Ladies and gentleman, this is what the future of audiophile quality CD players looks like! Well at least that's what I think any way. Mike Bladelius(product designer and owner of Bladelius) would very much agree with me on this too! He!He!
Here, we not only have a CD player in the traditional sense, but also included in the feature count is a silent replay system. What's a silent replay system? you ask.
The front panel menu display, when backing up CDs to flash memory card. Note the no. of corrected jitter errors!
It's a feature that allows you to back up all your CDs in to the Bladelius Embla's flash memory card. In Basic guise as the review sample provided(recommended retail price is RM$26K+), it is estimated to store up to the equivalent of 60 bit perfect CDs in full resolution, and jitter corrected. This mode of playback is said to reproduce better sound quality, more efficiently, as the transport jitter error is taken out of the playback system, due to the flash memory card having no moving parts at all. You may install additional flash memory cards latter at cost. That means you can potentially store your whole CD library in to the Embla. Now isn't technology great???
A fully loaded, full featured Bladelius Embla Premium, which is expected to cost you more than RM$45K!, is said to be in the works. You get front panel touch screen navigation and a back lit touch screen, hand held remote control plus 2 extra digital filter options.
Allison Kraus, Forget About It CD was backed up in to the flash memory card, note that the CD cover was uploaded from the internet, via the RS232 port connected to a computer.
I got this when I backed up a non English TOC CD. No picture too!
I can tell you straight and now, that the Embla Basic is not, that basic after all! It's got over sampling on/off option, sampling frequency option, 44.1, 48, 96 and 192 kHz are available. Also on offer is a digitally operated phase switch, for those really concerned about this sort of thing. There are also USB, Bluetooth and a host of other inputs available for you to stream music in to the Embla's flash memory card for storage, or replayed via your high end audio system.
There are just too many options and features available to mention here, otherwise, I'd start to sound like a product brochure. For full feature listing of the Bladelius Embla, check it out here: http://www.bladelius.com/embla_released.html
Now we get to the important part, the sound! The Bladelius Embla, when playing with the 192kHz up sampling setting used, does remind me very much of the Esoteric X-03 reviewed last month. Only in checking the Embla's spec on the above link, I found out that it uses a Teac transport! However, I cannot confirm is it's of the VRDS variety.
When playing CDs the conventional way, the noise floor is vanishingly low, the overall presentation is very clean, very tidy. Transparency is first rate, as it plays out all the information that is embedded on the CD, nothing is added or subtracted. If it's a poorly recorded pop or rock recording, you'll know it. If it's a lush sounding classical recording, it'll sound like that too. This is about the most uncoloured, true to source CD player I've ever experienced in my system.
I found my self mostly using 44.1kHz oversampling setting for most pop and rock recordings, for a little more immediacy in the music's presentation, and 192kHz up sampling setting for classical and jazz recordings, for better presentation of hall ambiance or studio spatial cues and a little bit more audiophile "air".
But what couldn't prepare me for next to come was that, when a CD is backed up( the Embla will ask you if it should back up each time it detects a new, previously unplayed CD or other source is inserted), and jitter corrected, then stored in to the Embla's flash memory card. When replaying from the flash memory card, the music took on a slightly more focus imaging, better separation between instruments within the sound stage and more organic flow in it's presentation. You can say that I preferred the sound when played back via the flash memory. However, I must state that tonally, the Embla lies in the slightly lean, "cool" side of neutral, which makes partnering it with warmer or musical sounding amps and speakers essential. But that's just my musical preference, yours may differ.
Doesn't the Embla look nice on my audio rack?
However, I do have a few operational quibbles about the Bladelius Embla.
First is the CD slot, which I find that it scratches both the top and bottom surface of my CDs a bit when inserting or ejecting in a hurry. You'll need to exercise care when inserting or ejecting CDs. Bladelius could take cue from in car CD receivers, which has foam lined CD slots.
Next, for the price of RM$26K+, I'd expect the remote to be at least back lit. The remote is well built and heavy aluminium in feel, which is good. But then, as the remote is capable of controlling a full Bladelius system, it has many, many small rounded, black buttons, with even smaller black labelling fonts. It's an absolute nightmare to operate initially. Only after a few days of practice and familiarity, the task of operating the remote became less daunting.
See what I mean about the well built remote control??? What makes it more frustrating is that the Embla Basic is a two button only machine!!! You only have "Standby" and "Eject" button on the front fascia. Every thing else is done via the remote.
Lastly, during it's time in my system, the Embla's software did hanged a few times, usually when changing between replaying from flash memory to inserting CD for replay. Also noted is that it's software does not recognise non English CD TOCs(table of contents). Eugene of Audiomatic tells me that Bladelius is aware of the issue. A new version of the software that addresses the issue will be available for upgrade soon. The new version of upgraded software can be up loaded to older Embla players via it's RS232 port connected to a computer with Internet link.
As far as I know for now, there are no other high end CD players with this concept of backing up your CDs for storage and replaying via it's internal flash memory card(and sounding better too!), just yet. However, I am also very sure that the competition is out there watching the success of the Embla with great interest. Surely the competition does not want to be left behind either. I am also wondering with great interest, when that happens, at what entry price level would this concept be available in the not too distant future?
If the price tag does not seem too daunting for you now(high end price tags are always daunting, aren't they?), and like Mike Bladelius's idea as much as I do, then wait no more!
You can, buy the "Future Forward" today!
Bladelius is sold by Audiomatic, contact Eugene, tel: 012-3222698