August 2, 2009

Reference Redifened! Bladelius Saga Pre and Ymer Power Amps.

This is an old post of ours in the blog we previously contributed to.

The Bladelius Saga Pre amp. Built on the same deep chassis platform as the Embla CD player.

The MONSTROUSITY called Bladelius Ymer! Watch out for the really sharp edges and corners!

I know I am supposed to live with the Bryston for a little while. But when a full set Bladelius came calling, courtesy of Audiomatic, my knees grew weak and accepted the offer in no time. Ahhh..... I am such am audio slut!

Both the Bladelius Saga and Ymer are top drawer stuff. The Saga pre amp costing RM$32K and the 300W class A/B Ymer power amp will set you back by RM$49K. These are clearly some of the most expensive components to have ever graced my audio cave.

My hifi rack, the FE spider clone struggled to contain the Saga, which is much deeper than most other equipment.

The Bladelius Saga is a full feature pre amp with 3 balanced, 6 single ended inputs and 2 balanced plus 2 single ended outputs. There's also a tape loop provided. You may also adjust the input level of each source individually, so that they all match in volume output, which ever your source is. I found this feature to be very useful to tweak the sound of the system, as it effects the perceived stage depth or forwardness somewhat, depending on setting allocated for each source. I found my self setting the Marantz CDP input to 0(zero) input level, and setting the phono stage input level to -1. I also found I prefered the -1 setting with the Bladelius Embla CDP. You can also individually label each input by name.

The back end of the Saga, input on the left and outputs on the right. Note the RS232 jack, so that you can connect to a PC or laptop for future software up grades, if available.

The Ymer power amp is monster sized, weighing close to 60kgs and no grab handles are provided for the job of lifting it from the box in to place, on my amp rack. Even with 2 person on the job, the satin smooth aluminium finish of the chassis casing is slippery from the hand. The corners are sharp as knife, as I had my hand and fingers cut whilst moving it in to place. Removable grab handles is a nice idea if Bladelius wants to retain the nice, fuss free look of the power amp. A peek on the inside reveals this is a dual mono design in the truest of sense! There are 2 large identical power supply trannies inside, each supplying power to a bank of storage caps, then to the left and right channels with their dedicated heat sinks, all packed inside the casing. The only thing the dual mono channels share is the chassis mounted IEC power input socket, and the all aluminium casing.

The Ymer needs two amp racks to support it, as it is so........ long!

I first mated the Saga to my Marantz CD7 at the front and the Ymer power amp further down the chain, then lastly, my faith full pair of Audio Physic Spark doing speaker duty. My usual array of AQ Sky, Cardas Golden Presence interconnects are used with 2 pairs of speaker cables being used in the session. First being the JPS Super Conductor 3, and later the Siltech Classic G5 LS88 speaker cable. All my usual power arrangements are used including the Torus Power RM8A PIU(Power Isolation Unit).

I loved the sound of the system comprising the Marantz CD7, AQ Sky interconnect, Saga pre amp, Cardas Golden Presence interconnect, Ymer power amp, JPS Super Conductor 3 speaker cables and the Audio Physic Spark speakers. The sound was reproduction was the most realistic ever heard in my audio cave. At this level of sonic excellence, I no longer think about the highs, mids and lows, nor do I think about the staging and imaging. I did not think about scrutinising the sound at all! I've never heard instruments like violin and piano reproduced with such beautifully woody harmonics and truth of timbre. Playing techniques and each violinist's breath could be heard clearly and distinctly. When playing vocals, the alive and breathing qualities are very apparent too. Guitars have that convincing "twang" to it, followed by the woody resonance of the body. Bass string instrument, had texture, fret board finger work all apparent and the strings bounces with each note tune fully. Drums had stick attack, skin texture and that hollow reverb that follows. Cymbal work is always realistic, yet never calling attention to itself, but has that dimensional quality(a.k.a. audiophile "air"), that projects it right at the back of the stage, but still each detail easily heard and followed.

The back end of the Ymer power amp. I love the non shorting WBT Nextgen speaker terminals. I think they are the best!

