|Morel Stream MK II 5.1 Speaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Thursday, 01 June 2006|
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There is a war going on, and it’s waged every day in living rooms across this country, where the casualties can often be found sleeping on the couch. I’m talking about a war between good and evil. Right and wrong. You vs. her. I’m talking about the war over the WAF, or Wife Acceptance Factor. For years, you’ve wanted those towering, monolithic speakers of yore, capable of shaking your house off its very foundations and coming in every color so long as it’s black. And she wants, well, Bose. Let the games begin. Time and time again, manufacturers have attempted to bridge the gap between the sexes, creating pocket-sized speakers in every shape and color, only to produce pocket-sized sound, which is great for the bedroom or office but not for your living room. Still manufacturers persist, and some succeed: my former reference Definitive Technology ProCinema 80 system is one such success story. However, all too often, these diminutive systems are more style than substance. So it seems the war must go on. Or must it? Morel and their latest satellite/subwoofer system, the Stream MK II, may just call for the cease-fire we’ve been praying for.
Since 1975, Morel founder Meir Mordechai has been designing and hand-building loudspeakers for discriminating audiophiles the world over. An avid music listener, Mordechai set out to push the boundaries of design and technology and now, over 30 years later, his passion has paid off. Morel loudspeakers are now sold in over 55 countries worldwide, as well as providing technology and drivers to various other manufacturers. There are manufacturers who have been in business for twice as long and can’t claim the sort of success Morel can. Well, it seems Mordechai has all his ducks lined up for yet another nail in the coffin for the competition.
The Morel Stream MK II system is a complete 5.1 surround sound package that claims to provide the sort of full-range sound usually reserved for those larger floor-standers your significant other has nightmares about. Before your spouse goes running for the courthouse, tell her the entire system costs a manageable $2,000.00 and comes in three décor-friendly finishes: white, black and silver. That should get her attention. Now tell her the Stream system takes up no more room than placing five softballs and a large Frisbee in your room. Imagine that. I’m familiar with satellite/subwoofer combos. For over a year, the Definitive Technology ProCinema 80 was my personal reference for such a system. While I considered the ProCinema 80s stylish by my standards, they didn’t fully meet with the approval of my girlfriend. Well, with the Morel box resting in my living room, I was about to find out first hand what the Wife Acceptance Factor is all about. Ingeniously packaged, reminiscent of those canisters of gas you see in the movies, the Steam MK II system oozes style and grace from the second you open the box. I wasn’t the only one who noticed. My girlfriend, usually absent for these unveilings, quickly chimed in with her two cents. “Those can go in my room,” she said. Who was I to argue? The Stream system is comprised of five identical satellite speakers, affectionately called Soundspots. About the size of a softball and measuring a mere five inches in diameter, the Soundspots come equipped with stands to aid in table or wall-mounting. While the Spots may only weigh two-and-a-half pounds each, you’re going to want to make sure they’re braced properly to avoid any mishaps. The Spots have a spherical steel design, featuring a four-inch bass/midrange driver coupled to a two-inch aluminum tweeter. The drivers sit one on top of the other in a point source configuration, and while this may seem a bit out of the ordinary for most folks, it’s a design that’s been used by numerous speaker manufacturers for years. While not the inventors of point source mounting, Morel’s version of it, the Integra drive system, as they call it, is responsible for the speaker’s small stature and uncanny coherence across the frequency spectrum. The Soundspots have a reported frequency response of 95-22,000Hz, so clearly a subwoofer or two will be in order, and with a sensitivity rating of only 86dB into eight ohms, you’re going to want to make sure your amplifier or receiver is up to the task. Rolling the speakers over, I discovered two very unique binding posts. At first glance, they appear to be your standard five-way variety. However, upon closer inspection, they’re a variation on a pushpin design. While I normally shriek in terror at pushpin designs, the Soundspot’s use of it was more than intriguing and, at second thought, rather ingenious. Below the Spots’ binding posts rested the attached stand/table mount. Out of the box, you can easily place the Soundspots on a table or shelf and, boom, you’re done. However, if you wish to wall-mount them, you can simply pivot the Soundspot’s base down 90 degrees and, with the help of a pre-drilled hole, screw the Spots directly to the wall. Sadly, if neither of these options fit your needs, you’ll have to spring for separate stands that you can get from any Morel dealer. Still, the inclusion of two mounting options for a speaker of this style and price is downright amazing.
Moving on to the subwoofer, the Soundsub 9, I was treated to more of that Morel style. A departure from more conventional subwoofers, the Soundsub 9 is round and rather flat, which allows for a bevy of mounting options. Mounting options? That’s right, the Sound sub can be mounted directly to the wall or ceiling via a pair of brackets that come standard. Yes, you can mount this bad boy to the ceiling. You don’t get any more out of the way than that. It can also be floor-“mounted” with the help of three silver legs that positions the Soundsub 9 in a sort of 45-degree angle, which adds a bit of retro flare to its visual presentation. The sound sub can also be laid flat on the floor with the driver side of its cylinder shape pointed skyward. Regardless of placement, the Soundsub 9 is as unassuming as they come, due to its size, shape and style, measuring in at 20 inches in diameter by five inches deep and tipping the scales at 31 pounds. The Soundsub 9 utilizes an internal 100-watt amplifier to drive its single nine-inch driver, giving it a rated frequency response of 30-160Hz. The Soundsub 9 can be connected to your system through its five-way binding posts or line-level RCA inputs. The Soundsub 9 also has a pair of low-level RCA outputs. Throw in a detachable power cord, phase adjustment switch, auto sensing circuit and all of the connection adapters you’ll need to make life simple, and you’ve got the Soundsub 9.
I barely had the Morels out of the box before my girlfriend began placing them about the room. Not wanting to waste her enthusiasm, I quickly grabbed my stud finder and screwdriver and began mounting the Morel system. I began by mounting the left and right speaker on either side of her 42-inch Vizio plasma screen, with the “center” speaker resting about a foot below the screen’s bottom edge. Simple enough. Next, I found a suitable, though not ideal, location to ceiling-mount the two rear speakers. Lastly, I positioned the sub almost directly below and the center speaker on a small ledge that already existed in the room. I connected the entire system to my Harman Kardon AVR 7300 receiver, with the source duties falling to my trustworthy (and discontinued) Sony carousel DVD/CD player. Due to the small size of the Soundspots’ binding posts, I couldn’t take advantage of my speaker cable of choice, Monster M series cable, and instead went with Monster’s flat speaker cables, which are available at most consumer electronics stores. All and all, set-up was a fairly painless process and, with very little effort, I was able to achieve a clean and rather professional-looking installation in under 30 minutes.