Morrison Model 19.1 Reviews
Even my wife was impressed. Which is probably a more convincing argument for buying these loudspeakers than anything I can offer below.
Like other reviewers on this site I previously owned Morrison speakers (purchased in 1994) and was fairly convinced that any improvements would be defeated by the law of diminishing returns. So, for the last twenty-one years, I stopped thinking about my equipment and focused on music. I spend a lot of time listening to music, mostly classical, but a fair bit of jazz and a little bit of everything else.
Over the years Don Morrison has notified me a few times about a new model that was available. He has rarely (probably never) tried to persuade me about the merits of an upgrade, let alone claiming that I would be able to hear a difference. I’ve usually expressed modest interest while silently believing it would make more sense to go to more concerts and buy more CDs. This time my interest was piqued when he suggested that the current model was probably as good as he could make it. No more tricks up his sleeve.
I’ve always had difficulty trying to describe the sonic qualities of audio equipment. But it is easy enough to agree with others who have pointed to the soundstage: instruments are firmly located in space, front to back and side to side--provided, of course, that the recording itself captured a real soundstage. The impact seems even greater for chamber music and small jazz ensembles.
However, the biggest difference that I’ve noticed between 21-year-ago Morrisons and the current model is that instruments sound like instruments. If I close my eyes—which I tend to do a lot when listening to music, whether at a concert, or at home—it’s music that I hear, not reproduced music. I’m surprised to be saying this, but even poorly recorded records sound more real. Everything is more “present”.
The bottom line is that I find listening to music more involving than ever. Which is a good thing because at the age of 68 I felt that I was beginning to become jaded. I could hear a decent performance of a favourite piece and not really be affected by it. Well, I’m in the process of re-discovering lots of old favourites and may even find a soft spot in my heart for some music that didn’t cut it the last time around.
I was wrong 21 years ago in thinking there was no point in investing any more of my resources in new equipment. After living with these new speakers for several weeks, I’ve returned to that belief, with more confidence than ever. It’s not my habit to thank merchants who receive my hard-earned cash in return for their products and/or services but in this case I think an exception is warranted given that my happiness level has just gotten a significant boost. Thank you, Don Morrison.
Craig Townson (Guelph Ont, Canada)
I first heard about the new Morrison 19.1 speaker when Don sent me an e-mail saying ‘something wicked this way comes’ with a photo of his new bass driver. That was about a year ago and after many delays that ‘wicked something’ has finally arrived.
The new woofer was custom-designed and manufactured specifically for the Morrison speakers. Don may be willing to share some of his secrets if you are interested in the technical details. Suffice to say, there is nothing else in the world like it.
From an owner’s perspective this woofer has three important qualities:
a.) Extremely low distortion. This is most apparent in the mid-range where the new driver has exceptional clarity.
b.) An extremely long throw for deep powerful bass. We are talking subwoofer-like capabilities here.
c.) The ability to do both a.) and b.) at the same time.
I can’t stress this last point enough. Listening to electronic dance music (Bjork, for example) the woofer will pump up and down furiously on the deep synthesized bass notes while the entire frequency spectrum remains crystal-clear. Its quite a sight to behold as well as to hear!
Something else to behold is the immaculate high gloss black finish on the model 19.1 The cabinets are buffed to the point where they look like they’re made of glass.
Of course, these changes cost Don a bundle which he has to pass on to his faithful customers like me. But once you’ve seen and heard a pair of model 19.1’s I think you will agree they’re well worth it.
Every time I hear a new model of the Morrison speakers I find some major ‘WOW’ factor that I’ve never experienced before. However, this doesn’t always happen where you expect. The new woofer has truly amazing bass reach and dynamic capabilities as you would expect . But the ‘WOW’ moment for me came in listening to vocal music. Whether listening to Mark Padmore sing Schubert’s Winterreise or Roseanne Cash’ lament for her late father on 'Black Cadillac’ , these speakers faithfully convey the smallest inflections in vocal phrasing that distinguish the great singers. The model 19.1’s reproduce the human voice with a purity I’ve never heard from any loudspeaker before. Truly remarkable.
The Morrison Model 41 Subwoofer
So If the new woofer in the model 19.1 is so great, why is there a matching model 41 subwoofer and why do I think it’s worthwhile?
The model 19.1 is very much a full-range speaker in its own right and you certainly don’t need subwoofers to enjoy them.
But there is a heightened sense of realism when a system can play at full volume down to the very lowest audible frequencies. To achieve this in a convincing manner the listening room and the subwoofers must work together. The best placement for a subwoofer is on the floor next to a wall to take advantage of room boundary reinforcement. Without boundary reinforcement, the extreme lows cannot be reproduced with their full impact.
Conversely, the best placement for an omni speaker is free-standing and well away from the walls. This allows the model 19.1’s to create their wonderful holographic soundstage.
To solve this conundrum, the model 41 uses the same woofer and bass cabinet as the model 19.1 turned upside down. This allows them to blend seamlessly with the model 19.1. You position the model 19.1 as you normally would for the best soundstage and the model 41 for the smoothest and most extended bass. In my listening room I am never aware there are separate subwoofers as they draw no attention to themselves. Yet their presence is being felt (literally) all the time. They are simply an extension of the system.
So there you have it. A superb new Morrison speaker in the model 19.1 that can be enhanced even more with the addition of the perfectly matched model 41 subwoofers.
