- Jul 31, 2019
- Northampton, UK
On the website this looks like it's a current product, one of the Elements range.First of all , thanx to Amir for doing the review. The device was mine, and although Amir had it for a while and I originally didn't put any urgency on its return, but recently, I found a buyer for it and asked for it back, thinking it is too old anyway, so Amir must have reservations for doing the review. Perhaps, Amir didn't have the time to do a full review, I am guessing.
Also, it should be noted it first came out over 10 years ago! so it is a blast from the past, just educational to see how far DACs and preamps have come (or haven't!!).
Leema were two ex-BBC engineers (yes, again ) that started off making near-field speakers for pro industry, then moved on to other things. The industrial, pro, tank-like design reflects that.
There were two silent versions, this unit, was originally the early version, then updated by Leema for FREE, after warranty had ran out (Thanx Leema).
The early version had a different USB input board and susceptible to noise etc, Leema quietly upgraded the input board to add galvanic isolation to the USB. This is way before most manufacturers started worrying about such things.
The PSU is doing a stellar job, and the whole device (forget about the list price) is very comparable with modern DACs, using latest chips. They certainly had paid particular attention to details, these days we take for granted, hence their assertion The devil is in the details.
The DAC uses four chips, and is of balanced nature, hence the reduced 2nd harmonic and increased third. The analogue is not, hence the minute prevailing 2nd (the extra third is only on one channel, could be a fluke).
To me, subjectively, it has always sounded wonderful. And I have modern day DACs to compare it with.
The analogue input was put there originally (back in 2011) for compatibility with older equipments, and Leema also makes Phono input stages.
It is a purely analogue path, but the device can output it in balanced mode too.
For those interested in opamp rollings, this unit uses the 5532! just take a look at analogue performance.
The $2195 List Price, is historical information, I doubt it is still in production, though some dealers may still have stock. At the time, I believe I paid £999.
Most DACs use digital volume control, to add analogue input, means either using an ADC or analogue volume control. That's where the extra cost and complexity is.
And to do it right, to do justice to the digital section.
That is correct, the encoder is digital, the volume control is analogue, even for the digital section.
It is a digitally controlled resistor ladder chip (4 channel). It controls all volume controls, and has memory. Meaning, it remembers last setting on individual inputs.
You can see small discrepancies on channel volume balancing.