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Interview with Keith Morris

A passion that started in the 1950’s has taken Keith Morris through a number of turns only to arrive back at the technology of an earlier time.

This interview by John Vandyke was originally published in Sound Travels (reprinted with permission of nextmedia Pty Ltd).

John Vandyke:  How did your passion for music get started?

Keith Morris: My father played the piano in a small band both before and after the war, playing things like Fats Waller and other popular songs of the time. Because he played the piano, I learnt too, although I went the classical way. I got interested in recordings by the people who played the piano really well, then I got interested in hearing those performances at their best.

JV: Was there a defining moment when you first realised that sound was an important part of the musical experience?

KM: It was a progression really. As the gear got better, then I followed it myself. It started in the 50’s, then I went mad one day and bought a pair of Klipsch Heresy’s, with a Marantz receiver and Dual turntable. This opened my eyes to the leap in quality that was possible.  I did this major upgrade thing twice - later it was a Thorens turntable and some Kenwood (Trio) separated – I kept the Klipsches though.

JV: What kinds of music do you listen to mostly and who are some of your favourite artists/composers?

KM: I listen to classical mostly. This changes quite often, but right now I like the pianists Evgeny Kissin and Ivo Pogorelich. If I sit down for a short time, I will almost certainly play Beethoven, Brahms or Mozart.

JV:  In what ways does listening to music affect your life, and the way you feel?

KM: I am always saying that I do not listen enough. You hear lots of music every day, but you don’t get to really listen to it very often. I like to give recorded music the same attention that I give a live performance, and too often this is not possible.

JV:  Is your system in a stable state, or are you still planning major enhancements?

KM: No, there’s no major enhancements planned for this system, although I’ve recently acquired a new preamp (previously I was using the SACD player output direct to the power amps – it has a tubed output stage with remote volume control.)  The preamp was designed by Eddie Lee, and now I have the option for other sources.

JV:  So what do you see as your next hi-fi purchase or upgrade?

KM: I’m thinking about bringing back a good turntable like Vince Hamilton’s new Once Analog player that we heard at Sydney Audio Club last month. This will probably be the next purchase, although I’m always wary that the Quad’s are getting on and might need to be replaced at some stage. If the worst happens, I will get the current Quad ESL 2905 electrostatics.

JV:  What’s your favourite piece of equipment at the moment? What is the component that you would not sell?

KM: The 845 power amps, no question, built by Bob Sugden (no relation to the famous English manufacturer). Bob went into making his own output transformers for a while, and these amps are a once off design based on his transformers and would be irreplaceable. Like some others have said who have amps built by Bob, I don’t need to buy another amp now.

JV:  What component do you regret selling?

KM: Probably the Klipsch Heresy’s, although I don’t sell that much of my equipment. I used the Klipsh’s as part payment for the amps, actually.

JV:  What’s the most memorable system that you have ever heard?

KM: There was one system I remember, but I suspect if I heard it now I would not be all that impressed. It was at one of the audio shows (back when there used to be such a thing). This system used huge Tannoy’s and the bass was incredible. But I don’t think I would want to listen to them every day – I prefer mine.

JV:  Do you use the same music for comparing components as you do for listening pleasure?

KM: No, I have a number of tracks that I use for assessing and comparing equipment – I still like the music but I tend to only listen to these tracks when I am listening for something in particular. They range from Bach, Vivaldi, through Chopin to Dave Gruisin and Rebecca Pidgeon.

JV: Where do you see the high end audio industry going in the future?

KM: Home theatre (which is not really high end audio, more high impact audio) and computer music. You can get so much music that you’ll never be able listen to it properly. More channels and more music – everything driven by marketing. The problem with real high end audio is that it’s only stereo, and it’s bloody expensive. Hard to market to the masses.

JV:  Where would you like the audio industry to go?

KM: I think it ought to go back to valves, electrostatics and stereo, and build on what was being done decades ago. More of everything is fine when you go to the movies, lots of boom and bang can be exciting but it leaves you fatigued after a while. Classic equipment gives you access to the music without forcing it at you.

Equipment List:

  • Shanling SCD300 tube output stereo SACD Player
  • L’s Audio A28 Preamp
  • Bob Sugden 845 power amps
  • Quad ESL 57 speakers on custom tall stands
  • Two REL Storm subwoofers
  • Various home made cables.