Morel, best-known as a supplier of drivers for other manufacturers' speakers as well as very good car audio products, has one of the most unique solutions to today's modern, flat HDTV-based home theater installations. The physical reality is that big towering speakers look a little out of place, if not downright stupid, on the floor when your 50-inch 1080p plasma is hanging neatly up on the wall. While the concept of the on-wall speaker is not a new one, the idea of variable-sized ones is novel. Morel's Vario (now you get the name, right?) speaker system is an adjustable speaker system that reshapes to meet the needs of your speaker system. This is no small trick, as most plasmas look as if the loudspeakers are nothing more than an afterthought when installed on the wall. The Morel Vario system allows you the ability to get the installation right, with the lines of the speakers congruent to the featured HDTV.
In today's market, there are a lot of sexy speakers and unique installation ideas. We recently saw speakers that actually are installed in-wall and then are covered in drywall mud and painted over. While a neat idea without question and a sexy installation idea for modern homes, this doesn't provide the most audiophile sound money can buy. But Morel's Vario does. Most on-walls are cheap plastic speakers designed to hit a price point and be sold in mass numbers, along with consumer-grade HDTVs. Morel's Vario is much more of an audiophile speaker, with far higher build quality and much better than average parts, including, of course, Morel drivers. This is why each Vario panel costs as much as $999. Therefore, a 5.1 system complete with a Morel subwoofer costs about $5,500. Yes, that is likely more expensive than the big HDTV itself.
The sound of the Morel Vario needs to be heard if at all possible. At a recent trade show demonstration, the DVD of House of Flying Daggers was employed. This is a somewhat cheesy Chinese martial arts movie that does have one incredible surround sound demo. In the middle of a battle, marbles are thrown artistically to hit drums held in a circle. While the plot is somewhat hard to accept as realistic, it is an excellent workout for all of your speakers. On the Morel system, I was taken aback at how dynamic the marble hits were, as well as how fast the drums sounded. This system was using a consumer-grade receiver, not $30,000 audiophile amps, yet these mere on-wall speakers were resolving details in a hotel room the way you would expect to hear in the most cutting-edge of mastering stages.
Read about the high points and the low points of the Morel Vario on-walls on Page 2.High Points
• The ability to make your speakers look (in
terms of color and, more important, size) like your big flat HDTV is a
most creative solution to one of today's most pressing home theater
• Morel Vario brings audiophile sound and
build quality to a category of speakers that all too often has moved
down-market. Your 1080p HDTV is going to look great on the wall, making
a beamingly good picture using Blu-ray discs. Many want speakers that
can match the video performance with beamingly good sound.
• At 89
dB efficient, the Morel Vario system can sound good on one of today's
newest HDMI switching receivers. Would they like an audiophile
amplifier? Absolutely yes, but it's not mandatory, as you will find
with many of today's $5,500 home theater speaker packages.
Morel speakers are poorly distributed. It's as if the parent company
wants to keep what they are doing a secret, so it is realistically
possible that, in your town, you won't be able to actually hear a
demonstration of these speakers at a dealer. They also do not have good
images of installed systems to show you the sex appeal of the Vario
system in an installation in a glossy photo or a meaningful JPG.
Speakers like this need to be both seen and heard, because the truth
is, most people who drop $5,500 on a Sony Bravia XBR LCD HDTV could
spend another $5,500 on speakers if they knew about something like the
Morel Vario, but the distribution channels and supplemental materials
are shamefully lacking for these speakers to cross over to the
It's likely somewhere in your
home you have or will have a big flat HDTV-based system. If you want to
pair audiophile quality sound with your stunningly beautiful video
image in that room, you might want to consider the Morel Vario system.
It's pricey, for good reason - it's built well and is a
small-distribution, imported product that packs heat in ways that other
plastic-looking on-wall speakers do not. The Morel Vario system has
implementation that would have gotten praise for being a good idea even
if they didn't sound all that hot, but truth be told, they sound great.
If you are looking for high-end on-wall speakers, put in the extra
effort to find a Morel dealer with an active demo. It's even worth
hopping on a plane to do so.