• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). There are daily reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

Leema Acoustics Element DAC & Preamp Review

Rate this DAC & Pre-amp

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 17 11.1%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 51 33.3%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 78 51.0%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 7 4.6%

  • Total voters
    153

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
39,997
Likes
185,666
Location
Seattle Area
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Leema Acoustics Element stereo DAC and analog input preamp. It is on loan from a member and costs US $2,195.
Leema Acoustics Elements Precision DAC balanced preamp review.jpg

It is a substantial unit with controls that feel good. What sets this DAC apart from others like it, is larger number of digital input and importantly, analog input:
Leema Acoustics Elements Precision DAC balanced preamp back panel USB stereo review.jpg


For people like me who are forced to use a pre-amp because we have an analog source (reel to reel in my case), this is a highly desirable feature.

As sent, the unit is rated for 230 volts so I powered it with my lab AC generator set to that. Initially I just plugged it into our 120 volts mains and everything seemed to work as far as the display but there was no output. Took me about half of our to realize it needed 230 volt input.

I see reviews dating back to 2014 so it is an older design.

For reasons I won't get into, this is an abbreviated review.

Leema Acoustics Element Precision DAC Measurements
Let's start with our usual dashboard:

Leema Acoustics Elements Precision DAC Balanced Measurements.png


This is nothing to write home about in this day and age but it is at least not broken:
best dac and preamp review.png


best dac and preamp review zoom.png

RCA output is about the same:

Leema Acoustics Elements Precision DAC RCA Measurements.png


Dynamic range falls in the same category:
Leema Acoustics Elements Precision DAC Balanced DNR Measurements.png


You may have noticed that the above is with Toslink input. I could not get USB input to work with standard class driver. It oddly doesn't expose any sample rates below 96 kHz. They do have their own driver so perhaps that fixes things (I did not try).

Leema Acoustics Element Analog Input Measurements
I was most interested in this mode of operation and was pleased with the results:
Leema Acoustics Elements Precision Analog in RCA Measurements.png


Distortion is vanishingly low at below -125 dB. Noise is what dominates SINAD:
Leema Acoustics Elements Precision Analog in RCA SNR Measurements.png


This is good enough performance for any analog source you may want to use.

Conclusions
As a DAC, this level of performance is not competitive for any DAC above $150 so that is not the real story here. What is important is inclusion of analog input for those who need it. The convenience of that is very important to likes of me and eliminates the need to use an external pre-amp. Same remote can be used to control both digital and analog input, making for a very convenient solution.

On the basis of analog input and performance, I am going to recommend the Leema Acoustics Element Precision DAC.
-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

SuicideSquid

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 20, 2022
Messages
333
Likes
665
Good enough digital performance, great analog performance, lots of features.

Not something I need, but for its niche, seems to be a good product.
 

Matias

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jan 1, 2019
Messages
3,701
Likes
7,086
Location
São Paulo, Brazil
I wonder why other manufacturers don't include analog inputs. Should not be a big deal. Maybe it takes some space in the back but come on, it's for a good cause!
 

Madjalapeno

Senior Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Aug 13, 2021
Messages
453
Likes
1,072
Location
NH, USA
I wonder why other manufacturers don't include analog inputs. Should not be a big deal. Maybe it takes some space in the back but come on, it's for a good cause!
I was looking for something that still had analog inputs. Ended up buying a Schiit Saga S just to be able to switch them.
 

sarumbear

Master Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Aug 15, 2020
Messages
5,931
Likes
5,348
Whats is the "lips" input? Never seen a input labeled with that.

LIPS is an acronym for 'Leema Intelligent Protocol System'. It is a communication bus that enables Leema components to communicate with other units in the Leema range. The communication enables simple control of power on/off from one unit, right up to the control of all functions in a Leema system comprising up to 15 individual components.
 

GWolfman

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Nov 3, 2020
Messages
534
Likes
788
As always Amir, thanks!

The analog in is RCA only, correct? Also, it looks like the analog in is not digitized (for the preamp functionality), right?
 

levimax

Major Contributor
Joined
Dec 28, 2018
Messages
1,754
Likes
2,546
Location
San Diego
I wonder why other manufacturers don't include analog inputs. Should not be a big deal. Maybe it takes some space in the back but come on, it's for a good cause!
Analog inputs like these that are very well implemented are expensive and complex compared to just a DAC. If it was easy it would be done all the time. While expensive this item delivers on the analog side and considering how old it is does OK on the digital side. Good to see a product that works as expected.
 

Ajax

Active Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2018
Messages
129
Likes
374
Location
Byron Bay, Australia
A better performing and less expensive Preamp/DAC can be found from the USA manufacturer Benchmark Media... they have been manufacturing DACs for over 20 years ....... DAC 1, DAC2 and DAC 3 series.

The sweet spot for me in their range is the older DAC 2L, which has a remote with volume and input control, and includes 2 x RCA analogue, 2 x optical, 2 x coaxial plus a USB for your computer. It has both RCA & balanced out. Their HGC models incorporate a high quality headphone amp, which I don't require.

Amir tested their DAC HGC3 here:


I have purchased several of their DACs over the past 10 years, all of which have performed wonderfully well and have been 100% reliable. I purchased a DAC 2L second hand 2 years ago for only US$700, great engineering at a very reasonable price.
 
Last edited:

naviivan

Member
Joined
Jun 17, 2020
Messages
58
Likes
86
Location
Australia
Initially I just plugged it into our 120 volts mains and everything seemed to work as far as the display but there was no output. Took me about half of our to realize it needed 230 volt input.
Amirm, It concerns me that you didn't even bother checking it was 230V before plugging it in......... and it took you half an hour to figure it out.
 

617

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 18, 2019
Messages
1,976
Likes
4,260
Location
Somerville, MA
This should be a mediocre/overpriced award, but for me, the inclusion of one RCA analog input is huge.
 

naviivan

Member
Joined
Jun 17, 2020
Messages
58
Likes
86
Location
Australia
This should be a mediocre/overpriced award, but for me, the inclusion of one RCA analog input is huge.
What were the other DACs like 8 years ago?
 

PeteL

Major Contributor
Joined
Jun 1, 2020
Messages
2,757
Likes
2,958
Can we assume the volume control is an analog pot? if so it would bu interesting to see the usual channel balance, etc, if not… well if not that would mean the analog ins are digitised but since it is better than the DAC performance it raises questions. In all case it’s a nice package with useful features.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
39,997
Likes
185,666
Location
Seattle Area
Can we assume the volume control is an analog pot? if so it would bu interesting to see the usual channel balance, etc, if not… well if not that would mean the analog ins are digitised but since it is better than the DAC performance it raises questions. In all case it’s a nice package with useful features.
No volume encoder is digital.
 

jam

Active Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2020
Messages
120
Likes
247
Location
Montreal
Thanks for the review Amir. Pretty decent DAC/preamp combo unit. However, considering that one can buy a SOTA preamp like the Topping Pre90 for $600 with balanced analog inputs (+RCA) and pair that with any number of DACs that measure considerably better than this Leema for less than half the price, I just don't see the point of buying it.
 
Top Bottom