Streamline HiFi’s Steve Morris: Bringing Audio Consoles Into the Modern Age

Streamline HiFi’s Steve Morris: Bringing Audio Consoles Into the Modern Age

Written by Frank Doris

For many of us, our first exposure to hi-fi was via our parents’ music systems, more often than not one of those big consoles that had a tuner, turntable, speakers and maybe even a TV and space for record and other storage. They were the centerpiece of the living room or family room. However, as the trend towards smaller audio products prevailed among the general public, and to the component-based systems seen in most audiophile installations, the large-console audio furniture fell out of favor.

But it hasn’t disappeared. In fact, Steve Morris of Truckee, California-based Streamline HiFi today offers custom audio consoles that are absolutely striking in their retro-modern design, and combine serious audio technology with high-end craftsmanship. Who are the customers for such things? How do they measure up sonically? Why did Steve decide to give up a career as a successful contractor to pursue such a singular venture? Let’s find out.

Frank Doris: What gave you the idea to build these consoles? They’re not your typical hi-fi system with a bunch of gear on a rack and the speakers far apart.

Steve Morris: I have a profound love for music; that’s how it started. When I was a child, my father was in Vietnam and when he was there, he spent all the money he made in the Army because they could get Hi-Fi [components] from Japan [at good prices]. He said most guys came home [from the Vietnam War] and put down a down payment on a house or bought a muscle car. But not him. He spent all of his money, 5,000-plus dollars, on a stereo, and shipped it home piece by piece to my grandpa. If you think about that, with inflation that'd be like the equivalent of spending [around] $40,000 today.

So I grew up as a little boy with this cool system. People my dad didn't even know would knock on his door to hear his system. I got to play my own records [on it] and I just went on from then and always had a passion for music, which evolved into several other things. I went to school for recording, went to school for business, and then I worked at a radio station, which is where I learned about the blues. I did a blues show, and I fell in love with [the music], which is why my consoles are named after blues terms: the Mojo, the Rambler, and the Crossroads. Then I started playing music later in life, guitar and a little bit of drums.

I was in construction for the last decade-plus and was around a lot of really high-end custom homes. I started playing around with wood and teaching myself, and asking questions to the right guys when I would get stuck. That just kind of got my passion for woodworking going crazy too.



Steve Morris with a Streamline HiFi Rambler console.



A Streamline Mojo console in walnut.


The year before I turned 40 (I’m 45 now), I went to visit my [old] home in Michigan. My stepbrother had bought this cool old house on the river, and was gutting it. And he was getting rid of all this old stuff, including this amazing old Fifties German stereo console. Beautiful inlays, curved wood. My mom had put it in her garage, not knowing really what she was going to do with it, but knew that she had to save it. I saw it and thought it was beautiful. Six or eight months later when I turned 40, she and her husband had it crated up and shipped it out to California for me.

And that's what really started my love and passion for those old Fifties and Sixties consoles. I started buying some up and fixing 'em up, but it’s really hard to find the really good ones.

FD: I have to think that 95 percent of these things were thrown out decades ago.

SM: You don't see many of the kind of crappy solid-state ones; [they’re] not the cool style. But I think the nice mid-century modern ones are still out there, but now hard to find now because people know about them and want to seek them out. So if you do find one, it's on eBay and they want four grand for it.

FD: So, I got that wrong. So that means there are enough people who want them, where you felt OK to risk quitting a steady job and figuring you could make a go of this.

SM: I haven't proven that since I am still just getting off the ground. I really got off the ground a month and a half ago, after almost a year and a half after I quit my job in construction and started developing Streamline HiFi full time in November 2022. I knew that [the consoles] had to be super-high-end, super-custom, super-quality woodworking. It's definitely a niche, and I think there are more and more people now that are really getting into quality of sound, because we've just kind of gone downhill with the quality of audio.

FD: Most people are listening on their phones and cheap earbuds and so on. But I’ve always refused to believe that the desire for good sound is just going to age out. This is a belief based on no research whatsoever!

SM: Well, if you look at, there's some ways to see [the desire for good sound] is coming [back] and it has been coming slowly. Look at [vinyl] record sales. It’s crazy.



A Crossroads console in walnut.


FD: Tell us about the electronics and speakers in the consoles. They’re not strictly “retro” in that they combine tube and Class D electronics and handle streaming audio.

