Hifi Pig goes Behind The Brands with Brian Morris and Trevor Liddle of House of Linn and BrianandTrevors, audio retailers in the North West of England. 

How did you get into/what was your first job in the industry?

Brian Morris

My first hifi job was as a teenager with a part time holiday job at a co-op in Manchester City Centre, alternating between selling “hifi systems” in the electrical department and menswear!  My first job in the hifi sector though was with Linn Products. Employed by Linn in the UK from 1990-2007, initially as Marketing Manager working with MD Ivor Tiefenbrun, and later managing and developing Linn PR and installing Linn systems for press reviews and hifi shows in the UK, USA, and Europe from the mid 1990’s through to 2007. I left Linn in 2007 to establish House of Linn, expanding with other brands through brianandtrevors soon after with Trevor.

Trevor Liddle

I was a regional sales manager with Linn, working with retailers throughout UK, Europe, Scandinavia and the Middle East. This included training Linn dealers in proper LP12 set up of Linn systems and components and running LP12 Klinniks and product launches, and from the mid 1990’s, running LP12 retraining courses for Linn dealers in the UK and for some dealers in other countries.

Before joining Linn, worked in audio and hifi retailing selling Linn and other quality brands and played drums in a number of local bands in and around my Oxford hometown. Employed by Linn from 1989 – 2007 in the UK sales team as Sales Account Manager working with UK retailers and also overseas retailers and distributors. I supported Linn systems with music events for passengers on board the QE2 from Hawaii to Auckland, in addition to regularly supporting Linn distributors in Europe, Scandinavia and the Middle East. Responsible for maintaining Linn’s standards across the retail network as Linn expanded its product range from the mid 1990s. Took time off from Linn during this period to obtain a recording engineering qualification and rejoined the company in 2004. Left Linn in 2007 to set-up House of Linn with Brian.

You and your business?

We always remember our first experiences as hifi enthusiasts – comparing different audio components and systems and listening to our favourite recordings through hifi systems that promised to deliver alive, realistic and truly moving performances. Installing a proper music system takes time and often the traditional shop dem rooms are simply not good enough to evaluate a substantial investment in hifi. To us, it was vital to provide the best demonstration environment for any system to deliver its potential.brianandtrevors inside (2)

We run brianandtrevors from a substantial, well-equipped and comfortable late Victorian house, offering individual appointments for hifi demonstrations, advice, and sales. We provide full installation, service and aftercare for all of our clients. Situated just north of Manchester City Centre and close to the motorway network, we have become an audio destination for out of town and overseas visitors in addition to our local clients. We began business in 2007 establishing House of Linn, an appointment-only Linn audio consultancy and Linn Service Centre for Linn turntables and electronics.  Having first equipped the house with the Linn range, we later expanded and adopted other brands and products we listened to and like, that work extremely well together. With our music dem rooms and a large screen HD home cinema room, we offer straightforward and professional expertise to help improve the way you, your partners, families and friends feel at home with better sound for music and movies.betas (2)

We offer bespoke system solutions and upgrades focussing always on a source-first approach to system building, making sure our clients always receive the best value for money from demonstration to purchase to aftercare. From single systems for music and movies to network music throughout the home and whole home audio – the listening experience at brianandtrevors is so good that demonstrations can last for hours – and we are happy that they do!

In addition to the House of Linn range, our broader portfolio of brands include Arcam (AV), ATC Loudspeakers, Audio Technica, Dynaudio, Booplinth, Entreq, Focal, Graham Audio BBC Monitor Loudspeakers, KEF (AV), Keith Monks, Melco, Musical Fidelity Nu Vista, PS Audio, REL , Stamford Audio, The Chord Cable Company, Quadraspire and Trinnov Audio. A new brianandtrevors website is underway to represent our evolution and should hopefully be live in the late spring.brianandtrevors-listening-lounge-1 (1)

We are nuts about system set-up and improving component and system performance even from the best products and we are fanatical about isolating audio components from signal pollution caused by mains power, home networks and vibration. A good example of this is our passion for Vinyl, and as we are LP12 specialists, the Linn Sondek LP12, and our booplinth plinth performance upgrade for the Linn Sondek LP12. We have had a fantastic reaction from all customers demonstrating and upgrading their LP12s with booplinth at brianandtrevors and at other Linn LP12 specialists who dem and sell booplinth. We established The Booplinth Company so that other LP12 specialists can offer booplinth to their customers, the first ever plinth performance upgrade for the LP12. Booplinth delivers even greater performance from any LP12. A booplinth dem with like for like LP12s quickly demonstrates the superiority of the one-piece booplinth upgrade’s ability to reveal the hidden recorded detail that standard wooden plinth constructions simply cannot deliver!

We are passionate about pure sound quality and specialise in best demonstration, sales and best-practice installation of turntables, analogue and digital music components, stereo music systems, multi-channel music and home cinema systems and networked multi-room music systems.

Who or what was the biggest influence on your career?

Being a customer focussed audio consultancy with appreciative clients

Proudest moment/product you’re most proud of?

Proudest moments: (Brian) seeing each of my sons perform in their respective bands – Brandon, keyboards and guitar and Daniel, singing opera and playing trumpet, though not at the same time! In addition Brandon’s first album: Travail by A Sense of Gravity

Proudest product: Booplinth LP12 plinth upgrade

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You and your system? 

