|Morel Nova 5.1 Home Theater System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Thursday, 01 May 2003|
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Music and Movies
I began my music testing with System Of A Down’s Toxicity (Sony) album. The track “Chop Suey” features fast-paced instrumentals and vocals. I found the midrange to be liquid within the satellites’ operating range, but a bit thin in the lower spectrum, making the vocals sound a little less present than with larger speakers, such as floor-standing models I have recently reviewed. The guitar riffs on this track are quick and aggressive and the Morels kept pace nicely. Because of their size and efficiency, you need to watch pushing them to stadium concert levels, or you may encounter the physical limits of the speakers. Or perhaps I just listen to my music too loudly?
This 5.1 system’s lower mid-bass was not lacking whatsoever, yet it all seemingly came from the subwoofer. As you might expect, mid-bass clarity was very good, considering the diminutive size of the satellites. The sub went fairly low, providing a good blend of low-end reinforcement and fast impact. If you need more bang in the bass department, you can always move up the line in Morel’s offerings of subwoofers. Depending on the size of your room and the volume you want to achieve, a present or future upgrade might be a good idea.
Another disc I listened to was Paula Cole’s This Fire (Warner Bros.). The first track, “Tiger,” has an explosive bass line, which confirmed that the SoundSub was capable of fairly deep bass, but it lacked some detail at its lower limit when compared to subs that cost more than double the cost of this 5.1 system. Cole’s vocals were smooth and liquid. Getting these Morels to image like a high-end speaker that costs 10 times the price is actually feasible, but it can take some effort on your part to find just the right spot in the room for the satellites. I know many people who buy these kinds of speakers are just looking for a wife-acceptable speaker, but the Morels are capable of more if you or your dealer put in the effort in during set-up.
Staying with female vocals, I moved to Jewel’s Pieces of You (Atlantic) album. The track “Foolish Games” features a piano piece that sonically is a huge step above the average micro speaker in terms of reality of the performance from a recorded source. The violin sounds accurately lively without being too over the top with brightness, which could cause fatigue. The Morel system did little to color the sound at all, which is also quite a compliment at this price range.
Later, I moved the Novas into my surround system, where they took the place of the comparable but higher-priced Gallo Acoustic Dues (about $4,000 for the 5.1 system). The center and rear channels were again placed on top of Vantage Point stands. I placed the SoundSub just to the left of the center channel. I loaded Queen’s a Night at the Opera (DTS) into my DVD-Audio player. On the track “You’re My Best Friend,” I found the guitar riff at the opening of the chorus to have lots of life and very good detail. At very high levels, this DVD-Audio’s high-resolution surround sound inspires serious volume cranking. Because the speakers are small, you could find their limits at crazy loud volumes, but at normal levels, the Morels presented a very smooth surround presentation of the kind you would expect from a well-matched audiophile speaker. I clicked forward to the Queen epic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The line “A little high, a little low” sounded solid, as did the “solo to Mama.” The bass line and drums were fairly extended, considering the size and price of the system.
Moving on to the movie, “Star Wars Chapter 2: Attack of the Clones” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), which features a killer battle in Chapters 43-44. This sequence provides any speaker system with an incredible test of its inner fortitude. The first scene features a great deal of movement and shots going from one corner to another. As expected with five identical satellites, there were absolutely no speaker matching problems as the sounds and effects panned smoothly. The RS-10A’s bass output during the explosions and crashes could certainly be heard as well as felt. During Dooku’s duel with Obi-Wan, the sabers sounded as if they were racing around the screen.
I later watched the submarine thriller “U-571” (Universal Studios Home Video). In the depth-charge scene as well as subsequent sequences, I paid close attention to the subwoofer’s performance. This film is well known for its extreme low frequencies. The scene confirmed my impressions of the subwoofer. The bass was fairly deep and reasonably detailed, well above my expectations for a sub in a system at this price.
The satellites’ limited low end requires setting the subwoofer crossover higher to prevent a large hole in the system’s overall sonic performance. This forces the sub to do a lot of the work, resulting in less clear bass than you would hear with a larger speaker system and a larger (mostly more expensive) subwoofer. This is just part of the compromise you have to make in order to squeeze small, sexy-looking, good-sounding speakers into tricky rooms.
This system is hard to beat in its size and price range. The small satellites are available in a variety of colors and their diminutive size will let them fit into places where many other speakers simply will not go, including bookcases, on the wall near a plasma system and beyond. At $999 for a complete system, the Nova system is not without limitations, yet when operated within its normal parameters, it performs quite well. In comparison to other speakers in its price range, the Nova is a player with the best of them, including offerings from Paradigm, Energy, RBH and Anthony Gallo. Compared to many mass-market brands (you know the ones I am talking about), these Morels fit in just as many places and decors but sound much better, especially for dedicated music sessions. This system allows you entry-level high-end AV performance at a fantastic price. As long as you don’t try to make these speakers rock like Godsmack in a room 40’ by 40’ with cathedral ceilings, you are going to be very, very happy.