The Morrow Audio SP7 Loudspeaker Cable

Frank Perraino listens to The Morrow Audio SP7 Loudspeaker Cable

We gather today, once again, for what should be a dispassionate subject on which we can all agree – a topic totally devoid of controversy, a difference of opinion or even a scintilla of emotion or conflict – the speaker cable or “wire” review;  (an abundance of which have been covered The Sound Advocate) in the past year.) And if you believe the above, I have some swamp land in Florida to sell you.  I won’t rehash the controversy of this topic as I touched on this subject briefly in my debut review for the Sound Advocate as well as my approach at cable reviews.

I am not here to change your mind, assert that my opinion is “fact” or try to convive you that this cable is the “best” or “worst” or anything in between – that is your mission should you decide to accept it (this tape will self-destruct in five minutes  – oops, I just dated myself).  What I am here to do is simply give you information and, alas, my “opinion” on how the cable being reviewed performed in my reference system and how it may compare to other cables. 

Before proceeding to the description of the cable reviewed and my thoughts on its performance, however, I should at least mention that I have always struggled with what the ultimate end-goal of an audio component should be (let’s not argue semantics here on whether “wire” is worthy of being called a “component” as I am going to assume for this review that it is, YMMV).  While it may sound logical to assert that the ultimate goal of an audio component is to “reproduce what is on the source material” or to reproduce the sound of live music, I am not so sure that this goal is either realistic or truly desired.

First of all, who really knows what actually is on the original recorded source material other than the recording engineer and mixing crew.  Moreover, as technology improves or the fanatical implementation of an existing technology occurs, we seem to keep discovering there is more information within the original source material (CD or LP) than we initially thought [e.g., think Rockport Sirius III, circa, 1996, and what it ushered in for analog design and revealed about the fanatical implantation of the age-old “simple” task of dragging a stylus through a vinyl groove].  Next, unless the only live music you listen to is purely acoustic or classical music (e.g., unamplified) performed in perfect acoustic venues, I have heard some very talented bands (and musicians) sound simply average or awful (not the performance but the “sound”).   You may think your goal is to hear what is on the disc or LP but is that true and, even if so, how will you know when you have achieved that goal? 

My favorite band is ‘Tower of Power’.  I have heard them live 114 times as of last December (2019).  Yet, I have heard them in good and bad venues.  When I listen to them in my home, I would rather have them sound like they do in the good “live” venues or even in the studio – to me hearing a bad recording of an artist/band where you know the recording is not doing them justice is not my idea of good listening.  I can understand if the recording is a bootleg or rare and may have original, material never-before heard or exceptional solos or performances.  But in the end, I want to hear my favorite performers in a recording that does them justice.  

What I am getting at is simply this – perhaps the true goal of audio gear is (or should be) to improve or maximize the listener’s connection with or enjoyment of the music in his home environment – even if that doesn’t mean you can now hear the guy in the third row of the auditorium fart. Enough about that – with that at least in mind let me introduce you to the company and speaker cable under review.

MORROW AUDIO AND THE SP7 SPEAKER CABLE

morrow audio SP7 speaker cable

I always enjoy the “back story” on designers of high-end audio gear and how they came to do what they do.  I consider myself blessed to have met some very gifted designers and engineers over the years and, while I have not met Mike Morrow, the owner of Morrow Audio, hearing his story I am betting he be a blast to hang out and chat with.  Like me, Rob had a keen interest in “electronics” at a very early age (I can recall like it was yesterday that day at an E.J. Korvettes Department store when I walked into the “audio room” and saw my first Dual 1019 turntable and the Mac and Marantz electronics and was smitten for life!). 

Morrow Audio’s website mentions that at an early age Mike was fascinated with electronics and realized in grade school “{he] was not interested in playing music—he was fascinated in hearing the music and sounds . . . “   It appears that Mike and I started with similar interests but followed divergent paths. Like Mike, I was fascinated by and studied “electronics” at an early age.  In junior high (which public schools didn’t teach) my father selflessly took an “adult education class” that I attended with him so I could learn electronics.  However, a year later, unlike Mike, I discovered that I loved performing music even more than the equipment and became a professional trumpet player (before my career was cut short by an accident 9 years later – which led me back to the love of the equipment).