The amazing part is the stage does appear much bigger than my room. When listening in the dark at night, that room less sensation can be a little hair raising at times. The system was super silent. No tweeter hiss, back ground noise, white noise, nor any nasties were heard.

I started listening with Telarc's Round Up CD, featuring Erich Kunzer conducting Boston Pops Orchestra. This famous wild west themed CD has being heard a billion times, yet played thru the Bladelius combo, the presentation is wholly refreshing. The opening cattle scene track, the whole cattle field was portrayed on to the speaker's back and side walls, like a huge semi curved canvas(like the screen of some THX equiped cenimas) of a cattle scene art work, realizing depth of field by the various cattle "" placement and cowboy riding horses back and forth and the final round up! To me this is just un real. The only thing that diference this from reality is the missing smell of fresh grass and cow dung! By the time I got to track 3 of the Round Up CD, The Magnificient Seven theme, I call it the Marlboro track(it was used in the famous cowboy advertisement campaign by the Marlboro cigarete brand), I was getting goose bumps all over, due to the uncanny resemblence of the experience comparable to sitting on row M of the the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas. The gorgeous, majestic tone of the orchestra coming full on in a Crescendo just made me flip over and over again. I was virtually breathless at the end of that track.

My other significant half, whom is always indifferent to whatever sounds my audio cave makes, suddenly decided to come in one day, when I was playing the very familiar Tube HiFi Violin CD, featuring Wilhem Dennigen on the Guarneri del Gesu 1735 violin with piano backing in the background. She exclaimed that the sound of the violin and the piano was a if in reality, performed right before her! When the track Air, from Suite no.5 was played, a popular wedding tune, she was moved to tears. She's my Dewan Filharmonik Petronas concert partner, and she knows classical music way better than me. She said "now, that's the first time I hear your hifi do the violin and piano tone right!" That statement coming from her, is testament to the highest fidelity of the Bladelius Saga and Ymer combo!

I then proceeded to replace the Marantz CD7 with the Bladelius Embla Basic. While the Embla Basic, was just as detailed and as transparent as the Marantz, it some how sounded a little on the lean, "cool" side of neutral, tonality wise. The Embla certainly had lower noise floor and better dynamics, but somehow portrays music with a little mechanicalness. Strange indeed, as I would have taught being made from the same factory, I would expect better synergy from the Embla than the Marantz CD player. I can only deduce that the Bladelius Saga and Ymer combo was revealing enough to let the Marantz strut it's stuff to the max.

However as usual, coming from such highly transparent equipment, the Saga and Ymer combo will always reveal your system's weak link, if there was one. I wondered if the system would sound as good without the help of the Torus Power? I was shock that the overall system transparency, delicate resolution, and musicality performance parameters dropped a notch or two, sans the Torus Power, with everything plugged direct to wall supply. This proves you must have good power for the Bladelius combo to perform to their very best. Next, as the dead line of the JPS Super Conductor 3 speaker cable came along, which I substituted with the Siltech Classic G5 LS88. Again I noticed a drop in overall performance. The highs were still nice and tidy, the mids are still breathy but have less density, body mass perhaps? However the bass became a little lean and less punchy overall. Dynamics and transient peaks were more subdued than before.

I was surprised, that the Audio Physic Spark speakers, remained unfazed by all the grand equipment it had to support and manages to reveal all the changes noted above. In short, it was up to the task.

The same remote set as the Embla CD player is provided, but operating the Saga is less daunting as almost all comands are direct button accessed. Not menu navigational screen prompted, like the Embla.

In the right audio system configuration, as I found out from my above experience, the Bladelius Saga and Ymer are capable of truly exceptional and absolutely life like musical performance, which more than fully justifies their asking prices. Can I dare say that "they're a steal comparing with some of the more established big brands"?

I think I may have grown silk ears by now, because my high end reference, has just being redifined!

I don't really want to return them, just yet.

Bladelius is sold by Audiomatic, contact Eugene, tel: 012-3222698

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