HOME THEATER & SOUND -- www.hometheatersound.com



March
2008

Reviewed by
Roger Kanno
REVIEWERS' CHOICE


Morel
Encore Mk. II
Home-Theater Speaker System

Features SnapShot!

Description

Model: SoundSpot SI-1 Mk.II satellite speaker
Dimensions: 5.25" diameter (sphere)
Weight: 3 pounds

Model: SoundSub 9 subwoofer
Dimensions: 20" diameter x 5"H
Weight: 31 pounds

Warranty: Five years parts and labor

System price: $1500 USD (5 SoundSpot SI-1 Mk.IIs, 1 SoundSub 9)


Features
  • Spherical steel enclosure (SoundSpot SI-1 Mk.II)
  • Coaxial driver (SoundSpot SI-1 Mk.II)
  • Semisoft-polymer tweeter with neodymium magnet (SoundSpot SI-1 Mk.II)
  • Base/stand/wall-mount bracket (SoundSpot SI-1 Mk.II)
  • Optional floor SoundStands (SoundSpot SI-1 Mk.II)
  • Curved MDF enclosure (SoundSub 9)
  • Upright, flat, or wall-mount placement (SoundSub 9)
  • 100W (manufacturer-rated) BASH amplifier (SoundSub 9)
  • Operating voltage switchable from 115V to 230V (SoundSub 9)
  • White, black, or silver finish

When I was told I’d be receiving a Morel speaker system for review, I didn’t know much about the Israel-based company. From reviews I’d read in the past, I knew that they made some pretty expensive speakers, but I could remember little else about Morel or its products. I didn’t even know which speakers they’d be sending me, but suspected that they’d be big and expensive.

So I was surprised when the courier delivered only two relatively small boxes. After inspecting the waybill to ensure that these were, in fact, all of the boxes in the shipment, I opened them to find five small satellite speakers in one box and a subwoofer in the other.

I checked Morel’s website and discovered that they make OEM drivers for other speaker companies, and produce their own extensive line of speaker models, including car systems and "lifestyle" systems, such as the Encore Mk.II I’d just received. The total price of the five SoundSpot SI-1 Mk.II satellites and SoundSub 9 powered subwoofer, which together comprise the Encore Mk.II, is only $1500 -- much less than I’d expected for an apparently high-quality speaker system from a specialty audio manufacturer.

Good looks . . .

The SoundSpot SI-1 Mk.II satellite speaker is a 5.25" sphere made of steel. It has a coaxial driver with a 0.5", "semisoft polymer" tweeter with a neodymium magnet, and a 4" mid/bass driver. The small, spring-loaded binding posts on the rear can accept pins or bare wire, so long as the wire is not of too heavy a gauge. Each speaker has a rubber-bottomed base so that they can be placed on a shelf or any flat surface. There is also a single hole in the base so that a screw can be used to mount the speaker on a wall. The arm that connects the speaker to the base can be angled up or down. SoundStands -- 32"-high, matching floor stands -- are available as options.

The SoundSub 9 is round but not spherical, looking more like a big hockey puck: the MDF enclosure is 20" in diameter and 5" deep. Its 9" forward-firing woofer is driven by a 100W amplifier, and there’s a small port on the side. The SoundSub 9 can be placed flat on the floor, stood upright on its legs (provided), or mounted on a wall. On its rear panel are stereo high-level and line-level inputs and outputs. The low-pass crossover is adjustable from 40 to 160Hz, and a switch inverts phase from 0 to 180 degrees. There are also a main power switch, level control, detachable power cord, and switches for changing the operating voltage from 115 to 230V and the power to Auto or always on.

My wife, who rarely approves of the styling of the speakers I receive for review, described the SoundSub 9 as "cute." In fact, the entire system has a distinctive styling that will nicely complement rooms with modern décor. The Encore Mk.II system’s small size, integral bases or optional stands, and slim sub will make it easy to incorporate into most rooms.

Setup

I hooked up the Morel Encore Mk.II system to my Anthem Statement D2 audio/video processor, Axiom AP1400-8 power amplifier, Oppo DV-970HD SACD/DVD-A/V/CD player, Trends Audio UD-10.1 USB converter, and Sony PlayStation 3. The three front speakers were all at the same height, the L/Rs on 24" stands and the center on the TV stand, directly in front of and below my RPTV’s screen. I placed the surrounds on 50"-high stands to the sides of and slightly behind my listening position. The SoundSub 9 ended up about halfway down the right sidewall. After some experimentation, I found that crossing the satellites over to the sub at 100Hz provided the best combination of bass articulation and impact.

. . . and a voice to match

The Morel Encore Mk.II system may be small, but its sound certainly was not. I like to listen to multichannel music recordings to get an idea of a surround system’s fidelity, so I cued up a concert DVD by Phil Collins, Finally . . . The First Farewell Tour. The a cappella vocals on "True Colors" filled my room with excellent fidelity and a great sense of space. The huge soundstage belied the Morels’ tiny size. The mournful solo sax sounded particularly wonderful, and when the rest of the band began to play, I could easily identify individual instruments in the mix.