Based today in Independence, Kentucky, Morrow Audio began in 2006 making 300B SET power amps with Mike “throwing in” a set of his cables with each purchase.  The company then had its first employee and began making cables to sell in 2007.  Today, the company offers a full spectrum of interconnects, speaker cables, phono, and digital cables, power cords and headphone cables as well as a line of professional audio cables. All Morrow Audio cables come with a lifetime guarantee. The company also offers a break-in service option and a 30-day return policy.   Obviously, Morrow Audio’s faith in its products allows Doubting Thomas’s and skeptics alike to go outside their comfort zone with no reason to worry about bad choices.

Every product in Morrow Audio’s speaker cable line use what the company calls “SSI Technology” which stands for “Solid core, Small gauge, Individually insulated” wires. The speaker cable under review, the Morrow SP7 Speaker Cable, is the company’s third from the top of its speaker cable line (the SP7 containing 865 runs of SSI Technology wire per channel).  As you move further up the Morrow Audio speaker cable line, more runs are introduced, providing higher and higher resolution – with “Elite Speaker Cable” as the penultimate and the “Anniversary Speaker Cable”  as the top offering in the Morrow Audio speaker cable line (using 1152 and 1728 runs of SSI Technology wire per channel and priced at $3,995.99 and $6,995.00 per 2 meter pair, respectively)

Morrow Audio asserts that its cables differ from other popular cables in the following three major areas of design (which proprietary technology Morrow Audio claims remove major distortions common in most other cable designs):

1. Many Other Cables Use Stranded Wire   The strands, which are most often all twisted together, touch each other thousands of times at various points along the length of the wire, causing the signal to jump from strand to strand instead of flowing through a solid continuum.

The result is phase distortion at each point causing distortion of the signal; blurred imaging, lost soundstage cues, bloated and non-defined bass, etc. Details like the 3rd and 4th echo off the hall, subtle harmonics and depth are lost.

The Morrow Audio Design: 
Morrow Audio signal cables use ONLY solid core OFC (oxygen free copper) wire, NEVER stranded.  Morrow claims using this solid core wire eliminates all stranded wire distortion effects allowing you to hear much more information that was lost from the smearing effect that stranded wire produces.

2.  Many Other Cables Use Large Gauge Wire:
Different frequencies tend to ride at various depths in the wire structure; the highs, mids, and lows tend to separate which causes time and phase errors in the signal. This is commonly known as the “skin effect”. When large gauge wire is used, this problem is even greater, resulting in phase and timing errors. The soundstage is reduced and instrumental timbre is distorted.

The Morrow Audio Design:  Morrow Audio signal cables are made with only small gauge wire. The different frequencies ride at the same plane in the wire, resulting in less phase and timing errors. Morrow Audio claims this produces more accurate sound, a larger soundstage and accurate instrumental timber.

3.  Many Other Cables Use Heavy Insulators:
Some cable designs use large cable jackets or even heavy insulators to insulate their cable. Inside such common cable designs are internal conductors with an extruded insulation of some sort. The insulation material is in close and immediate contact with the conductor along its entire length.  Conductors like wire mesh that surround the center conductor then act as a shield from RFI.   Wrapped around all this is the outer casing of the cable, usually comprised of rubber, PVC, Teflon or some other similar material.

These insulation elements all form the dielectric of the wire.  This dielectric tends to absorb and release energy to and from the conductors causing a negative sonic affect – the smearing of the signal and other distortions. The greater the number of insulating layers, the greater this distortion will be.

The Morrow Audio Design: 
Morrow Audio cables do not use heavy insulators. Each strand of wire is individually insulated from one another and held together with cotton weaving and covered with the outer nylon mesh that you see on the outside of the cable. This allows the least amount of reflection back into the cable, retaining the quality of the music.

morrow audio SP7 speaker cable
SP7 Cables from Morrow Audio

LISTENING IMPRESSIONS

You may have heard the old adage: “First Impressions are Lasting Impressions.”  After many years auditioning and reviewing audio gear, it is been my experience that while my first impressions may be lasting impressions, that is not always the case.  I’ve stated previously in reviews that when first auditioning equipment it is not uncommon to be impressed initially with something “different” just to find out after extended listening that “different” isn’t always better. This is not to say different doesn’t end up being better – but patience is a virtue in thoroughly vetting a new piece of gear – whether purchasing (not always easy in this instance) or reviewing.

