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Price (when reviewed):
• 9500 EUR without DAC
• 12000 EUR with DAC
• Phono module 1500 EUR

Contact: Via contact form of the website:


Provided for test by AUDIO ATELIER


images Piksel Studio | Wojciech Pacuła

No 222

November 1, 2022

The BLADELIUS company was founded in 1997 in Alingsås, Sweden and belongs to the Bladelius Design Group. Its founder is MIKE BLADELIUS, one of the most famous designers in the audio world. We are testing his latest development, the ASK integrated amplifier.

IKE BLADELIUS IS ONE of the most interesting figures in contemporary audio industry. We wrote more about him in the review of ODEN, so let's repeat only what is most important. He built his first working amplifier when he was thirteen. While visiting friends in the USA, he called Nelson Pass, back then working at THRESHOLD. Shortly after Bladelius returned to Sweden, the future founder of Pass Laboratories called him with a job offer.

So the Swedish designer moved to California and graduated there, and then wrote a PhD dissertation on audio amplifiers. In 1994 he started working as a self-employed person and was hired by various companies as a consultant. Between 1994 and 1995 he designed devices for CLASSÉ AUDIO and ULTRA ANALOG companies. Together with Werner Barden, a German distributor of well-known high-end brands, he designed a prototype of a CD player and founded the company called ADVANTAGE.

In 1997, Mike Bladelius decided to start his own company - this is how Bladelius was born. The core of its activity are audio amplifiers, but its lineup also included other devices, such as the Gondul multi-format player, and the Embla - a file player with a CD transport. The most important products in its history though, were the Grendel power amplifier - a scalable, from two to five channels, Beowulf monoblocks and the Ymer amplifier. Let me add that Mike also produced a few devices under the SAT brand (Swedish Audio Technology).

While designing and listening his devices, he uses a variety of music, but his favorite is Bruce Springsteen and his piece The Ghost of Tom Joad. And one more thing - Mike's son Alexander, also an engineer, has his own company - AB-Tech. So far, it offers one product, an Ethernet izolator called REN. This is another example of building family businesses in audio industry. Let me point out to Wilson Audio, where Daryl C. Wilson, son of the founder Dave Wilson took the helm, or VITUS AUDIO, founded by HANS OLE VITUS, and currently run by his son Alexander.


ASK IS AN INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER. It offers quite an high output, because it is capable of delivering up to 220W at 8 Ω, and as much as 400 W at 4. The gain is exercised using field effect transistors - JFET in the input stage and MOSFET ones in the output. Together with the Ask one can buy one of the three modules: a files transport, DAC, and MC phono preamplifier. The amplifier features four line inputs, one of which is a balanced one. We can also use the preamplifier output (pre out with adjustable signal level) and the recording output (fixed signal level), both on RCA sockets.

The device was prepared by a man who knows exactly what he wants to achieve and who has extensive experience. Moreover, it was not developed in a vacuum. As we read in press materials, it is a smaller version of the company's flagship amplifier, the already mentioned Oden. Knowing the Germanic mythology, in its Nordic version, you might have guessed it: Ask and Embla were the first people on Earth, created by Oden.

⸜ TECHNOLOGY The device is not high, but it is deep. It features a rigid aluminum chassis with an acrylic front. As the manufacturer emphasizes, the choice of a non-magnetic metal allowed him to achieve the lowest possible level of the electromagnetic field, and thus improve the sound. Another gold was to eliminate or reduce unwanted vibrations. Even the layout of the components on the PCBs has been selected so that they are as little exposed to vibrations as possible. And there was also one more reason - Ask was to represent a "classic Scandinavian design".

The selected input and volume level can be read on the LCD display on the front. There are four inputs at our disposal: three RCA line inputs and one XLR. Although there is only one balanced input, it seems to be the main one. The Ask is a fully balanced design, with the signal’s ground being completely separated from device’s ground. This solution is called floating ground and it aims at reducing distortion. The amplifier's output is also balanced, so the distortion is canceled in the speakers. Thanks to it, as we read in the company materials, it was possible to apply low feedback.

