On “Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience” from Natalie Merchant’s Leave Your Sleep [Nonesuch], there is a string bass line that the Blossom presents with good air and balance. At times I wanted a touch more bass power, but I had to say things sounded a lot like live music. This sense of mid-bass reserve was repeated on “Dreams Be Dreams” from Jack Johnson’s On and On [Universal]. Still, the lack of artificiality in the mid-range stood out far more and carried the day.
The opening guitar and following kick drum on Shelby Lynne’s “I Cry Every Day” [Suit Yourself, Capitol] illustrate the dynamic concept of the Blossom. The acoustic guitar jumps off the background with excellent snap and resonance, yet nearly zero blur. But then the kick drum comes in, and it is clear and detailed but lacking a bit of oomph. For perspective, you might note this slight degree of bass reticence yet ultimately conclude “so what?”, because the song sounds so good overall with the Blossom in circuit.
Moon Audio was kind enough to send a pair of HiFiMAN HE-5s along with balanced cables for our test. These excellent headphones (see Playback 33 review of the improved HE-5LE’s), sounded quite good with the Blossom. As we noted in our review, the HiFiMAN ‘phones are very tough to drive, and I’d say the Blossom is on the edge of sufficiency. On many tracks I set the volume at two or three o’clock and I have a reputation for liking the volume on the low side. I was also able to run the amp wide open at times and I’d say the sound was merely “loud.” My point is that I could imagine some listeners wanting a bit more output with the low-sensitivity headphones such as the HE-5s. The high-impedance Sennheiser HD 800s, on the other hand, could be driven easily to painfully loud levels. And with a normal headphone, like the Shure SRH 840s, the Blossom can achieve ear-bleed levels, even on its low gain setting.
Let’s start with the standard caveat that value is a function of your budget and your needs. That said, I thought the Blossom was a pretty good deal. That’s because it does some things that normally cost a lot more, extreme sonic refinement being chief among them.
The Blossom also has a good analog feature set, especially if you have multiple headphones, some of which are balanced along with others that aren’t. Fit and finish are also first rate.
You can of course find an amp for far less, and many competing amps have built-in D/A circuits. Then again, if a long feature set is what you want, you could find an A/V receiver with seven or more channels of amplification, 49 surround modes and room correction in addition to D/A converters and a headphone amp. Obviously, this is and the amp for those who want a more sophisticated and refined solution.
Blossom’s BLO-0299 delivers sonic purity and naturalness at levels normally associated with more costly amplifiers.
Blossom BLO-0299 Headphone Amplifier
Frequency Response: 0.1 Hz - 80kHz, +/- 0.5 dB (0dB out, 50 Ohm load)
THD+Noise: 0.001% (1 kHz, 50 Ohm Load)
Inputs: dual combo ¼” stereo plug/XLR balanced stereo analog audio inputs, one unbalanced (RCA) stereo analog input.
- Balanced Input: 20 kOhms
- Unbalanced Input: 10 kOhms
Outputs: dual combo ¼” stereo plug/XLR balanced analog audio outputs (can be used to drive two headphones simultaneous, or one headphone requiring separate, balanced L/R outputs), unbalanced stereo analog line outputs.
Controls: Output selector (headphone or line out), gain selector (lo, 0dB; or high - +10dB), and input selector (balanced ¼” phone jack/XLR combo, or unbalanced RCA).
Power Supply: DC 24V mA
Dimensions (HxWxD): 2.5” x 8.3” x 6.2”
Welborne Labs Upgraded Power Supply
Dimensions (HxWxD): 1.8” x 4.25” x 7”
Price as tested (Blossom amp plus Welborne supply): $1653