If the old adage is true, then the Morrow SP7 speaker cable is an excellent speaker cable.  While I may have initially enjoyed climbing the “audio upgrade” mountain when I started down this path 28 years ago, over the last 15 years I have settled in and don’t get rid of my audio equipment just because I have “upgraditis.”Like fighting the heavyweight champion in boxing, a challenger to any of my reference gear must decisively beat the reigning champ to get the belt.  In the speaker cable arena, my reigning champion has been the Silversmith Audio Palladium (now currently replaced with the ‘Fidelium’) and it has vanquished all challengers over the past thirteen years — which brings me to my initial impressions of the Morrow SP7.

My “listening notes” taken over the first few hours after inserting the SP7s were filled with superlatives such as “increased energy and drive,” “propulsive,” “rich,” “dynamic,” and “big and engaging.” Pretty good praise indeed.

The most impressive listening notes, however, indicated that I felt that unmistakable urge to play air drum, air guitar, tap my toes or gyrate in my listening chair to the music.  The SP7 had a rich, bold midrange and what I initially perceived as a slight upper-to-mid bass emphasis that infused the music with drive and energy.  For example, on Pancho Sanchez’s incredible Latin, Afro-Cuban, salsa, jazz, a soul-infused CD entitled “do it!” (Concord 2005), Sanchez’s percussion kit and vocals, Hugh Masekala’s voice and trumpet and the tenor and trombone solos had the richness, bite and growl that makes Sanchez’s music so energetic and captivating.  Sanchez’s band seemed to have a bit more visceral impact. 

morrow audio SP7 speaker cable

The SP7s served up beautiful tonal colors as well.  If you’ve heard a trombone player live, you know their instrument can produce a unique combination of crisp and brassy sounds but also quickly sound fat and blatty depending on the musician.  It is not an easy instrument to capture realistically — but the SP7s captured the tone and timbre of Francesco Torres’ trombone reproducing his sound in a manner that faithfully retained all of those wonderful characteristics.

morrow audio SP7 speaker cable

Turning to the acapella masters, Take 6, and their CD The Standard(HeadsUp 2008), the vocals of this insanely talented group were rich, with large, forward, front-row images. Al Jarreau’s vocals and Till Bronner’s masterful Grammy-nominated jazz flugelhorn solo were beautifully rendered on the masterful remake of Miles Davis’s “Seven Steps to Heaven.”  Both Jarreau’s and Bronner’s very distinctive tonal qualities were unmistakably reproduced through the SP7s.   If you have not had the pleasure of hearing this amazing acapella group, you owe it to yourself to also listen to “Windmills of Your Mind” on this CD to appreciate just what the human voice is capable of.  You will be amazed to hear how six voices can blend so seamlessly together sounding like more than just voices and more like an entire musical group.  You probably won’t even realize or miss the fact that there are no other musicians or instruments playing.

The SP7’s treble was extended, crisp and clear illuminating the music with clarity but without being overly analytical.  Every once and awhile, I detected a touch of brightness, but it was mostly source-material and volume dependent. Through the SP7s, Tower of Power’s two brilliant new releases in their 50th and 52nd years, respectively, “Soul Side of Town (Mack Avenue Records 2018) and “Step Up” (Mack Avenue Records 2020) really shined. The band’s famous horn section sounded tight and with the brilliance and growl that the trumpet and tenor players possess live and with the punchy, signature bottom-end that only the legendary Doc Kupka and his “often imitated but never duplicated,” baritone sax styling can produce.

Soundstage width was on par with what I would expect from a cable at this price point. Images were lifelike in size with a forward presentation but not overly exaggerated. This was readily apparent on “Something in This City Changes People” on Chicago’s 46-year-old LP, “Chicago VI” (Columbia 1973) where Robert Lamm’s lead singing was front and center and Terry Kath’s guitar and backing vocals extended beyond my Rockport’s cabinets.  Micro and macro dynamics were very good as well.

Any nits you may ask?  This brings me to the point raised at the beginning of this review – namely, what truly is your objective when putting together your system and investing in higher-end audio equipment? If your objective is mainly to increase (and ultimately maximize) your enjoyment of the music – then the relative importance of my nits would be minimalized in the pursuit of that goal.   If, however, you goal is to bring you closer to the sound of live music and/or to try to reproduce each attribute of an instrument or voice even if that goal does not necessarily increase your connection to or enjoyment of the music, then the following “nits” were perceived after I reinserted my reference speaker cables (costing almost six times the price) in what could be deemed a somewhat  “unfair” comparison.

