Review: Morrow Audio 300B1 Monoblocks Tube amp

Category: Amplifiers

Randy M, 300B1 SET owner, with permission:

"I have had my new Morrow Audio 300B1 monoblock amps up and running for a week now.

I am using a Cary slp98p pre and BAT VK-5 cdp, VPI scoutmaster table with DV Karat cart, old Fisher 200b tuner.

I have been 'into' tube audio gear for 3 1/2 yrs, and specifically single ended amps for the past 2 yrs. I have learned the hard (= expensive) way, and have bought and sold a lot of speakers and gear... not cheap. I eventually found my way to hi-sensitivity speakers, including the big Klipsch, nice vintage Altec Valencia, and now John Kalinowski custom Fostex based speakers, which for me are the ultimate.

I have two pair wired in series, so four cabinets, one pair with the fe208sigma with Fountek neocd2.0i ribbon tweeter, and the other system has the fostex FW305 12" paired with the phenomenal Fountek neopro5i ribbon with both systems using only a single capacitor for crossover. All this is to say, I have very dynamic, easy to drive speakers in the 95 dB (12") 98 db (8") and 102 dB (ribbons) range, very SET friendly and very revealing.

The Morrow 300B1 amps are large, but there is a good reason for that. The electromagnetic fields don't interact, and the delicate input circuit is as far from the power supply as possible. The amp is visually very beautiful, with a slight industrial edge to it, with all the screw caps on the top plate showing. VERY nice build quality, just screams excellence. Wow!
It looks like a small city, with the power plant in the rear, imposing gold caps, power transformer and choke, and the HUGE output transformer right in the middle. The sight of all that Electra-print iron in one place is almost decadent.

The finish is excellent, dark reddish wood sides which smell really nice of freshly stained and varnished mahogany--but all this is described so well on the website.

The sound? I have to agree with all the superlatives on the website already, all the usual words describing the magic of the 300b apply--low level detail in spades, revealing, holographic, tonal purity, REAL . I would add: Authoritative! These amps don't mess around. The dynamics are fast and almost scary. Depending on the recording, crescendos explode, bass lines reach way down, cymbals shimmer, piano is thunderous--all while maintaining the delicacy and separation of instruments and performers that are so crucial to the feeling of 'you are there'.

One night I played Brahms cello sonata, Yo Yo Ma on vinyl. VERY rich, deep cello tones, much more authority than the px25 amp I've been listening to for a couple of weeks. Then I just listened, very beautiful, gripping, DETAILED, I love it. You are right, maybe its the transformer coupling, there is something unique.

I look forward every day to firing them up, and if they really do sound better after 100-200 hours burn in, then I am in for a treat, since they sound great 'right out of the box'. Thanks Mike, I feel very lucky to have received a pair of your world class amps.

OK OK, I know its a little gushy, but these things ROCK!! And I don't even listen to rock, mostly a classical nerd with nice female vocalists thrown in at times. Nothing like a little Diana Krall on a rainy day.

Maybe now I can spend more time listening and less time (or none at all) shopping for the 'ultimate amp'--I may have found it.

I rather like that, don't you? And its so true, I read once on AA the question "which is the best SET amp in the world" answer: "The one you don't own--yet!!" Its definitely time to quit shopping."
Am I the only one that has a problem with this post? The rules are pretty clear that the forum rules prohibit offering items for sale in the forums (fora?). This is just as bad an abuse of the review forums. A manufacturer posting reviews of his own product. In a paid ad, fine. In the forums no way. This may be a great amp, in fact I hope it is and I wish them all the success. But shame on Morrow Audio, and shame on Audiogon's moderators for not picking this up.
I agree with Swampwalker!
Agreed - this is wrong. There is no way around it.

If Morrow Audio had asked Randy M to post his review we would never have known and the review would have been OK - but that probably goes on all the time.

I agree with the respondents to this thread. A shameless shill.
I am a newbe here and was not aware I broke any rules. I joind as a partner with Audiogon on the 18th of May. I posted an unbiased review from one of my customers. I did not intend to break any rules. I simply posted the review as received and submitted for approval with the Audiogon staff...They approved it and posted it.
I looked over the Audiogon rules for posting reviews. It states clearly:

"Commercial users are welcome to submit reviews, but only if they are truly useful to members, and as long as they disclose any business affiliations."

No offence intended, just needed to point out that what I did was ok. Apparently the posting rules are diffrent for the discussion forum section and the product review section.

