Review: Morrison Model 11 Monitor
Music in the review process: Cassandra Wilson Live; Brigham Young Mahler’s Resurrection; Andy McKee; Peter Herbert BassX; Harry Partch; Muslimgauze;
In my 30 plus years in audio I've never met a system I didn't like, they all just did things differently. From SS to SE and Electrostatics to Horns I enjoyed the experience. This time I have found that special component.
What I found myself drawn to after all my years of listening is a more radical and unaccepted approach to speaker design. When I was invited to listen to a system that included Shahinian Obelisks I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. See, I had heard the Ohm series of loudspeakers offering a similar approach and wasn’t thoroughly convinced at what the designer was trying to convey. Well I was blown away and purchased a pair. Years later I purchased the flagship Diapason system, these became my speakers for serious listening, all else was for fun. When I relocated, my living and listening space got smaller and so I went back to the Obelisks. Shahinian was influenced by one of audios great early pioneering minds of speaker building, A. Stewart Hegeman. But his speaker approach differs from the Hegeman approach, which continues today under the Morrison banner. Shahinian describes his speakers as ”poly-directional dynamic loudspeakers”. The goals of the two speakers are similar in thought but not in the result as I will explain.
Don Morrison describes his speakers on his website in part "...point source omni-directional method of signal launch". All of the Morrison loudspeakers are direct descendants of the A. Stewart Hegeman design. Don took over the speaker operation in 1977and continued the design incorporating a few worthwhile changes like eliminating angles, improving the cabinet structure and as driver technology moved forward he kept in step. Hegeman continued to produce the Hapi preamp for a few years. Hegeman died on August 19, 1986. Aside from the earlier mentioned the speaker is essentially the same with 1/4 wave loading of the woofer (tuned Helmholtz resonators). For those unfamiliar with A. Stewart Hegemans pioneering work in audio (too lengthy for this article) go the Morrison website or Google A. Stewart Hegeman.
Upon receiving the speakers I was impressed with the meticulous double box packing. The packing of the speaker is critical due to the driver structure at the top of the speaker. Once the boxes (4 total) and foam were removed, the speakers were dawned with red flannel material resembling the “Snuggies”, if you’ve seen the commercial you will be familiar. The red flannel covers are contour-designed to fit over each speaker, which provide an extra layer of protection and further evidence that Morrison’s Kids are well dressed for long trips. Removing the flannel reveals the black 15" tall (from floor to baffle board) speaker with an MDF protective cap with push- pins that fit into the top of the speakers to protect the upward firing drivers while in transit.
The speakers come with a Reckhorn B-1 bass equalizer (B-1). You remember the Bose 901 days (How did they get some much bass from those speakers) Well that's how. Without this box the 11's sound is minuscule, not up to their full potential. Now the work begins.
The instructions with the B-1 are straightforward and installation was a snap. I first tried the 11's and the B-1 in the living room (27'x15') on the long wall. Using the Threshold T200 amp; Pass Aleph P preamp; Soundfield SF 2.3 CD player; Shahinian Double Eagle subwoofer with external plate amp set at 40hZ roll-in and the Model 11 spread 8’ apart the soundstage was wide and clear with images placed solidly in the sounds cape. This is what a true point-source loudspeaker should sound like. The Model 11 has the best soundstage I have ever experienced. For a speaker with a total height of 18” sitting on the floor, voices were as high as any speaker 40” or taller. With the finest equipment and best recordings you should achieve the tonality of instruments that not only sound real but also out perform some of the most expensive speakers on the market.
I have the pleasure of owning CDs where I’ve either been in the studio during the session or have had the pleasure listening to the master tape, and those CDs are the Mapleshade recordings of Asante and Hamiet Bluiett. The 11’s present a sonic picture that transports me back to the venue or to the stool where I was listening to the master tape in Pierre’s studio. To push the envelope I placed the 11’s on Mapleshade wooden platforms. With mini brass cones (1” tall x 1” dia.) separating the speaker from the platform and Iso blocs between the platform and the floor, I spread them as far as 10’ apart with no collapse in the soundstage imaging. There was a noticeable improvement in tonality, which resulted in a seamless blend of the low-end when mated to the hybrid/Transmission line design of the Double Eagle sub.
The basement listening space is 14’x12’. Here is where I have my tube gear. Tubes have always been my passion from a hobby standpoint. Over the years I’ve owned and built many amps and preamps. Now I have settled into a pair of the original Quicksilver KT88 mono (60 watts) and occasionally switch between a passive and tube preamp. Again the 11s were placed on maple platforms with mini cones between the speakers platforms and Iso blocs between the platforms and the tile floor and positioned along the long wall, 6’ feet apart, the soundstage was so large it seemed to press against the walls filling the room with a sonic picture that was mind-blowing. On Harry Partch’s The World of…Columbia) and Harry Partch’s Delusions of the Fury…Columbia) the handmade instruments sound convincingly real. I switched the sub off and the 11’s held their down to 40Hz with no apparent break-up. Even without the mini-cones the 11s are not plumy in the low end and blended very well with the large horn-loaded Bruce Edgar Seismic subwoofer so this means proper subwoofer matching is essential. I have not heard the Morrison subs but intend to. Logic dictates that there will be a synergy but will it convince me to get rid of the T-line and Horn loaded behemoths that have claimed residence in my home - I hope so.
Peter Herbert is one of my favorite bassists. His acrobatics on the upright bass are breathtaking. When I played his album Naked Bass) I was glad that the 11’s could produce the upright bass in full sonic scale and Peter’s articulation on the fingerboard made me think I was sitting in front of a bass.
During all of this you may have noticed that not once did I mention anything about toe-in, distance from you or any of the other annoyances associated with most speaker set-up. If you place the speakers in the center of the room and move them apart until feasible for your listening space you will not loose any of the focus I obtained in my two listening spaces. The 11s are also excellent for near-field listening, which is what I prefer. When I took the 11s to 2 different homes and adjusted the B-1 to the perspective rooms the listeners all concurred that the 11s were short of amazing.
To the extent that I love this speaker I have decided to purchase a pair of the Model 17. The 17s according to the website offer bi-wiring and bi-amping options for those who like that sort of thing, and the option of using an external crossover of your choosing. The door to my home is open to anyone wishing to hear these great speakers. I will be posting comments on the 17s after I’ve spent some time with them. Anyone that cares to have a listen is free to contact me through Don Morrison
Digital: CEC TL-2; Ack Dack!; Soundfield SF 2.3
Analog: Merrill MS2; Hadcok tonearm; Crown Jewel Reference (SoundSmith re-tip); Hagerman Trumpet phono; Michael Yee phono
Preamplifier: Reference Line Preeminence 2B; Pass Aleph P; Transcendent Sound Grounded Grid
Amplifier: Quicksilver KT88 mono; Threshold T200
Interconnects and speaker cables: Mapleshade and InSound Omega Mikro & Discovery Essential; Kimber 4TC
Speakers: Shahinian Obelisk; Shahinian Double Eagle stereo Sub Hybrid T-Line; EdgarHorn Seismic Sub
Accessories: Mapleshade maple platforms; ISOblocs; brass cones