Old school: LEAK channels nostalgia in latest audio design
LEAK mixes the latest technology with memory to conjure up a powerful listening experience
The ongoing fetish for analogue authenticity has seen the resurgence of vinyl, the resurrection of the compact cassette, the revival of old school record players and a return to sleek, wood-clad audio equipment that gives off a heft and presence reminiscent of an earlier age. One of the brands owned by the International Group, alongside QUAD and Wharfedale, is LEAK.
Harold Joseph Leak’s London company started out making public address systems in the 1930s, before specialising in amplification after the war. By the 1960s, after selling out to the Rank Organisation, it had become well-known for its high-performance home hi-fi kit, only for it to lapse with the arrival of the big-name Japanese brands.
The name is now being revived with two new products in two different finishes. The LEAK Stereo 130 is an amplifier with a full set of contemporary inputs, including Bluetooth. It’s joined by the LEAK CDT, a classically styled CD player / USB music player with a particular attention to detail; not sleek like B&O, but faintly reminiscent of the careful application of Letraset and unselfconscious engineering-driven minimalism that characterised the era. Both have optional walnut enclosures to add just the right touch of retro modernity.
Jamie O’Callaghan, Global Head of Sales and Marketing at International Audio Group, admits that the analogue revival is driving the brand’s return. ‘Much like the appeal of mechanical watches, there’s a joy and authenticity in high-quality engineering devised to perform a specific role at a very high level, as opposed to, say, a computer with cloud-based storage,’ he says. Although what’s under the skin has moved on dramatically from the transistors of the original LEAK units, there’s a clear link between how hi-fi looks and how we expect it to sound, a mix of nostalgia and memory that conjures up powerful emotional wizardry. §