Morel Nova 5.1 Home Theater System 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems
Written by Brian Kahn   
Thursday, 01 May 2003

At $999, the Nova 5.1 speaker system is the entry-level micro system from Morel, Israel’s leading loudspeaker company. The satellites in this system are tiny metallic half-spheres that can be mounted anywhere a softball would fit.

For less than a thousand bucks (USD), you get five satellites that can fit into the smallest of spaces, and a powered 10-inch subwoofer. While this is becoming more and more common, it is still rare to find speakers in this size and price class that don’t sound like an AM radio broadcast coming out of a drugstore clock-radio.

In the U.S., the Morel name is not as widely known as it is in Europe, where it has a considerable and heralded reputation. Morel was founded over 25 years ago in Israel’s southern region and has been a leading provider of OEM speaker components in Europe since that time. In the U.S., Morel offers a variety of different SoundSpot speaker systems, which are visually identifiable by their spherical enclosure.

The LI-1 SoundSpot satellites are the entry-level speaker in the SoundSpot line. Their metal half-sphere enclosures feature a three-and-one-half inch coaxial driver with a three-quarter-inch voice coil, double magnet system. The tweeter driver size is a half-inch and has a half-inch liquid cooled voice coil and neodymium magnet. The speakers are specified at 100 - 20kHz and 88 dB sensitivity. The metal half-sphere can be ordered in a variety of colors and sits on a small circular stand. The back of the sphere, opposite the driver, features small binding posts that will take spades, pins or bare wire.

The RS-10A SoundSub is a powered subwoofer with a single 10-inch driver with built-in 60-watt amplifier. The cabinet measures 18.7 inches wide, 15.7 inches high and eight inches deep. The black cabinet is reflex-loaded, with a side-firing port. The specified usable frequency range is 20-140 Hz and the rear panel features high- and low-level inputs and outputs, continuously adjustable volume and crossover, auto on/off switch, and a two-position phase switch.

I first set up a pair of satellites and the RS-10A in my two-channel system. I placed the satellites on a pair of taller Vantage Point stands. Due to the extremely small size of these speakers, it may be necessary to use taller than usual stands to get the tweeters positioned at ear height. I positioned the stands six feet apart and three feet from the front wall, with the SoundSpots toed in slightly. Ultimately, I used the line-level inputs on the SoundSub. More on the setup on my home theater rig later in the review.

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 Downside
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.
Manufacturer Morel
Model Nova 5.1 Home Theater System
Reviewer Brian Kahn

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