SM: When I decided that Streamline HiFi was going to happen, I did a bunch of research. What do audiophiles think are the best amps? I kept reading over and over – Class A is the kind of purest sound. So I said, OK, I'm going to build a Class A amp. And I'm not afraid to say I’m not an electrical engineer, but I paid an electrical engineer to design me a Class A tube amp. He made me a schematic and a wiring diagram and a bill of materials. I basically taught myself how to build this Class A amp. And it was hard. Luckily I had a couple of buddies who were electrical engineers who answered a lot of my questions. But hand wiring a point-to-point amp was a crazy learning curve for me and took a ridiculous amount of time.

But I finally did it and it sounded beautiful. But it did not have the power and the bass that I felt someone who was going to spend this kind of money needed to have. The trouble with Class A amps is…

FD: They’re inefficient.

SM: It's tough to get 'em really high in wattage. And if you do, they're a little bit more dangerous, with a ton of voltage going through them.

So I regrouped and found this other electrical engineer who I've been working with ever since, who is an amazing person. He came out of retirement because he loved what I was doing. He helped me design a hybrid Class A tube amplifier with a Class D output for the best of both worlds. I also have a good buddy who I've known forever who is an audio engineer who used to work for Meyer Sound. He used to develop speakers, and he's helped me tune and port each one of the cabinets.



Detail shot of the tubes used in the amplifier.



Like the exterior, the interior of a Streamline console features striking woods.


These consoles also come with either a WiiM (AirPlay) or Sonos port for streaming any of your favorite platforms. There’s no FM tuner, but you can stream stations.

FD: I have to ask: almost all audiophiles have systems with loudspeakers spaced apart. You can’t do that in your consoles. Is there anything that you’ve done to try to accommodate that for stereo imaging?

SM: We've done rigorous microphone testing when we tuned the [speakers]. We don't have the luxury of having eight feet of space in a room, but we do have 'em so dialed in that I honestly think you could put [the consoles] damn near anywhere in your house, and it’s going to sound really good. And you're not fighting [sidewall reflections].

I use Beyma TPL-75 [pleated diaphragm] tweeters that I think are just mind blowing, in my two larger Streamline models. [Keep in mind that] the speaker technology in the old Fifties cabinets just wasn’t there. Because the speakers are down low by your [legs], I created this adapter for the tweeters that kicks it back at a 20-degree angle shooting up. It's basically like a horn adapter for these specific tweeters I can't believe how much of a difference it makes.

The woofers are Italian Ciare drivers. The consoles, especially the Mojo which has two 12-inch woofers, sound like they have a sub in them, and they don’t, they’re just tuned and ported perfectly. [The enclosures] are padded [with damping material], so there are no standing waves inside. The amplifier has 200 watts.

The Streamline HiFi consoles don’t have a typical audiophile approach but they do have an audiophile sound. My clients are people who want high-quality sound in a piece of art.



A Mojo console in white oak.


FD: What about turntable isolation?

SM: I had some trouble with that at the beginning, but I've eliminated it. I use Fluance RT85N turntables, and they have rubber feet that have a little give. And then, really padding the inside of the speaker cabinet.

FD: Where can people go to hear the consoles?

SM: For now, I’m selling direct, but I’m working on [wider distribution]. I have a console in a showroom in Truckee, California with Alpine Electric, a company that sells high-end audio, lighting and home theater gear.

FD: Do you keep any inventory or is everything made-to-order?

SM: Made to order, and they're about four-month builds. They're semi customizable; you can pick your color of your speaker cloth, and you can change out the wood species. Right now, I offer walnut and white oak [finishes], but if you want something outside of that, we can do that too.

I was building everything myself, but have realized that I need to have a local cabinet shop build some of the cabinets so that I can have time to do marketing, advertising, and attend shows and promote.

I'm not trying to be huge. The draw for this business is that it's handmade, really good craftmanship, and [has] amazing sound. People are willing to spend more money for that.



The Mojo has plenty of interior storage space.


FD: I hear time and again that younger people don't want a lot of possessions and furniture. But if they are going to buy something, maybe they'll want something that's higher-quality or more permanent.

SM: I agree. I think people are going towards that minimalist lifestyle a little bit more. And so for the few items that they do want, they're willing to spend more and have better-quality stuff.


Streamline Hi-Fi
Truckee, California 96181


Header image: the Streamline HiFi Rambler console. All images courtesy of Streamline HiFi.

Back to Copper home page