The first time I met Gary Morrison in person, for our Down Under Audio exhibits at the 2016 Newport Show, I quickly learned he had a fondness for well-timed flatulence. He was a master at delivering the final product, punctual and almost shocking in its sheer visceral impact, and when he did it he would look deep into your eyes to see if you’d respond in any perceivable way. He was sizing you up, figuring out what kind of person you were.
Once, in a crowded room on set-up day, he presented a real champion, one that made us all look at each other in confusion because, as an old friend of mine used to say, it must have rippled the sand dunes in Arabia. “It’s okay everyone,” he said in his soft, measured New Zealand accent. “I’m a vegetarian.”
Why am I starting off this tribute with such a horrible story about my friend Gary Morrison, founder of Plinius and then Pureaudio, a genius when it comes to pure Class A amplification? It’s partly Irish wake mentality, telling a horrible story about a recently passed friend to help the healing process and all those messy feelings. I’m not going to say another bad story about him, like when Gary learned I was headed for Sydney in 2015 and he started sending me all sorts of videos of nasty and venomous Australian spiders. He already knew about my arachnophobia, you see. He was prepared.
But I also want to point out that Gary Morrison was one of my favorite people in the high-end audio industry. He made brilliant amplifiers, some of my favorites of all time, along with his designing partner Ross Stevens. I loved his pure Class-A amps and their pure and exquisite tone. That’s why Colleen Cardas and I took on his Pureaudio line back in 2012. I spent only an hour or two with his Vinyl phono preamplifier and I knew it was the best I’d heard up to that point. Maybe it still is.
I told Colleen, “We have to import this!” We did, for many years.
Colleen and I always found him to be witty, articulate and fun during our many Skype calls to New Zealand. My experience up to that point was that engineers and designers can be like doctors, where they say something and that was the end of that. But Gary Morrison would listen, exchange ideas and always inject a little humor into the conversation. He’d be accessible. And he’d always describe his tech in a way that was logical and easy to digest. That makes sense, since his designs were all focused on simple, short signal paths and the best parts he could find. And that pure Class A sound, his sound, was the perfect balance between the warmth of tubes and the precision of the best solid-state.
We all went separate ways a couple of years ago, but when I decided to assemble a reference system for my reviewing duties here at Part-Time Audiophile I had no doubt that I would keep our demo Pureaudio gear–the Duo 2 power amplifier, the Control preamplifier and that amazing Vinyl phono pre. I still use them to this day. When I heard the very sad news that Gary Morrison had passed Thursday night, I was listening to music with the Control preamp in the system. Because it’s just so good, so part of my everyday life.
Cheers, mate. I’ll miss you.
Finally, here’s a link to Scot Hull’s 2015 review of the Pureaudio Control and the Reference monoblocks back when I was still the importer/distributor.