Leema Elements Review (Vs MF, Arcam, Rega,Primare, Roksan)


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May 11, 2015
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Hi all, I was recently looking for a integrated amp for my Kef R700s and was wondering what other owners are using please let me know what what type of music.

I had my Kefs for a few months now and was using my Marantz SR7009 for everything, I knew I could get more from the speakers for my music and would involve a lot of demo sessions. All these were done in a 48 hour period. The list below is in chronological order and involved the Arcam A39, Musical Fidelity M3si, Roksan K3, Rega Elicit-R, Musical Fidelity M6si, Primare I3 and finally the Leema Elements integrated.

I demo'd a a lot of kit the last few days and here's my personal review of them using the R700s.
Materials I used was mainly softer rock and even Eric Clapton for vocals and guitar work.

I went in prepared to spend £1500 or so but happy to demo kit a little pricier if it blew me away.

Kef R700 + Arcam A39

Demo'd at my local Superfi. A What HiFi 4 star winner was really looking forwards to this.
Sound Stage was large but remember thinking for £1600 it just didn't sound that special and felt a little let down as I was looking forward to testing it. The imaging of vocals and mids were very good giving a a nice room filling sound with no harshness anywhere I can recall.
The bass however just seemed to lack when paired with the Kefs. I'm not one for window shaking bass but this combo was too laid back for my likings. Even on some tracks where you expected some bass to come in, it just didn't turn up. Walked away thinking it just didn't didn't sound like what I expected a proper hifi amp to sound, seemed like a bad match.

Kef R700 + Musical Fidelity M3si

This was tested straight after the Arcam 39. Bass was immediately more apparent than the Arcam. Sound stage was narrower than the Arcams, the vocals didn't seem as good good as the Arcam either. The M3si although had the power for the bass seemed to struggle with the mids somewhat. I don't recall the highs being any better than the Arcam either. Having said that there was quite a price difference between the MF M3si (£1100) vs the Arcam A39 priced at £1700. Finished the demos for that day hoping to MF M6si next to see what else MF can offer.

Kef Q900 + Roksan K3

Turned up at my local Richersounds, they didn't have the Kef R Series so we used the Q900 instead, not really a fair comparison I know but at least gave some impression of what the Roksan was all about. Heard so many good things about Roksan and was dying to see what it was like. The Roksan name seems very strong with the What HiFi crowd and seem to be getting awards all the time.
This time I was sat a lot closer to the speaker than I did at the previous 2 demos.
Sound from the Roksan was, a good balance between bass and mids and highs but vocals a were not as good as the Arcam. The Roksan K3 seemed to struggle sometimes on more bass heavy tracks, I would loose the vocals amongst everything else, almost like the words of the lyrics is lost through the bass, or the bass is masking the vocals. Was impressed with the Roksan sound but ultimately knew there had to be something better for me.

So after 3 reviews I was thinking yes all 3 of these without a doubt sounded better than better than music coming from my Marantz SR7009 but the difference for me wasn't enough and didn't justify spending anything in the £1500 mark for the minor improvements. If I had to say how much I would pay for those improvements in sound quality I would say it felt like no more that £500's worth.

Kef R700 + Rega Elicit-R

Originally the plan was to demo the Rega Elex-R then compare this to its bigger brother the Elicit-R but at the price of £1600 or so we jumped straight to the Elicit-R and missing it's smaller sibling altogether. First impressions, sat there thinking wow this the best amp I demo'd so far. Sounded pretty effortless all round but for me it was the clarity of the vocals that hit me first, seemed like it was miles ahead of anything I've so far tried. The sound filled the room and was the first bit of kit I was willing to pull the trigger on. Everything with the sound just seemed balanced and right. Seemed like a very good match for the Kefs.
The Rega's styling might put some people off as it has a love it / hate it look. Retro red LCD / calculator type display, the Rega looked like something lifted from the 1980s. regardless of how it looked this was a definite worthing finalist in my eyes.

So whilst I was here I was open to other Amps and brands, I didn't want limit myself because I though the name of a brand sounded cooler than another or because I felt something was more hi end than another. I went in with a open mind but I used award winning names and award winners as a starting point. Up until I ran into the Rega I started to question the professional reviews I kept googling and referring to.

