Dreams of sounds and glue and batteries

Mordechai was six years old when his family made aliya from Iran after the establishment of the State of Israel.

Handmade Morel speaker (photo credit: FRANZISKA KNUPPER)
Handmade Morel speaker
(photo credit: FRANZISKA KNUPPER)
Bending, cutting, gluing. The bending of the iron sheet is the tricky part. Thin and slippery, the sharp edges might cut your finger. But the woman in blue seems to be at ease. Bending, cutting, gluing, next.
“This is going to be what is called the voice coil, the part of the speaker that moves the membrane, which then moves the air, which then becomes our ultimate goal: sound.”
Meir Mordechai points to the shelf behind him. A row of finished voice coils, piled up like a compilation of carefully collected, colorful biscuit cutters. We are in the heart and brain of his kingdom: the workshop of his company, Morel, which has been manufacturing loudspeakers since 1975.
Morel is the only loudspeaker brand that manufactures solely in Israel and still does all of the production process by hand. “It is the human touch that makes all the difference, I tell you that,” Meir adds while walking through the rows of workers, batteries, membranes, unidentifiable pieces of cut iron, more batteries, wires sticking out here and there, the dream of every tech-savvy music geek and sound-loving hobbyist.
“Good is not good enough – I needed to excel,” Mordechai declares.
In one corner, another woman in blue is testing the finished membranes by placing them in a hole of carved-out wood and connecting them to a computer. Connecting, beeping, listening, next. Two other blue-clad ladies are chatting while screwing two plastic slides onto one another. Screwing, chatting, laughing, next.
Mordechai nods here and there, adding a little glance over a shoulder. “Now my son is the head of the business, but I allow myself to take a look and advise whenever needed,” he explains.
Morel employs some 40 workers, from engineers and designers to salesmen. Its high-end products became the pinnacle of speakers from the Holy Land. Some of their features are being used worldwide by big companies, which can raise the products’ value up to a whopping $300,000 for a set.
At 74 years old, Mordechai feels he has accomplished his life’s ambition: “creating the best sound possible.”
Mordechai was six years old when his family made aliya from Iran after the establishment of the State of Israel; he was one of seven children. Back in Iran they were a wealthy family, he says, but left everything behind due to the strong Zionist aspirations of his father.
Mordechai has never visited the country of his birth – his childhood memories begin in Bat Yam, where the family first settled. To this day he remembers his first moment of “sound frustration.”
As his parents were solemnly listening to the radio – at the time the centerpiece of the living room – he could not help but hear the crackling and distortion of the trumpet and clarinet coming out of the console.
“When my parents were gone, I took the radio, removed the driver, dissected it and replaced it,” Mordechai still chuckles at the memory and the fury of his parents.
His face is deeply carved by sun, years and wrinkles, while his right hand is deformed and the main reason why, despite his love for music, he never picked up an instrument.
“Making a loudspeaker is like making an instrument,” he stresses. “The sound has to be as natural as possible. It has to be like the singer is standing behind you, standing inside the room.”
To this day, he makes it a habit to go and listen to acoustic music, preferably classical chamber music, because “this is as intimate as sound can get,” he says.
Yet, as time goes by and his age progresses, he feels that his hearing is weakening. He needs to school his ear, to capture the essence of an instrument’s sound, untreated and non-amplified. One needs to remember what a violin sounds like in order to judge whether a speaker enhances it correctly, he has found.
This is why he finds electronic music puzzling: “They use many different speakers at the same time. Often the balance is not right and several sounds equal each other out. It confuses me.”
Yet he does not want to be called old-fashioned. “I do admit there are great earphones being developed,” he says. The trends and waves of different product designs do not matter to him: round, straight, cube-shaped, compact, standing are all the same to him as long as the sound quality is not compromised.
By coincidence, some aesthetics might even enhance the sound. “This is the Lotus Grill,” the soundmaker announces with a stage wait. The delicate grid of carefully interwoven iron strings is indeed reminiscent of the Asian flower and is one of the features other companies borrow from Morel.
“I told you,” Mordechai nods, index finger pointed upward. “It’s these little touches that do make a difference.”