Mike Morrow,
Morrow Audio
If RandyM is a member here perhaps he can chime in. Otherwise, if nothing else it is a bit heavy handed. The Morrow Audio amps look intriguing but this lends an unattractive air of desperation to their sales tactics. Bad show Morrow.
If rules were broken then it is Audiogons responsibilty. Have been told on occassions that Audiogon is a for profit website. So this should not have been a surprise. Just poor taste. Lets see when was the last time Nelson Pass,Conrad Johnson,Bryston,Classe,Audio Research and the like, did something this lame? All of those were fledgling manufactures at one time, but let the audiophile community be judge and jury on the products offered.

As far as I am concerned Morrow Products do not interest me,bailed out of tubes 25 years ago. Was into tubes for 20 years 1957 to 1977, that was quite enough for me. But many embrace this topolgy today, to each his own.

The only gall here is the manufacturer trying to make a case for this product by a supposed end user. If Morrow is to make it as a manufacturer it will have to follow the road taken by others, to achieve credibilty in the market place. In this very tough industry, instant success, is not part of the equation.

I do applaud Morrow for going into the market place. With that being said, dues have to be paid and it is a long and painful process, ask any of the above menetioned manufacturers.
Thank you for your comments. This business is a long hard road. My pleasure comes from the joy of music it brings my customers. So far all have been very pleased. The Audiogon staff has been very helpful and supportive.

Thanks for all your understanding...

Mike Morrow,
Morrow Audio
Whether or not Audiogon rules were broken here, I agree with those who feel this is clearly an impropriety (but not necessarily a poor reflection on the manufacturer, about whom I know nothing), and blame Audiogon for not preventing it, either by deed or word. Now let's see if they let this post through...
Even though the Audiogon rules allowed our post, I will respect and keep your comments at thought for the future.

We desire to be a friend no matter if you buy our products or not. We audiophiles are family and desire the joy of music in our lives regardless of the products chosen.

Mike Morrow
Well, I must admit I had no idea that "Commercial users are welcome to submit reviews, but only if they are truly useful to members, and as long as they disclose any business affiliations." In that case I change my opinion to match Zaikesman's "not necessarily a poor reflection on the manufacturer, about whom I know nothing[)], and blame Audiogon for not preventing it, either by deed or word". And Mike, I do really hope your amps are great and that you make a go of it. It does rub the wrong way, but if you cleared it with the A'gon staff then I guess I owe you an apology.
I think that people should just chill....nice amps by the way.
Is Randy M. an Audiogon member? by the way,the amps look great!
It is clear that Morrow Audio is a sign of the times now prevelant in audio. This is not to disparage Morrow in any shape,form or fashion. The internet has spawned many of these types of business, which would not have been possible prior to the world wide web.

Even Nelson Pass and Rene Besne started Threshold, literally on Nelsons kitchen table in the early 70s. But the path for success was much different then, than now. That being mainly the internet. Although then, Nelson Pass had patents to register,acquire funding,find vendors to build parts to his specifications,set up a factory,hire employees,send out samples for review and attend CES shows and the list goes on and on. And all of it could have gone down the drain, with one bad review. That is courage and conviction few will ever experience.

But with that being said, if Morrow is to have any meaningful success today, it must go through the channels of the audio press and have a presence at various CES Shows and the like. Although Morrow is a factory direct business, to be viable it must establish some form of a dealer network in order to further enhance credibility in the market place. Quality bricks and mortar audio dealers are challenged as never before and all are seeking new products to embellish their product line. These audio dealers remain a viable part of this changing industry. To exclude them would not be wise.

In 48 years of being in this hobby/business I have seen far more failures than success's. Although Morrow products hold zero interest for me, my hat is off to them to have the pioneering spirit of those who have gone before them.

It is my sincere hope to be able to read a review of the Morrow product line in many of the established audio journals soon. I wish Morrow Audio every success, I do know what it is like to endeavour a start up company, in a field that is populated with like products. There is always room for cutting edge audio products and perhaps Morrow is the next Conrad Johnson or Audio Research on the horizon. But it is up to the critics to decide.
"But it is up to the critics to decide"
Considering who some of the "critics" are these days, and the sheer numbers of them out there, a new company can probably be almost assured of getting at least one positive review (maybe from someone without very wide experience or knowledge, or perhaps a partisan of a particular technology who's happy to give any result a nice subjective spin -- and certainly without measurements! -- but those compromises seems to bother audiophiles less and less). Or at least that the "one bad review and you're through" paradigm of yore doesn't necessarily hold in today's multifarious online environment. And a company these days -- in which you don't necessarily have to depend on bricks and mortar retailers and expensive print advertising to get the word out, online user reviews are considered more 'honest' than 'pro' reviews, and you can sell direct online -- may simply opt not to submit loaner samples to reviewers, at least at first, if they can generate 'good buzz' without them. After all, if you're 'unreviewed' yet, you must really be on the bleeding, uncorrupted edge, and why risk it before your 'image' is somewhat formed? Keep the mystery, the word-of-mouth exclusivity -- and besides, higher demand too soon could create its own problems. Having said all that, I still think Audiogon is making a mistake with this policy, that user testimonials belong on manufacturer websites and manufacturers don't belong on the review section unless they want to reply to an unsolicited review.
Thanks for your insite and advice.