Bruce Kenning (Toronto)
These speakers are incomparable. Let me start there. What elevates them to this status, in my opinion, as that they literally disappear from the experience of listening to music through them. Let me explain...
I own a pair of Morrison speakers that are about a decade old. I thought these were good. The new speakers are fully an order of magnitude better. How so?
Morrison trumped himself by accomplishing 3 significant things with this latest edition. First, the clarity. It is as though the final thin veil of gauze layered on the sound has been lifted. Listening to a two-omni mic recording by Morrison, of a pipe organ in Little Trinity Church in Toronto allowed me to hear that the instrument needed some work - some pipes did not sing as well as others. I found myself hearing the qualities of the instrument - something heretofore I had heard only in a live setting. It became part of the listening experience.
Second, the soundstage in front of me. I could pinpoint the location of each pipe in a very tall soundstage. The voice of each pipe descended from its obviously elevated position in the church - above and in front of me. I could place each voice in the X and the Y direction. Literally, I could tell which pipe was next to which other. Holy cow.
Third, and this is something I have only ever experienced in a live performance, I felt the reverberation sound waves arriving from behind me. That is, simply put, astonishing.
Bass notes were delivered with sound pressure - I felt those notes in the seat of my pants and in my gut. I felt them first, then realized what I was hearing. Can you say foundation?
Now, I am not equipped with the gobbledygook of the standard audiophile reviewer, I can relate only in simple terms what I experienced. I am a bit of an amateur musician myself, someone who tunes their own piano, and find that a performance has many aspects to be savoured: the music itself, of course; the spirit of the performer(s) in the moment and their interpretation of the piece; and finally, the quality of the sound delivery - the setting, the instruments and the voices. During a live performance, I find myself visiting each of these aspects much as one the enjoys gastronomic nuances of a handcrafted multi-course meal. Each aspect in turn becomes forefront, only to fade as some other delight takes hold.
This was my listening experience with the latest Morrison speakers. I found myself critically listening to the church 'space' into which I was virtually delivered; then the nature of the sound of the instrument itself, including the odd pipe here and there that could use a good dusting; and finally, and completely, I surrendered to the performance itself.
A comfy chair, a cozy quiet room, a relaxed atmosphere, a warm beverage, with a pair of these speakers, and I am convinced I have at hand a singularly extraordinary means of escape. And that my friends, is what I think it is all about. The speakers seem to excuse themselves from the setting, and leave you alone to travel into the place that the composer and performer would have you journey. Borrowing from Guthrie, the willingness to suspend disbelief was kicked up several notches from any other reproduced sound listening experience I have ever had. I felt I was there.
If you have the means to acquire these speakers, I unhesitatingly suggest you get in line to get a pair. Run to get them, do not walk. There is no other sound reproduction system I have ever heard, anywhere, at any price, that is superlative. None. Get them, and enjoy the escape they afford.
Burlington, Ontario, Canada
This is my third Morrison Audio speaker, my first being a Model 17 which I thought was the best speaker system I had heard, until I bought a model 19, musical heaven and then Mr. Morrison hinted at something off the charts good, the Model 19.1. I am only beginning to do my listening but it is clear that the 19.1 is an exceptional achievement in music reproduction. I found it very easy to drive (more on that in another chat) and very easy to place in my living space. It just needs 3-5 feet from any wall and the musicians are in business.
I go frequently to concerts, operas, symphony concerts, chamber music and jazz performances which give me a fair idea of how music should sound played by living musicians in real spaces. The new speakers are the closest speakers I have owned to live performances in that the music is clear with the musicians properly represented in a real space and all the instruments present their true tonalities. It is easy to follow musical thoughts and sequences in a live concert and so it is with the Model 19.1's.
Generally, before I started on my Morrison journey, all reproduced music was fairly good but not as clear as it should have been. There had always been a distancing scrim between me and the music. So, here comes the Morrisons and with each iteration, the scrim became less until the 19.1, when it disappeared completely and left me with only the music at whatever quality it was recorded. It is hard to write about speakers with no voice of their own, only representing what is fed them. My only problem is that when I do the unthinkable, read while listening, I keep putting the book down to listen. I'll have to talk to Mr. Morrison about that. The next few sentences reflect the changes after inserting the DBX equalizer as recommended by the aforementioned Mr. Morrison.
So, here is the review after setting up room correction and some things happened that were unexpectedly noticeable, partly because I did not realize how much the room created some of its own sound, though I knew that rooms do become one of the pieces of the home audio puzzle. I thought I had solved most of that with a large area rug and devices to break up wall reflections but I had not completely vanquished the room demons until I used a DBX equalizer to sample and correct for the room.
Now the bass is even fuller and cleaner, the midrange crystal clear and the treble sweet without glare and roughness. None of these were great issues before the correction but the sound is much more realistic with the demons gone. I think as a result of the room correction the spatial presentation and instrument harmonics are much better portrayed.
Another aspect of the sound is the fact that I am using a pair of Crown amps which have a crossover function available so that a passive crossover is no longer in the amp to speaker chain and I sure this allows for a sound that is more natural with no real sense of being created by electronics but by live musicians. This amp choice was strongly encouraged by Mr. Morrison and I am glad I took his equalizer and amp recommendations.
So, these changes to an already excellent system, take my home listening experience to a whole new and better level.
Dr. Bruce Schlein
Greenville, S.C. USA