Kef R700 + Musical Fidelity M6si

Again one I was looking forward to testing since I tried the M3si the day before. I expect better mids/vocals. Powered it up and sure enough the vocals were amazing better than the Rega that impressed me before. So clear and clean. A much more muscular version of it's little brother and does everthing better. Was very impressed even though it was about £2600, nearly a grand more than what I was happy to pay. During the demo the dealer turned up the volume, then the bass really kicked in, it got to the point where it was becoming uncomfortable to listen to since the bass got very heavy very quickly. Some parts of the bass seemed to be uncontrolled. Credit to the M6si the mids and highs was still crystal clear and focused despite the bass being way too much for me, nothing was lost there. I found the M6si had a Jekyll & Hyde character. Going past the 9 0'Clock mark on the amp makes the bass a lot more more, almost like a all or nothing setup. Impressed with the mids but the 2 sides of this amp really put me off as I was looking for something that's more progressive. The highlight of this amp is without the doubt the mid range and highs, simply amazing. Even if this amp was ever priced in the £1500 region I probably still wouldn't have it. For me it would feel like I had a system that I can only listen to at certain levels and no more. There's more suited speakers out there for this amp that the Kef R700s for sure.

Kef R700 - Primare I3

Never heard of them but was was given their history and details by the dealer, this amp was around the £2000 mark and was one of the mystery amps for me, no idea what to expect since I have not read anything about this brand before.
I was impressed by the Rega, the Primare blew the Rega away, did everthing better. The Primare was like a better version of the Rega as they sounded similar but the Primare sounded bigger, punchier, clearer and more control on the bass that the M6si. It didn't have the power of the MF but it had control of what it could do and up to this point, the Primare is now the best I have heard. This was the new favourite. Now I was truly impressed by what I just heard. I remember sat there thinking, this is a "true hifi" sound and could compete with some of the sounds I heard at the Bristol Sound & Vision Show. The front plate of was machined metal, the knobs were very tactile with a reassuring click, the selector and volume looked like solid pieces that was turned on a metal lathe, had a very high end look and feel to it, very solid. For £2000 I would buy that all day. Brilliant all-rounder with the best bits of the previous 2 amps.

Kef R700 + Leema Elements Integrated

Another brand knew nothing about. Was given brief details of how Leema came to be. Sat down again and listened. No idea of the price of this amp at the time, my thought at this was they are trying to up my budget by blowing me away with better and better kit as I noticed improvements with each demo that went on (referring to the last 3 amps tested). I had a mental figure in my head of £3000 - £3500 since the Primare before it was about £2000. At £3000 I was thinking it was worth it. It sounded even more controlled that the Primare, the mids seemed and everything else was even more balanced, on paper I would have never considered the Leema as it looked to be lacking in power which is also the comment that What HiFi put on the review. 56W RMS but it sounded tight, powerful and agile. We turned this up very loud and the volume indicator said we were 1/4 of the way up. I was that very impressed with the Leema. I asked for the price. I was told £1700, I nearly laughed. My mind said this was the amp for me, I cannot believe the price for the performance considering this amp bested (in my eyes) amps worth nearly a grand more. The vocals on the MF M6si are probably better than the Leema but I wasn't deterred from picking the Leema since the Leema offered so much more in terms of audio quality. I later tried the Leema with a Leema CD Player with balanced outputs. I was shocked in how this great amp can sound even better! It was like the instruments on the track have been rearranged to can hear a shift in what's more forwards and what's further behind. I was that impressed I'm already looking for something with balance outputs to plug into the Leema!
To my surprise the Leema Elements range has been around for years and got a 4 star review in Nov 2012, they weren't using Kef R700s to test the amp that's for sure!

To anyone reading this, do you anything anything that sounds better than the Leema Elements for the R700s? I'm still not sure what it is about the Leema but it's a amazing partner with Kef R700s, can anyone explain why this combination seemed to work so well? It really is miles ahead of the other amps tested. The Primare and Leema are very similar I found but more control on the Leema.

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Thanks for taking the time to give us an insight into your experiences. My hunch is that your ears may not be too dissimilar to mine. Before I read your comments my initial thoughts were that you would not be blown away by either the Arcam or the Roksan. I have listened to both of them with Kef speakers before (the R500s as it happens). The Arcam sounded very nice and was overall a warm and safe sound. The Roksan was pretty lifeless and un-engaging. In my case I also tried the Kefs with a Cyrus amp and suddenly they sprang to life which made me suspect that the Kef floorstanders sound so much better when they have a brighter, more lively amp driving them. Ultimately that was what stopped me buying the Kefs for myself as they didn't quite bring my system to life in the way I had hoped for.

Anyway, happy listening! :)

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