I decided to not sell to dealers, I had offers but had to decline. This decision came from realizing that the price would be too high, putting my products out of reach for the average audiophile. With my lowering the price for the dealers and their 80 to 100% markup, I would miss the customer that I wish to experience true high end.

I am a little different. My goal is 4 to 8 units a month. That way I can focus on each amplifier I handbuild, giving it my full it my best, not getting into the "order panic" or hiring staff to assemble them. I enjoy my work and the pride of excellance. My goal is the musical result. That is another reason why I don't want to deal with dealers. I really want to keep the orders at a calm pace so that the result will be glorious music.
To be totally candid price is not an issue in this range of esoteric audio products. While I was in Colorado had the opportunity to visit Boulder Amplifiers in Boulder,Colorado est.,1984 as well as Innersound in Boulder,Colorado est.,1996 and Jeff Rowland in Colorado Springs, Colorado, est.,1985. These companies produce some of the most estoeric audio components with prices to match and all have a limited dealer network and supply review samples to audio press journals such as TAS and Stereophile and some others as well as attend CES shows. And in many instances was allowed to take some gear home to audition with no more than a copy of my drivers license on hand to verify who I was.

These companies support internet sales where a dealer for that product is not present. But pricing remains constant be it dealer based or internet driven.

There is only one company that is totally internet driven that I have bought from. That was AV123 located in Broomfield, Colorado, of which I was able to visit prior to purchase.

There is no shortcut to success in this endeavour, all routes should be explored. And yes, one must press the flesh. The internet is a great marketing tool, but should not be totally relied upon as a sole sales and marketing generator, but in conjunction with traditional marketing venues.

At this point in time the road will be long and winding with the obvious pitfalls along the way. All companies take a page out of the competition, such as the current commercial "What Would------Do?" In my view Morrow Audio needs to rethink thier current marketing ploy if any success is to be hoped for.

However my best to Morrow Audio and may good fortune come your way.
400 thread count I believe. I had to hide all the junk in the workshop...LOL
Mr Morrow I deleted my own post in commenting on the photos of your amp attached here. Trying myself to be less sarcastic these days. So anyway who pulled the photos of your amp and why? Tom
I too just noticed the photos are gone, perhaps an Audiogon software glitch. Anyway, you can see everything at this link:
Tom: I saw that post before you deleted it, but ironically have to confess I had no idea what you were talking about until now -- guess I hadn't looked at the photos too closely. Hope they weren't floral print! ;^)
We wish to post a defensive response to "clear the air" and give clear understanding to all that has been written about us.

There are several threads about us on Audiogon. These threads all began with our posting a review which were written and sent to me by one of our customers.

Some thought this was out of line since we were the poster, accusing us of "breaking the posting rules". Some even implied between the lines that the reviews were fake people that we had made up. That is far from the truth!

I responded and showed that it was ok for a manufacturer to post a review in the review section, which is what we did. There seemed to be confusion between the rules for the forum and the rules for the review sections on Audiogon. We quoted the posting rules that Audiogon has established for their review section: "Commercial users are welcome to submit reviews, but only if they are truly useful to members, and as long as they disclose any business affiliations." This is not to mention that all post must be approved by Audiogon before they allow a post to be published.

One of our customers then posted a review in the forum section, after later realizing he placed it in the wrong place, posted it in the review section. More confusion and comments occured.

We allowed these threads to continue, many apologized for their accusations. We have found that negative comments usually end in the truth being realized.

We understand that the negitive comments started out of the commenter's not realizing the posting rules.

We are one family and I we wish everyone the best in their audiophile journey. There are no hard feelings from Morrow Audio. Happy listening!

Mike Morrow,
Morrow Audio

"It is up to the critics to decide..."

Nothing personal, but that is nonsense. I would not trust the hidden agenda of any review rag to treat their readership with the level of respect and integrity you suggest. After 40 years in the hobby I would think you would know better. And as for esoteric designers, please, how many of those "pioneers" have added nothing to the state of the audio art yet charge silly prices for "what amounts to eye candy. You seemed confused. The internet will indeed bring more charlitans to the mix, but will also bring true talent and inovation to the fray who would not have the means otherwise. It is up to the underground, you and I, not the media rags to decide who is to thrive.
Ah, yes, I have been truly enlightened and I am most humbled by such deep thoughts. I can always count on the Audiogon Membership for thought provoking responses.