Leema Acoustics has really broken its mould when it comes to the Elements range of hi-fi separates.
Most obviously, the range, which includes this stereo amplifier with optional integrated DAC, a standalone Elements DAC, an Elements CD player and an Elements Phono stage, has been trimmed down to Cyrus-style half-size enclosures.
What’s more, this is one of the most feature-heavy amplifiers from Leema yet. As we mentioned, the Elements offers you the option of an integrated DAC, which is what we’re testing here.
You can knock £200 off the price tag – bringing it bang in line with these rivals – if you don’t want this option. The DAC is no slouch, on paper at least, supporting 24/192 files via digital coaxial (one), digital optical (three) or the asynchronous USB connection.
LIPS sync keeps it together
Connectivity extends further, with the three analogue stereo RCA connections joined by a set of XLR balanced inputs and a preamp output. There’s a solitary set of speaker terminals, Leema’s LIPS connections (which allow you to connect together Leema components in order to get complete control of your system from one remote control) and finally a headphone connection.
The remote is a bit underwhelming, considering the £1400 price-tag.
As with others we’ve seen, the compact styling seems to divide opinion but while we’re fairly happy with the way the box looks, elements – excuse the pun – of the build and design are a little frustrating.
The chassis doesn’t feel particularly solid, the display is small and text hard to pick up at times, while the ‘mute’ and ‘menu’ buttons don’t exactly feel inspiring. If none of that bothers you, the impressively confusing menu system for selecting your source and adjusting settings surely will.
It’s worth pointing out that, out of the box, the Leema Elements can sound a little lively in the treble. Give it plenty of time to run-in and this calms down. Once that’s sorted, this amplifier is capable of a detailed, well-organised sound.
Spin some Hans Zimmer, in the form of the excellent Inception soundtrack, and there’s subtlety to strings, tension successfully conveyed, and good pace.
Pushing out two channels of 56W, it’s no powerhouse, and that does at times become apparent with a slight lack of all-out drive and drama when really stretched. Listening to Drake’s Headlines, bass notes are tight yet lean, and fast rather than particularly deep and weighty.
Vocals are expressive and natural. The integrated DAC may appear good value in isolation, but is merely so-so, lacking a little poise and power.
Sonically the Leema Elements has plenty to commend it. If you don’t mind something a little lighter on its feet and can turn a blind eye to some build foibles then the impressive detail, and the bonus of an integrated DAC and headphone amp, could turn your head.