|Morel Applause Home Theater Speaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Richard Elen|
|Saturday, 01 June 2002|
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I chose a range of material for listening purposes, including both music and movie audio. With Alan Parsons’ On Air, the basic character of the system was revealed, showing plenty of power at the bass end without loss of definition. The top end was also clean, without harshness, and the small size of the drivers contributed to excellent imaging where 5.1 is capable of doing so. Although the satellite speakers are apparently designed to handle a full frequency range (even if they can’t reproduce the bottom end of it), defining them as "small" speakers in the receiver’s bass management resulted in them not being asked to deliver below 150Hz.
The DTS 5.1 soundtrack on the DVD version of the movie "Amelie" includes (perhaps surprisingly) some low bass effects, most amusingly during the restroom love scene in the Two Windmills Café. These were reproduced with exactly the right effect by the impressive IS-9A sub, as were other bass sound effects during the course of the movie.
I did find that when dialogue was played back relatively loudly, the center front SA-2 did seem to honk a little (no distortion, however, was noted from any of the speakers at any time) and sounded a little boxy. In movie environments (unlike surround music), the center front speaker has a very important and often-overlooked role to play, and it needs to have enough capability for the job. This is the case with the RBH system I reviewed recently. Another system in the Morel line, the Supra, replaces the SA-2 center satellite with a much beefier twin-woofer design, the C-5, and I would suggest that if you mainly use your system for movies, the Supra system, at the same price, would be the best choice. For surround music, however, the Applause is ideal.
The SA-2s performed very well, particularly at the high end and in the midrange. Their clean top end was particularly effective in bringing pinpoint localization to Bucky Pizzarelli’s Swing Live album (Chesky Records), which has become my standard test for surround localization, as it is one of the best releases around for this purpose.
Having sorted out the initial crossover situation with this system – and it might be nice if Morel did the necessary "breaking-in" for you – there is little to say on the negative side at all. It’s an extremely impressive system. All I would say is that if you play movies at relatively high level, you would probably prefer the Morel Supra system with its C-5 twin-woofer center front speaker (everything else is the same)
My girlfriend wasn’t thrilled with the looks of the speakers, but I was. I think their white color didn’t work in the room as well as black did. The build quality is excellent and comparable to the RBH speakers I raved about last month. The Morel look is very modern and appropriate for a number of environments well suited (but not limited) to plasma monitors and/or cool flat screen video set-ups.
A very minor point: It was also difficult to attach the rubber strip around the base of the SA-2s, which you would probably want to be able to do if you were placing them on a surface of any importance.
The purpose of Morel’s Applause system is to generate effective, high-quality surround without taking up a lot of room. It does this extremely well. The IS-9A powered sub is large and effective with plenty of oomph, and yet does not take up too much room. The SA-2s are ultra-compact and deliver the primary benefit of small size, namely good surround localization. Although small, they deliver audio efficiently down to around a surprising 100 Hz – just be sure to run the system for a good long while before you make your final adjustments.
The subwoofer is the best of its type that I have heard so far, and a very convenient size without compromising its performance. The SA-2 satellites are excellent drivers for all surround applications, and music in particular, that can be mounted in so many ways that you’re bound to be able to get them to fit in with the décor. I have not heard a better system of this type (i.e., a sub with smaller satellite speakers) for music surround than the Morel Applause. If you use your home theater system primarily for movies, and you replay them at high levels, check out the Morel Supra system instead. It’s virtually the same as the Applause, with the difference that the center front SA-2 satellite is replaced by a twin-woofer specialized center front speaker, the C-5, which will probably be more effective in this application.