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Leema Elements phono review

Best phono stage, Awards 2011. We're struggling to think of a better alternative at the money. Superb. Tested at £499

Our Verdict

Best phono stage, Awards 2011. The best phono stage we’ve heard at the price

For

  • Impressive transparency
  • great timing and dynamics
  • MM and MC compatible

Against

  • Low perceived value
  • no cartridge loading adjustments

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Best phono stage, Awards 2011. The best phono stage we’ve heard at the price

Pros

  • + Impressive transparency
  • + great timing and dynamics
  • + MM and MC compatible

Cons

  • - Low perceived value
  • - no cartridge loading adjustments

Leema is best known for its Award-winning high-end kit, but this Elements phono stage shows that it has what it takes at more affordable prices, too.

This phono stage is a switchable moving magnet/moving coil unit. Unlike with some pricier alternatives, there's no provision for adjusting cartridge loading.

Moving magnet designs get a 47kOhms loading, while moving coils make do with 100 ohms: both values are the standard default ratings for these types of cartridges. There's the additional option of a filter to get rid of the low-frequency hash some below-par records and players produce.

Fine insight and transparency
Build quality is good, though the lack of weight (aided by the plug-mounted power supply and the internal audio circuitry being all surface-mount components) is something of a surprise.

Initially, the Elements sounds too bright, but given a few days of use it delivers all the insight and transparency the brand has become known for.

Given a well-used sample of REM's Automatic for the People, the Leema delivers a truckload of detail and plenty of punch. It's a musical performance packed with attack and drive, helped by crisp timing and the ability to unite all the instrumental threads into a cohesive whole.

Impressive composure
Switch to Ravel's Bolero and this phono stage responds with impressive subtlety and composure. Tonally, things edge towards leanness, but not enough to spoil its ability to convince.

Stereo imaging is as crisp as you like, though pricier alternatives will show there's more to be had when it comes to image depth.

And these results are equally convincing on moving magnet and moving coil settings.

We rate the Elements phono stage extremely highly and can't think of a better alternative at the money. Buy with confidence.

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What Hi-Fi?

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 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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