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Positive Feedback ISSUE 79
The Morel 6
as reviewed by Francisco Duran
Mama said not to believe rumors and hearsay. And in college we learned the meaning of illicit generalizations. So it was in regards to the sound and performance of Fritz Loudspeakers. A few years back I heard so much about these speakers from word of mouth, reviews, and good old internet buzz, before I even actually heard them, that I really didn't believe most of it. Based on my upbringing and education I readily dismissed all the hype. That is as I said, before actually really hearing a pair in the flesh. But let's flash back to Issue 58 (I guess this is a flash back and then a flash forward) finally getting a long listen and then reviewing Mr. Helier's Rev 5 models. I now had a pair of Fritz speakers in the flesh to form my own opinions. In that review I said "the dynamics were fast, clean, taut and punchy as all get out." The bass: "deep, tight, solid." And the mids: "always sounded harmonically right and true to tone." Let's flash a little more forward to the recent past and present and I have been living with the Fritz Morel 6, two way stand mounted mini-monitor for some time now. And yes, the hype is all there about these speakers too.
The Morels are another stand mounted speaker in the Fritz line up. They measure 15H x 8W x 12D and weigh in at a solid 24 pounds each. They have the Fritz Acoustic Reality Series Crossover. They have Morel drivers and the finish, as with all Fritz speakers, is impeccable. Mine have a beautiful cherry finish. They have a single wire connection round back which I think is great. I mounted them on Lovan stands that measures 24 inches high. Between the speakers and stands I installed four each of Herbie's Audio Labs Big Fat Dots which are actually the rectangular model. Among other things these little devices really tighten up the mid bass. Do yourself a favor if you are mounting speakers on stands and forget blue tack. In my 20 x 12 foot room I have little flexibility for speaker placement due to the way the room is designed and the compliment of furniture I have in there. So the speakers are 21 inches from the rear wall, 15 inches from the side wall, and a shade over 7 feet apart and slightly toed in. This works well. Since reviewing the Rev 5s I have a new reference set of amplifiers. The Wyred4Sound Mamp mono blocks and Mpre preamplifier now take the top spot in my system. They also seem to be a perfect match for the Morel 6s. At 200 watts per channel, the MAmps are more than capable to handle the fairly easy load of these speakers.
For the Morels, as with the Rev 5s, I'd like to start with the bass and dynamics. I was simply amazed when I played the album California 84 by Don Randy and Quest. Yes, I know it is going back a ways, but so are digging up old Mercurys. The bass power and musicality displayed by these speakers on this album are deep and rock solid. This recording really brings out all the Morel 6s could muster in bass and dynamics. Deep solid bass filled my room. The beautiful wood tone of the bass fiddle in albums from Mingus to Monk was rich yet realistic. Dynamic shadings were very well rendered in the self- titled CD from Lyle Mays, a 1985 recording mastered in 24 bit, especially on cuts like "Northern Lights," "Invocation," and "Ascent." I heard quick, clean piano strikes that were interwoven beautifully with the synthesizer. Again, I have to give credit to these speakers for their rendering of the acoustic bass. On this CD, Mark Johnson's acoustic bass sounds taut, textured, and clean. This is a wonderful album from one of the great jazz pianists of our time.
Another album that goes back a bit to the 70's specifically, not 1770 or 1870, but 1974 to be exact. Casually listening to this song one night I was really impressed the way the acoustic guitar sounded on track five. The song is, "It Couldn't Be Better" from the album It'll Shine When It Shines from The Ozark Mountain Daredevils. I know I have used the Daredevil's music on the last few reviews to illustrate my musical points, but the music is great and the recordings are very good. The flow of air when it was being strummed by, I'm guessing John Dillon, was as if I had my ear up to the air hole on the guitar in the recording session. All six members of this band share lead vocal chores on one song or another and the Fritz Morel 6s shine with a natural reproduction of vocals, as well as acoustic instruments. It was only later, after reading the credits on the inner sleeve that I found out the album was mastered by the late Doug Sax at The Mastering Lab. I am sure this has a great deal to do with the sonics of this great music.
Up in the treble section the treble is not too aggressive, hot, or bright at all. You don't get the feeling the treble extends forever yet high frequency detail is very good. High frequency sounds from electronic keyboards or the top end of guitars and cymbals on the CD The Nine Worlds from Achillea sounded clear and clean. Hard and fast drumming on a number of rock CDs also fared well. Cymbals, bells, and the ubiquitous cow bell came out as really very natural for the most part, without the top end sting this music sometimes has built in. This type of performance has a built in side effect of longer listening sessions.
