker handling. The UK design and build will be important to some too.

Leema Acoustics Ltd
Supplied by: Leema Acoustics Ltd
01938 559021