Introduction and Description
I received a review loaner of the Blossom BLO-0299 from Drew at Moon Audio. The Blossom is a pretty small-footprint amp (64 x 158 x 212 mm), which is partly possible since it uses an external power supply (about which, more later). The Blossom is made in Japan, as incorporates a custom Integrated Circuit which the maker claims is better than any discrete-design could be – a pretty bold claim. The Blossom has balanced inputs and outputs, and 2 gain settings, 0dB and 10dB. The headphone out jacks are a clever XLR/1/4" TRS combo that allows a single balanced headphone, or a pair of unbalanced headphones to be connected.
The Blo-0299 is housed in a beautiful wooden chassis, and is very easy on the eyes (unfortunately I accidentally deleted all the pretty pictures I took, so these are the stock photos, but it is a very beautiful amp in person, I assure you):
Turns out it’s also very easy on the ears! But a few things first. I needed the high-gain setting for the LCD-2, the HifiMan HE-5LE, and the Beyer T1. Low gain was fine for the JVC DX1000 and the Denon D7000. I didn’t really notice any difference in sound between them, and the amp was completely silent in operation.
The only balanced headphones I have are the (excellent) HifiMan HE-5LE, so I used them primarily, driven from my Music Hall 25.2 DAC, which is my only current balanced source. The pairing was actually really terrific.
But first a note about power, and the supply therein. The Blossom comes with a pretty pedestrian wall-wart, which doesn’t really become a $1,500 amp, IMHO. Moon audio supplied a beefy looking, $160 Welborne Labs power supply, which certainly inspires more confidence. I did A/B them, and can’t honestly say I heard a huge difference, but if you’re spending $1,450 on the Blossom, I would go with the Welborne PS as well, for sure. It did seem to allow for a little greater sense of ease, and slightly greater dynamics, although again, this was not night and day.
Maybe part of the reason for that is that the Blossom is generally endowed well with a sense of ease, and great dynamics. The amp is also incredibly neutral, without being in any way overly clinical or cold. But it was essentially without any significant character I could ascribe to it. If there was any, it was a very slight softness to the treble, and a very slight reticence in the very deepest bass – but there were VERY subtle shadings. The music simply flowed, incredibly effortlessly, through the Blossom. And the window to the music was highly, highly transparent. It was very impressive in this regard.
Tonally, the Blossom was, over and over again, very neutral and natural. Nothing stuck out at all, and I mean that in the best of ways. Midrange was highly transparent, and very open, and free of coloration. Tracey Thorn’s voice on Everything But The Girl’s “Wrong” was very cleanly rendered. “Good Morning Groovy” by The Kennedys was absolutely breathtaking in via the Blossom – absolutely clean, great rendering of both brother and sister Kenndy’s voices, with clear delineation between them. So was the deep bass synth on that track. The double kick-drum on Circa Survive’s “The Difference Between Medicine and Poison is the Dose” was very fast and taught, and the cymbal work was very clean. On lesser amps, that song can get pretty congested sounding, but it was very clearly reproduced via the Blossom.
The soundstage was also excellent. The HE-5LE exhibited the largest and best defined soundstage through the Blossom that I have heard with it. The soundstage was very good, too, with the unbalanced T1 – but not better than the Meier Concerto. In fact, when run unbalanced, the Blossom is a little less transparent sounding than when balanced (just a little), and a little less dynamic (again, just a little),. Too bad I didn’t have a balanced T1 or LCD-2 to compare as well, but the net result was that the overall sound of the T1 running unbalanced with the Blossom was not better than with the much less expensive Concerto. Overall the performance level there was on the same level. In fact, I slightly preferred the T1 with the Meier, although I preferred the LCD-2 with the Blossom.
And that’s where I ended up. The Blossom is a terrific amp, no doubt. If I have a “beef” with the Blossom, it’s that the single-ended performance was not really any better than the half-the-price Concerto. As such, it’s hard to justify spending the extra money that the Blossom commands over the Concerto UNLESS you 1. Need balanced drive 2. Really value the beautiful aesthetics (and it is a Beautiful Blossom!). I confirmed this by using the HE-5LE unbalanced - the performance of the Blossom unbalanced was again on par with the Meier Concerto. On the other hand, used to drive the HE-5LE balanced, the Blossom made the HE-5LE sound as good as I have ever heard it (and that’s saying something!). Used to drive the T1 or LCD-2 unbalanced, it was certainly very good, but I think it would have some very tough competition price-wise if used that way, and would be harder to recommend unless the buyer placed a high value on the Blossom’s gorgeous aesthetics.
So that's where I end up on the Blossom Blo-0229. It’s beautiful, compact, neutral as all get-out, and capable of driving even some tough headphones very well. Driving the HE-5LE balanced, the sound was truly world-class. But unless you can take advantage of all the Blossom has to offer, meaning using it to drive balanced headphones, it’s not the cheapest date you can get to the prom. Only you, dear reader, can decide whether the money is well spent; what I can say is that if you decide to, the Blossom will sound terrific.