Morrison Preamp

Is anyone familiar with this product? This linestage which is only sold directly and costs $690 is boycotted by the audiophile press for obvious reasons. Yet, if you sort the ratings on Audioreview, this pre has the highest rating of any preamp. According to those writing "reviews" there, the Morrison gives up nothing to any preamp regardless of price. Can anyone confirm this?
If by "confirmation" you mean an endorsement, I guess I shouldn't be answering this. I read all the reviews in Audio Review and figured "What can I lose?", and bought one. Have been playing it and comparing it for about a month now, and although I still feel that buying one was worth the risk, I can't say I entirely agree with the ringing endorsements posted in Audio Review. The Morrison ELAD is an outstanding SOLID STATE minimalist line stage. It IS very well made; it is tiny and moron-simple to install and use in your system. It lacks remote control, but if you can live without that, it really has all you need. As for the sound? It sounds the way excellent SOLID STATE line stages sound: dead quiet background, detailed and very fast; throws a very wide, tall sound stage that is moderately deep; a little more forward sounding than some SS line stages I've heard (e.g., Sim Audio) but not in your face; accurate but just a bit on the dry side. You'll notice I keep stressing the words SOLID STATE. Well the reason is probably obvious to you - I've been on tubes for the last 2-3 years and didn't realize I'd become addicted. I bought the ELAD because I thought it was worth a try with my tube amps. It was worth a try, but I'm going back to a tube front end. If you are not a tube addict, I can confirm that the ELAD is definitely in the same ball park with the best SS line stages I have heard (Krell, Sim Audio, Pass. Haven't heard Levinson, or the scads of other highly touted SS equipment out there). If you prefer tube sound, the ELAD is not for you. Sadly, it's not for me and I will probably be the first one to be selling mine. By the way - what they say about Don Morrison is all true. He is a curious, interesting and truly nice fellow, who really cares about his work. However, I must add that he is a dyed-in-the-wool solid state guy, and there's just no sense in arguing with him about the merits of tubes period. Hope this helps a little. If you have specific questions, let me know. I'll do my best. R.Yee
Thanks Oahuan for your well-written and informative post. I was wondering what preamps you have really liked and what you have previously owned. I have heard the Aleph P, Rowland Synergy, certain VTL's (2.5? as well as others), Audible Illusions Modulus 3, VAC's, Lamm L1. I have heard CAT Signature and own a CAT Ultimate. I need a second preamp. I was wondering what else to listen to. I favor the tube sound but I heard a solid state preamp which really impressed me. That was the Ayre K1. Have you heard this one? It is not a typical solid state sound. Very smooth, although in the system in which I heard it, I am not sure about its dynamics or deep bass extension? What else should I hear? Thanks,
Rayhall- Based on what you've listed, I think you have had a more extensive listening experience than I have, so I won't presume to tell you what you should go out and hear. Your very brief description of the Ayre preamp sounds a little bit like my experience with the (Sim Audio) Moon P5- smooth, a bit laid back, really, really nice, but perhaps at the expense of some frequency extension and real ooomph, as it were. As for preamps and lines stages that you haven't listed, I've heard some of the top notch Krell stuff, though not the latest and greatest, and while the units were impressive in terms of frequency extension, detail and dynamics, I just can't convince myself to like the kind of "hyper-realistic" sound Krell seems to produce. I have just recently listened a lot to the BAT 30SE and 50SE preamps, and they are quite spectacular - sounding and cost-wise - definitely not "second system" material ('cause too expensive). I liked them a lot, but to describe their sound, I could not do better than to refer you to the write-up on your own CAT Ultimate in the latest edition of the Absolute Sound (Vol. 123). To steal a phrase from that article, the sound of the BAT line stages is "modern", that is, kind of taking the best of both the SS and tube worlds. However, I doubt that the BAT's are quite as tonally rich as your CAT Ultimate, but might have a little more extension on the top. I've also heard just about all of the Audio Research line stages put out in the last few years, including the 22, 5 (Mk II), 15, 25, and Ref 1 (not extensively), but not the Ref 2. If you like ARC sound, which is bold and a little upper mid-range prominent, these are all darn good, if you can find a used one to fit second system budget. I've also heard a number of the less expensive CJ stuff, but at the risk of offending a lot of CJ people, I found the lesser line stage models to be so pleasant, they got a little boring. That's about it. As I said at the top, it appears to me that you've listened to more quality electronics than I have. You know, coupled with a nice warm tube amplifier, the ELAD might just be a terrific second system line stage. Now I want to turn the tables. I've been seriously considering a CAT Ultimate, simply because CAT has a great long-standing reputation and the unit is a true preamp (w/ phono stage) which would simplify my life considerably. However, I've never heard one, and there's no dealer here (that I know of) who carries CAT. I assume you really like it - Right?
I have never heard anything better. To my ears, it just does everything well: Great extension (on bottom and top), great dynamics,very smooth response, good soundstage and detail, distortion free and dead quiet. You also don't need to spend a lot of money, in that I think any CAT will put you in audio's highest echelons. I have a friend who bought a CAT Signature. It is a little brighter than mine, and even more dynamic. I think he paid $1500. He claims that he wouldn't mate it with other bright equipment. Even so, I have heard his unit and I would say it was just a shade brighter than neutral, yet with all the other good qualities I have described above. However, the Ultimate is definitely smoother and less bright. I have never had an audio product that made me as happy. I just don't want to buy another as I would like a slightly different sound in a second system. I hesitate to say it, because this is such a subjective hobby but, ... I think, particularly if you like a tubey sound, you could almost buy a CAT without audition. I doubt you would be disappointed. Also check out Stereophile's "follow up" review of the Ultimate in Aug 1999, if you haven't done so already.
Also the CAT has a terrific phono section. No RFI, no noise, no grain, and the same smooth sound you get from the line section. The Ayre can be bought with phono and it too has an outstanding phono section. If you get a chance, check out the Ayre K1 or K3. Even though they are solid state, I think you'll be surprised by what they can do if the rest of the equipment is up to snuff and well matched.