When you acquire something brand-new, whether it’s a car or a fine pair of shoes, break-in time is often part of the deal before the real performance and enjoyment of the product begin. Of course, break-in is also part and parcel of audio gear, and the latest cables from Morrow Audio require, shall we say, a more protracted time frame than most. But as the hackneyed phrase goes, good things come to those who wait—in this case compellingly detailed sound and remarkably natural-sounding instrumentals and vocals.
The review samples I received—loudspeaker cables and interconnects from Morrow Audio’s 3 and 6 series (mid and upper-tier offerings in an ascending lineup of 1 through 7, plus Elite and Anniversary editions)—came with a couple of printed pages of helpful information about the cables, including the break-in time required and what could be expected at different points in the process. Thankfully, Morrow offers a break-in service for its wires for fees that vary according to the number of days of break-in you choose. I did take advantage of a few days’ worth of Morrow break-in time, but logged many more hours—to the tune of over two hundred—on my own, before beginning critical listening. (Morrow Audio founder and designer Mike Morrow discusses more about this and his design approach in the sidebar interview.) The fourteen-year-old company hand-builds its cables for home audio and pro audio, sells them directly (fewer markups), and now has customers in more than 70 countries. Morrow also offers a trade-up program for its own or other brands’ cables.
But what’s really noteworthy about Morrow’s cables is the high value they represent. The 6 and 3 series exceeded my expectations across many criteria for this price category (and beyond), particularly in their low noise floor, RFI rejection, ability to reveal subtle musical details while maintaining natural timbres—especially on acoustic instruments and percussion—and minimal sonic “tampering,” additions, or colorations.
Indeed, Morrow’s approach to cable design focuses on creating the lowest-distortion cables possible, and it all started with Mike’s own setup and his 30 years of electronics repair and audiophile experience. “After a lifetime of personal experimentation I rested on the formula of small-gauge, solid-core wire, and individually insulated strands.” All his cables now contain this “SSI Technology” and use solid copper for the conductor material. Without taking too deep a technical dive, here’s a brief summary: To minimize “skin effect”—the tendency of different frequencies to take separate paths along a wire’s depth, resulting in time and phase errors and distortion—only small-gauge wire is used (in a special Litz construction). Also, Morrow only uses solid-core wire (as opposed to stranded configurations) to provide a more solid continuum for the signal to flow through, ensuring better signal integrity and a higher degree of detail. Some of Morrow’s cables do contain multiple mono strands, but these are individually insulated and bound together with cotton weaving, which in turn is covered by nylon mesh. This is the first time I’ve seen cotton used as a dielectric material in audio cables for a hi-fi system. Why cotton instead of Teflon or other synthetics? Mike explained that he found it to be the best and least reflective dielectric next to open air. As you’d expect, this means the cables are extremely lightweight in comparison with other wires in this price category (and above it), in addition to being very pliable, flexible, and easy to handle. Their design also helps lower the noise floor and reject RFI.
Morrow provided me with a generous array of SP6 and SP3 loudspeaker cables and MA6 and MA3 interconnects for this review. I’ll focus primarily on the mid-to-upper-line 6 series, as these were more commensurate in price and quality with the components in my current setup, but I’ll mention some comparisons with the less expensive 3 series wires, too. (The SP3 cables are only recommended for systems up to 120 watts.)
The system through which I did the majority of my critical listening included KEF R11 speakers connected with Morrow SP6 speaker cables (banana terminations) to the PS Audio Sprout100 integrated amp (with DAC) connected with Morrow MA6 RCA interconnects to the MBL Noble line N31 CD player/DAC. I also did some streaming via Tidal and Qobuz directly through the Sprout by tethering a USB cable to a MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.
As noted, the Morrow wires are very pliable, which made switching cables and gear around a breeze. Though the cables lack bulk and heft, evident care was put into their hand-built construction. They aren’t flashy but look attractive enough, clad in black-nylon woven-mesh outer layers and sporting black and red rubber covers (to indicate hot and ground) on the 8-inch “legs” leading up to the terminations. However, the 6 and 3 series wires appear identical, so differentiating them involves eyeballing the small black Morrow-branded label wrapped around each; these labels also serve as signal-direction indicators, with the label end toward the source for interconnects or the loudspeaker for speaker cables. Their sonic quality and pricing varies by the respective number of SSI wire runs inside—and naturally also by the cable length selected. The SP3 and SP6 cables contain 144 and 576 wires in a special Litz construction; the MA3 and MA6 interconnects have 24 and 96 wires, respectively. The more wire runs deployed, the higher the resolution.