Angus McKenzie MBE (1933–2005)

Angus McKenzie was a wholly remarkable individual. One of British hi-fi’s legends, he was the country's leading equipment reviewer for more than a decade, but that was only one of several careers and passions he pursued with repeated and conspicuous success, despite losing his sight completely at the age of 26.

He studied electronics and acoustics, and at the same time his passions for music and radio, both amateur and FM, developed. It was early days in the professional recording business, and his first business venture was to start up the famous Olympic Studios—Led Zeppelin, The Who, Small Faces, and the Rolling Stones, among others, recorded there—which began life in West Hampstead in the 1960s before moving to its current home in Barnes in suburban South London. With failing sight, he sold Olympic, moved on, and set up a shop specializing in classical records and select hi-fi. At the same time he began writing for the magazines that were emerging, such as Tape Recorder (which evolved into the professional audio title Studio Sound) and Hi-Fi News, where his regular column on FM radio ran for several decades, and served as a very effective "quality monitor" for the BBC. Among the well-known personalities who entered the audio business as Angus' intern are A-list classical engineer Tony Faulkner and Francis Rumsey of the Audio Engineering Society and the University of Surrey.

Although blindness unquestionably is a serious handicap to any engineer, Angus courageously treated his lack of sight as a challenge. Improved hearing acuity enhanced his work as an audio critic, while he used great ingenuity in adapting his instrumentation to operate by "feel" (analog) and voice synthesis (digital). As the hi-fi business entered the 1970s "boom" years, Angus left retail and brought his audio expertise and engineering know-how to bear on evaluating hi-fi equipment of all kinds. He effectively invented the British magazine Hi-Fi Choice, authoring most of the early titles on receivers, cassette decks, and loudspeakers. He also did a considerable amount of consultancy work, especially for tape manufacturers and the European Consumers Association. Crucially, he developed the methodologies for large-scale group measurement and listening tests, and established the rigorous standards that made the UK hi-fi press respected throughout the world.

His tireless work on behalf of the blind, memorably including an audio tape guide so the unsighted could safely navigate the complexities of the London Underground (subway) network, received due recognition in the accolade of a prestigious MBE (Member of the British Empire) award in 1979.

Angus wasn’t the easiest guy to get on with, as John Atkinson, who was one of his editors at Hi-Fi News, can attest. He could be stubborn, and sometimes arrogant, but was a genuine polymath whose formidable creative intellect always commanded respect, as JA will also attest to. He will be missed by all he encountered across a wide variety of audio and radio fields.

Share | |

X
Enter your Stereophile.com username.
Enter the password that accompanies your username.
Loading