I could play more upbeat tunes, such as "Don’t Lose My Number," amazingly loud with little distortion. The sound at very high levels did become a bit compressed, but I was surprised by just how loud these little speakers could play before losing their composure. The drums at the opening of this song had plenty of impact but were noticeably free of boom. In fact, the low-frequency response of the system was particularly well balanced, and made for excellent music reproduction. The SoundSub 9 blended very well with the satellites; there was a nearly perfect balance of fullness, speed, and articulation in the low frequencies that made listening to music extremely satisfying.

The Morels’ high power-handling capabilities were readily apparent when I listened to the uncompressed PCM soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition of Black Hawk Down. The system had no trouble reproducing the multitude of deafening explosions and gunshots throughout this film. I was even more impressed by how clearly it delineated music, effects, and dialogue. In one of the opening scenes, Elvis Presley’s "Suspicious Minds" plays in the background as the sound of helicopter rotors is realistically portrayed. The dialogue of the flight crew changes character believably as it alternates from a radio transmission to actual communication among various crewmembers inside the cabin of the helicopter. The sound always remained completely intelligible through the Morels.

Transformers may be a mediocre movie at best, but its sound design is superb. Like Black Hawk Down, it has some spectacular audio outbursts, but also some incredibly coherent 360-degree pans that were utterly convincing through the Morels. Sounds moved seamlessly among all channels, from front to rear and from left to right, providing a totally involving surround experience. The otherworldly sound of the transforming robots was clear, and the extended low bass easily filled the room. Not only was the bass smooth and powerful, but the output of the satellites blended with that of the sub better than in most other systems I’ve had in this room. The bass seemed to emanate equally well from all directions, with no obvious audible cues as to the sub’s location.

Comparison

The Morel Encore Mk.II system compared favorably with the much larger speaker systems I’ve been listening to lately, and at a fraction of the price. As mentioned, the bass was particularly well integrated and extended, even if it couldn’t match the performance of my reference Paradigm Servo-15 v.2 subwoofer, which alone costs $1000 more than the entire Morel system. Compared to the Paradigm, the SoundSub 9 could barely reproduce the very lowest octave -- but that’s to be expected, given the huge difference in size and price of these subs. Still, the Morel system provided an extremely satisfying quantity and quality of bass. And no other sub has ever "disappeared" as well in my room, or been less directional.

Although the Encore Mk.II was able to play quite loudly, it could not reach the same volume levels as the exceptional and, again, far larger and more expensive ($4700) Mirage OMD surround system that I recently reviewed. Within their limits, however, the Morels sounded exceptionally coherent, and when they reached those limits, they did so gracefully. There was no heavy distortion or excessively unpleasant noise, just a gradual compressing of the overall sound. The big Mirage system was better able to fill my home theater with pulse-pounding volume, but the little Morel system would more typically be used in a smaller family room or den. In such an environment, I’m confident that it would provide volume levels far louder than most listeners would require.

The midrange, particularly vocals and dialogue, could sound a bit recessed at low levels through the Encore Mk.II. At a casual listening level below what I ordinarily use to listen to a movie soundtrack, voices seemed to fade back into the soundstage and become more difficult to comprehend. Turning up the volume to my normal level resolved the situation: Voices became more prominent, seeming to increase in relative as well as absolute volume. Vocals on two-channel recordings exhibited a similar phenomenon, though to a lesser degree, and were well integrated over a wider volume range.

Conclusion

Although I’m accustomed to listening to much larger, more expensive speaker systems, I was thoroughly impressed by the performance of the Morel Encore Mk.II. I also appreciated its modern good looks, which are a refreshing change from the familiar, vinyl-clad MDF boxes usually found at or near this price.

In fact, I used to dread reviewing "lifestyle" speaker systems: their good looks so often did not translate into good sound. But many specialty speaker makers now produce excellent-sounding lifestyle systems, and Morel’s Encore Mk.II is one of the best I’ve heard in the budget category. Its attractive styling and compact design only add to its value.

Review System
Speakers - Paradigm Reference Signature S8 (mains), Reference Signature C3 (center), Reference Servo-15 v.2 (subwoofer), Mirage Omni 260 (surrounds); Mirage OM Design OMD-15 (mains), OMD-C1 (center), OMD-5 (surrounds), Prestige S10 (subwoofer)
A/V processor - Anthem Statement D2
Amplifier - Axiom A1400-8
Sources - Oppo DV-970HD SACD/DVD-A/V/CD player, Sony PlayStation 3, Trends Audio UD-10.1 USB converter
Cables - Analysis Plus, Essential Sound Products
Surge suppressor - ZeroSurge 1MOD15WI
Display device - JVC HD-56FC97 RPTV
 

Manufacturer contact information:

Morel Headquarters
17 Hamazmera Street
Ness Ziona 70400
Israel
Phone: (972) 8-9301161
Fax: (972) 8-9301312

E-mail: info@morel.co.il

Morel America
1301 Hempstead Turnpike, Suite 1
Elmont, NY 11003
Phone (toll-free): (877) MOREL-11, (877) 667-3511
Fax: (718) 721-1560

E-mail: usa@morel.co.il
Website: www.morelhifi.com


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