What was your very first system?

Brian:

At the beginning of my hifi journey in the 70s, I bought from Comet!;  Garrard Turntable/Ferrograph integrated amplifier and Leak 600 loudspeakers paid for with my first term university grant! Later bought pioneer PL12D Turntable, Akai Reel to Reel from Laskys and a Tuner from a local supplier made by Eagle!

Trevor:

Bought from Laskys in 1982: Pioneer PL12D, Sansui AU222 integrated amplifier, Wharfedale Denton louodspeakers

Tell us about your system history and the way it has developed to the system you have today.

We have different system solutions throughout the house, each of which we enjoy and appreciate.

How often do you listen to music?

Music is always playing here – Every day and evening.

Best system (or single component) you have ever heard?

Linn Sondek LP12 with booplinth of course. 

The state of the industry

What’s your view on the valve renaissance of the past 20 years or so?

There is a place for every technology in our industry, especially now with even better product design for valve pre and power amplification as well as hybrid designs.

Low power valve amplification with highly efficient loudspeakers has long been a popular choice and will probably remain so. I (Brian) remember my first introduction to valves in a system, in the mid/ late 1990s, listening to Tannoy Westminster loudspeakers driven by a 4 watt Futterman OTL valve amplifier as demonstrated to me by the late Harvey Rosenberg (aka Gizmo) in his small Connecticut apartment. Such a massive sound, the bass hit you right in the chest! and from so little power and very musical too! You do not forget hi-fi music moments like that!

Vinyl resurgence… what are your thoughts?

We love vinyl above all other formats. We have a large library of around 3000 albums available to dem. Original recordings that go back to the golden age of music; pure analogue recordings, and to the present day of course. We are forever buying vinyl, new and used. Some of the newer digital recordings pressed on vinyl sound superb, others can sound compressed, where more care could have been taken in the recording process. Pure analogue recordings of course sound best.

Is CD a dying format? Digital downloads, what do you think their impact has been on the way people listen to music?

Shrinking not dying, not yet! Streaming CD quality and 24bit streaming will replace download as more people adopt and subscribe to streaming services like Tidal and Qubuz etc for accessing digitally available music. The downside to great digital sound via streaming, is never owning a music collection, only owning playlists. CDs will probably always be available just as vinyl never disappeared. There is room for all physical music media – owning vinyl and CD collections is an important aspect of engaging with artists, their music and performance.

What are you views on the state of the industry/where is it going/what will it look like in 5 years/what will typical systems look like?/What will happen to prices?/What will happen to the high end – will it carry on regardless? 

Go see your specialist! There will always be a polarisation of products from the cheapest to the best, from single brands solutions to bespoke multi-brand solutions. The specialist is in the middle of all of this, listening and understanding what works best within their range of experience and knowledge. You can’t get this advice on eBay or reliably from the forums. The only way to know is to just listen and judge for yourself. This way, customers receives better value and avoid expensive mistakes!

How do we engage young people, the audiophiles of the future?

By giving them their first listening experience in front of a well set up hi-fi system they can aspire to own.

Online shopping’s effect on the retail industry?

Can be a fool’s errand and not VFM in the long term. There is no substitute for a proper dem and a good dealer relationship.

What are the industry’s biggest con(s)?

Hifi forums drowning in their own snake oil when used as a substitute for dealer advice, demonstration and support. We get the calls from disappointed folk who took the short cut and lost by buying used hifi online.

Music

Turntable preferences…direct drive, belts, Idlers or what?

Linn Sondek LP12 with a booplinth

Your preference – Full-range floorstanders or freestanding mini monitors with a sub?

All are room dependent, for example, in a small room, two mini monitor or “bookshelf” loudspeakers with one or two small subs, will likely sound far better than full-range floorstanding loudspeakers. On the other hand, full-range floorstanding loudspeakers in an appropriate size room can also benefit from the addition of sub-bass reinforcement with one or two subs, while two mini monitors with one or two subs can also sound spectacular in larger rooms. In our large main room, we are currently listening with a pair of Graham Audio LS5/9 BBC Monitors on open floorstands with one REL Serie S3 per channel, augmenting the lowest frequencies with true Sub-Bass.

It’s all about the music, man… 

What is your favourite recording?

We have many favourites, some our clients introduce music to us to as well, and many with different musical tastes. Too many favourites to list in full, however our current listening includes albums by A Sense of Gravity, King Curtis, Field Music, Joe Bonamassa, Lucinda Williams, Megadeth, Malo, Miles Davis, Steven Wilson, The Beatles In Mono, Traffic.

Tell us about your 3 most trusted test recordings.

Brian: For sheer funk drumming and rhythmic bass playing and a superbly clean recording: The Reddings; just one track in particular: The Awakening Part 1. For some of the best contemporary electric blues: Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills: Supersession: One of my favourite reggae albums featuring the velvet voice of Cedric Myton, The Congos: Congo Ashanti. Trevor: Whatever I’m listening to at the time!

What are your most embarrassing recordings/guilty musical pleasures.

Brian: Anything by Abba

Trevor: Slade’s third album Slayed.

Having safely ushered  your loved ones out of the house as it is burning down to the ground, you ignore all standard safety advice and dash back inside to grab just one recording – what is it? 

Brian: Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense – Burning Down The House!

Trevor: My dog!

Many thanks to you both for taking the time to talk to Hifi Pig

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