Founded in 1998 by Lee Taylor and Mallory Nicholls (LEE and MAllory = LEEMA) both ex-BBC engineers with an almost fanatical interest in sound reproduction.

They have around 20 products in their current lineup including loudspeakers and electronics, with some news models due to be released soon so we are told.

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CONSTRUCTION

Housed in an attractive half width chassis, this amplifier is certainly well built and neatly laid out.  On the front panel working left to right we find the power button, to the right of which is the infra red remote control sensor window.  Below these are the 3.5mm headphone jack socket and another 3.5mm input jack socket to connect an MP3 player.  In the centre of the front panel is a blue fluorescent display panel which shows the input configuration and the volume level.  To the right of that is the volume control which is not a resistive potentiometer, but a rotary pulse generator which sends digital signals to a volume control processing section in the amplifier.   This knob also doubles up as an input selector by pressing on it when the menu display is activated.  Beneath the volume control is the menu push button and a mute push button.

To the rear we find an array of inputs, the single set of speaker terminals and the mains inlet.  There are no less than 3 TOSLINK input connections, followed by a co-axial S/PDIF input and finally a USB input, which takes care of the digital inputs available.  The analogue inputs comprises a pair of fully balanced XLR  inputs, then 3 RCA single ended input pairs and then finally a pair of “pre out” RCA sockets to connect to another power amplifier for bi-amping, or as a line level subwoofer drive output.   Each of the inputs can be renamed to whatever one desires via the menu system and display.   There is also the option to assign one of the RCA inputs to become a dedicated AV input.  Speaker connection is by BFA sockets which will also accept standard 4mm banana plugs, which of course means you cannot connect bare wire or spade terminals.  To the right of the TOSLINK connector we find a pair of sockets marked as “LIPS” which stands for “Leema Intelligent Protocol System” which links the Elements amplifier to other Leema products.  Having only the Elements amplifier submitted for review, I could not test for the efficacy or otherwise of this connection.  Finally we have an IEC mains input socket and fuse panel with the correct fuse rating for voltage input labeled accordingly.

The Elements amplifier also has a built in Digital to Analogue Convertor with a Crystal CS 434X DAC and a Wolfson receiver.  It will automatically detect sample rates up to 96kHz but with rates higher than that they have to be set with the correct frequency value via the front panel menu control system up to a maximum of 192kHz.

The sample submitted for review is in a silver/grey matt finish, a black finish is also available.

Price at time of review is circa £1,700.00.

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SOUND QUALITY

Not strictly sound quality as such, but worth a mention at this point is how easy the amplifier is to set up.  The front panel menu system works really well, especially so from following the user manual which was clear, concise and lacking in ambiguity, written in plain easily understood English, which was a refreshing change from the norm.   I detest graphics only based instruction manuals.

First impressions were very favourable when I connected the Elements amplifier into my resident evaluation system.  It certainly had no shortage of power and drive, although refinement and sophistication were not as good as the resident amplifier, but that was no surprise and no slur to the Elements amplifier either.  Treble in particular had a slight trace of fuzziness at the extreme top end that was not offensive or indeed intrusive and that was just me being very critical.  I am always loathe to blight any component with adverse comments, so maybe a change of cabling could sort that out and so I tried the Leema interconnects and speaker cables that came in another package and not officially submitted for review.  With the Leema cables installed the sound wasn’t any better to be truthful, so immediately head first into the spare cables cabinet to find some cables which had a bit more synergy with the Elements amplifier.  I tried several pure silver confections and they were way off beam with the sound I was looking for, silver plated copper was less than ideal too and realised that the Elements amp is a touch sensitive to what it is paired with.   In the end I settled on a set of pure copper cables from SLIC Innovations and now we were rocking.Leema_amp_3

With these cables in place the Elements amplifier simply blossomed into a powerful and yet refined musical performer that lacked nothing in musical satisfaction.  Whatever CD I put into drawer never failed to entertain, even the one or two of the infamous “torture tracks” I threw at the Elements amp got shrugged off easily, which told me there was some rounding off in performance somewhere but I was not going to carry out an autopsy to discover why and how, I just enjoyed what I was hearing.  Porcupine Tree’s “Deadwing” album is a real wince listen on the majority of systems and the higher the resolving power, the worse it sounds in most instances.  The Elements amplifier managed to balance on that tightrope of bringing out the details and dynamics of the album, without tipping over into a harsh fatiguing listen and assaulting the ears in the process.

The internal DAC is a peach too and I took the digital output from my CD player via the co-axial and TOSLINK connections using a glass lead and both sounded superb, along with a USB hookup from my PC for playing some Spotify tracks.   I am not into hardcore streaming by any means, I just use Spotty to line up any future music purchases and the reviewer part of me must also have this facility to hand to test the increasing number of devices with digital connectivity being submitted for review.

My favourite CD of the moment is Fink’s “Wheels Beneath My Feet” album recorded live in various venues.   The track “Sort of Revolution” has some powerful Floor Tom whacks from the drummer and the Elements amplifier certainly did put the weight and power behind them so they were felt as well as heard, whereas some amps of reputed power cannot seem able to do this.  At the time of the review a pair of Dali Rubicon 5’s arrived for evaluation and there was no hesitation in hooking them up to the Elements amplifier.  These speakers have a rather prodigious bass output to them and those Floor Tom whacks shook the room even at fairly modest sound levels with no boom at all.  Nice.  The Dalis also have a revealing yet accurate treble and if there was any doubt about the Elements amplifier’s treble content then rest assured the Dalis would have found it, as this same album has some well recorded venue ambience which changes at each location and drum kit cymbals which shine with startling realism.  Fink’s lyrics writing and indeed diction of same is terrible when he sings but for reasons I still cannot comprehend, this album is rarely out of my CD player of late.Leema_amp_2

Of course, I do play many different genres of music during an evaluation, to allay your fears that I have only played two CDs and formed conclusions from that alone.  It is only when something noteworthy crops up during the listening sessions which spans many hours over weeks that I and I suspect many of my fellow reviewers also do, will only incorporate any highlights found into their reviews.  It will generally include Jazz, Orchestral, Rock, Soul, World, Ambient and many others too, although I do draw the line at opera and rap.  Sheesh, no.

CONCLUSION

I cannot in all honesty find fault with the Elements amplifier – not that I look out for them in the first place as it’s not within my remit to do that.  My own experience during the evaluation was that the amplifier is rather fussy with cabling and fortunately I have a veritable armoury of cables to pick and choose from to get the ideal match.  My concern then is that at audition prospective buyers may not be hearing the amplifier at it’s full potential and dismiss it as unsuitable to their tastes.   When you get it right, it’s a delight to listen to and many hours of listening pleasure awaits.  Factor in that it has a superb built in DAC with enough inputs and connectivity to place it at the heart of an entertainment system around the house and at a price that is pretty reasonable too given that flexibility of use.

Construction: 8.1/10RECOMMENDED LOGO NEW
Sound quality: 8.6/10
Value for money: 8.3/10
Overall: 8.3/10

Recommended for:  A stylish compact amplifier offering plenty of inputs including digital, connectivity capabilities and excellent sound quality.

Dominic Marsh

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