John Michell: July 27, 1936-October 23, 2003

It's rare to find people praising a competitor in this hi-fi business, but I first met John Michell soon after one of his biggest rivals had described him as an "engineer's engineer." Memorably, he'd be the first port of call for anyone in the UK who wanted something done properly and without compromise. Another competitor described him as quite the nicest person he'd worked with, and a naturally gifted practical engineer.

After apprenticeship John started out on his own, beginning by applying his skills in the film industry. He built the model Discovery spaceship for Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and some years later made the eyes for Star Wars' "robot" C3PO.

His first involvement in hi-fi came with the dramatically futuristic Transcriptors Hydraulic Reference turntable—a true design classic that was memorably featured in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. He subsequently founded his own Michell hi-fi brand when the Transcriptors operation moved to Ireland. A number of turntable designs followed, distinguished as much by their striking styling and superb finish as their superior sound quality. Key models included the Electronic Reference, the Focus One, and most famously the 1981 GyroDec.

After John became ill at the beginning of 2003, his daughters Julie and Beverley and son-in-law Steve Rowland started to run the operation. While John took a back seat from the day-to-day routine, he relished designing and developing new products like the TecnoDec, TecnoArm and TecnoWeight, all of which appeared in 2003.

John carried on working until the end, developing new ideas as a legacy, and even spending a half day at the Heathrow hi-fi show in late September. Unusually in our sometimes tetchy little industry, I never heard an unkind word said against this soft-spoken gentleman. He will certainly be missed by all who knew him.

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