About the LEAK Stereo 230
Classic look and contemporary sound — now with more power.
Classic look and contemporary sound — now with more power.
The British company LEAK Audio recently made a splash with their return to the audiophile world with the LEAK Stereo 130. The LEAK 230 builds on that debut by adding more power and an HDMI connection. Of course, the vintage good looks are still there, from the Art Deco-inspired logo to the chunky volume and source knobs. That attractive exterior houses carefully designed, modern hi-fi circuitry that makes your analog and digital sources sound great.
The Stereo 230 delivers 75 watts of clean power per channel for driving a pair of speakers — it pairs particularly well with LEAK's sibling brand Wharfedale.
Connections for your components
The Stereo 230 has a superb ESS Technology 32-bit Reference DAC inside that makes digital sources sound their best. There's an HDMI ARC port to connect your TV, enabling you to use smart TV apps to stream music. One coaxial and one optical digital input let you connect a CD player or similar sources, and a USB Type-B input lets you connect a computer. Built-in Bluetooth with high-quality streaming gives you convenient playback from your phone, tablet, or computer.
Analog music fans have plenty to work with, too. There are two sets of auxiliary RCA inputs, and a dedicated phono stage for connecting a turntable with a moving magnet cartridge. A single set of RCA preamp outputs let you upgrade to a more powerful amp while still using the Stereo 230's preamp and DAC. And if you like to listen privately while working, there's a 1/4" headphone jack on the front panel.
My hands-on experience with the LEAK Stereo 230
I was super-excited to experience the LEAK Stereo 230 in our Vendor Training Room in Norton. But first, I couldn't resist taking it home for a test drive. The unboxing experience is luxurious. The moment I pulled the (quite hefty) amp out of the box, I got a whiff of newly sawn wood from the walnut finish. Even the user manual felt like a work of art, being printed on a thick, parchment-like paper with a muted brown typeface.
My home test rig
For a worthy audio source, I had the matching LEAK CDT on loan — it's a CD "transport" that relies on the integrated amplifier's internal high-quality DAC. I connected my Klipsch Heresy III speakers, along with my SVS PB-2000 Pro subwoofer. Then I grabbed my CDs, and it was off to the races!
A royal entrance
First up: Queen's Greatest Hits, 1981 edition. Now, Freddie Mercury never hit an incorrect note in his life, and the LEAK system gave him the soundstage he deserved. Not only that, every lick of Roger Taylor's drum kit was crisp and clean, from the shimmer of the cymbals to the thump of the bass drum. Brian May's guitar growled throughout the arrangements, and John Deacon's bass thrummed in the background, ever-present. Every bit of instrumentation was just as clear as Freddie's operatic delivery.
Bluetooth on the side
Switching to Bluetooth, one of my go-to TIDAL albums that I use as a reference with new equipment, Pink Floyd's Momentary Lapse of Reason. The creak of the boat and the lapping of gentle waves at the beginning of "Signs of Life" brought in the swelling synths that always give me chills on audiophile equipment. The Stereo 230 did not disappoint.
A demo at Crutchfield's Southwest Virginia facility
When I moved the Stereo 230 and CDT to our Vendor Training Room, I was excited to connect the Wharfedale EVO4.3 floor-standing speakers. The walnut finish of the Stereo 230 and the matching finish of the EVO4.3s gave me a wave of nostalgia, taking me back to the 1970s, standing in my grandmother's wood-paneled living room in front of the giant console stereo (complete with 8-track tape player and turntable).
After connecting the speakers and the SVS SB16-Ultra, I eagerly popped in one of my favorite CDs, the Alice in Chains performance on MTV Unplugged. The Stereo 230 and the EVO4.3s teamed up beautifully, as the warmth and intimacy of this performance were immediately apparent. Stereo imaging was excellent, and I could imagine the position of each of the musicians on stage. Crutchfield Advisor Gigi commented that the sound was very clean, an accurate assessment, with no audible background noise coming from the amp.
A symphonic soundstage
To give a little variety to the demo, I had a CD of my favorite orchestral score, George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue as performed by the Columbia Symphony with Leonard Bernstein playing the piano and conducting. From the slinky opening notes of the clarinet to the closing crash of cymbals, this piece was a treat to listen to on the LEAK amp and CDT. Every note was cleanly rendered, and when the piano led into a swelling string arrangement, the hairs on the back of my head stood up--ASMR, indeed!
At this point, I couldn't resist streaming Pink Floyd over Bluetooth again. I cued up Momentary Lapse of Reason from Tidal once more, but this time the size of the room allowed the music to "breathe" in a way my cramped living room had not, and the EVO4.3s softened the highs in a pleasant way.
