Leema Stream III review

The minimalist design of the Leema Stream III looks distinctive, but this CD player can't compete with the best on performance terms Tested at £1495.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

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

Pros

  • +

    Digital inputs

  • +

    punchy and exciting sound

  • +

    midrange transparency

  • +

    brave cosmetic design

Cons

  • -

    Lacks dynamic finesse and rhythmic precision

  • -

    build doesn’t have luxurious feel

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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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What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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