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ZYX Bloom Low Output Moving Coil Phone Cartridge Review

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Bloom Bullseye

What Does Entry Level Actually Mean?

The ZYX Bloom and ZYX Bloom H come in at a price of $995 MSRP. This, of course, is not a price that would be representative of a “starter” moving coil cartridge. Nor can the ZYX Bloom hardly be considered as “entry level” when compared to other MC-type cartridges in the marketplace in terms of price and in terms of performance. The place in the market where the Bloom resides is what makes the case a very compelling one.  You need to consider several factors. First, the ZYX Bloom has an output level of .24mv. This means that you are going to need a top flight phono stage that can amplify that signal cleanly, accurately, and with very low noise. That’s not likely to be your typical entry level phono stage. I believe the configuration of the ZYX Bloom stylus assembly and the cartridge’s overall mass lends itself to be used handily in lesser turntable-tonearm combinations without much detriment to the performance of the cartridge. This is a big factor if you are starting to or aspire to put together a high performance analog playback system and cannot afford to go big money on a phono stage, turntable/tonearm, and phono cartridge all at the same time.

The ZYX Bloom’s price point typically still yields a series of trade-offs, such as tracking ability, colorations, or some aberrations in response, for instance. The Bloom exhibits none of that. It tracks extremely well and it provides a largely faithful rendering of the recorded music with errors of omission that may be even lost in many systems. In my book, that means that it’s a choice that does no harm. This means that you can get superb analog playback right off the bat while you build an analog system around it that you aspire to.  Having that sort of option back in the early 1990’s would have been a huge help to me when I was reconstructing my system after college. I suffered through many cartridges with major sonic warts until I was able to afford the rest of the analog system that would allow for a high performance cartridge such as the Accuphase AC-1 to enter the picture. For me, it took two or three years to get to that point of satisfaction. If an all-around excellent performer was around back then at a high end entry level price, I would have jumped on it and would have saved myself lots of unfulfilling listening sessions.

In my opinion, the ZYX Bloom alters the first step in the ladder of analog playback system-building and upgrading. It offers performance levels close enough to the top without breaking the bank and enables one to pursue a top flight phono stage, turntable, and tonearm without having to suffer through mediocre sound during the journey. Once ready, one can upgrade from the ZYX Bloom to a multi-thousand dollar cartridge without feeling a desperate need to.

Summing it all up

Once again, I would like to thank SORASound for the open access to the ZYX lineup. Indeed, there has not been a dull moment as I explore the various levels of performance of these creations. The ZYX Bloom is a winner and at its price, I daresay that it is a rarified treat.

Congratulations on another fine product.

Reference Play List:

    Artist | Title | Label | Year | Released | Catalog | Additional | Info

  • Gentle Giant Octopus Vertigo 1972 6360 080 UK-first pressing
  • Gentle Giant In a Glass House WWA 1973 WWA 002 UK-first pressing
  • Townsend/Lane Rough Mix Polydor 1977 2442 147 UK-first pressing
  • Janis Ian Breaking Silence Analogue Productions 1992 APP 027 180 gram “audiophile” reissue
  • Peter Gabriel New Blood WOMAD 2011 HQ-180 gram pressing
  • Peter Gabriel Scratch My Back WOMAD 2010 HQ-180 gram pressing
  • Rickie Lee Jones Rickie Lee Jones Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs 1979 MFSL 1-089 Original Half Speed Master
  • Brand X Do They Hurt? Passport Records 1980 PB 9845 Original US pressing

Associated Components:

  • Merrill-Williams R.E.A.L. 101 Turntable
  • Technics EPA-B500/A501E tonearm system with custom TelWire balanced wire loom (XLR terminations)
  • Zesto Audio Andros PS-1Phono Stage
  • Pass Labs XP-20 Line Stage
  • Pass Labs X350.5 Power Amplifier on Billy Bags amp stand
  • Eficion F300 Speakers
  • Aural Symphonics Magic Gen v2t Power Cord
  • EnKlien Zephyr Power Cord
  • EnKlien Zephyr Balanced Interconnects
  • EnKlein Zephyr Single Ended Interconnects
  • EnKlein Titan Speaker Cables

3 Responses to ZYX Bloom Low Output Moving Coil Phone Cartridge Review

  1. Adam LaBarge says:

    Hi Ray –

    Thanks for the review. I’m currently using the Sumiko Evo III Blue Point Special with my Rega P3/24. I know the cartridges needs to be reset by a pro but I’m not sure I can say I’ve been 100% happy with the cartridge. While very good, it is a little to harsh for me, and now, with the amps and gear I have, vinyl has a glare in the upper mid-range that is prohibitive to full music enjoyment. It is almost like the cartridge puts too much gain in the system. Even with the phono amp set correctly for its specs.

    This Bloom sounds intriguing because I too have a similar soft spot for a lush mid-range and high end. Do you think the P3/24 would be too much of an under performing table for this cartridge? Also I am using the SimAudio Moon LP3, a highly reviewed solid state phono amp, but entry level for sure. ($500). Thoughts, and if say, I were to go after a higher end phono amp to pair with a cartridge like the Bloom, could you make some suggestions?

    • Ray Seda says:

      Hi Adam,
      Your comments regarding the BPS Evo III pretty much mirror my impressions of the original BPS which I owned for a VERY brief period of time.
      I already had a top flight tonearm, turntable, and phono preamp (Audible Illusions Modulus 3A with the John Curl board), so I ca only conclude that this may possibly be the true nature of the BPS and its more modern iterations.

      I honestly do not know enough about the Rega’s signature to provide you with an opinion. Ironically, I will be reviewing an entry level turntable in the coming months that may prove to be just the ticket for serious entry level performance. That’s all I’m prepared to say until I get in in my home.

      The SimAudio is a nice entry level phono and at that price level I’m sure you can do “different” but not necessarily better, IMHO.
      While there are plenty of phono stages out there that I have not had the pleasure of hearing in my home such as the attractively priced Manley Labs Chinook, I was always impressed with the overall signature and excellent musicality of the ASR Mini-Basis Exclusiv. That said, its price tag has blossomed over the years. I bought it in the days when it could be had for under $1,200. The ASR is solid state, but you would never know it. It has nice rhythm and pace, it’s a touch overripe in the bottom if you are not careful to match up the right powercord for it, and it can get noisy to the point where you could mistake it for tube rush! Overall though, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it.

      Good luck on the journey!


  2. Tom says:

    Hi Ray, nice review. Which phono preamp were you using for this test? Was it the ASR Mini? I was curious as to what settings on your preamp did you find the best with the low output ZYX Bloom? It’s rated at a very low 4 ohms, the cartridge. I was taught the rule of x10. 10 x 4 ohms is 40 ohms. Did you set your phono preamp below 100 ohms? I see the ASR can go all the way down to 22 ohms! Amazing. The reason I ask is that my phono preamp can only go down to a 100 ohm setting. It has plenty of gain of 70 DB, but I am wondering if the low output .24 Bloom would match up alright with my phono preamp? Or would the higher output .48 and 8 ohm version of the ZYX Bloom be a better fit? Thanks for your help.

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