A question that pops up every now and then, either from a friend of mine or from a total stranger on the internet. Either out of curiosity or simply out of necessity, like when an old friend found a Nakamichi System One from the 1970s in his dad’s attic, hoping that Nakamichi is still around to repair it.
And so is Nakamichi still in business? The answer is a simple Yes! Is it still kicking like the good old times? The answer is an unbelievable Yes! How an elusive brand such as Nakamichi able to withstand the test of time, on the verge of bankruptcy, and yet still able to become a mainstream brand of the modern era. It wasn’t easy and it all started in Tokyo, a bustling city of Japan.
It was founded in the year 1948 by Mr. Etsuro Nakamichi which started as a humble research institute in Tokyo, Japan, doing R&D in electronics and optics. From 1972 onwards, it started to sell high-quality audio products under its own brand. A few more years down the road, the coveted world’s first three-headed cassette deck the Nakamichi 1000 and 700 was offered to the masses, but the high selling price was a show-stopper for most consumers. And that is why Nakamichi 500, a lower-priced two-head model was born. It was the golden age for cassette decks as the mass market has started to move away from reel-to-reel tape recorders.
The Remarkable Products of Nakamichi of the Past
As mentioned earlier, one of the most notable products will be the Nakamichi 1000 and 700, as they were the first to use a three-head recording technique in a cassette deck. This allows higher quality reproduction and the ability to hear a recording in progress, it was a monumental advancement of the time. Throughout the years, both models have evolved, but the Nakamichi 1000 has ascended to another level, becoming a legendary reference cassette player, 1000ZXL Limited, that comes with a gold plated face which is priced at $6,000 USD.
Another noteworthy advancement for the cassette deck by Nakamichi will be the UniDirectional Auto Reverse or UDAR. This mechanism follows the way users manually turned over their cassette tapes, it would eject, spin the tape around and reload it into the deck. It was impressive and should be fun to watch too. UDAR was available on the RX series, notably the Nakamichi RX-505, the very top of the series.
Obviously, Nakamichi was the leader (or at least one of the leaders) in the age of cassette deck. Even so, when the CD era has arrived, the Japanese brand still remains competitive with its offering of Nakamichi Dragon. The Dragon CD playing system has unique mechanical damping to prevent CD from vibrating which improves the sound reproduction quality.
Nakamichi also has a line of car stereo products in the early 1980s and was the first few companies to manufacture automotive CD changers which were revolutionary at that time. This enables you to load multiple compact discs via a single slot instead of a CD cartridge. Their car audio product range has been a successful one as Toyota has chosen Nakamichi (along with Pioneer) to make audio systems for their luxurious range of Lexus automobiles. This partnership lasted from 1989 to 2001.
The Fall of Nakamichi
Even with so many successes and leading audio products, Nakamichi was still unable to get a strong foothold in the CD era. It may be a powerhouse in the analog era but it still lacks innovative digital technology to propel itself into the digital age.
The shrinking distribution channel was making it worse for Nakamichi as many of the high-end audio boutiques were forced to close down due to competition and the ever-changing consumer mentality of preferring to shop at electronic superstores. Consumers have to tighten their belts too as they were hit by recessions in the early 1990s, and so they were unable to afford expensive high-end audio equipment.
Another bad news will be that Toyota has chosen Mark Levinson to provide high-quality car audio systems for their automobiles instead of Nakamichi. Even when acquired by Grande Holdings, the company still went into bankruptcy protection in the year 2002. They did manage to emerge back into the high-end audio scene.
Is Nakamichi a good brand?
After going through so many ordeals and setbacks, you will think they will be down for the count but instead of going down and vanish from sight, they reemerge from bankruptcy and is now stronger than ever.
It may have taken them years of trial and error, and months of R&D but in the year 2016, Nakamichi introduce their Shockwafe soundbar series. Nakamichi has started to become a leader in the industry with its Shockwafe Pro 7.1 which was the very first soundbar to have 7 discrete surround channels. It also features side-firing front surround effects tweeters which enlarges the soundstage by a whopping 35%, setting the bar higher for soundbars.
In the year 2018, Nakamichi added new models into Shockwafe range. 3 out of 4 of these new models which are Shockwafe Ultra 9.2, Shockwafe Elite 7.2, and Shockwafe Plus 5.2 are the first of its’ kind. They are the first to be designed with 2 subwoofers, and by incorporating dual subwoofers, you will be able to ‘feel’ the intensity of the movies you are watching right at home. Nakamichi flagship Shockwafe Ultra 9.2 was also the very first soundbar with 9 discrete surround channels. It won the best performance soundbar and best overall value soundbar at the CES 2018 Best High-End Soundbar Battle.
In the year 2019, their newer and better Shockwafe soundbar models are introduced, one of them will be the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2.4 SSE. It has been named CES 2019 Innovation Awards Honoree and even won the 2019 Best Dolby Atmos Soundbar Battle. Voted as the Best Dolby Atmos Soundbar against other Flagship soundbars from Sony, Samsung, and Vizio.
So the answer to the question, is Nakamichi a good brand? The answer is an absolute Yes! Not only it is praised by critics and has won many accolades, their Shockwafe soundbars are also loved by the masses as well. They are the number one rated Dolby Atmos Soundbars and 4K soundbars, based on customer ratings from Amazon and Best Buy.
To sum it up
Nakamichi is still in business and is still a good brand. It has survived where many businesses would have fallen and become even stronger. Their current soundbar models may not be suitable for the most discerning audiophiles and purists but their plug-and-play simplicity with immersive surround sound will be an ideal choice for home cinema systems in most homes. Lastly, to my old friend, you should get your Nakamichi System One fixed.