All these features are important. The main design element that Mike pointed out to me in his email, however, is the power supply. We all know its importance, but we often forget about it. It this case it is based on a powerful toroidal transformer with numerous secondary windings. Each section has its own extensive voltage regulating circuit. In addition, the power supplies of the analog and digital sections (optional transport and DAC boards) are galvanically separated from each other. They use many different capacitors, selected for the sound quality.

⸜ OPTIONS As I’ve already mentioned, same as in the case of the company's top model, the tested amplifier can be ordered with one of the three optional modules.

One of them is a MC phono stage. Another one is a digital-to-analog converter. Finally, a files transport. With the latter, Ask becomes a streaming amplifier. Perhaps this name will stick, but for now let me cal it „an integrated amplifier with a file player". For the amplifier with streamer and DAC modules we will pay 12,000 EUR. For the addition of the DAC alone, we will pay an additional EUR 2,900, and for a phono stage module - EUR 1,500.

The DAC section features two optical Toslink inputs, two electric RCA ones and a balanced AES/EBU. Next to it, however, there is a USB input, perhaps the most important one. We can feed it with PCM signal up to 32 bits and 768 kHz or DSD up to DSD1024. This is currently the highest audio signal resolution. The signal from the digital inputs goes to the XMOS 216 DSP chip, which uses in-house algorithm with digital filters. They allow you to overclock the signal synchronously or asynchronously, and you can also choose one of three filters.

The streamer section is based on a Raspberry Pi microcomputer. It allows you to play music files from NAS drives, USB hard drives and pen drives, or to use streaming services such as Tidal, Qobuz and Spotify. The device is also Roon Ready certified. The digital signal will may also be sent to it wirelessly, via Bluetooth or Airplay. To control the playback one can use a free Volumio application.

⸜ REMOTE The amplifier is controlled by a barely functional, plastic remote control. It resembles the ugliest remotes from the 1990s. However, you can buy a metal, nice and convenient to use Bladelius remote, which I strongly encourage you to do.

Summing up: Ask is a well-made, powerful amplifier with good design. It is also a feature rich amplifier. In the top version it is simply an amplifier with an audio files player and a phono stage. Its design is based on many years of designer’s experience and there are many interesting solutions in it. No wonder that Mike Bladelius calls Ask "the down-scaled version of the Oden amplifier in the Valhalla version".


⸜ HOW WE LISTENED The Bladelius Ask amplifier was tested in the "High Fidelity" reference system, in which it was compared to a split system consisting of the Ayon Audio Spheris III tube preamplifier and the Soulution 710 transistor power amplifier. The device was placed on the upper, carbon shelf of the Finite Elemente Pagode Edition Mk II, Heavy Duty version. The amplifier drove the Harbeth M.40.1 loudspeakers using Siltech Triple Crown speaker cables or - alternately - Western Electric WE16GA (NOS).

The source of the analog signal was the Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition SACD player. The digital signal was led from the Ayon player's transport output, from the Lumin T1 files player’s (RCA) output and from the laptop (USB). For analog connections I used an unbalanced Siltech Triple Crown interconnect - in my system I only use unbalanced connections. The for the digital connection I used the Acrolink Mexcel DA-7N6300II (RCA) and TiGLON TPL-2000U (USB); more about signal routing in the "High Fidelity" system → HERE |PL|. The amplifier was powered using the Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version cable.

