Morel Octwin 5.2M loudspeaker Page 2

Once I had established the best places for the speakers, their tonal balance was a little on the warm, mellow side. The high frequencies seemed free from grain, and even a recording that was rather overcooked in the treble—an uncompressed WAV file of Led Zeppelin's classic "Fool in the Rain," for example, played back from my PowerBook via a FireWire-connected Metric Halo MIO 2882's AES/EBU output—didn't sound too aggressive or bright. And even the Dolby Digital-encoded cymbals on Diana Krall's Live in Paris DVD-V (Verve/Eagle Eye Media EE19012) sounded grain-free and extended.

The 5.2M's smooth, uncolored high frequencies were very much in evidence on Beethoven's Sonata for Violin and Piano in g (DG 471 495-2), last February's "Recording of the Month." Augustin Dumay's violin was presented rather more forward in the soundstage than Maria Joo Pires's piano, however, and some midrange piano notes were more prominent than I expected, and it was in the midrange where I felt the Morel to fall a little short of the standard set in the treble. At low to moderate levels, coloration seemed low and the articulation of detail was excellent. At higher volumes, however, the jumping-forward of some piano notes that I commented on above became more noticeable. Antony Michaelson's clarinet on Mosaic (CD, Stereophile STPH015-2) lacked clarity when it played above the treble staff, sounding a little too shrill.

I explore the reason for this coloration in the "Measurements" Sidebar, but before I made my formal measurements I listened to the Octwin 5.2M's sidewalls with a stethoscope while playing the half-step sinewave scale track from Editor's Choice. Not only could the tonebursts between 500Hz and 700Hz be heard exciting some kind of internal resonance, a hooty transient at 600Hz or so accompanied the start of each burst.

Whatever the reason for this behavior, it shouldn't be made too much of. The effect was very dependent on the music I played. The Led Zeppelin cut didn't seem affected by it, nor did the men's voices on Cantus' Against the Dying of the Light... (CD, Cantus CTS1202), or Frank Sinatra in 24-bit/192kHz LPCM on the new DVD-A reissue of Sinatra at the Sands (Reprise R9 73777). But once I knew it was there, I started listening for it, which did distract me from the music.

Moving down in frequency, the warble tones on Editor's Choice revealed that bass was reproduced in good measure down to the 32Hz band, which is good extension for what is basically a small speaker. Putting on Robert Silverman's Beethoven sonatas collection (CD, OrpheumMasters KSP830), the Bsendorfer piano had more weight to its left-hand register than I was expecting from the speaker's size. Well-recorded orchestral music, such as Sir Colin Davis' mid-'70s performances of Beethoven's Symphony 5 and Mendelssohn's "Italian" Symphony, recently reissued on SACD (Pentatone PTC 5186 102), was reproduced with enough low-frequency power to be musically satisfying.

Bass definition was good rather than great, those triangular ports having to work hard to maintain the necessary extension. Nevertheless, the Morel's combination of bass weight and reasonably good definition allowed Brian Bromberg's double-tracked double bass and bass guitar, on his slowed-down reading of the late Jaco Pastorius' classic "Teen Town" (DVD-A, A440 Music A440-422), to remain distinct from one another (footnote 1). And there was enough of what I need in the way of dynamics from the two pairs of tiny woofers for me to rock out to James Jamerson's and Bob Babbitt's damped Fender bass lines on the incomparable Standing in the Shadow of Motown (DVD-V, Artisan 13780; CD, Hip-O 46912).

Summing up
Once you become accustomed to its admittedly weird looks, Morel's Octwin 5.2M is actually visually appealing and has a small footprint in the listening room. It does many things right—superbly smooth treble, accurate and well-defined stereo imaging, a mellow balance, and good bass extension for a small speaker—and only one thing wrong, that midrange coloration. Even then, whether or not that one thing will prove problematic depends very much on your choice of music. Recommended, with the caution that would-be purchasers must audition the speaker with their own music.

Footnote 1: This DVD-A, which includes both 5.1 surround and 24/96 two-channel mixes, is a must-have both for bass players and for music-lovers who miss Jaco. Click here for info.
US distributor: Jason Scott Distributing
8816 Patton Road
Wyndmoor, PA 19038
(800) MOREL-14