Of course, if you do ask the Libra to pick up the pace and deliver a bit of impact with proceedings, it draws on what feels like limitless reserves of grip and attacks Leftfield’s ‘Bad Radio’ with real impact. The Libra has truly wonderful bass. It is free from embellishment or the curious affliction that some digital products suffer from where even the lightest piece of percussion is endowed with the impact of a comet striking the earth. Instead, where depth is needed, you unquestionably receive it – an impact felt as much as heard with the precision and accuracy of a metronome. Where a lightness of touch is needed instead, the Libra is not found wanting.
The only area where you might find the Libra wanting is that for all this discrete ability there are times when you do want it to become slightly more involved. With James McMurtry’s splendidly loping ‘How’m Gonna Find You Now’ [Complicated Game, Blue Rose Records], the Libra is undoubtedly completely in control of the piece but it all seems a little straight laced. Just at the point where you want to lose yourself to the music, the Libra is diligently delivering up the material, but perhaps going a little light on the emotive content. It would be wrong to describe it as ‘sterile’ as it was never anything like as pronounced to warrant such a word, but it can be seen to be somewhat detached.
It is however, exceptionally consistent. From the Bluetooth connection to the USB input, the Libra delivers the same refined, discrete, and capable performance. The Bluetooth performance is genuinely listenable and an ideal way of getting Tidal to the unit if not supported in another digital source. What is also genuinely clever is that when replaying DSD material – and hence making use of decoding other than the Quattro Infinity system – the Leema still sounds very much as it does with PCM.
Leaving the digital side of the product and switching to analogue, the Libra does a reasonable job of bordering on viceless. This is still not a device that will impart much character of its own – it seems very clear that Leema has gone to considerable lengths to ensure that this is something it won’t do – but it is transparent enough to allow for the traits of the devices connected to shine through. Connecting a Cyrus Phono Signature via XLR maintains the polished presentation with the infectious sense of pace that marks it out. Likewise, switching my source Naim ND5 XS to an RCA connection rather than a coaxial one sees some of the bite and attack – that the Leema itself tends to refrain from in the digital domain – making its way back into the presentation.
The volume control in both digital and analogue modes is also a well thought out piece of engineering. With 248 steps, it has the necessary fine adjustment to choose the exact level that you want rather than something approximating to it. Like many implementations of such a volume control the ramp when controlled by remote isn’t fast enough to be perfectly responsive but a quick manual swipe of the front panel control (or reaching for mute) is effective in this case.