⸜ Recordings used for the test | a selection

⸜ JOHN COLTRANE, Giant Steps, Atlantic Records/Warner Music Japan WPCR-18311/2, „Deluxe Edition 60 Years”, 2 x SHM-CD (1960/2020).
⸜ JOE PASS, For Django, Pacific Jazz/EMI Music Japan TOCJ-90027, HQCD (1964/2008).
⸜ EVA CASSIDY,Songbird, Blix Street Records/JVC VICJ-010-0045, XRCD24 (1998/2010).
⸜ KRAFTWERK, 3-D The Catalogue, KlingKlang | Parlophone Records Ltd. 295873424 | 8 x CD (2017).
⸜ KING CRIMSON, In The Court Of The Crimson King (An Observation By King Crimson), Discipline Global Mobile/WOWOW Entertainment IEZP-128, „50th Anniversary Box Set”, 3 x K2HD UHQCD + Blu-ray (1969/2019).
⸜ CHARLIE HADEN & ANTONIO FORCIONE, Heartplay, Naim Label Naim CD098, CD (2006).

⸜ NATALIE MERCHANT, Leave Your Sleep, Nonesuch/Tidal Master, FLAC MQA 16/88,2 (2010).
⸜ ÓLAFUR ARNALDS, A Sunrise Session, Decca/Tidal Master, FLAC MQA 24/96 (2001).
⸜ SOUNDGARDEN, Superunknown (20th Anniversary), A&M Records/Tidal Master, FLAC MQA Studio 24/96 (1994/2014).
⸜ BLACK LABEL SOCIETY, Doom Crew Inc., eOne/Tidal, FLAC 16/44,1 (2021).
⸜ WEVAL, Changed for the Better, Technicolour/Tidal, FLAC 16/44,1 (2021).
⸜ NITA STRAUSS, Dead Inside, Sumerian Records/Tidal Master, single, FLAC MQA Studio 24/96 (2021).



MIKE BLADELIS HAS HIS OWN concept of sound. I'm sure he thinks it's the one and the only one because he has been developing it for many years and has been faithful to it for years. The modifications that occur in it are "in-depth" modifications, improving what had already been achieved by it, not a change of general direction.

The shortest way to describe this approach is: "timbre, timbre, and timbre once more". The Ask sounds like a high-class tube amplifier, rather using EL34 or KT88 tubes than EL84 or KT120, more 2A3 than 300B. Its timbre is stunning. In the sound of JOHN COLTRANE's saxophone from the anniversary version of the Giant Steps I could hear not only the mouthpiece, but also the entire instrument, with its quite large volume and saturated sound.

JOE PASS's guitar on the For Django album sounded fabulous! It was helped by the fact that the producer placed it on the listening axis, but even without it it would have had a dense "body" and full decay. And it would be fantastically soft. Because one of the most important features of Bladelius devices, doubled in the Ask, is showing events in such a way that they are not attacking listener, but that they emerge from the black background and unfold in front of us, in front of our eyes.

This is an important distinction. Audio products that focus on attack seem cleaner, faster and more dynamic. However, they are actually more one-dimensional and just plain boring. Their sound does not even have time to open and take shape, and the sounds fade away. In the Swedish amplifier, this process is unhurried and therefore thorough. Both the mentioned saxophone and the guitar in question had a large volume and were palpable. But in a good way. Without throwing everything „in my face", and by shaping the sound in such a way that it seemed to be material.

And now - the timbre in the case of the Ask amplifier is a derivative, not an artificial action. Derived from resolution. High definition, let's add. The Giant Steps album, though recorded in 1960, still uses two channels not to create a stereoscopic space, but to create "stereo effect". So the Coltrane was placed in the left channel along with the piano, and in the right channel there were the drums and double bass. Ask distinguished them wonderfully, even though the two pairs are presented almost perfectly on the same axes.

The amplifier differentiated them both by properly showing their individual timbres and a different type of dynamic expression. What I am talking about can be best heard with acoustic music. But not only with it, as the Bladelius amplifier does not reject any music just because it was generated in a different way. Because also the KRAFTWERK from the live recordings that made up the 3-D box was also "colorful" and resolving. The electronics had a similarly shaped, soft attack, strong bass and sweet treble.