A gorgeous OLED TV deserves gorgeous sound with it. I tested the HDMI ARC port on the amplifier with the Sony XBR-65A8F and pulled up the Netflix app on the TV. I wanted something with action to see how the dialogue meshed with the sound effects. I decided King Kong would be appropriate and checked out different scenes. Dialogue was clean and detailed, and it wasn't overpowered by the action. It was cool to hear the rumble of the ship engines lending ambiance to the feel of the movie. Once again, stereo imaging was impressive as the audio moved from one speaker to the other, mirroring events on the screen.
It was a joy to experience the LEAK Stereo 230. If you're looking for outstanding sound for a dedicated two-channel system, this would be a fine addition to your collection!
- 75 watts x 2 channels into 8 ohms
- 115 watts x 2 channels into 4 ohms
- powerful, efficient Class AB amplification
- total harmonic distortion: 0.003% (30 watts, into 8 ohms)
- signal-to-noise ratio: 109dB
- built-in Bluetooth® with aptX and aptX LL audio coding for a better-sounding connection to compatible devices
- built-in phono stage for turntables with moving magnet cartridges
- premium ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9038Q2M DAC supports high-res digital files up to 32-bit/768kHz
- HDMI ARC port for connecting a TV
- digital inputs: 1 Toslink optical, 1 coaxial (handle signals up to 192kHz)
- digital outputs: 1 Toslink optical, 1 coaxial
- USB Type-B input for connecting a computer (PCM files up to 768kHz, DSD up to 22.4MHz)
- 2 sets of stereo RCA aux inputs
- phono input for connecting a turntable with a moving magnet cartridge
- 1 set of stereo RCA preamp outputs
- 1/4" headphone jack on front panel
- one pair of binding post speaker terminals
- USB Type-A input for software updates
- 12-volt trigger input and output
- detachable power cord
Dimensions and warranty:
- 12-15/16"W x 5-3/4"H x 17-3/8"D
- weight: 28 lbs.
- warranty: 3 years
- MFR # LEKIASTR230WLN
What's in the box:
- Stereo integrated amplifier
- 6 AC power cord
- Remote control
- User Manual
- USB and DSD Setup Guide
Customer reviews for LEAK Stereo 230
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More details on the LEAK Stereo 230
Features & specs
|Watts RMS per Channel (8-ohms)||75|
|Watts RMS per Channel (6-ohms)||Not given|
|Watts RMS per Channel (4-ohms)||115|
|Minimum Impedance||4 ohms|
|Signal to Noise Ratio||109|
|DAC Bit Depth||32-bit|
|DAC Sample Rate||768 kHz|
|Built-in DAC (Digital to Analog Converter)||Yes|
|Built-in Radio Tuner||None|
|RCA Line-level Inputs||2|
|XLR Line-level Inputs||No|
|Optical Digital Inputs||1|
|Coaxial Digital Inputs||1|
|Stereo Preamp Outputs||Yes|
|Home Theater Bypass||No|
|Removable Power Cord||IEC 3-prong|
|Apple AirPlay 2||No|
|Dimensions and Warranty|
|Parts Warranty||3 Years|
|Labor Warranty||3 Years|
Stereo Integrated Amplifier: The Leak Stereo 230 is a high performance, high-fidelity 2-channel integrated amplifier designed to be the perfect match to a wide variety of both analog, digital, and wireless audio sources. It is rated at 75 watts (RMS) x 2 channels into 8-ohms, or 115 watts (RMS) x 2 channels into 4-ohms.
High-Performance DAC: Enjoy ultra-low noise and high dynamic range from your digital audio files with the included acclaimed ES9038Q2M Reference chip and ESS Technology's 32-bit HyperStream architecture with Time Domain Jitter Eliminator. The sampling rate goes up to a breathtaking 768kHz (PCM) and DSD512 (22.4MHz)
Dedicated Headphone Amplifier Circuit: The LEAK STEREO 230 uses a dedicated amplifier circuit with current-feedback technology for the headphones output. Equal in performance to some standalone headphone amplifiers, the design offers high-speed output signal transition thanks to a high slew rate. The result is a dynamic, detailed and engaging performance with all manner of headphone types. The unit is equipped with a front-panel 1/4" headphone jack for connection of your headphones. The headphone output can be adjusted up to 4.5V for connection of a variety of headphones. Connecting headphones will mute the audio signal to your connected loudspeakers.
Audio Controls: The Leak Stereo 230 offers independent Bass & Treble control that can be adjusted from -6 to +6dB. There is also a Balance control that allows you to adjust the sound output balance of the left and right speakers. In addition, there is a Direct mode which bypasses the integrated amp's Tone controls to reduce noise and electronic interference in order to reproduce the purest sound possible.
