THIS YEAR marks the 50th anniversary of Japanese microphone/headphone brand Audio-Technica. Founder Hideo Matsushita already had a job working for the Bridgestone Museum Of Art in Tokyo when he celebrated his 42nd birthday. Then, in 1962, his passion for classical music and the ‘phonograph’ inspired him to start his own audio company, initially designing and building phono cartridges. Fifty years later, A-T makes high- performance microphones, headphones, wireless systems, mixers and electronic products for home and professional use, while a spin-off company makes sushi rice preparing machines. Audio-Technica Corporation is still based in Tokyo, with operating offices in Europe, the US, Singapore and Hong Kong. The company is now run by Kazuo (Keith) Matsushita – though his 92-year-old father still makes regular appearances at the office! PSNEurope asked key designers and management to nominate what they saw as representative A-T products and technologies for each decade of the company’s 50 years. Here’s what they told us…
Audio-Technica’s first products were the AT-1 and AT-3 moving magnet cartridges; sales of the former were slow initially, but thanks to positive reception of the higher-end AT-3 from the domestic audio press, orders finally started arriving from all over the country. Audio-Technica’s first year may have been fraught with the difficulties that face any start-up company, but Matsushita’s focus on design quality and value struck a chord. By the end of the decade, Audio-Technica had set its sights on international markets, securing patents for its hi-fi products around the world and opening up export opportunities.
AT 1 and AT-3
microphones, & makizushi 1970s
As Audio-Technica celebrates its golden anniversary, PSNEuropelooks at the key products and developments from each decade of its operation
Such was the global success of Audio- Technica in its first decade that in 1972 the company established a US branch in Ohio. President of the US company, John Kelly soon suggested developing a line of Audio-Technica headphones to complement the strong sales of the company’s cartridges. As a result the AT-700 Series headphones were launched in 1974. While they were well received, the AT-700s arrived at a time when headphones were a freebie for customers buying stereo equipment. As such they represented a small part of the company’s activity, but they nevertheless launched Audio-Technica into a market that has grown to assume huge importance today. In Japan, for example, where Audio- Technica is the best-selling headphone brand, the 2012 market is currently worth around $500 million annually – a far cry from the days of the early 1970s.
AT-700 series from 1974
AT-1001 tone arm Not forgetting… Founder Hideo Matsushita
Audio-Technica may have found its feet in the design of phono cartridges, but the company quickly broadened its portfolio to offer a wider range of products for hi-fi enthusiasts. Just a year after its foundation, Audio-Technica began selling the AT-1001 tone arm package, a product recognised with an Award from the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology, part of Japan’s Ministry of Trade and Industry.
The 800 Series of mics appeared in 1978 And also...
Continuing its expansion into areas other than hi-fi cartridges and tone-arms, Audio-Technica also launched its first microphone range, the AT800 Series, in 1978. Comprising no fewer than eight models, the 800 Series included lavalier, handheld dynamic and shotgun microphones, hinting at the diversity that the company would continue to offer in decades to come.