Interestingly, the high resolution of the sound of the tested amplifier showed that these are much more spatially one-dimensional recordings, mainly in terms of bodies, than jazz recordings from the 1950s and 1960s. But it didn't destroy the music itself either. Kraftwerk’s music sounded powerful and mighty. It also had a charm that emanates from his music, that I witnessed at the concert in Krakow, part of the tour promoting the album. There were no "infinite spaces" in this presentation, because they are not present in the recording. There was also no "overwhelming dynamics", because there is also no such dynamics there. There was, however, timbre coherence, density and fluidity, thanks to which the transfer of musical energy from the performers to me was undisturbed.

By the way, this Swedish amplifier doesn't dazzle listener with anything. It does not impose itself, it does not force us to do anything. It encourages, it almost entraps us with a siren song, which promises even more when we immerse ourselves in it. And it really is so. Let's play something like Autumn Leaves from the EVA CASSIDY’s Songbird. Just sit down and let yourself be carried away by this beautiful ballad without haste. Played by me from the XRCD24 disc, with material mastered from an analog "master" tape in the JVC studio in Tokyo, it was shown by Ask in an almost fairy-tale way. The device owes this skill to a wonderful combination of resolution, timbre and micro-dynamics.

The turn of the midrange and bass is slightly emphasized. This is why we get large phantom images. The upper treble is withdrawn, which in turn allows you to listen to any kind of music with it without the feeling that "something is wrong" with it. But neither one nor the other is offensive. It means that we do not feel that something is colored, but rather "tuned up".


The DIGITAL-TO-ANALOGUE CONVERTER of the Ask amplifier is not a standalone device. We can only assess its performance combined with that of the amplifier itself. But it was developed for such a role, which can be heard right away. Its sound can be corrected using three features: the overclocking, the type of upsampling and the type of the digital filter. In my case, the best settings turned out to be: filter → SLOW, re-clocking → DOUBLE and Asrc Source → OFF.

Its sound is still a touch warmer than the amplifier itself. It is all about shaping the timbres of instruments with the greatest energy in this part of the band. They are saturated and the lower midrange is slightly emphasized. On the other hand, the upper treble was slightly raised and the cymbals can be heard quite clearly. It was still a warm sound, even warmer than the amplifier itself.

But it is also a sound that is nothing like the stereotypical sound of a digital source. There are specific reasons for this stereotype and there is a grain of truth in it. This is because for many years engineers were delighted with themselves and the way they reduced distortion. However, it was only when they turned their attention to digital noise and electromagnetic interference that the sound quality increased rapidly. With time it turned out that there is so much information on CDs that many, including me, consider this format to be one of the best ideas of man.

Anyway, the implementation of the D/A converter in the tested amplifier is excellent. It is still the realization of the constructor's original idea for sound. The sound of the DAC is slightly thicker and "broadened". The ANTONIO FORCIONE’s guitar and CHARLIE HADEN's double bass from the Heartplay album were significant, large. The recording made with the use of two AKG microphones directly to two tracks of the Nagra IV-S tape recorder is extremely natural and this is also how the amplifier showed it.

But that's why it resembles what we get with a good turntable. I will say more - this is the type of sound in which we get the best of vinyl without sacrificing what the digital offers. This is because the timbres are saturated here, and the bodies of the instruments are large and dense. The bass is deep, strong and big. Its control is great, although attack is rather soft - let's not confuse these two things. And all of this is presented in a well-balanced, clean way.


ODEN IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE AND BEST amplifier from Bladelius, let's not have any doubts about it. However, Ask, although smaller, though cheaper, doesn't seem to perform much worse. It is clear that it is not so selective and does not have the same dynamic headroom. However, I would say that it sounds just as nice. This is because, although its timbre is warm, dense and strong, it is also extremely resolving.