Much has been said about Fritz Speakers being "musical." That connotation brings to mind a speaker that is warm, sweet, forgiving, and one that is not really incisive, clear, or very detailed. Nothing could be farther from the truth with this particular model. Yes they do sound musical, slightly sweet, and kind of forgiving. But not by giving up resolution, just the opposite. I found this out, not only in many hours of listening to music and watching movies, but through a review that is coming up. I was sent a full complement of two models of wire from Soundstring to evaluate. Reviewing two sets of wire is a gargantuan task to say the least. This prompted me to pare down my system to its bare essentials. In other words, no mono blocks with separate preamplifiers or extra dac. I went with my Integrated Marantz PM15S1 amp, due to it being a high resolution device, and it also being an all in one unit. It also has the distinction of having The Upgrade Sales Signature modifications done to it a few years back. The less wire to switch the easier it would be for me to do the review. But first I wanted to get a feel for my gear to make sure my integrated was up to the job of conveying the minutest bits of resolution. (As if it wasn't). Plus, since I mostly use solid state amps with the Morel 6s, I wanted to get a feel for how they sound with my tube amp.
I started by taking out my Wyred4Sound Mamp mono blocks and substituting them for my Margules U280SC all tube amplifier. Hooking it up to my W4S Mpre, I was really impressed. The dimension and depth of the soundstage improved. The chorus and the spaciousness in the Ozark Mountain Daredevil's disk sounded downright lovely. Vocal intelligibility was enhanced, the pace of the music sounded solid, taut, and naturally fast. No syrupy sounds here. The music just flowed through the Morel 6s. These speakers showed every musical nuance. Different instruments sounds were easily fleshed out and layered on a very dimensional soundstage. Many times when listening I kept thinking I could walk around and between the musicians and instruments on that very spacious, deep, and wide soundstage. To say that I was impressed with this combination of gear is definitely an understatement. I really loved how the Morel 6s worked with my tube amplifier. And this was while just listening to CDs. When I spun some vinyl the experience was even more satisfying. In fact this was one of the most musical combinations of gear I have experienced in my system with these speakers.
But I didn't stop there. I next pared the line stage of the Marantz PM15S1 to the Margules amp. I don't know what the engineers at Marantz were thinking, but you can't use the amplifier section of the Marantz PM15S1 separately as you can the preamplifier section. You can on the next model, the PM15S2. Go figure. Instantly noticeable was that with the Marantz used as a preamp the soundstage performance had a bit more depth than either my Marantz BD-8002 Blue Ray player or my Marantz Reference SA15S2 SACD player. Another thing I instantly noticed was that inner clarity was a tad less as compared to my W4S Mpre. For a pint sized unit, the W4S Mpre/Dac combination is a very good performer. The W4S fleshed out micro details better. Images were also a bit more clear and distinct. Yet the Marantz has a smoothness and very solid dynamics and focus to the music that is very seductive. This exercise answered the question that the Morel 6 loudspeakers are very capable of issuing forth, subtle sonic cues very easily and are highly resolving, yet retain a high degree of musicality.
If the Fritz Morel 6 were the perfect loudspeaker, I think Fritz would have only this one model. The dealers would only stock this one, and picking a speaker for your system would be very easy. Of course even in the Fritz line there are various models and slightly different particular sounds to choose from. So am I saying it is not the perfect speaker? That depends on you. Treble performance can be a double edge sword. There are times when I feel the top end could have a bit more sparkle and extension. This is a speaker that you don't want to mate with amplification that is rolled off or too warm in the top end. The treble performance, while very clean and detailed, moves along in a matter of fact way as if to say, "hey I'm working, don't make a big deal of it". Conversely, my Tonian Labs TL-D1s are definitely speakers that you don't want to mate to amps that are too clean, too clinical, or a bit bright. That Fostex bass driver and ribbon tweeter can be ruthless if mismatched to an amp like that. The Morel 6 plays it safe, while the Tonian Labs dances on the edge of the treble knife. Also, a ported box this size has its limits in regards to volume and bass extension, although here the Morel 6s punch way above their class in these departments. I have successfully mated these speakers to a small B&W subwoofer with very good results, such as a more spacious soundstage, and solid and deep bass down to 25Hz. The Morel 6s play very solid and deep down to their designed lower limit. In most situations they seem to justify the old phrase, "subwoofers need not apply." But it is fun to slap on the old sub to them now and then. Also if you are a fan of very low powered amplification, I would seek something more efficient. Case in point. I have two amps both designed around the Tripath chip that I love. I can drive the Morel 6 with either of these two 10 watt amplifiers pretty well. But it is not the same power and drive when I hook them up to my Tonian Labs TL-D1 95 Db. The difference is obvious.
As the editor of the Daily Planet was fond of saying, "Great Cesar's ghost!" What more do you want? These little speakers are one of the best balanced, affordable, musical deals in the hi-fi world. Once I installed them in my system, they have never left. Internet buzz aside, if one could use the phrase Renaissance man to describe a pair of speakers, it would definitely apply to the Morel 6. Francisco Duran