A crazy science fiction name always draws me to a product, who could resist Krell amps when they first appeared? Significantly fewer than were drawn to the Tralfamador amplifier, a long lost Irish creation that disappeared into the cosmos shortly after its debut, chances are that only Vonnegut fans remember the planet of the same name. But it doesn’t take much to get me to review a cartridge at the best of times, it is after all a good excuse to listen to more vinyl and that is always entertaining.
The R50 Bloom is the most affordable of the five Zyx R series moving coils and comes in high and low output versions, I had the H for high model. Its translucent blue body harbours an aluminium cantilever fitted with a line contact diamond stylus so set-up needs to be carefully done for best results. It’s also a bit fiddly because installation requires both a nut and bolt because it has slot mountings rather than threaded inserts. Fortunately the stylus guard can remain in place while you do this and is firmly attached so there is little danger of stylus abuse. I fitted it to the RB301 arm on a Rega RP6 turntable and set the downforce to the recommended two grams, the cartridge weighs five grams so does not need one of Rega’s heavier counterweights as is often the case with moving coils.
The Bloom is designed for a 100 ohm impedance at the phono stage which is pretty much the default with stages that don’t allow adjustment. Output on the H version is 0.48mV so you do need a dedicated MC phono input but it will work with most examples of the breed – no step-up transformers necessary.
In use the Zyx seems particularly well suited to the RP6, I’ve tried a number of MCs on this turntable since it arrived last year and have had variable results, metal bodied types seem the hardest to accommodate. There are exceptions of course, Rega’s Apheta is naturally very well suited but it’s a skeletal design. The Bloom’s plastic body probably helps keep resonance away from the audio-band so that it doesn’t smear the music. There is little if any smearing going on with its output which, while it doesn’t have the sort of woody sound one associates with the word bloom, is tonally strong especially through the mid and bass. Double bass sounds particularly juicy when it has been well recorded and exceptionally tuneful under any circumstances, this was apparent on Leo Kottke’s Great Big Boy album where his nimble guitar playing is accompanied by some vibrant plucked bass that anchors the rhythm. It’s also appealingly expansive where reverb has been used to good effect. The bass provides a foundation for the mid and treble to work above, giving you a point of reference and keeping the music from becoming pretty sounds. It essentially drives the tune along in a fluid and mellifluous fashion.
This isn’t the most analytical of cartridges but it delivers plenty of detail in a coherent and engaging fashion, this balance suits the RP6, and by extension the RP3 because the two are so similar. The turntable provides the rhythmic cohesion and the cartridge takes that and adds finesse, dynamics and energy. It’s no lightweight but merely a competitively priced example of what a good MC can do, put on a record with controlled energy such as Rickie Lee Jones’ Flying Cowboys and you get all the snap of the snare drum that Walter Becker can muster – which is an awful lot in the context of a musically coherent whole. Try the track Ghetto of My Mind, you won’t be disappointed.
This review also features on the Tom Tom Audio blog.