The most important element in it is the amplifier itself. It "sets" the sound of both the DAC and the files player. The music is presented in a perfectly balanced way with it, with emotional depth and great dynamics. Emphasizing some of the bass adds momentum and mass to the presentation, but does not slow it down. We get a warm, dense, but also internally resolving sound. It is a sound that allows for long listening sessions of any music genre with the majority of loudspeakers available on the market. Hence our ˻ RED FINGERPRINT ˺.


THE ASK’S CHASSIS IS QUITE LOW BUT DEEP. It is made of aluminum plates that form a rigid shell. As in the case of the Oden, all the plates, the heat sink and the transformer are screwed to the bottom here. The top panel is an aluminum truss with openings covered with an aluminum mesh. The amplifier gets very hot so ventilation of this type is necessary. The device rests on four rubber feet, which should be replaced in the future by another specialized product.

⸜ FRONT AND REAR The new generation of Bladelius amplifiers combines several trends recently visible on the audio market. In the middle, between the side aluminum elements, there is a panel of blackened acrylic. There are only three silver elements on it: two buttons and a volume knob. The name of the input and the volume are displayed on the left. The visibility of letters and numbers is nice, but it would be better if the display was a bit bigger. On the display we can also read messages from the menu and information from the streamer.

The layout of the connectors on the rear panel mirrors the layout of the modules inside the device. On the left side there is an analog section. It features RCA sockets - unfortunately not of a very high-quality, not gold-plated - also balanced XLR input and RCA output from the preamplifier. To the far left there are loudspeaker outputs using great WBT sockets from the nextGen series. In the middle there is the DAC section. There are two Toslink digital inputs, two RCA and AES/EBU. Also here, these RCA connectors are not very sophisticated. And finally, on the right side there are streamer connectors - USB A, USB B and Ethernet.

⸜ INSIDE Ask is a modular design. These are printed circuit boards connected to each other by means of rigid multi-pins. The power supply takes the most space inside. Its powerful 2 kW (!) Toroidal transformer has two secondary outputs for the power amplifiers and several for the preamplifier and digital sections. The transformer was custom-made by the Swedish company Noratel for Bladelius. To prevent the transformer from vibrating, its center was filled with epoxy resin. The bridge rectifiers are of top notch quality, not just off the shelf type; their switching cycle is very fast.

The transformer is separated from the electronics by a large heat sink. This creates a "dirty" and "clean" zone. After the former there is a rectifier bridge and six very good looking Kemet capacitors, which were produced in Europe. The PCB with the power amplifiers is screwed vertically to the heat sink. It is built using through hole assembly, with nice-looking components, including Wima capacitors. Each of the power amps uses eight MOSFETs operating in push-pull mode.

There is a PCB with inputs next to the rear panel. But between it and the power amplifier there is also a PCB with a preamplifier section. It is fully balanced and consists of four modules covered with an aluminum screen. In the case of the Ask model, the signal path is even shorter than in the Oden. There is only one JFET transistor per channel (and branch) in the input.

As I’ve said, there is a PCB with relays at the inputs. Mike told me that they were selected for the best signal transfer and feature gold-plated contacts. With the active input selected, the signal is attenuated in an integrated resistor ladder. There is a copper plate glued to it, probably aa s screen, but it is probably a Burr-Brown chip from the PGA series.

Transport and a DAC are on separate PCBs. Both are permanently covered with aluminum screens, so I couldn't see how they are built. All we know is that the transport is a complete Raspberry Pi microcomputer. Let me add that each section has a separate power supply with banks of capacitors and voltage regulators.

Technical specifications (according to the manufacturer)

Nominal output: 2 x 400 W/4 Ω | 2 x 220 W/8 Ω
THD: <0.01%
S/N: >125 dB
Frequency range: 1 Hz-100 kHz | +0/-3 dB
Dimensions (W x H x D): 435 x 12 x 470 mm


Reference system 2022

1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

AC Power

Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

  • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|


Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:


Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC