I have always held the uppermost respect for Leema Acoustics for no other reason than they choose the top floor at the Bristol HiFi Show, well away from the crashing A/V subwoofers on the second and third floors. For that reason, I have always popped up there to see what was going on, but until now I have not heard their electronics but I understand the reputation they have of quality.
In the HiFi era of DACs, transports and streamers you still need an amplifier to light up the room and for that, I have the Leema Acoustics Pulse IV on review.
The Leema Acoustics Pulse IV is an integrated amplifier, with toys! It builds on the Leema heritage in amplifiers and is an update of the Pulse III. It features an array of 5 line-level analogue inputs and a Phono input that can be configured for MM or MC cartridges. This comprehensive set of inputs is joined by 7 digital inputs and an aptX Bluetooth option. The digital inputs are 3 electrical Coaxial S/PDIF; 3 optical TOSLINK connectors and a USB Type-B capable of up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM and DSD capable. The onboard DAC is an ESS Sabre DAC.
There are two preamplifier outputs and of course a set of single speaker outputs. There is a 3.5mm headphone output at the front and a fixed-level record output.
The amplifier is rated for nominal power output at 80/channel RMS into 8 Ohms.
The amplifier weighs in at a modest 11kg and it is a standard width, the dimensions are (WxHxD) 435x90x375mm. The Pulse IV is available in both silver and black and priced at £2,400.
The Pulse has a matt finish on the machined front facia, I have the silver version. It has a nice aesthetic to it and the styling is unlikely to date, in my view. The chassis is light, and there is plenty of space for air to circulate. The front facia and the rear panel are solidly engineered in place. Leema Acoustics is at pains to point out their ‘Made in Britain’ status and local businesses support their efforts in this matter, making replacement parts easy to track down, should the need arise.
I have had the Pulse IV set up in a variety of ways. One of the best sounds I have heard was with the Leema Acoustics Pulse IV as a preamplifier recently with the Chord Étude Stereo Power Amplifier. With this set up I was using the RCA ‘Pre Out’ to the Chord and then I had the idea of supporting the Kudos Cardea C10s with a subwoofer using the second ‘Pre Out’ that was available.
I have also simply had the Pulse IV as an integrated amplifier, and this has proved to be a wonderful combination with both the refined Kudos Cardea C10 speakers and also a pair of Elipson Heritage XPS15s.
The amplifier turns on with a gentle lean on the right hand of the two dials, from here you can pick the input source which selects the last input selection if you turn it off overnight. There is a light click as you choose your source.
When you do switch sources, the device fades the volume up from nought to the last volume setting so your new source will not hit you with a wall of sound. This is a very cool touch.
The left-hand dial is the volume control and if you lean on it, you get access to the menu where you can control inputs like the Phono settings for moving magnet or moving coil, or the LCD set up. If you do gently tap the left-hand dial, it mutes the output, which is useful if you are on the phone.
I have had this amplifier for a while now and in everyday use, the amplifier does not seem to be hot so there is plenty of breathing going on. It is a very flexible hub from which to manage your audio needs.
With my Pixel, the Bluetooth module has been very acceptable, be it podcasts or the Tidal or Qobuz App from my phone, the quality has been excellent throughout and connectivity has been flawless.
I have set up my Rega RP3 with an Elys2 moving magnet to the Phono input, the output is decent and more than acceptable. The sound level is good, and the resolution is as you would wish from a turntable. I had a conversation with Lee Taylor who explained the evolution of the Pulse was as much a response to the turntable revolution as it was an iteration of the Pulse III. Hence the inclusion of the quality Phono stage from the Essentials range.
There is also the option of selecting a moving coil input for a higher quality cartridge and this is a remarkably interesting addition to the phono input that requires an added gain stage to take the moving coil output. I have not had the opportunity of testing this function.
I have been using an optical input from a Bluesound Node 2i, which is a fine piece of equipment, generally. The output from the Leema Acoustics Pulse IV is strong and creates a full soundstage that is wide and detailed. There is plenty of power here and the Pulse delivers a punchy dynamic performance when needed such as in the track by Weeknd with Ariana Grande Save Your Tears (Remix) (Qobuz, 16bit/44.1kHz). All of this points to a fine Sabre DAC performance in the Pulse IV that is to be admired. There is plenty of resolution translated from a HiRes input, such as Taylor Swift’s album evermore (Tidal, 24bit/44.1kHz).
Straight analogue input into RCA-1 from an Auralic Vega G1, however, gave me a step up in class. Helped in no small part by the Vega G1 DAC and the Lightning DS App the Auralic output is clean and perfectly timed. Setting the Vega to unity output and using Atlas Ailsa RCA interconnectors and the amplification from the Pulse is a delight. The detail in Taylor Swift’s folklore and evermore albums are sumptuous, particularly on the cinematic track exile (Tidal, 24bit/44.1kHz), the duet with Justin Vernon, from Bon Iver.
The remote is absolutely fine, it is ‘plastic fantastic’ if we are honest about it, but it does its job well. It has volume and mute and a source selection which is useful for flicking over to Bluetooth without getting up.
As a preamplifier
Using the Leema as preamplification stage with Chord’s Étude with the RCA Pre Out worked brilliantly. I used the Bluesound Node 2i for music streaming and overall soundstage generated, weighted heavily by the Chord Étude amplification was sparkling. With Two L/R Pre Outputs, I was able to use a subwoofer to support the Kudos Cardea C10s soundstage when wanted.
As with most of the features I have found with this Pulse IV the headphone output with a pair of Focal for Bentley Radiance headphones is rather good too. On inserting the jack, the volume to the speakers is cut. A nice feature is that the headphone volume itself is cut to zero, only after turning up the volume with the remote or the knob itself do the headphones play any music, this is a thoughtful touch and saves you from accidentally killing your ears.
I had a listen to Kurt Elling’s new track Sassy (Tidal, 16bit/44.1kHz), what a track, the snare is as crispy as a packet of Monster Munch and the bassist provides the fullest of flavour too, the headphone output makes you turn it up and tap your toes, which is slightly dangerous.
As a musical hub for everything audio, the Leema Acoustics Pulse IV has the lot at a standard that you would want at this price bracket. And with a decent turntable phono input and Bluetooth options, this is a fantastic piece of kit. Do not forget that its basic job of amplification is covered nicely here too with a punchy and dynamic output full of energy and verve. With a well organised soundstage with plenty of space offered, very acceptable resolution and a stunning array of inputs this amplifier can certainly give one or two established all-in-one style systems a run for their money, particularly if you add a suitable external streaming option. The cream rises to the top as we see with Leema at Bristol every year and this amplifier is up there on the top floor.
Faded up source selection
Twin Pre Out for subwoofer
This box has it all!
Full details of the Specification are on the company’s site
About Leema Acoustics
Leema Acoustics is an internationally respected manufacturer of high-performance audio products founded by two ex-BBC sound engineers, both of whom have a long history in pro and domestic audio. Founder Lee Taylor leads the design team with everything proudly hand-made in Wales using UK- and European-sourced components.
Founded in 1998, Leema Acoustics’ unique design processes, fanatical attention to detail and pursuit of accurate sound reproduction have seen the company win numerous press accolades in recent times. Today’s Leema Acoustics incorporates the latest technology into a product range that covers electronics, loudspeakers and cables, delivering complete high-performance audio solutions to consumers, with the benefits of expert design, UK hand-assembly and local component sourcing.
BAFTA and Palme d’Or award-winning Lee Taylor has countless years’ experience in recording and mixing for the film, television and music industries. Lee continues to innovate using his unrivalled experience in audio to produce some of the world’s finest audio equipment.