It was only after I re-inserted the Silversmith Palladiums after a long-term audition of the SP7s, that these “nits” were fully identified — but which did not materially adversely affect my enjoyment of the music.   I now became aware of the more realistic attack, sustain and decay that the more expensive Silversmiths brought to the table.

As a former professional musician, my main requirement of a component is to get the tone and timbre of a voice or instrument correct – the SP7D reference cables did that for the most part.  However, when critically listening, I realized how much the initial transient attack and the development of the note — how an instrument or voice sustains the note and how it trails off or decays – render that final touch of realism to the music  If the attack is too thin/light, the music may take on a bright or anemic sound.  If it is too heavy or sharp, a bright or blunted (e.g., thick or slower) sound is produced.  While the SP7s never sounded overly bright, anemic, slow or thick, when they were compared to the Palladiums, it was evident the much less costly SP7s couldn’t match the Silversmiths refinement, delicacy, and more realistic transient attack, sustain and decay.

This was evident, for example on “Strong Chemistry” from David Wilcox’s folk/pop CD “Big Horizon” (`A&M Records 1994),   On this cut, the acoustic guitar plays an integral role in the mood of the song and through the SP7s, the pluck of the single string sliding to an octave higher was slower and a bit more exaggerated.  Through the Palladiums the transient attack, sustain and decay was more accurate, nimble and fast causing the acoustic guitar to sound more lifelike rather than amplified.

I noticed a similar issue on David Garibaldi’s drum kit on “Hangin With My Baby” on Tower of Power’s Soul Side of Town” (Mack Avenue Records 2018).  The sound of Garibaldi’s stick striking the heads of his drums as he is going around his kit was thicker/heavier sounding and the attack slightly blunted through the SP7s – almost like his sticks had a slight amount of felt or tape on them.  Through the Palladiums, the sound was quick, nimble with accurate transient attack and decay just as it has sounded live in the 100+ times I’ve heard him live.  These differences were not overt or bothersome – but rather noticeable with critical listening and easier for me to detect due to my familiarity with the performer.

CONCLUSION

So, were my first impressions of the SP7s lasting ones?  If my inability to listen critically and my toe-tapping desire to want to play air guitar along with Tower of Power’s Jerry Cortez is any indication of the fun they infused into the music, the answer is predominantly “yes.” 

While the SP7s didn’t dethrone my reference Silversmiths, they connected me to the music making it just plain fun to listen to.  Accordingly, with careful system matching, if you’re system is lacking energy, sounding thin or lifeless these Reference SP7 Cables are the perfect antidote! They’re a “relatively” moderately priced speaker cable to infuse your music with drive, energy, and midrange-rich tonality while increasing your enjoyment of the music without worrying about the absolute last last bit of refinement or the ability to hear the guitar player clear his throat. As such, the SP7’s are definitely recommended. It also makes me wonder what the top two Morrow Audio speaker cables can do to the music!!!

REVIEW SYSTEM

Speakers: Rockport Aquila Subwoofer:  JL Audio Fathom F112 (only used on certain occasions)     Amplification: Lamm M1.2 Reference Monoblocks    Preamplification: Line Stage: conrad-johnson ART III w/ Telefunken CCa’s Phono Stage:  Aesthetix Io Eclipse w/ Dual Power Supplies Digital Sources:  Esoteric K-01; Esoteric K-03; Reimyo 777 and AMR CD-77 DAC:  Bricasti M1 SE Analog Sources:   SME 30 Turntable w/ SME V Tonearm, and Dynavector  XV-1s  Rack:   Silent Running Audio Triple Wide CRAZ Rack (main system); TimberNation Maple Audio Racks Cables:   Silversmith Palladium speaker cables and interconnects; LessLoss Signature, Harmonix Studio Master and TG Audio HSR-A AC Power Cables Conditioning:  Reimyo ALS-777 power conditioner (DAC and Reimyo only); 20 amp dedicated AC lines, Wattgate or Oyaide AC receptacles with WPC-Z outlet covers

MSRP $1,4995.00 per 2-meter pair)      

MORROW AUDIO ~ WEB:  https://www.morrowaudio.com/   

phone ~ 859-356-6994 / 46608 Dixie Hwy, Florence, KY 41042

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