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Review: Zyx R50 Bloom H

December 13, 2006

Blue, blue, my world is Bloom...

My apologies to Andy Williams for playing words on his popular song L'amour Et Bleu.

I'd like to taste a different fish from the same sea, so to speak, so I recently acquired a ZYX to complement my turntable.

What I got

Among a couple of cartidges I'm looking at, I got interested with the ZYX (pronounced "Ziks") RS020 and RS030 because of the specs- sapphire cantilever with line contact stylus and boron cantilever with microridge stylus, respectively. In addition, they weigh close to what I've been using before (clearaudio Sigma and Concerto). Unfortunately, they're made to order. Up next in the product line is the R50 Bloom with a special ALMg5 black cantilever with line contact diamond stylus. It is offered in two versions- one with 0.24mV output and the other with 0.48mV output known as the Bloom H. I got the Bloom H, but will always be referred to as Bloom throughout this text.

The Packaging

It came in a surprisingly "girlie" type of packaging, due to the flowery design on the cloth bag. Inside, you'll find the boxed, wooden compartment with an acrylic top which looks like a "transporter" protecting the cartridge with a blue body. It looks cool, but I'm pretty sure it does not have anything to do with the sound.

Inside the wooden box, you'll find a couple of screws, a blue screwdriver, a white (why white???) brush that looks the same as what Denon includes free with their DL-103 cartridge.

 

Mounting

Mounting cartridges on my Tangent tonearm has always been a breeze (though I've gotten goosebumps when I mounted my Concerto) and this should be easy as well.

The Bloom is small compared to the DL-103 and has a short cantilever which reminds of the Dynavector 17D2. Having been used to the protruding cantilevers of clearaudio cartridges, I was wondering how difficult it is to drop this thing into the correct track on the vinyl.

While I always prefer the threaded cartridges of the clearaudio, which makes screwing (literally) the cartridge onto the headshell a breeze, having a pair of nuts and bolts on the Bloom is not really a pain to install. Having said that, the nuts and bolts that came with the DL-103 is cosmetically better than the Bloom.

I never knew what the effective mass of my Tangent arm was, nor I even bothered to find out. I've been using light cartridges (Sigma 4g, Concerto 4g) but I've used heavy ones too (Aurum Alpha stainless steel body 10g, DL-103 ~8g). The Bloom comes midpoint at 5g and I was offered the damper material to increase the weight (as well as dampen) by 1g (or 2g I can't remember) of the cartrige. I didn't get it, as I'm comfortable with 5g.

The Bloom has a compliance of 15x10-6cm/dyne (12x10-6cm/dyne, vertical) but heck, I don't want this experience to be science. I just want to hear it so I'm going to throw this compliance thing out of the window, for now.

So I set it up a follows- VTF is 2.15g (manufacturer range is 1.8 - 2.5g), antiskate is deadlock, VTA is parallel, loading is auto via my Basic Symmetry.

Now playing

While my music preference includes Classical to Heavy Metal, I'm looking for a cartridge that will play good, satisfying, head banging rock music. I'm also looking for a certain tone that sound good with rock music, and I'm really hoping I will get at least close to that.

I played my usual suspects- Warrant's Cherry Pie, Boston's More Than a Feeling and Third Stage, The Cult's Electric, Midnight Oil's Beds are Burning, Cinderella's Hearbreak Station.

The verdict- it's got the beat, and the tone. While it does not give you the ultimate in top end sparkle, or background ambiance, it does make up in a couple of areas. Firstly, the tone. I like the tone and tibre of this cartridge better than any I have used so far. Secondly, it is rich sounding without becoming overly bloated, which makes the playback of poor recordings enjoyable. It does not have the high frequency splatter that occurs with my previous cartridges on some recordings. Thirdly, it does good bass- presents an articulated, tuneful and deep bass. It does not give me the same level in dynamics and transients compared to the Concerto, but I can forget that and enjoy the music. Lastly, it offers coherence which makes the presentation of the recording even more enjoyable.

Audiophile Mode

So I ran the Bloom against the HiFi News Test Record to check on the resonant frequency of the Bloom and the Tangent combined. The result of 13Hz is not within where I want it to be, which is 8-10Hz. What the heck, I'll tweak this later and I just want to hear some music.

Fast and Furious. That's how I can describe what the Bloom did to McLaughlin, Di Meola, and De Lucia's Passion, Grace, and Fire (Philips label) record. The fun and excitement that these three gentlemen wants us to experience was easily conveyed. The attack and decay of the guitars, the ambiance of whatever environment (studio I suppose, he he) they were in, adds up to the enjoyment I had listening to this record.

Emotional. Listening to The Best of Sergio Mendez and Brasil '77 (Philips label) conveys emotion. I was surprised at the midrange detail and finesse of the Bloom. The soundstage is wide and projects a big image.

Taking a back seat. Is what I did while listening to Dave Brubeck Quartet's Time In record. Again, the Bloom exhibited it's capability to ride with the pace of the program material.

Mesmerizing. Finally, I have enjoyed Nancy Wilson's Can't Take My Eyes Off You (Capitol label) so much that I got stuck in the sofa, and wanted to open some beer and have a smoke. I had to get off my butt though for side 2.

For this session, the Bloom exhibited the richness, balance, bass depth and articulation, pace, and fun factor once more. A welcome surprise though was the fact that it has excellent immunity to surface noise. In addition, the ticks and pops were much less compared to the DL-103. These qualities were the characteristics of my previous cartridge- the Concerto.

Bits and Loose ends

The Zyx has one damn good manual. The first 5 pages were dedicated to explaining the philosophy of the design. The english is good!!

BUT! Click the image below and read the red text.

The manual also has complete specs, a picture of the stylus, and test results.



Associated Equipment for this Review:

  • Amplifier: DIY type 45 amplifier, WE417A driver
  • Preamplifier: DIY WE407A preamp + clearaudio Basic Symmetry phono stage
  • Turntable: clearaudio Champion w/ Magnum upgrade, Tangent tonearm
  • Speakers: DIY 3-way speakers w/ Altec 406-8Y, Oxford mid-horns, Fostex FT17H super tweeters on Altec 604 cabinet
  • Cables/Interconnects: DIY phono cable -> Symmetry -> Sonic Art hybrid interconnect -> preamp -> DIY Quantum w/ Eichmann Bullet Plugs -> power amp
  • Room Size (LxWxH): 4m x 4m x 3.5m
  • Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Yaden 1KVA servo AVR, Eichmann Power Strip