What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Wed, 6 Oct 2010, 11:00am

Leema Stream III

Tested at £1495
60100
3

The Stream III looks distinctive and has digital inputs, but doesn’t come close to the class leaders for performance

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For

  • Digital inputs
  • punchy and exciting sound
  • midrange transparency
  • brave cosmetic design

Against

  • Lacks dynamic finesse and rhythmic precision
  • build doesn’t have luxurious feel

Leema deserves a round of applause for its bravery. Like or loathe the Stream's new look, there's no denying this CD player stands apart from the crowd, particularly in the all-white finish of our review sample.

The company is well-known for keeping things simple, which we usually like, but in this case it has probably gone a little too far down the path of minimalism: the uncluttered front panel has just five buttons which control everything, from powering the unit up to ejecting a disc and toggling through the Stream's USB, optical and coax digital inputs.

And the play, rewind, forward and track skip functions. It gets a little confusing at times, particularly as the buttons feel annoyingly vague and the player itself is a little slow to respond.

Lacks that sense of luxury
While general build quality is decent, the player doesn't have the luxurious touch we'd expect at this price level: the casework isn't well damped and the remote handset, though simple to use, feels cheap.

Something like Audiolab's 8200CD feels like a classier machine, even though it weighs in at less than half the Stream III's price.

Normally, Leema would pull things out of the fire with a class-leading sonic performance. And it does, almost. The Stream III is a decent player, with plenty of detail and an open, lively presentation.

Authority and drive over subtlety

Those who crave plenty of punch won't be disappointed, as the Leema turns in a performance rammed with authority and power.

However, the Stream III lacks the kind of dynamic subtlety and precision we'd hope for at this price. The result is that large-scale pieces lack the dynamic shifts and emotional impact we expect.

The Stream III is a decent proposition. It has a good on-board DAC and delivers an entertaining performance.

Its problem is that the competition – the Cyrus CD 8SE, Naim CD 5XS and even the £700 Audiolab 8200CD – are nothing less than exceptional. Sonically, the Stream III can't live with that.

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