Bluetooth Audio Streaming: The Leak Stereo 230 integrated amplifier offers built-in Bluetooth 4.0 with support for wireless audio streaming (A2DP) and control (AVRCP). You'll be able to wirelessly stream stored music, music apps, and other audio content from your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, tablet, desktop computer, and laptop to the integrated amp. You'll also be able to control Play/Pause and Previous/Next Track functions from the included IR remote. In addition to supporting Bluetooth's standard SBC codec and Apple's AAC codec, the Leak Stereo 230 is compatible with Qualcomm's aptX codec for "CD-quality" (16-bit/44.1kHz) wireless audio streaming from aptX compatible source devices (including some Android smartphones and tablets).
Note: You can pair multiple Bluetooth source devices with the Leak Stereo 230, but only one device can be connected and used for playback at a time.
USB-B Input: The Leak Stereo 230's USB-B input allows connection to your Windows PC (Vista-up) or Mac (OS X 10.6.4-up) computer for playback of stored digital music files on your compatible laptop or desktop computer through the integrated amplifier. A Windows PC will require the installation of a USB driver. A mac computer does not require the installation of a separate USB driver. The unit supports playback of PCM (44.1kHz to 768kHz), DSD64 (2.8MHz), DSD128 (5.6MHz), DSD256 (11.2MHz), DSD512 (22.4MHz) music files. System Requirements include -
- Windows Vista and up , or Mac OS 10.6.4 and up
- Intel Core 2 @ 1.6GHz or similar AMD processor
- 1GB RAM
- USB 2.0 Interface
Note: There is also a rear-panel USB-A input that is used for service and firmware updates only. The USB-A input does not support media playback.
HDMI ARC: The Lelak Stereo 230 also boasts a newly developed HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) function for high-quality audio in AV applications. The included HDMI ARC connection makes the integrated amplifier perfect for home AV applications, bringing the LEAK Hi-Fi pedigree to your TV screen as well. The HDMI ARC jack supports 2ch PCM audio signals from 44.1kHz to 192kHz.
Note: The HDMI ARC jack does not support Dolby Digital, DTS, or any other multichannel surround format.
Digital Inputs & Outputs: The Leak Stereo 230 is equipped with two optical (toslink) digital inputs and one coaxial (RCA) digital input that support 2ch PCM digital audio signals from 44.1kHz to 192kHz. It also features an optical (toslink) and coaxial (RCA) digital output to connect to a higher quality external DAC.
Note: The digital inputs and outputs do not support Dolby Digital, DTS, or any other multichannel surround format.
Line-Level Inputs & Outputs: The Leak Stereo 230 integrated amplifier features two analog line-level stereo RCA inputs. It is also outfitted with a stereo RCA pre-out that allows you to use the Stereo 230 as a preamplifier and connect it to a separate power amplifier.
MM Phono Input: The Leak Stereo 230's has a built-in Moving Magnet (MM) phono pre-amplifier which allows for direct connection to a turntable record player so you can enjoy your classic vinyl collection. Experience exceptional sound quality with the included high-quality, low-noise turntable input optimized for moving magnet (MM) cartridges. The JFET-based circuit offers precise RIAA equalization, meeting industry standards for the best vinyl record playback. A ground terminal is offered to reduce any hum or noise.
Binding Post Speaker Output Terminals: The Leak Stereo 230 integrated amplifier is outfitted with 5-way binding post terminals for connection of a pair of 8-ohm or 4-ohm loudspeakers. These 5-way binding posts will accept bare wire (up to 12AWG), pin-connectors, spade-lugs, and banana plugs (single or dual).
Simple Control: The Leak Stereo 230 offers simple front-panel controls, plus comes with an IR remote for wireless operation of the stereo integrated amplifier. The IR remote uses two "AAA" batteries (not included).
- Front-Panel: Front-panel controls include Power, Volume, Input, Bass, Treble, Balance, & Direct.
- IR Remote: The IR remote provides Power, Volume, Input, Play/Pause, Previous/Next Track, and Direct. The Play/Pause and Previous/Next track functions are only supported when Bluetooth is selected as the source input.
12V Trigger: The Leak Stereo 230 features a 12V Trigger Input (3.5mm) which allows the integrated amplifier to turn on at the same time as a connected source device or amplifier with a 12V Trigger Output. There is also a 12V Trigger Link (3.5mm) that allows you to daisy-chain the 12V Trigger Input signal to another component with a 12V Trigger Input, so the system can turn on at the same time.
Auto Standby: The Leak Stereo 230 will automatically go into Standby mode if there is no audio signal or no operation for a set period of time. You can set the Auto Standby time to 20 minutes or 1 hour.
Protection Mode: The Leak Stereo 230 is protected by a thermal switch which interrupts the AC power supply if the amplifier is grossly overloaded for a period of time. It is fully protected against gross overload and short-circuit protection.
Note: The unit does not protect against high or extreme temperatures. Make sure to install the Leak Stereo 230 in a well ventilated area.
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